Fight or Flight parkour academy opens this Saturday in Edina

For Chad Zwadlo, his brand-new parkour and free-running academy is literally "fight or flight."

Back in May, City Pages profiled Zwadlo and the booming Twin Cities parkour community (full feature here). At the time, he talked about his desire to open a facility designed to meet the needs of parkour and free-running enthusiasts of all ages and experience levels. This week, Zwadlo's turning those dreams into reality with the official grand opening of the Fight or Flight Academy in Edina this Saturday.

[jump] According to Zwadlo, the 7,000-square-foot facility is unlike almost anything you'll find in the Midwest -- or practically anywhere else is the country. It features 5,000 square feet of open gym areas with boxes, walls, and bars for parkour and free-running training, plus a 2,000-square-foot mezzanine that includes a lounge, office, and breakdancing room.

Go ahead; let that sink in. The building has a breakdancing room. That's what dreams are made of.

"It's pretty awesome," says Zwadlo. "We've got this big room that we knew would be perfect to teach breakdance classes out of, but we wanted the floor to be more padded. So we laid down a couple of layers of cardboard to give it an old-school vibe. Next, we're going to bring in a graffiti artist to make the place look really retro and authentic."

In addition to breakdancing classes, Zwadlo says that the Academy will also teach parkour and free-running classes, karate, weaponry (yup), and a variety of other martial arts and conditioning courses both for adults and kids of all ages. Classes will start up in October, and prices range from $50-$100 a month, depending on the number of classes you wish to take weekly. Open gym times and seminars will also be ongoing, and parents who bring their kids to classes will be able to take advantage of the facility's workout equipment or lounge area, free of charge.

While the facility may be ready for high-flying action, the most amazing story about Fight or Flight Academy might just be the work that went into putting it all together.

"We literally worked 14 to 16 hours per day, every day, for the past few months, building and getting the place ready," says Zwadlo, who along with partner Mitch "Skinny" Andrejka built out the entire building, from the obstacles in the open gym area right down to the drywall in the office. "We had so much help from friends to get everything together. If it had just been me, there's no way this could have happened."

Whether it was one of Zwadlo's students offering to put up drywall or Andrejka's college buddy doing the welding in exchange for a case of beer, the creation of Fight or Flight Academy is like a cooler version of Extreme Home Makeover, only with more dudes doing flips and way less Ty Pennington. Best of all, Andrejka's father is a building inspector, which made the process that much smoother (and safer).

So now that the Academy is open and ready for business, what are Zwadlo's big goals for the future?

"Honestly, we need to spend a little while focusing on the actual business," he admits. "We couldn't get a bank loan, so we had to finance everything ourselves. If this place doesn't succeed, I essentially go bankrupt. So yeah, I'm excited about growing the parkour community and hosting big national events and all of that, but right now we just need to make this successful."

That's a huge risk for the 27-year-old, but Zwadlo believes that Fight or Flight is destined for big things.

"We've got about 120 people RSVP'd for our grand opening Saturday on Facebook, plus another 40 through our meetup group who have said they're coming. Altogether, I wouldn't be surprised if we get like 300 people at the event. That would be awesome."

Longer term, he intends to bring in well-known parkour and free-running instructors from all over the country, and host national jams (parkour competitions) right here in the Twin Cities. For now, however, Zwadlo's just excited to start bringing a steady stream of students through the doors.

"We'll be offering classes seven days a week, typically in the afternoons and evenings, so I'll basically be living here," he laughs. "But this is my life and I wouldn't want it any other way."

Stop by Fight or Flight Academy this Saturday between 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. for its free open house. For class schedules and more information, visit

Get a sneak-peek of the Academy from last week's preview competition:

Want to see more parkour in action? Here's a video by Black Iris Media for CP:

City Pages--MN Parkour from Black Iris Media on Vimeo.