Theo Gorman teaches his students how to fall.

The longtime parkour instructor at the Whetstone Community Center in Clintonville said it is a vital skill to learn for those who want to get started in the activity, alongside running, jumping and climbing.

"If you learn to fall well, you're more likely to keep yourself safe, which means more movement and more fun," Gorman said.

Gorman, who lives in Reynoldsburg, teaches a slate of classes in parkour, the practice of navigating a typically urban environment, including stairs, walls and other manmade structures, in as direct or efficient manner as possible.

He's been teaching parkour at the community center since 2012 to students ranging from age 3 to octogenarians.

"I think the oldest person I've ever had in a class was 84," said Gorman, who also teaches parkour privately through his company, 614 Parkour.

Adults most often are interested in the discipline as an alternative to traditional fitness training, Gorman said. But children, he said, just love to climb and move around -- and maybe haven't found a team sport that has resonated with them.

Gorman said he discovered parkour via YouTube around 2005, just after finishing college, and then found groups training in Columbus.

"Most team sports didn't work out for me when I was a kid," he said, "so after I took up parkour, I became trained as a coach so I could be that coach for kids that I never had."

Two spaces at the community center are used for parkour classes: a gymnastics area and a smaller space on a rarely used theater stage, for which Gorman has acquired some parkour-specific training equipment.

"People see it on the internet and, yeah, it looks fun and maybe dangerous, but almost anyone can learn the skills in takes," Gorman said. "There are basic techniques to learning how to roll to absorb impact and to get over low walls that are adaptable to bigger obstacles. You don't start by jumping off of buildings."

Most of his students are preschoolers and elementary schoolers. Gorman said not only do they learn a physical skills, but many also start out shy and awkward, gaining confidence throughout the class.

"He's fantastic with kids," said Rick Bruhn, Whetstone Community Center manager. "He'll come in dressed as Captain America or Spider-Man sometimes.

"For the center, it's just a unique, nontraditional program that we get to offer."

The courses are offered through the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department.

Registration for the spring session begins at 9 a.m. March 10. Residents may register at columbusrecparks.com or at the center, 3923 N. High St.

"The worst time to start a new skill or fitness routine is in the future," Gorman said. "If you're thinking about it, don't put it off -- come in and do it."

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