TJ Stuart and the Lessons of Parkour

Parkour exists on the peripherals of youth circles, somewhere between street culture and extreme sport. It never fully broke into the mainstream, and to outsiders tends to be seen as a fad that has, for the most part, come and gone. However, parkour professional TJ Stuart is living proof that the sport can be just as thrilling, rewarding and inspiring as any other.

Early years

Stuart had a difficult childhood. By age 12, he admits to having been sexually molested. But without enough evidence to prosecute his attacker, he became a helpless victim longing for closure.  

As he grew into a teenager, Stuart was left angry and frustrated. Lacking a release for those emotions, he found himself going down a bad path. He made one bad decision after another.

He started drinking at age 13, long before his peers would experiment with alcohol for the first time. He would steal from stores for no other reason than he felt like doing it. Getting into fights became such a common occurrence for Stuart that by his senior year of high school, he was banned from stepping foot on campus. At that point, his future seemed bleak.

 

Antidote

But all of that was before Stuart entrenched himself in the world of parkour, which became the perfect antidote. When he trained, he was calculating and precise, the opposite of how he would act when drowning his sorrows with alcohol.

He finally had a way to channel the anger and frustration that had been building up inside of him for so many years. Parkour became an outlet for his inner turmoil as well as a path to a brighter future.

“Every time I would do a precision or stick something, that was me stomping out a problem.”
T.J. Stuart

 

Navigation

Parkour was initially created as a type of French military training. It sought to teach both creativity and efficiency. The goal, naturally, is to get from one place to the next as quickly and efficiently as possible.

However, much like life, the parkour environment is complex and difficult to traverse. It’s up to each individual to run, climb, jump, swing, roll, and use any other form of movement possible to get from the starting point to the destination.

For Stuart, planning out a parkour run was just like planning his future. He would start one move that led directly to the next. But if something wasn’t working right, he would take a step back, reevaluate things, and attempt to fix whatever the problem may be.

Teaching

It was this lesson that helped Stuart overcome his past and realise what he wanted to do with his life. He began teaching parkour and freerunning at Tempest Freerunning Academy in 2012 and hasn’t looked back. Stuart now spends more time teaching parkour than he does practicing it, helping kids learn that if they look hard enough, they can find a path through any situation life throws at them.

“If I can get anybody to start changing an aspect of their life to satisfy themselves because it’s their own path, that’s my job well done. Parkour is a give and take. Like a lot of things in life, you’re going to fall, it’s going to be painful, it’s going to be hard.”

More than 14 years after the fact, there is finally enough evidence to charge the person who abused Stuart when he was young. While he admits he’s unsure how his abuser going to trial will affect him, Stuart now has teaching to keep him focused on the future. After all, that’s what parkour has taught him: How to step outside the box to find a path you didn’t realise was there.