Meet Jesse Harrison, co-owner of Phoenix Freerunning Academy in Livonia, Michigan, and APK’s newest Sponsored Athlete. We sat down with Jesse and asked him a few of questions to help you get to know him better.
When did you start training?
I have doing some form of parkour my entire life but I started training in 2010 when I was a junior in high school, so it’s been 9 years (and I’ve been seriously training for the past 7 years).
What is the most noticeable change in your life that parkour has made?
It is hard to pinpoint one thing that has changed in my life because of parkour. Most of my life revolves around parkour so it has changed many aspects. The most important change parkour has made in my life is giving me a sense of purpose. When I am moving I feel like I am meant to be moving. The love I have for moving my body is great and parkour gave me the tools I needed to express that: the body control it creates feels almost super-human. Also, parkour changes the way you see the world.
What was your favorite jam or event ever?
I love every Michigan Jam I have been to. I love my community and I love the spots Michigan has to offer. Michigan has one of the greatest spots in the world: the Flint Grand Fountain (Riverbank Park). My favorite single event has to be the very first Beast Coast jam I went to. The road trip to Beast Coast with my dearest friends and teammates was a blast and the event was UNREAL! The whole course of my training was changed by that jam and the people I met there.
Who is someone (in or out of parkour) who inspires you?
There are a lot of people in the community that inspire me or have inspired me in the past, but if I have to narrow it down, it would have to be:
Anthony Rembisz from The Flok is one of the most underrated athletes at the moment and he inspires me. He doesn’t inspire me because of the BA stuff he does, he just has an incredible work ethic for training. He always inspires me to train a little longer, go a little bigger and I wouldn’t be the athlete I am today without him.
Mich Todorovich had a huge impact on the course of my training. It started when I trained with him at Beast Coast: he saw something in me that I hadn’t seen in myself as an athlete and he inspired me to compete at NAPC. I still dream about making it on the podium at NAPC and it is all thanks to him. I don’t think he even realizes how much what he said to me that day would inspire me. I hope to inspire someone in that way one day!
Daniel Ilabaca lit a fire under me in my first years of training and I still strive to move with his grace and confidence.
Endijs Miscenko is my favorite athlete to watch and he embodies the type of parkour skill I want to achieve.
Then there is Travis Graves: when I saw him training with Levi at one of the first Michigan jams I was in awe. That whole following year I tried to do as many of the challenges that I saw him do at the jam. That was a great year of training and it felt so amazing whenever I hit one of his challenges.
And last but not least, my friends on The Flok: they are all so talented and I am constantly humbled by training with them. I can’t wait to see what they are going to do in 2019!
What would you say to someone just starting out who struggles with either being overweight or just not having a lot of energy?
As one of the owners of Phoenix Freerunning Academy I run into people all the time who say “I’m not in shape enough to do parkour.” I always explain to them that you don’t need to get in shape to do parkour, doing parkour will get you into shape! I also explain that when I first started I didn’t have the ability or experience to do all of the things I can do today. My skills have been developing over the last nine years. I started by training foundational parkour skills that ANYONE can learn! Over time my skills slowly but surely developed into what they are today. The next thing I explain is that everyone progresses at a different rate: the worst thing you can do for yourself in parkour is compare yourself to everyone around you. There are skills that have taken me months or years to develop that some people pick up in a day and that is okay! Everyone has a different path to travel in order to get to where they want to be in parkour, find enjoyment in the journey not the just the end result!
Sport, Discipline, or Art?
All of the above. Over the years I have gone through different phases of training. In my earlier years of training I trained it as more of an art and now I train it as more of a sport. Discipline being a part of the art and sport of parkour. I don’t think we should put parkour in a box by defining with one of those words.
Do you have any special workout routine to prepare your body for the amazing things you do?
If I know I am going to be competing, I try to lift every other day and train parkour two days per week. If I am not getting ready for competition, I train three times per week with one of those times being an intense session. I also warm up a bunch before training. We have a saying in Michigan that you have to warm up a minute for every year of your age. It gets harder every year 🙂
Favorite place you’ve ever trained?
Technically the best place I have trained at is the Grand Fountain in Flint, MI. However, the bio-med building in downtown Ann Arbor is one of my favorite places to train.
What do you hope to add to the community?
I hope to add size to the community especially in Michigan. We have some of the best spots including the Grand Fountain in Flint and I want to put Michigan on the parkour map! I also want to get people outside of the community to understand how safe it is to train and to make parkour more accessible and inviting to them.