The Monkey Vault

Have you ever watched parkour or “free-running” and imagined how cool it must be to do those kinds of stunts? Although parkour may not necessarily be perceived as a traditional sport, it has made it’s way throughout the internet and has even be featured in a few mainstream media outlets such as the music video for “It’s Not My Time” by 3 Doors Down, MTV’s mini series “Ultimate Parkour Challenge” and is a primary game mechanic in the Techland and Warner Brothers video game “Dying Light”.

The Monkey Vault, which is the only parkour-focused gym in Toronto, features a jungle gym space located at Keele and St.Clair. The gym’s focus is to train local parkour enthusiasts to scale real-world stunts in urban settings using just their bodies and their athleticism.

The gym’s founder, Dan Iaboni, has spent over a decade at the centre of Toronto’s parkour scene. After learning about the sport in 2000, he put out a public call for his fellow enthusiasts; what followed eventually became the PKTO group, which began meeting for regular runs in the downtown core. “By the third year, we had groups of 100 people coming out,” he says.

The colder months were a bit of a problem and it’s hard to have 100-plus people jumping off things without attracting some attention. In 2008, Laboni decided to quit school, sell most of his stuff, and open a gym. Not long after that, the first Monkey Vault opened its doors on Geary near Dufferin. They outgrew the 3,000 square foot space and eventually moved into a 10,000 square-foot, 2 level building, equipped with a foam pit and a climbing wall.

The massive windows add an open-look feel, which plays to the gym’s goal of eventually getting people confident enough to do parkour in a public setting. Laboni plans to open up the windows in the summer and take advantage of the rooftop patio, as well. The space is fitted with pipes, stairwells and wooden hurdles meant to mimic a city layout, and mats incase you take a tumble.

Aside from a brief warm-up session, the majority of the classes are all geared towards learning prakour. “No matter whether you’re a beginner or an advanced guy, you’re doing the same thing, and you’re getting over the same objects,” Laboni says. “There’s a lot of personalization in parkour — just like no two people are going to take the same route down a ski hill. That’s the cool thing about this sport: none of them are wrong.”