Saturday, December 7, 2013
By Ray Routhier firstname.lastname@example.org
Jesse Villarreal competing in “American Ninja Warrior” earlier this summer.
"AMERICAN NINJA WARRIOR" CONTESTANT JESSE VILLARREAL
WHEN: Noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: Congress Square, corner of Congress and High streets
HOW MUCH: Free
Do you find that on your walk to work, you lose valuable minutes going around that big statue? Does it seem like it takes forever to walk up two flights of stairs?
Well, if you're in good physical shape, have an open mind and consider yourself something of a ninja, Jesse Villarreal may be able to offer you an alternative route from point A to point B.
Villarreal, 24, of Westbrook, was a finalist earlier this summer on the NBC/G4 reality-TV show "American Ninja Warrior." He and about 100 other young devotees to a little-known sport called free running competed on various obstacle courses -- running, vaulting, climbing and swinging their way from point A to point B.
He's been invited by Portland's Downtown District to participate in its Weekday Performance Series in Congress Square in front of the Eastland Park Hotel on Tuesday.
His performance will be an explanation and demonstration of the sport of free running, also known by its original French name, parkour. Villarreal will be in Congress Square with about seven members of the free-running "team" with which he trains and puts on demonstrations.
One of the first things Villarreal will tell you is that free running is not really a sport in the sense that most of us think of sports. It's not really competitive for most participants, unless they go on "American Ninja Warrior." There aren't high school free-running teams.
But it does take a lot of mental and physical stamina and discipline.
"It's a discipline, and really, an art form, because there's not one way to do anything," said Villarreal. "It's about making decisions about the most efficient way to get somewhere and being able to carry those out."
So the highlight of Villarreal's presentation will be the demonstration, in which he and his teammates will show how to get over, around or under something quicker than you might think. For obstacles, they'll use various ropes, each other and whatever is in Congress Square: trees, railings, stairs, ledges, walls.
"We'll pretty much demonstrate all levels of climbing, jumping and flipping," said Villarreal. "There'll be some tricks too."
By the way, Villarreal lost in the first round of the "American Ninja Warrior" finals, when he slipped off a bridge made of spinning balls. Yes, spinning balls.
In real life, you are unlikely to encounter a bridge of spinning balls. But in real life, there are trees, walls and railings. So Villarreal will talk about how to use those in free running, and how to be safe about doing it.
Free running is about extraordinary physical feats, yes, but it's also about making good decisions. After all, the sport was developed in part as a training method for the French military.
After he appeared on "American Ninja Warrior," Villarreal was asked to march in the parade for the Old Port Festival in June. He did some flips, and that led to his getting this slot in the Weekday Performance Series.
He now hopes to launch a career as a stuntman or some other sort of physical performer.
And along the way, he hopes to tell others about the joys and benefits of letting no obstacle stand in your way.
Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: