Yu Hannah Kim is a resilient and determined individual who was born and raised in Davis, CA. Growing up in a challenging environment, she witnessed her single mother’s perseverance as she overcame numerous obstacles to become a registered nurse in America. Yu Hannah’s unique language experience, forgetting English while living in Tokyo and later relearning it, shaped her adaptability and resilience.
With a strong athletic drive instilled by her mother, Yu Hannah embraced swimming despite initial struggles, eventually becoming a skilled athlete and earning a Division I swimming scholarship. She graduated from the University of California, Davis with a B.S. in Exercise Biology with Physiology, later working as a personal trainer at Equinox in San Francisco. However, she felt a sense of lost identity and sought new challenges, leading her to explore parkour and embrace the “why the f not” mentality.
Yu Hannah’s journey in parkour allowed her to reconnect with her passion for athleticism and set new goals for herself. She faced fears, created a fearless alter ego called Parkour Mama, and even ventured into TV appearances and international parkour competitions. Her story highlights the power of saying “why the f not” and embracing new experiences, demonstrating that life can lead to unexpected and exciting paths when one steps out of their comfort zone.
How did your upbringing as an only child of a single mom shape your work ethic and outlook on life?
My mom was abandoned in a new country when she was pregnant with me and had no support system. Yet, she never complained. Instead, she worked incredibly hard to become a registerednurse and created our own American dream single-handedly where I was able to go to college and live my life without limits. Through her, I learned not only the benefits of a strong work ethic but how to put my head down and grind without any complaints.
What was the most valuable lesson your mom taught you about nutrition and healthy eating?
While living in Japan, we spent a couple of months on the tiny island of Awashima where my mom had grown up. Today this island consists of less than 300 locals. My grandfather was a fisherman, my grandmother was a farmer, and my aunt would create meals with whatever was brought in daily from the sea and mountains. Due to access to these incredible natural resources throughout her childhood, my mom always emphasized the importance of real ingredients and well-balanced nutrition. Growing up, most of the meals I had were one-pots of vegetables and fish with rice and miso soup on the side. With our limited budget we never went to restaurants, but she did treat us to a Big Mac every Saturday! I remember how special those outings were for me. Even though my mom prioritized nutrition, she also taught me to enjoy treats and cherish
little moments of pleasure. Without a doubt, this was something I wanted to pass down to my own children. My twins are 10 and my youngest is eight and they eat everything. They’ve eaten every bite of restaurant omakases, prix fixes, and tried everything from fish sperm to cow tongue!
I love locally owned and organic options, so we cook healthily at home. We’re fortunate enough to have options available for treats, and since I’m not a big fan of processed food, we don’t really do McDonalds like my mom and I did, but we definitely enjoy our occasional outings for pastries, donuts and ice cream!
How did your mom’s expectations for your athletic performance influence your approach to sports?
My mom expected the absolute best from me in athletics. She would have me do core exercises after dinner and expect a personal record at every swim meet. I was a terrible swimmer, getting pity claps because I came in last by a mile! But my mom taught me to never compare myself to others, just to keep pushing forward, improving bit by bit. And I did – I got better every single day and ultimately received a Division 1 swimming scholarship. I promise you, there was no natural talent! My mom continuously expected more of me, and I got comfortable with being uncomfortable. Once I had decided to be a swimmer, in my mind there was no option to skip practice or to quit – one time I even swam with a high fever! And you bet my mom instilled that in me. This mindset led me to achieve records in events I used to get the pity claps for and made me realize anything is possible with motivation and a strong work ethic.
What motivated you to pursue a degree in Exercise Biology with Physiology?
What inspired you to try parkour, and how did it change your perspective on life and personal goals?
I graduated from University of California, Davis with a B.S. in Exercise Biology with Physiology, and became a personal trainer at Equinox in San Francisco. Although my mom loved the science field, she deterred me from pursuing a typical popular career, saying life is so
much more than unhappily working endless hours. I love the body, how it works, and what it’s capable of. It seemed only logical that this subject would be my major. After college, I worked as a personal trainer, met my husband at the gym, we had kids, and I became a stay-at-home mom. Being a stay-at-home mom is interesting. There are no direct goals that are measurable in terms of raising resilient, kind, hard-working kids. I missed having concrete goals to work towards and feeling like the athlete I am. I’d frequent my local Whole Foods quite a bit and Kamran, one of the cashiers, would always talk to me about parkour – the first time he suggested it to me, I was pregnant with my third, so I just laughed! But after about a year of listening to this one-man appreciation club, I figured why the f*** not! It’s incredible to learn completely new things in life. Back then, I was scared to even attempt a crow pose in yoga, never mind a handstand, cartwheel or even a forward roll. Parkour has changed me.
Before I didn’t want to look stupid, but now I don’t care – I want to have fun and do what makes me happy. We are never too old to learn new things!
How did you create your fearless alter ego, Parkour Mama, and what impact did it have on your life?
At the gym one day, I was talking to my friends, one of whom used to be a sponsored athlete, about how I dreamed to become so good at parkour that I could get commercial work doing fun things like jumping from building to building – yes, really! Doesn’t that sound fun! Though I
wanted to mainly be at home with my kids, I liked the idea of getting gigs here and there to give me a sense of productivity, creativity, and to fuel my passion. So, after that conversation with my friends, I took action. To keep myself accountable and to market myself for future me, I
created an alter ego social media page. At first I was scared of people judging my ‘edgier’ pictures or having an account only about me, but I quickly realized I’m not going to get anywhere if I keep worrying what people think about me. Since then, it’s evolved to become my primary and now only Instagram page and I’ve learned to let go of people’s judgements. It’s helped me realize you can’t control what others think and if you do, you’ll be forever stuck in a muddy puddle of fear and worry. I know you hear it all the time but sometimes it takes
numerous reminders to actually understand it fully. Being okay with Parkour Mama and standing behind it as my sole social media identity freed me. If you’re feeling stuck, you will find a way that’s authentic to you, just don’t give up!
What challenges did you face while pursuing parkour, and how did you overcome them?
I was constantly injured, and everyone who loved me tried to make me quit. I didn’t have a community to practice with and no time to actually train having three kids, aged two and under.
There was a point where I had a string of small injuries back-to-back and I remember driving along the freeway one day, asking myself whether parkour was worth it. That was the moment when I fully committed. I decided I would dive in headfirst as soon as I had the time to train more. It was all going to be worth it, I just need to get better.
How did your move to Charlotte and the creation of a parkour gym in your garage enhance your training experience?
While living in the Bay Area in California, I didn’t have a community with whom I could practice. An hour away by car, there were some people that were down to train, but it wasn’t sustainable. Moving to Charlotte has given me more of a community, and it’s not only been an
opportunity to train more, but for my kids to have a chance to really get into it. They love it! I think there’s something so beautiful about being able to learn things with your kids. They see all my fails, my bruises, and they also see me succeed. But, to me, all that matters is that they don’t
see me give up.
How did your experiences on Below Deck Mediterranean impact your outlook on life and personal growth?
That experience, there’s no other word for it – it was freeing! At first, I felt a little uneasy about being on TV partying in the Mediterranean while I left my kids at home – what parent wouldn’t feel like that? I worried people would say something. But this was the freeing moment when I decided not to care. If you are attentive and give your kids love, the rides and the meals when you’re home, what’s a couple days away? The amount of time away is so short compared to all the days and years you get to spend with them. If people want to judge, let them. All their
negative judgements reflect their nature and whatever makes them unhappy or envious. Never let that stop you.
You Can Follow Yu Hannah Kim On Instagram