CENTRAL POINT — The path wasn't always clear for Byron Higinbotham, but that was never a problem.

CENTRAL POINT — The path wasn't always clear for Byron Higinbotham, but that was never a problem.

The 36-year-old Central Point resident appreciated every step of the way as he shifted from an aspiring cop to realizing that he was meant to be a progressive gym owner.

What he created is a constantly evolving complex that hosts Brazilian jiu-jitsu classes and a dynamic activity called parkour. Higs Gym (2744 Taylor Road) started as a small studio above a garage in 2003 and rose into a 4,500-square-foot indoor gymnasium and two-acre outdoor facility.

"It's amazing how things fall into place, especially when you have a vision," says the 1996 Crater High graduate, who is also a third-generation farmer on the land he oversees. "Sometimes I don't know where I'm heading, but I can see the path that is directed in front of me. Reaching the destination is good, but it's the journey that is the character builder."

Higinbotham took a circuitous path to the fitness industry. He grew up on a farm in Central Point, where he built forts and obstacle courses with friends.

He was never much into organized sports. Aside from wrestling in middle school and as a freshman in high school, Higinbotham enjoyed skiing Mt. Ashland, mountain biking and rock climbing.

After graduating from high school, he moved to Bend and attended Central Oregon Community College. Higinbotham transferred to Southern Oregon University and earned a degree in criminology while dabbling in exercise physiology and fire science.

Before he ever thought about starting up a gym, Higinbotham secured Emergency Medical Technician-Basic certification and tested for jobs with the Bend and Medford police departments and Medford fire department. As if fate somehow intervened, he could not make it to a key interview with Medford PD because he and his wife Emmalee were leaving for their honeymoon.

"Nothing quite worked out," he says. "But everything worked out for the best."

Away from those pursuits, Higinbotham was becoming a martial arts expert.

The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Higinbotham earned his black belt in 1999 and is now a third-degree black belt in Taekwondo. He competed nationally before shifting his focus to submission wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, in which he owns a purple belt under the instruction of Roy Dean. He was the 2012 U.S. Open gold medalist, 2013 Subleague Season champion, 2013 Gracie Worlds gold medalist, 2013 U.S. Open gold medalist and 2014 Pan Am bronze medalist.

His past and his future meshed along the way.

Higinbotham became fascinated with parkour, which is described as the art of movement. Participants move through an environment with quickness and efficiency while negotiating any obstacle that may be in their way by jumping, climbing or vaulting.

Eventually, all the dots connected for Higinbotham. He established his first martial arts school, focusing on Olympic-style Taekwondo, in 2003 in a small studio above his garage. In 2004, he and Emmalee moved to their farm here, where the gym is now. He helps operate the business (Higinbotham Farms) and runs the gym with help from Emmalee, Peter Hulce, Steven Hulce and Tyler Maddox.

The gym offers classes in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, parkour, functional fitness and mixed martial arts.

Higinbotham has 80 students. He says about two-thirds of his clientele are children 14 and younger, but the gym offers programs for everyone. Monthly memberships cost about $80, punch cards for 12 classes are $120 and individual visits are $12.

The gym features some obstacles similar to those seen on NBC's American Ninja Warrior.

"One of my goals is to have somebody from our gym go represent us at one of those competitions," Higinbotham says. "I might throw my hat in there, too."

And change is a constant at Higs, where Higinbotham is always dreaming up new challenges.

"I'm always looking to change it up and go a little deeper," he says.

The gym will have its first contest — The Ninja Challenge — on Saturday. The outdoor obstacle course at the farm will feature at least 60 obstacles, including a 50-foot inclined monkey bar with a six-foot bar gap over water, a vertical 22-foot cargo net climb, a rope swing, gap jumps and balance and precision obstacles. The entry fee is $25 for novice divisions and $50 for elite divisions, which offer cash prizes.

Higinbotham is hoping to have a couple hundred participants.

Like the show American Ninja Warrior, competitors will go individually as the crowd looks on.

"The fastest people will make it through in two minutes or less," Higinbotham says. "So it's all about speed and jamming in as many obstacles as I can in a small distance."

Higs Gym will have a youth parkour camp Aug. 4-7. The cost is $80.

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email djones@mailtribune.com. Find him online at twitter.com/danjonesmt