Founder of Stevenage-based Creative Movement on why you should try parkour - after becoming a national sport

PUBLISHED: 08:31 31 January 2017 | UPDATED: 09:30 31 January 2017

The group learns the basics of free running in the gym.

The group learns the basics of free running in the gym.

Archant

The first parkour and freerunning club in Hertfordshire is going leaps and bounds in helping to sign children up to take part in the UK's newest sport.

Children of all ages are signing up to try out the sport and by all accounts they are loving it.Children of all ages are signing up to try out the sport and by all accounts they are loving it.

Parkour – which involves running and jumping across and between outdoor spaces – was recognised as an official sport by the UK’s sports councils earlier this month, and Stevenage’s Ash Bartlett and his team of coaches are helping to teach children the rolls, jumps, stretches and moves that make up the sport in a safe environment.

Ash, a former pupil of the town’s Barclay School, became interested in the sport as a teenager when he saw some youngsters doing ‘strange movements’ in the town centre.

He said: “I went over and asked them what they were doing – they were using their hands and feet in a weird way.

“They explained that it was all about the art of moving.

Ash Bartlett says coaching Parkour has helped him find what he really wants to do in life.Ash Bartlett says coaching Parkour has helped him find what he really wants to do in life.

“When I got home I googled it and the rest is history really.”

Ash began to learn the sport and take part in it with friends, and eventually attended a Bedfordshire parkour group.

“We met up and started jumping over walls and other things,” he said.

“We started getting quite physically fit, and we never really looked back.

The group also practices at Airspace in Stevenage which allows them to make use of the giant trampolines.The group also practices at Airspace in Stevenage which allows them to make use of the giant trampolines.

“Then I found that other people were becoming interested and learning from what I was saying, and I began to get interested in coaching.”

In 2015, Ash got his coaching qualification and began teaching the sport. In September last year he set up the Creative Movement Academy – which now has more than 30 members aged between eight and 16, who learn the sport in a safe gym environment.

He said: “We decided to put a club together, and bought some vaults that we could use.

“We managed to get use of the gym at Barnwell School and we’ve now got more than 30 kids taking part.”

Ash helping a club member over the vault.Ash helping a club member over the vault.

Ash says he is not worried that by the bad press parkour and freerunning sometimes get from people who think it’s too dangerous or intrusive.

He said: “I’ve had my fair share of injuries and I smashed up my knee pretty badly in 2015.

But in the gym the kids are learning in a completely safe environment – doing vaults and flips and learning to walk on bars.

“If you are new to the sport you start with small jumps and you don’t go taking too many risks.

The sport is not just about jumping over objects, it also involves aerobics and gymnastics.The sport is not just about jumping over objects, it also involves aerobics and gymnastics.

“The parents are aware and very supportive of this, and the kids absolutely love it.

Ash, 24, says the group is now looking for a space it can use as a gym of its own and for more funding, especially now the sport has taken off nationally.

And on a personal level he says he has found something he truly loves doing.

“It’s easily the best thing I’ve done with my life,” he said. “It’s made such an impact on me.

“I couldn’t believe it when it was made a national sport. I was quite emotional, it was a dream come true. After all the years of people putting the sport down, it felt like a relief.”

For more information about the group or if you can offer a premises or funding, see facebook.com/creativemovementacademy.

The club meets at Barnwell School between 10.30am and 12.30pm on Saturdays.

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