NORTON -- From its 6,000 square feet of obstacle courses, walls to vault over and bars to swing on, the Hub Parkour Training Center doesn’t look much like a typical summer camp.
But for many of the 8- to 15-year-olds learning to land spectacular front flips, climb walls like a ninja and leap from obstacle to obstacle, the camp beats arts and crafts or a game of capture the flag any day.
“I like it,” said Jackson Mercieri, 10, of Easton who was all smiles after perfecting a front flip and landing squarely on his feet.
“I just closed my eyes, jumped up and flipped,” he said.
Parkour, which combines elements of gymnastics and military-inspired fitness training, is practiced by a growing number of athletes who have become known for their artistic moves and spectacular stunts. In some cases, that includes scaling tall buildings and leaping and tumbling across public spaces.
But at parkour camp, the focus is on fundamentals.
“We don’t encourage kids to do anything dangerous,” said Zack Colten, one of two regular coaches at the indoor camp. “If anything, we teach them how to do things safely.”
Many of the kids who attend camp are inspired by the TV program “American Ninja Warrior” which pits adult athletes against each other over difficult obstacle courses filled with challenging stunts.
Parkour, which is also referred to as freerunning, emerged from military obstacle course training. Participants, called traceurs, strive to move through an obstruction-filled environment without special equipment using only their bodies and unique athletic skills.
Those skills often include leaping, spinning, climbing, vaulting and rolling up, over, around and under objects of all kinds.
Beginning in the 1990s, parkour gained momentum through videos made by athletes showing their spectacular skills as they leaped and flipped through office buildings, parks and other challenging spaces.
Dylan Poulin, an accomplished traceur and businessman, opened Hub Parkour Training Center in 2016. Poulin said he hopes to open up a new world of motion to athletes young and old.
Of a dozen or so campers going through their paces at camp Friday, some were attracted to parkour because of its similarity to martial arts or gymnastics — sports with which they were already familiar.
Others were anxious to try something different.
Faith Monteiro, 15, of Easton said she is into martial arts training and decided to try private lessons at the parkour center.
“I immediately loved it,” she said.
Monteiro said she was intrigued by the challenge of overcoming obstructions and learning the proper techniques to guide her movements.
Aiden Maynard, 11, of Mansfield, said he was fascinated when his mother showed him a flyer she picked up about parkour and decided to give it a try.
“It’s exciting how fun it is,” he said.
Because it is such a new sport/art form, most adults who practice parkour mostly taught themselves by watching videos and practicing in public parks and gyms. That’s changing these days as more training facilities are going up around the country, said Hub Parkour coach Alec Reduker.
“It’s amazing how fast kids learn the skills,” he said. “I had to learn everything by practicing on my own. But these kids. These kids are going to be amazing.”