Natural Movement, or MovNat, is a fitness system inspired by the physical training of ancient Greeks and Romans as well as the 19th century’s physical culture pioneers. The philosophy behind MovNat is simple: humans intrinsically know how to physically move their bodies, and itch to do so in a wide variety of ways. But our sedentary lifestyles and even the way we exercise has caused us to forget how to move efficiently and proficiently. MovNat can help you re-learn these basic, functional human movements, like jumping, crawling, carrying, throwing, balancing, and running.
Today on the show I talk to MovNat founder Erwan Le Corre and MovNat Performance Director Danny Clark about what MovNat is, the classical inspiration behind MovNat, and how it can help you to become strong to be useful.
- The inspiration behind MovNat
- Georges Herbert and The Natural Method
- Why you should be strong to be useful
- The philosophy behind MovNat
- How MovNat can reconnect you with nature
- How physical fitness got off track in the 20th century
- The difference between looking fit and being fit
- The specific skills of MovNat
- Making physical fitness a constant rite of passage
- How MovNat can help you with your fitness speciality
- Why you need a 2×4 in your living room
- How MovNat gets more and more complex as you advance
- Why MovNat is the martial arts of movement
- How to get started with MovNat
Resources/Studies/People Mentioned in the Podcast
- The Workout the World Forgot [MovNat Video]
- Chris McDougall’s article about MovNat in Men’s Health
- Get Fit Like a Wildman: A Primer on MovNat
- The History of Physical Fitness
- My podcast with Chris McDougall about Natural Born Heroes
- The Natural Method by Georges Herbert
- Every Man Should Be Able to Save His Own Life
- My Review of a MovNat Workshop
- An Introduction to Indian Club Training
- How to Perform Kettlebell Exercises
- Study about mortality rates and getting up off the ground
- How to Create Your Own Rites of Passage
- Carlos Condit and MovNat
- An Introduction to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
- How to Perform a Fireman’s Carry
- How to Perform a Muscle-up
- “From the Ground Up” MovNat Video Series
If you’re looking to move better and become strong to be useful, I can’t recommend MovNat enough. It can be your whole fitness practice, or it can serve as a great supplement to your strength training or long-distance running programming. Visit Movnat.com for more information on how to get started and be sure to watch the “From the Ground Up” video series.
Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)
Connect with MovNat
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And thanks to Creative Audio Lab in Tulsa, OK for editing our podcast!
Read the Transcript
Brett McKay: Welcome to another edition of the Art of Manliness podcast. Back in 2013 I got an email from a French guy named Erwan Le Corre. He said he was the founder of something called MovNat and he wanted to write an article for us about how to do things like lift and carry a log efficiently. What MovNat is is a fitness program inspired by the same physical training the ancient Greeks and Romans used and revitalized in the 19th Century by physical cultures like Georges Hébert with his book, The Natural Method. The philosophy behind MovNat is simple, humans intrusively know how to physically move their bodies and have an itch to do so in a variety of ways but our sanitary lifestyle and even the way we exercise today causes us to forget how to move efficiently and efficiently.
MovNat can help you solve that and relearn these basic movements. Today in the show I talked to the founder of MovNat, Erwan Le Corre, and MovNat’s performance director, Danny Clark, about what MovNat is, the things you are going to do in MovNat, the classical inspiration behind it and how it can help you to become strong to be useful. After the show is over is over, check out the show notes at aom.is/movnat, where you’ll find links to resources where you can build deep into this topic. Erwan Le Corre and Danny Clark, welcome to the show.
Danny Clark: Thanks for having us.
Erwan Le Corre: Good morning Brett.
Brett McKay: All right, so Erwan you are the founder of MovNat and Danny you are the performance director there helping develop curriculum for MovNat. Erwan you’ve actually written a few articles for the Art of Manliness about Natural Movement, The History of Physical Fitness. I’m sure a lot of our listeners are familiar with your work and what MovNat is but for those who aren’t familiar with MovNat, can you give us the history of it? Like how did you create this system of physical fitness? What’s the inspiration behind it?
Erwan Le Corre: It’s a mix of my personal experience and training and it’s also inspired by ancient physical culture or physical training systems in Europe but mainly and especially what’s called the Natural Method. Precisely it was called a physical viral and moral education by the natural Method and this system was founded officially in 1905 by a French Navy officer called Georges Hébert. His idea was that people have to be physically and mentally ready for the demands of the real world. The training was based on practical natural movements that are necessary to respond physically in the real world. The motto of this method was to be strong to be useful so that’s my main influence though with the MovNat method we’ve made a number of substantial improvements to those ancient methods.
Brett McKay: That’s interesting that you’ve written about v on the site before and he’s a really fascinating character in the system of cultural or physical culture that you develop. Why did he feel that it was necessary to develop this and promote it? Was there some … What was going on in the history at the time in France and around the world where you say like, “Yeah, we need to teach people how to walk, how to run, how to crawl, how to climb?”
Erwan Le Corre: Because not too surprisingly back then that’s more than 100 years ago, people were already dealing with some of the same issues that modern populations deal with which is a lack of physical training, lack of movement and all the consequences on health, on fitness. This implies back then it was after the industrial revolution so people already were massively transitioning from living on farms in their rural world to living in cities with much less movement wait. That the population already and foods start to become different and so all together there was already a movement towards somewhat returning back to nature already back then. Returning to nature was also about returning to more natural behaviors so natural movements. That was one of these main preoccupation but also he had a very inclined event in his life where he had to rescue hundreds of people with his team, with his crew when he was in the Navy after the eruption of a volcano.
What he noticed is that a lot of people were unable to help themselves. They could not run, they were not fit enough and then his crew was trained by him and they were able to save a number of people. That idea of being strong to be useful was very important so to wrap that up, his mission was to educate people to make sure that populations back then were physically fit and ready for the demands of the real world.
Brett McKay: To that end what skills was he trying to impart with his Natural Method?
Erwan Le Corre: All the movement skills that are necessary when, well when shit hits the fan basically. That’s when difficult circumstances arise that you realize how vital it becomes to be able to run fast or run for a distance or to climb something high or to lift and carry something or somebody heavy. Then jump and balance and do all those movements that they are natural but that are for the most part forgotten in people’s daily life.
Brett McKay: All right, so you took that idea that Georges, I was going to Jorge, I was about to do the Spanish, Georges, did with the Natural Method and created the MovNat system and adapted it. We’ll go to Danny on this one, so Danny what are the big philosophical and practical principles of MovNat? What are you trying to do with this system?
Danny Clark: Well MovNat is about developing the lost art of physical competence through these natural patterns that Erwan’s mentioning. In our modern day environments of just cars and stairs and chairs, it’s eliminated the need to be physically capable but the thing is our bodies need stimulation for ultimately for thrive and that’s what this is about. We restore Natural Movements in a more progressive systematic way but we still can’t deny that movements essentially and fundamentally is our interaction with our environment. When we think about our culture now where we’re taught to specialize so early either through sports or academics or we’re taught to be basically sanitary. People never really get the chance to develop this broad based like unspecialized movement skillset that from an evolutionary perspective used to develop. It was essential for our survival.
Through this practice we try to help, we work on helping people escape this vicious cycle of sanitary living that we’re seeing in modern day. By learning skills that also have direct practical applications to their modern day lives. It’s not just about these big survival situations, I think that the most important thing is to create a base of movement skills that set us up to be able to do these high level skills. Also directly impact our everyday lives so building efficiency in movements so that we can instead of avoiding and being afraid of movements, we can actually become very efficient in movement. So that we are actually spending less energy to do the things that we do everyday whether it even just be getting up off the grounds, running upstairs, carrying things, lifting things, playing with the children.
We can even spend half the effort or even less doing this. Moving becomes less of an intimidating prospects and we can help penetrate people’s lives a little bit better. Overall MovNat is about developing these timeless classical skills that’s again directly related to survival situations but it’s also really adding meaning to fitness and exercise for anybody. Not just 20 year olds but anybody that’s human.
Brett McKay: Right and it’s not just … What I love about MovNat too it’s you focus on these really basic skills. We’ll talk about what these basic skills are but it’s also getting people back into the world. Like encountering their environment in a more thoughtful way like you want to get out there and see that tree and be like, “If that’s not just a tree, it’s like a tree I could climb in a certain way and let’s see how efficient I can be at climbing that tree.”
Danny Clark: Sure and it’s just remembering that our ability to climb for example isn’t something that we’re just born with, it’s something that’s learned. We have to have a reason, our body is a system of overlapping systems, strength conditioning, perceptual abilities, all these dozens of systems that occur. Our system has to interact with our outside environment which is a bigger system and in that interaction movement emerges. These patterns are crawling like climbing happen. It’s in our modern day environment without the stimulus to the only reasons to actually use these patterns, they degrade overtime. When we were young we used to do these stuff all the time but that doesn’t necessarily mean we developed it very well.
Maybe enough to get by in our environments at a fundamental level. Now we enter school and we’re never really given the stimulus to really build our ability to move well. Yeah, I think it’s certainly about being able to climb a tree but I think it’s also about the whole spectrum of movement that we’re not really doing right now. That includes lifting but it’s not exclusive to just lifting weights or running, it’s really everything.
Brett McKay: Right, so it’s those things we take for granted. Erwan, in the article you wrote for us a couple of years ago about introducing people to MovNat, you made the argument that physical fitness got offtrack. The Natural Method, this is part of a larger emergence of physical culture in the West, right? This is when Barbell training started, got to start Catapult training, bodybuilding got it start and Indian clubs, all that stuff. That’s where it’s led to this physical fitness industry that we have today. You argue that the physical fitness industry got offtrack at one point. How so and when did that happen?
Erwan Le Corre: The physical industry at some point got offtrack in the sense that it forgot what the body, the human body is naturally capable of and actually the fundamental … What I believe is a fundamental and universal reason for physical training which is again real competency,, physical competency and preparedness for the real world. That’s the foundation to us and all the rest is great but it’s on top of that, it’s optional, it’s accessory. What is not accessory is your ability to operate your body in useful ways and when I say useful like then you said we are talking about the day to day movements. We are also talking about your ability to respond to more challenging situations to help yourself and to potentially help others and to at least never be helpless to yourself and others. That’s a principle, that’s a fundamental principle next. When you look at the evolution of physical training in history and this used to be the role.
That’s what people were looking for primarily. It’s that physical competency and preparedness for the real world. Then it became a lot about what you look like, looking fit and not making sure that you are fit in the sense of again being able to respond efficiently and effectively to the demands of the real life but to just look fit. Which is very different so from the primary goal of being physically ready for the real life, the whole industry of fitness has developed towards looking fit but not having any preoccupation about making sure that you are fit, that you are physically competent and ready for the real life. Which is very different and it’s not just a change in goals and in expectations. Because the change in goals induced a complete change in methodologies used to reach these goals.
When you want to train to be ready for the real life, you realize that you must be able to jump, you must be able to lift and carry and throw and catch. You must be able to run and to climb and even to defend yourself. You must be able to perform all these fundamental, universal natural movement skills. When you train for looking fit, the methodologies that you are going to employ to reach the cosmetics standards that you are looking for a certain of the body to look like, then again the methods you are going to employ they tend towards that goal. That’s when you end up with muscle isolation and a whole lot of machines designed to shape your movement and shape your body in a certain way. That’s when we didn’t have completely lost track with the original intent of movement which is, and the original intent of the body, which is practical movement.
This is not to say that MovNat is not interested in the beauty, the appeal of an athletic looking body. It’s just that this is the outcome of how we move and train. It’s natural movement is going to scalp natural bodies and natural looking bodies. That are much more banners than when you try to isolate the body in parts as if it was made up of parts. The body is not made up of parts. The body is a whole unit and it’s supposed to function as a unit as well. We are trying to bring the industry back towards the fundamental of movement in the body.
Danny Clark: I was just going to say to add to that, I’ve been a trainer for a very long time and I think I’ve seen overall a shift maybe not in the total mainstream but it’s the more some segmented communities in the fitness industry. A shift away from purely aesthetic and a little bit more to functional in this whole functional fitness craze that came about. With cattle bells and crossfit and all these other tools so and even just strength training. I think all of that, that’s part of the industry has evolved a little bit. Although again I don’t think it’s fully penetrated the masses. I still see a lot of isolation in that so okay, we are not isolating our biceps anymore but we’re still just trying to isolate systems now. We’re isolating strength. Okay and now well I have strength but now I don’t have mobility so now I need to isolate mobility. Well now I need to isolate conditioning or now I need to isolate my brain and figure out how to piece that all into the puzzle.
We have this really compartmentalized view of fitness and this stems from the therapeutic end of it so trying to restore function. It makes sense for a physical therapist to isolate a particular body part or a system or an athletic setting like definitely it’s trying to isolate a particular system to play it out. The people that get lost in that are the ones, the average people, the people that are really, really movement deficient. None of these systems are functioning optimally or really to any respectable level or any level that would represent thriving in this world. Trying to compartmentalize and just isolate systems becomes okay now I do strength, I do Yoga, I do this and then we’re trying to just script and throw it all together. Really there’s dozens of systems involved in the physiology of your body. What MovNat is decompartmentalizing functional fitness and turning it into something practical, something natural.
Something where strength, conditioning, mobility, all these things are in a nice organic balance. It becomes much more efficient so that the people who need it the most especially those that are past their 30s can really rip the benefits of all these benefits of our entire system improving without the need to become a master of really anything. Again that specialization layer can be added and there’s nothing wrong with it but MovNat really represents the basic movement that we all should have and that’s really what it’s about.
Brett McKay: Yeah, so let’s go back to this idea of looking fit and being fit. I’m sure you’ve all in your teaching have encountered people from all walks of life and fitness levels and I’m sure you’ve encountered people who looked like super ripped like they are jacked, had chiseled abs. Like they just they looked like they were fit but any of those people you’ve encountered like when you actually put them to the test, like they actually didn’t have fitness?
Danny Clark: As a martial artist I could say I see all the time. I’ve been a wrestler and a Jujitsu fighter for a very long time. That’s the classic joke is when the bodybuilder or the cross fitter steps into the Jujitsu mats and is actually asked to perform a task that’s outside their training. That high level of fitness or the look of fitness they’ve achieved really means absolutely nothing when asked to do something. I would say Erwan has probably seen lots of these, I witnessed it when I met him and we had an entire group of people. Some of them looked incredibly fit and we struggled to do very, very basic tasks.
Erwan Le Corre: I’ve seen this over and over and I remember my very first workshops the woods of West Virginia in 2009 and I had groups made of diverse people. Some didn’t do any kind of training, others were but ran already into crossfit or other fitness modalities. Everybody had their challenges, everybody and including those who did look very fit. Again it’s a beautiful thing to look, to look great, to look fit, to look athletic and there’s really nothing wrong about it. You don’t want to get lost into self-flattery and also a false sense of physical competency just because you can’t do a number of pull ups or you can’t sprint. That’s great, these are all aspects of physical competency that are very important. For instance just because you can do say 20 pull ups in a row, it doesn’t mean that you know the diverse techniques to climb on top of the bar where you aim for. That’s just one example.
If you apply that to say jumping, you can jump up and down a box forever for time, for stamina, awesome but can you do, can you perform that single shot, that single jab between those two rocks? With and being able to cross the distance and land with a courtesy and with balance. Because that’s also part of physical competency and this is also jumping and there are many other ways that you can jump that are not just jumping up and down a box and that are absolutely crucial. That idea that you are able to jump anything because you can do those 100 jumps on the box or that you can climb anything because you can do those 20 pull ups in a row on a bar. This again can easily give you a false sense of physical competency but it’s only a limited competency that you have. You need to open your mind and open your training to many more aspects of competency and the necessary adaptability to varied environmental or situational demands.
Brett McKay: Let’s talk about the specific skills, we’ve been talking high level here. What are some of the … What are the specific skills that you’re trying to impart or reteach people with MovNat?
Danny Clark: I think that it starts with the basics. It’s the very simple things that we again don’t really, our environment doesn’t really dictate that we do very much anymore but simple things like being able to sit on the ground and hold a position for 30 seconds or 10 minutes or whatever without your back cramping and without your neck aching and have induced which positions a million times. Being able to get up off the ground very smoothly and easily, being able to crawl. A lot of these stuff that we start with are things that again you did when you were your original physical competence quest when you were baby. Just because again you did it back then doesn’t mean that you can do it now, so much has been degraded overtime. That really is the starting point, the foundation and then again it starts to move up in domains to some more advanced things that balancing. All the way to super high level things like vaulting and climbing.
Erwan Le Corre: A lot of people today have issues simply squatting. Squatting up and down and also just holding a deep squat for instance and that’s just one example of some of the limitations that most modern people face today. They would have problem hip hinging which is also a fundamental movement there. When people have those huge issues to begin with, how are they going to be able to jump and lend properly, efficiently and safely? There’s no way, it’s going to be challenging. Working on the fundamental movements is essential to eventually be able to be ready for the more explosive, more demanding movements and also the more challenging environments. If I’ll take the example of jumping for instance, we’re not going to ask you to jump right away between like clear an obstacle with a real elevation and …
No, you are going to start any of the technique at ground level on a short distance where it is easy and where you will first learn efficient and efficient pattern and efficient technique. Then we will increase the intensity, then we will increase the complexity of the environment where you jump. There are progressions that are necessary so that people can learn actually faster than just trying the hard stuff right away. They also can do it in a way that is safe for the body.
Brett McKay: Right and so it’s not just crawling, it’s not just jumping. When I did the seminar a few months ago like we dedicated a section to just how to hold things like heavy things efficiently. Which suddenly you take for granted but if you think about, it’s amazing that if you actually take some time to think about it, how you can position your body or your hands or your arms in a way where you can take this heavy, odd object and make it actually comfortable to carry. It was amazing how much of a change that can have in your life.
Erwan Le Corre: That’s the beauty of technique and movement efficiency. In the fitness industry or at least what I like to call the old school fitness industry bodybuilding type and so on. They make simple movement look complex and difficult like a bicep curls for instance. It looks like you need a whole technique and a certain way to do it which is in part true but come on, that’s a bicep curl, right? We make movement that are actually complex, complex movement, we make them look easy because of practicing efficiency. Which leads to be really agile and light and accurate and smooth but the truth is that those movements to look like this and feel like that it requires practice. That’s the difference between what I call primary nature, the primary nature of movement which is that natural movement is innate in all of us and that’s for sure. We all have a certain ability to perform these movements that does not need to be taught.
However, efficiency in this natural movements, that’s what need to be taught and learned and trained consistently because this is not for granted. This is what surprises people when they are asked to do the simplest movements, a simple get up, you get up and get up from ground to standing, standing to ground and then they realize that they are off balance. They realize that they need their hands, they are realizing that they are stiff all over, they are realizing that they’re holding their breathe. They are realizing that those movements they took for granted actually they haven’t practiced them in years and they are not that good at it. Those movements nonetheless are essential to life, they are your basic function actually. There is a study that was done in Brazil where the ability to get down and get up from the ground without using your knees and without using your hands especially was a predictor of life expectancy.
If you are able to get up and get down without using your hands, you have a longer life expectancy that people who have to use their hands and have trouble basically doing the movement. If I make sense because from a biological standpoint, why on earth would you want to have a long life expectancy if your body is dysfunctional? The same true with GRIT strength. The people who have greater GRIT strength, the people who are in hospital will get out of the hospital faster than the people who have weaker GRIT strength. Why on earth would you have greater health and life expectancy if you don’t have basic strength in your hands?
Brett McKay: Right.
Erwan Le Corre: It’s all mobility, balance, coordination, strength, all of that is necessary for a body to be healthy, to be truly functional and to live long and to live with a high quality. Through those natural movements, you restore that potential and then you maintain it for as long as you can.
Brett McKay: Right, you were going on that study about mortality rates and be able to get off the ground. I read another study or an article just talking about one reason why people in Japan might live longer than people say in America is that in japan the bed is usually on the floor, right? In the retirement homes, like these old people in retirement homes are constantly having to get up off the floor and they can do it because they do it all the time. They have that strength and coordination to do it but here in America it’s not … You might be in a bed that lifts you up, you lift yourself out of the bed so you don’t get to use any of those muscles. The mortality rate increases because we’ve lost that ability to get off the ground.
Erwan Le Corre: Exactly so it means that your environment dictates your movement behavior. You have two choices here and actually they are a complementary. One is that you can’t change your environment so you can go for less furniture or different furniture so that at least your day to day movements are changed. They are requiring more range of motion, they require more attention and effort on your part. That’s one way but the other way is to simply realize this. Okay, there is nothing in my life that demands that I run and sprint, that demand that I balance and jump, that I demand that I crawl low on the ground, zero, none. I don’t need it for food, to get my food, I don’t need it because there’s no actual danger in my life or necessity of that fact. I don’t make a living because I have to move all these ways.
However, I can devise a strategy so that I make those movements possible again and that’s the idea is that you want to have a vision of yourself, of a person who has and who possesses these skills, that strength, those physical qualities. You need to practice and even when the necessity to perform these movements and these efforts is not there, you are going to create even if it’s just in your mind the conditions so that you can have your body behave in the way it’s supposed to behave. That’s natural movement and that’s MovNat.
Brett McKay: Yeah, that … Oh go ahead Danny.
Danny Clark: I think that … Again I work with an older population often and adding meaning to movements that directly carry over to their life such as getting up off the ground, crawling, practicing these movements is life changing for them. It can be and it’s a phase for anybody so …
Erwan Le Corre: Right here we have team instructors, Cameron, who’s based in Houston and he’s been working with a group of war veterans who are disabled, who lost a limb. Who served the country but then they come back in their day to day life has completely changed because their body has changed. Using the MovNat methods and principles and techniques, he’s been able to teach these guys to be able to for instance get back to the … Get down to the ground and back up on their own without assistance. That was another life changing experience for everyone in their lives because that’s autonomy and that’s a beautiful thing to see. It doesn’t matter whatever conditions in your life that led you to be either other way or dysfunctional.
Life is not easy and it can really be harsh but what I want to express here is that there are methods out there that exist that are going to reempower you to support your self empowerment. Through movement, through movement that is useful, it does not aim at making you look good in the mirror but that is designed to make you perform again and be empowered through sometimes performing again the simplest movements.
Brett McKay: Yeah, the getting up off the floor without using your hands or knees, that’s not a joke. Like that is hard. Dan, you probably remember like it took me a while to get that and it hurt. Because I hadn’t done that in years but once I was always to do it it’s actually pretty cool. It’s like, “Hey, I don’t need a chair, I don’t need a bed to get off the ground. I can just use my own two feet and make that and get up.” It’s awesome.
Danny Clark: Yeah, absolutely and that’s how it should be because when you can get up and off the ground more easily, you’re more likely to get on the ground. For some people being able to get on the ground and feel comfortable there, it’s going to have them interact with their kids, their grandkids more often. Then for the young bucks who are just really that motivated by these simple or what they would consider probably like old people stuff or whatever, there’s this whole other layer and this is what is incredible about MovNat of these high level skills. That are about being helpful and useful for survival situations and that’s what resonated with me was, “Okay, I can use this professionally and then I can benefit from this practice personally.” There’s this compelling meaning to my fitness, it’s not just about vanity, it’s not just about a certain quantifying my fitness and hitting a certain number. Now it’s about something a little bit bigger than me and for me that gives me a lot of personal satisfaction. It’s very intuitive and it’s a pretty cool thing, it’s an incredible movement.
Erwan Le Corre: A lot of what Danny said and actually I wanted to express something that whoever is into the Art of manliness is I believe is going to really relate with is that idea that so there is no right of passage in our modern societies anymore. Well practically none and that idea that you can embrace physical training not just to look good which will happen by the way but not for that reason, not even just for yourself but for yourself and others. It’s you turn a physical training into a constant rite of passage where with every progress you make your ability to help others if needed to serve others in that way is greater. With your personal, physical accomplishments and progress, you become more potentially more helpful to yourself but also your neighborhood, your community or even perfect strangers.
That is a very important cycle that you call asset, not only to grow but self-confidence when you walk the streets and you know that you can do pretty much anything if anything happens. You know that you won’t be helpless to yourself of others because you have learnt to be helpful or useful to yourself and others through your physical practice. This is relating back to that idea of moral indication that was so dear to Georges Hébert. He talked about these physical ethereal and moral education about the natural method. It’s that idea that it’s not just physical, it’s also about mental fortitude whenever it’s needed. Ultimately, it’s about the intention that guides you which is the difference between right and wrong. That idea that you can do something good in your life and that you can be useful to others. It’s a moral component that never gores old, never gets old.
It’s timeless, it’s universal and MovNat training also embraces that approach, that philosophy. It’s not just physical and even though the physical part is obviously the foundation and the main focus, ultimately we want to equip people with the physical skills, the physical qualities but also the mental and moral qualities and values that make them better people in this world.
Brett McKay: That’s one thing I loved about MovNat at the seminar when we were learning these skills. For example when we were learning how to throw, right, you learn how to throw in MovNat with heavy medicine balls. You are always trying to bring it back to like when would you use this? Well you might use this when you’re throwing sandbags in a chain to stop a flood or you’re carrying heavy, odd shaped objects. You’re like, “Well this is something you probably do if you were helping your old neighbor move mulch bags in her yard to clean things up. It’s always bringing it back to how can this be useful to others? It’s not just a self-gratifying aesthetic thing, it’s all about beef it to be useful.
Erwan Le Corre: Well it’s true, some movements skills and techniques they are it’s not about intensity, it’s about strength, it’s not about exposing this, it can be just as simple as the occurrence you need in a hand coordination to throw and catch a shovel, an ax, a piece of equipment or tool that’s going to be important in a given situation.
Brett McKay: Go ahead.
Danny Clark: I think so in a whole concept too because for me I’ve been … I started wrestling competitively when I was four years old and to be able to find a philosophy in an entire movement system that has a biological basis but also is not about competition inherently against others is really interesting to me. It has implications for my own life and that I can truly make my practice not about this alpha, I’m going to go beat someone thing is truly for me and it’s truly for others. With a young son of three years old, I think that that’s pretty powerful and I think that there’s nothing wrong with competition but that philosophy can rub off, I think it could help balance out our competitive nature a little bit. I think there will be some positive implications for society and for individuals who are bogged down by everything being about competition. You can certainly use this to be an extremely powerful competitor as a MMA fighter, Carlos Condit, did and many others or even myself have. To be able to do something that’s not always about competition is powerful.
Brett McKay: Right and I think this is an important point to make is that MovNat isn’t supposed, MovNat doesn’t have to replace your current fitness modality. You have an area focus like strength training or running or Brazilian Jujitsu or whatever, MovNat can be a supplement of that. I mean talk about how can working on your crawling or working on your climbing make you a better say power lifter for example?
Danny Clark: I think in many ways first of all any specialized sports or practice has trade offs associated with it. In a way you’re extending the longevity of your practice, of your particular sports. Someone like a power lifter like I was into that for a little bit, there’s going to be certain injuries that come about with overuse and by practicing natural movements or a broader spectrum of movements, you can negate some of those effects. I think that’s what cross training and essentially is all about but instead of doing something else that’s also more strength to try and negate that or very extreme that needs a lot of recovery, you’re doing something that could be restorative like crawling. I think that crawling and climbing both build a tremendous amount of structural integrity that lifting can but not always can do.
Again relating it back to myself, I don’t really mark stead lift very much anymore. I just I focus on adding more complexity to my dead lifting. I went and dead lifted the other day for the first time and was pulling over 400 for multiple reps and it wasn’t because I was on a power lifting cycle, it was because the quality of my joints, my overall function of my body, how it’s tied together, has improved through doing these other patterns. I think that it can benefit you in a lot of different ways. I think too for sports that require a ton of perceptual abilities like Mixed Martial Arts or any combat sports, even any ball sports or some of the sports that requires a lot of jumping or skiing. Working on your general ability to be able to perceive your environments I think carries over to your specific tasks.
I think a great example was Air1s work with Carlos Condit where he, Carlos, has a very specific strategy to be able to beat high level opponents. That by working on his specific footwork and his perceptual abilities in jumping, he was able to make some changes through a strategy to just put himself in better positions. Putting yourself I think generally anytime you put yourself outside of the same patterns you do all the time, there’s a lot of opportunity for growth.
Brett McKay: Yeah, I can attest the fact that MovNat can help your strength training. I primarily do Barbell training but one issue I’ve had just from, I think it’s just from sitting down all the time, that’s what I do most of the time. Is I got really tight in places like my chest or my hip abductors and doing some of the movement progressions in MovNat has helped open those things up so that I can get a little bit lower or I can get the bar in position on a low bar squat easier. Before I was so tight in my chest I couldn’t even do it at the beginning but doing some of the opening movements with MovNat has completely increased that flexibility so that I can get in that position comfortably.
Danny Clark: There’s a lot of benefits from adding heavy loads. We view in MovNat that lifting isn’t something separate from natural movement, lifting is just a part of natural movements. When you’re lifting you’re still practicing natural movements. There’s a lot of … Because of the movement deficit that happens when we stop playing, when we stop growing in our environment as youngsters, we start sitting a lot in school. A lot of the function of our torso whether it be your pelvic floor, all these whether it be your posture, just your general positioning, they can degrade. Just lifting heavy isn’t necessarily going to activate your full potential. By more movement variety, more stimulation of your body and a lot of different plains in motion that lifting ignores or doesn’t get a chance to stimulate, you absolutely can improve your lifting. I think the more your general movement ability increases the more any specific movement ability is going to increase as well.
Erwan Le Corre: There’s also that culture of muscular tightness, muscular hardness especially in the strength circles, even that idea of your radiation where you want every muscle possible in your body to contribute and to create some tension. The problem is that movement efficiency doesn’t work that way and you need that selectivity intention, selective tension and that also means the art of relaxation in movement. We know allied athletes are amazing at relaxation actually and when we talk about relaxation, well I’m not talking about relaxing the pool and drinking cocktail all day or stretching all day. I’m talking about relaxation in movement and so we don’t have that culture of muscular tightness actually, it’s the opposite movement.
We want the body to be more relaxed, we want the muscles to be more relaxed because when they are more relaxed then it means that your parents are more fluid and accurate. It also means that you can produce force better and so it’s not a surprise that the people who are saying to strength but also who have that mentality of constant maximum tension and tightness are going to actually see strength, gains in strength by simply learning to relax. To relax in it.
Brett McKay: Yeah and that’s hard to do to learn how to relax muscles.
Erwan Le Corre: To breathe.
Brett McKay: To breathe, right. It’s one of those things you take for granted. Let’s talk about this, so people we talked about movement. Now there’s some basic skills, there’s crawling, there is balancing, there is throwing, there is hanging from a bar. In movement there’s this thing called progressions where you progress from one movement to another. For those who are listening to the podcast like I want to give this a try, what would a typical movement progression look like for a beginner who’s just starting?
Danny Clark: If we look at like one movement domain or aptitude such as balancing, it would be as simple as starting on a two by four at ground level. Being able to walk forward and backwards or maybe even turn yourself around on a fairly wide object, that’s still for most people will still be a challenge to be able to spend a couple of minutes of minutes on there. Be able to learn how to effectively counterbalance to be able to relax and breath and not be overly tense or flaring their arms all over the place. That would be like the starting point and then to progress from there we can change either volume intensity or complexity. For those that are in the strength industry, volume intensity are very familiar. Volume would be just doing more of that same exact thing. Intensity would be we could add a load to that while you’re doing so we can add a carry now. You’re holding something while doing that, that balancing sequence or we can add complexity.
That’s the forgotten training variable in classical training. Which is we can change the object itself, we can make it a more narrow surface like a rail. We can elevate that surface and you’ll find that as that complexity increases, you have to relearn the pattern standing on a two by four is much different than standing on a rail. Standing at ground level is much different than standing eight feet above the ground. It’s not always about new shiny movements, flashy stuff, it’s just about adding that complexity as well as the volume and intensity to progress in a very systematic and safe way. If we just had somebody start by balancing at heights, could you imagine the second they stop breathing they are going to fall. They are probably not going to be breathing because of how afraid they are. In MovNat we make these skills very, very attainable but we use incremental steps so that anyone from a youngster to a senior can move to these progressions to the level that they feel comfortable from what they want to achieve.
Brett McKay: Yeah, I love that, the two by four is a great idea. If any of you are interested in MovNat like that it cost a few bucks, I have one in my living room and every time I walk by it I’ll occasionally valance across it or I’ll stand on it for a while and try to crouch down. Just I’ve been able to incorporate that into my daily routine, it’s not that hard to do, I don’t have to set aside time for MovNat, it just becomes a part of my day.
Danny Clark: It sounds so simple and you can’t tell someone … It’s one of those things that you have to try it to really understand how profound it is, how interesting it is, how engaging it is to be able to do this type of stuff. If you’re just used to the classical just lifting and calorie burning type of fitness, it might sound boring. I certainly didn’t try it until I just forced myself into a retreat with Air1 and from there it just it opened my entire world of new possibilities of viewing movement as a skill. Feeling the benefits of that skill improvements it’s to me just as rewarding as a max dead lift if not more. I’d say it’s more in line with being able to win against a high level Jujitsu competitor, that gratification as you feel your skill level increase.
Erwan Le Corre: Right, because trust and belief come through practice. I know that Danny could talk about the science between all these movements in a very precise way but the truth is that ultimately it really boils down to practice and then observe and feel. Because it’s going to happen, it’s going to take place in your body more than it takes place in your mind. You have an experience of what it is and what it brings to your body to what it can do. It’s to whoever has practice MovNat they are really often shocked by how much difference it makes and including in their specialty training in their whatever is their forte. Of that they are into lifting, into running, into blocking, into whatever because they get to be exposed physically to all those different patterns and physiological and physical adaptations that they are not exposed to when they only practice their specialized sport.
Brett McKay: Let’s talk about this, we’ve been very basic and I’m sure there’s people who are listening who are just like okay, crawling, okay balancing on a two by four. It sounds like kid stuff or old people stuff but to give us an idea of where MovNat can go as far as complexity in the … Yeah, just the complexity of it and the skill required to do it, can you talk about some of the fits of strength and agility that an instructor needs to accomplish in order to become I guess the highest is level three certification in the MovNat system right now? What are some of the stuff they have to do in order to get that certification? Because I think it’s pretty insane with some of the stuff they have to do.
Danny Clark: Yeah, sure it’s an extension of the basics but it requires more volume intensity and complexity with a higher emphasis on adaptability through a complexity through moving through complex environments. Instead of again just testing, well first of all we test the full spectrum so we don’t expect just competency and just being able to jump or just be able to balance. You have to be able to lift as well. For example, in the last level three we did, we were outside. For the final test we did an entire outdoor portion and we had people, all of our candidates pick somebody up over their shoulders and like a firearm’s carry position. The person’s like you are carrying them like a fireman, a word most people are familiar with that. It’s a skill we do go over in level two. Then you are walking across a muddy stream and then we were doing like squats to where they had to squat down to hit below their knees five times with the person on their back.
It’s not just testing the strength, of course there is a huge strength component to that, you’re squatting your own body weights but you are also testing their ability to successfully actually pick someone up and do something. To be able to carry someone, to be able to deal with the slippery surface. This isn’t something that we expect somebody. This is why we have prerequisites where someone has to have earned their level two already to do this. If I just had someone off the street do that expecting to earn a level three certification they would probably drop the person. These people have earned that ability to do that and if they haven’t then they don’t it and they have to come back and earn that adaptability. That’s just one example. We have precision landings which involve stepping up onto a rail, that’s elevation. Jumping through another narrow surface six or seven feet away and being able to what we call ossicular landing.
Meaning your feet may contact and then you won’t just fall off, you’re able to actually gain control over your landing, stand up and step off. These are just examples required again in level three instead of just a basic pull up. Even in level two we require the ability to get over an object like over a bar instead of just being able to do a pull up through various techniques that we have in the MovNat system. In level three we require even more power so it’s not just your technique, it’s your technique and your ability to generate power to be able to do power up which is like a muscle up and get on top of the bar. Then balance for a distance over a complex surface. It’s really like an apex of bringing in the volume intensity and complexity to the patterns we learn. I tell the students that this like earning your Black Belt in Natural Movements.
Just like in Jujitsu, a Black Belt doesn’t really mean that you’re very good yet, it just means you’ve achieved a baseline level of mastery of the movements of the ability to perform the movements with control with a level of technique. It’s still just a starting point, it’s just the entry point into what it can become. That’s why I like to think about MovNat as really the martial arts of movements. It’s an ongoing evolution that really never stops.
Brett McKay: Right, so there’s a lot of room for growth. It’s not just crawling, army crawl like there is a possibility where you get really advanced so you’re never going to stop learning, you’re never going to stop progressing in MovNat.
Danny Clark: The point isn’t to make these positions hard, it’s to make them so that they are effortless, that’s the long term goal. For me, as a power head, someone who’s into power lifting and even martial arts, I used to be afraid to, I’d hate to admit it, but to go on like long hikes because I would fatigue out fast or to jumping on rocks all the time. As much as I enjoyed that type of stuff I just didn’t really have the efficiency so it was something I wouldn’t do. In MovNat we developed such a high level of efficiency that these types of things aren’t taxing, they are actually easy and that’s what we are looking for. They are not passed just by doing them, they have to look absolutely effortless.
Brett McKay: Well guys this has been a great conversation. Where can people … Like if they wanted to start MovNat, right, where can they go? Is the best way to go to a seminar or if there’s not a seminar and they buy their videos online or courses they can take online to start with MovNat?
Danny Clark: I think the most important thing if possible is to attend either a workshop or a certification. We’re working on making that more available to more diverse regions so keep an eye out on that. If you go to the website and you don’t see one in your area, stay tuned because we are going to have them all over the place very soon. Nothing really substitutes that coaching experience to be able to have someone look at your movement level and progress and be able to figure out what can help you improve. Mentors and coaches are so important with this type of stuff. That said, as an introduction to natural Movement, if you want to get started, Erwan has a book coming out very shortly.
It’s about the practice of natural Movements and we have videos on YouTube and I have an entire instructional series called From the Ground Up on our website that’s in our journal section that you can start to see some of these movements. There are some instruction in it so you can start to play around with it. There’s a variety of resources, it’s really easy to get involved but I really think nothing substitutes attending a workshop or a certification.
Brett McKay: Erwan Le Corre, Danny Clark, thanks so much for your time. It’s been a pleasure.
Danny Clark: Thanks so much Brett.
Erwan Le Corre: Thank you Brett, it’s been a pleasure too.
Brett McKay: Like I said, Erwan Le Corre, he’s the founder of MovNat as well as Danny Clark, the performance director at MovNat. You can more information about MovNat and how to get started at movnat.com and also checkout the show notes at aom.is/movnat where you get a fine list of resources where you can delve deeper into this topic. Well that wraps up another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast. For more manly tips and advice checkout the Art of manliness website at artofmanliness.com. Our show is edited by Creative Audio Lab here in Tulsa, Oklahoma. If you have any audio editing needs or music production needs, check them out at creativeaudiolab.com. As always I appreciate your continued support and until nest time this is Brett McKay telling you to stay manly.
Last updated: December 4, 2017