People all over the world are being introduced to a method of physical education and natural fitness called MovNat. It is more likely than not you have heard of Parkour. Many people know it as a very extreme level of acrobatics in urban environments. People who know it a little better understand that it’s a specific set of skills practiced for the purpose of moving through any environment without impediment. This is where it starts matching up with MovNat, which encompasses the broader spectrum of all human natural movements, but shares commonalities with Parkour when it comes to the realm of locomotion.
These practices were not inventions, but innovations, with roots that can be traced back many generations. Ever since humans started living in societies that removed themselves from a natural way of life, there have been leaders in physical education who have striven to reintegrate those lost movement patterns in our supplementary training.
Even now, there is an implicit understanding across disciplines of physical fitness that we need to exercise in order to make up for our modern sedentary lifestyles. This is the truth, but what kind of exercise? And what about movement outside of exercise? How do we optimize our sedentarism with better breathing and posture habits and consideration to natural movement principles? MovNat gets deep into even the mundane.
Not many people realize how closely related MovNat is to the practice is Parkour. As MovNat seems like a very beginner friendly approach, Parkour has a reputation of being a dangerous "extreme sport", that intimidates most people. The truth is that Parkour can be taught the same way as MovNat, and MovNat can be practiced at the same level of intensity as Parkour. Furthermore there are no skills in Parkour that are not within the MovNat scope of practice.
Parkour is a skill set. This practice is about locomotion; getting from point “A” to point “B”, usually through an urban environment. That could involve running, jumping, vaulting, rolling, swinging, climbing, balancing, and crawling. The idea at first is to find a way to overcome obstacles, then it’s about being able to do that more quickly and efficiently. The progression of training focus goes from effectively making it across an obstacle, to making it across without the obstacles slowing you down as much, to being able to use the obstacles to speed yourself up. Some Parkour practitioners also add an element of style and flare as a way of cultivating control over their skill.
MovNat is a system of physical education and fitness training that encompasses all primal human movement patterns. This means movements that predate culture as an intimate expression of the shape that our bodies have taken resulting from adaptation to our natural environment over the course of the evolution of our species.
These primal or natural movements include ground movements like crawling, rolling, and getting up and down from the ground; gait patterns like walking, balancing, and running; airborne skills like jumping,vaulting and climbing; manipulation skills like lifting, carrying, throwing, and catching; and even aquatic skills like swimming; and combative skills like striking, and grappling.
The scope of the MovNat practice is much larger than Parkour, but the skills of Parkour are a vital part of the MovNat system. MovNat did not derive these skills from Parkour, but rather they share a common ancestor, Georges Hebert and his Methode Naturelle. Parkour adapted the movements to an urban environment, and MovNat looked to update the system to be more relevant to the modern human.
Georges Hebert was a French naval officer stationed on an island when a volcano erupted. He managed to coordinate the rescue of 700 people, but in the process noticed the physical in-capabilities of many people moving through the rough terrain throughout the event. He revised his idea on how fitness should be approach and created what we now know as the modern military style-obstacle course. With this kind of equipment, he could teach all manner of natural movement so that people could climb, run, jump, vault, lift, carry, swing, and do anything else that their environment might demand. This approach to training would come to be known as Methode Naturelle.
David Belle, one of the more well-known founders of Parkour, was always fascinated with movement. He surely inherited this fascination from his father, Raymond Belle, who shared this proclivity during his adolescence, and later discovered the practice of Georges Hebert’s Methode Naturelle. Raymond Belle was born in Vietnam as the son of a French physician and Vietnamese mother. He was separated from his parents at a young age and ended up in a military orphanage where he was routinely abused, encouraging him to train hard to become strong. Raymond Belle later returned to France and continued his military education until the age of 19, when he joined a the Paris Fire Brigade, A French Army unit. It was there where he broke many records in obstacle course competitions.
Raymond Belle’s son, David was part of the team that brought the practice of Parkour into the spotlight. He devised Parkour as a method of moving over, under, across, or between obstacles by running, jumping, climbing, and vaulting. These skills were inspired by his father's practice of Methode Naturelle, and adapted to an urban environment. Because of the specialized focus on locomotion, many aspects of Methode Naturelle were not included, such as combatives, lifting, throwing, and swimming to name a few. Not that people like David Belle didn’t get involved in those other practices, but they are not thought of as a part of Parkour.
MovNat was created by Erwan Le Corre as a system to teach natural movement to people living in the physical condition of this day and age. MovNat was greatly inspired by Georges Hebert's work, but addresses the issue that the way people move, and the complexity of their imbalances are different then they were a century ago when Methode Naturelle was devised. People today have different needs, especially at entry level, and MovNat is a system that is formatted to be accessible to everyone no matter their current level of physical capability.
Both Parkour and MovNat share the common inspiration of Georges Hebert's Methode Naturelle. Parkour specializes on the locomotive skills, while MovNat includes the elements of lifting and manipulation, as well as Aquatics and Combatives, which are largely left out of Parkour. Every skill in Parkour is included in MovNat's system, but MovNat presents these skills in an accessible way that breaks the intimidation factor that comes with Parkour. People who don't feel athletically inclined may never even look twice at the demanding physical practice like parkour that appears to be for the young, brave, and bold. Seeing the same skills regressed can give such people an entry level from wherever they stand in their physical capability.
I think Parkour offers something that you don't get in a typical MovNat practice; the flow and freedom of movement of chosen obstacle courses in urban environments is a unique application indeed, and I feel like MovNat compliments that approach by helping people get comfortable enough in the basics that they can pursue the parkour pace with more confidence and with less risk of injury.
You may want to get into Parkour and you're looking for an on-ramp. Maybe you're not at all interested in Parkour and just want to move better, or get in shape (whatever that means to you!). You might have a goal of improving the way you use your body in your favorite sport or recreational activity so that you can continue doing what you love late in life. Whatever your motivation is, a Natural Movement practice will help to build an airtight foundation, gradually improving body-awareness and pruning inefficient habitual patterns that can hinder our performance, waste energy, and cause abnormal tension and pain.
Ultimately, when it comes to MovNat, it's not a practice that you compare to other practices, but a practice that compliments almost any other practice. Parkour is far more specialized than Methode Naturelle and MovNat, foregoing skill sets like lifting and throwing, swimming, and basic skills like walking and hanging to focus on more athletic and acrobatic aptitudes related to urban locomotion at a fast pace.
Methode Naturelle and MovNat share much of the same scope of practice, but MovNat vastly expands much of the content to create a system that lays out stepping stones to make the more demanding skills accessible as variations. When it comes to locomotion, there is ultimately little difference between the three practices beyond the approach employed to learn the skills.
MovNat includes the skills of Parkour, but is not limited to that scope of practice. The purpose of Parkour is to get from point A to B as quickly and efficiently as possible, and MovNat’s purpose is to develop physical competence in all of the natural human movement patterns innate to human beings, to find balance and the strength to be helpful to others. Parkour has evolved into it’s own niche, whereas MovNat is more of a direct reflection of Methode Naturelle for the modern body.
Ultimately it's all about developing fluency in movement within your environment, whether that's an urban or natural space. All three of these methods bring us closer to the natural functionality of our bodies. These skills are your birthright as a human being and it's up to you how much you want to reclaim, and live a better life with a more mobile body.