Featured Coach: Erwan Le Corre, Part 2 - Freedom of Movement and Mind
In part one of our feature interview with MovNat creator Erwan Le Corre we learned how Erwan himself evolved – the activities he did growing up and as a young adult that let to the creation of the MovNat system. Created in 2008, MovNat is, in the words of Erwan, “a school of physical competence for practical performance.” Sadly, despite the fact that MovNat is based on the human evolutionary background, people can find the concept of natural movement strangely foreign.
In an attempt to understand the concepts of MovNat, people first learning about it often ask how it differs from parkour. Ironically, Erwan Le Corre and the founder of parkour, David Belle, grew up just a few miles apart in France. Their physical and ideological lives took very different paths, however. Erwan created what he believes to be an entire system with MovNat. In parkour he sees only one element in the bigger picture of human movement. Said Erwan of parkour:
I think parkour is awesome and there are some amazing athletes there, as well as a fantastic community. There is a common origin and some overlap between parkour and MovNat, but what I’m trying to do is to restore in modern time a sound, complete physical education system that would be based on overall practical performance. Unlike parkour, if you have a practical performance mentality as in MovNat, you can't just focus on jumping skills and some other moves, mostly done in urban environments. You also need to address manipulative skills, such as lifting, carrying, throwing, catching. These don’t exist in parkour. Swimming skills - don’t exist in parkour. Combative skills - don’t exist in parkour. Those skills and many techniques are completely left behind. Not a critique, but a simple observation. It makes it a rather specialized discipline, broader than most, but still emphasizing specific and limited movement skills.
Using a historical metaphor it’s kind of like parkour is the karate of modern martial arts and MovNat is the old samurai way, the entire martial system. MovNat is more complete, and it’s also more systematized in the sense that there is a lot of work on the pedagogy, the teaching and coaching system. What we’re trying to do is make it possible that people can learn techniques the same wayusing a similar methodology everywhere, and last but not least that they are also training the full scope of human movement skills.
Erwan sees this system he is creating as being useful worldwide. A student of human movement history, he would like to see a return to the physical education systems of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, where practical movement was taught in the schools. “It started with the vision that one day we would see people of all ages exercising this way, solo or together, on the beach, in parks, in homes, in the backyard, at home, and even in some gyms adapted for it,” shared Erwan.
To Erwan, MovNat is an easy option for people to undertake because it is based on natural movement. It feels good to both our bodies and our brains. It is something our we were built to and desire to do, unlike most modern fitness methodologies. Erwan explained:
Something unique to MovNat as a philosophy and a practice is that it’s really based on natural movement. Nothing beats nature. Nature is something that is familiar to your body. If I tell you, “Today you’re going to have to do bicep curls or workout on an elliptical," you’re going to be like, "Oh my goodness. That’s a chore. You want to punish me for being fat, or lazy, or too skinny? You want to make me do this and suffer." It’s a chore. Some people – most people – approach the idea of fitness and exercise in this biased way. I have to do it because I’m a bad boy or a bad girl. I didn’t do my fitness or whatever. People are desperate. I’m not criticizing anyone; it’s just an observation.
This desperation, according to Erwan, is incited by a fitness industry based on the wrong principles.
The commercial fitness industry, what we see on TV and in magazines, has most people believing that being in shape is about looking fit and not being fit. It’s about discipline and pushing yourself hard so you can burn calories for a weight loss kind of thing, mostly for cosmetic, superficial results. It is mechanistic and reductionist. It is such a radical impoverishment of our true potential.
I’m sorry, but it’s absurd. What is the way a wild tiger, eagle, or horse stay fit? Do they go to a gym, isolating muscles and doing cardio on a treadmill? I know it makes people laugh because it is laughable. I have a question: why would it be any different in us? What they do is they practice a full range of their own species-specific movement. The horse will run and jump. The tiger will also walk and crawl, balance, climb, jump. The eagle will fly. That’s all because of evolution, or creation if that is your personal belief. In any case, the reason those animals are the way they are and move the way they do is that it’s just their nature. They don’t come up with super complicated, sophisticated drills presented in fitness experiments. It’s something completely basic, yet powerfully effective and real.
Our modern lifestyles have made this basic approach to fitness challenging, though. People have lost flexibility in their bodies, mind, and schedules. Movements that once were “natural” have become unfamiliar. According to Erwan:
Because it’s natural, people think, “Oh if it’s natural I don’t have to learn it.” But the way you jump can be effective but not efficient. The way we jump is loud, stiff, heavy, a heavy landing. People need to learn to move humanly again, with grace and power and agility, the same way a tiger has learned through instinct to become this amazing, powerful tiger. The thing is, we have become zoo humans, so it’s not so easy for us modern people anymore. You can’t just say, “Okay, I’m going to throw you in the jungle,” and I’ll have an amazing athlete after a few days. It doesn’t happen that way.
To give people access to relearning natural movement, Erwan created MovNat workshops. He is also busy certifying coaches in the system so they can teach people in more geographically diverse areas. Currently there are over three hundred certified MovNat trainers. For the future, Erwan has a book and DVD planned, as well as an online learning portal with videos and lectures.
These channels for learning are important for the success of both MovNat and its students. More than anything else, Erwan believes in technique and efficiency as the path to effective movement:
There is a great emphasis in our program on proper technique, because to us, physical competence is not just conditioning, and it’s not just movement skills either. It’s the combination of movement skills and conditioning. In most of the fitness industry, there is a heavy emphasis on general conditioning and not as much on skills, if at all. Skills are left to specialized sports training. The way we approach physical competence in MovNat is that we don't dissociate conditioning from skills, or expect the former to produce the later. We’re going to accomplish it through the mindful, progressively challenging practice of movement skills. It is our observation that the most applicable conditioning will be developed in the process of skill practice, while conversely movement skills are rarely the by-product of general physical preparedness programs only.
Once people have an understanding of the basic methodology behind MovNat, the second confusion that can come to mind is that it must be done outdoors. This is not the case, according to Erwan:
A lot of the type of physical actions you would do in nature, you can reproduce indoors. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m not saying you have be in nature whenever you train. However, I advocate moving naturally when you train, even when you’re not in nature, because if you’re a zoo human and we put you in the woods, it doesn’t mean you’re going to behave like a hunter-gatherer. If you take a Chihuahua out of his apartment and plunk them in the woods, it’s not going to become a wolf. Now if you were a wolf and put them in an apartment, you can’t expect them to behave like a Chihuahua. So what’s your inner nature? What mindset drives your behavior? Are you a Chihuahua or a wolf? It doesn’t matter where you will find yourself. What matters is how you will behave and perform where you are. What’s your nature, and what do you expect for yourself? What you do is an expression of who you are. Moving naturally is not like something you have to do, like I have to exercise. Moving naturally is an expression of who you are as a human being.
This expression of your being through movement speaks for the underlying, yet bigger theme in MovNat. This is the theme of personal expression - of freedom - both mentally and physically. For Erwan more and better movement relates directly to more possibilities in life.
You want to know that you possess physical competence for yourself, but also others. You’re strong, and potentially strong and helpful to your community. That is walking through life with an enormous self-confidence. With self-confidence and even self-esteem. You know what you’re made of. You know what you’re capable of. You also know where your limitations are, unless you are unrealistic about them. In any case, you know you could help in a pinch, not just in thoughts, but in physical deeds.
As you get more advanced you can climb more, jump more, lift more, and do all these things. So it’s not only an idea of freedom, it’s an experience of freedom. It’s an experience of freedom through movement. Because think about it: movement is the first experience of freedom. If you cannot move anymore - and especially if you can’t move well because you neglected your body for years and years, never moved, never ate right, and let your body become degraded – you’ve lost a big chunk of your freedom. You may have freedom to think, freedom to vote, freedom to travel, freedom to buy stuff, but you don’t have freedom to move any more.
Walking from a chair to another chair, a couch to the bed, that's not really what I'm talking about. It goes beyond that. When you hear freedom of movement, it’s a metaphor used for other things in life. I have the freedom to do this and to do that, but it’s not just a freedom to move the way you want. I like to tell people when they practice MovNat, they’re not just exercising the body and they’re not only exercising the mind, but their whole being. You have to be mindful of the way you move, because movement has to adapt to the environment. What I like to say, and it is more philosophical but very true in my views at least, is you are exercising your freedom.
You can't ask for freedom, you need to take it, to nurture it within yourself and cultivate it both physically and mentally. Nobody can do that for you. You see, it goes way beyond the size of your biceps and how much you can bench press. We are meant to shine, to soar and elevate ourselves. Of course it takes some commitment and hard work. MovNat is like a toolbox, you learn how to use the tools in the box and build yourself, recreate yourself according to our common, ancient biological design. In the end, what matters is an improved experience of yourself, a liberation and empowerment. Because if you can't empower yourself, who will?
Click here to get started on your four weeks of free MovNat workouts. To learn more about the philosophy behind these workouts, read Erwan's article, An Explanation of MovNat.
To learn more about the origin of MovNat, read part one of our interview: