Category Archives: Philippe Til

Great playgrounds for adults

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And of course, younger people who will turn into adults.

We all need a starting point for our skills. Seeing David Belle or vintage footage of Georges Hébert, or contestants on American Ninja Warrior sure is cool, and we tend to forget that it’s a long way from the day they began training, however early in life.

I have been posting some pictures on Instagram (follow me @philippetil) of various spots where I train myself or my clients, as well as photos or clips of drills anyone can try. The prerequisites are to have fun and keep practicing till getting better, until eventually, the movement, wherever it sits on the difficulty scale, becomes “natural”. A simple vault over a bench can be super easy for the advanced, difficult for the novice. But when the novice “owns it”, it’s one step closer to the next level of difficulty.

The clip below shows a fun range of things one can do, which look simple, but require a minimal level of agility and stick-to-itiveness to not bail out of some moves, but when you do, it’s safe to do so.


And, since it’s difficult, although I suspect American Ninja Warrior type facilities will start popping up soon, with either fixed or modular obstacles, many parks are actually offering what I recently thought was on the endangered parks list: Parkour-like stations, obstacles, the very kind we were complaining about were needed and non-present. 3 such parks in the Santa Monica, CA, area offer fantastic options.

One is Yahoo! Park, off of Broadway and 26th St. There is a set of parallel bars, monkey bars, 2 pull-up bars of different levels, and a free-standing ladder. The park also sports a nice little grassy area and a small makeshift track. Check it out!

Another is Clover Park, off of Ocean Park Blvd, right behind the Santa Monica Airport. This is where I’ve been playfully training recently (I mean playfully because I had fun doing it, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t exert or push myself). There is a mile-long track with “obstacles” or stations along the way: a progressive vault (low to medium high), balance beams (squared off or rounded), pull-up bars, standing ladders, monkey bars, incline posts, rope-climb, posts to climb, dip-station/low vaulting station, push-up bars, step-up or jump-up & balance station, parallel bars to swing, dip or hand walk etc. Explore its photos here.

Finally, the most famous one is the original Muscle Beach (not the one in Venice for bodybuilders, I am referring to the one South of the Santa Monica Pier) with the traveling rings, regular rings, rope climb, parallel bars, parallettes, pull-up bars, balance beams, gymnastics “mushrooms”, twisted poles, boulders, for kids and adults alike! Plus it’s on the beach! Take a look!

Don’t know what to do? Get the Fundamental Exercises, as well as the Functional Exercises and pick a few moves in various categories. Don’t dismiss the easy moves, as they can build your confidence and are great on a low-energy day, and don’t ignore the hard ones, as even attempting them is work in itself. My friend Adam T. Glass once posted online that “your body tracks that”, meaning all reps count, good or bad ones.

Is personalization worthy of a system?

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Bruce Lee created Jeet Kune Do, because, as the story is told, to earn the right to teach non-Chinese, he had to defeat some dude whose name I don’t know, and he did it using Wing Chun. Then, because he thought it took him too long to do so, without efficient enough movements, he went on to create Jeet Kune Do, “the way of the intercepting fist”, a shortcut to efficiency and victory in battle. He took an ancient art and used some modern techniques taken from other forms of fighting, and created his own style, his own system. Legit.

Georges Hébert was, at the time, considered a visionary for putting together a system stemming from his observations as well as education, combined with circumstances and inciting incidents that led to the creation of The Natural Method. He inspired himself both from his surroundings, the needs of the era, and the work of his predecessors, as well as travels. Legit.

Pavel Tsatsouline put his stamp on kettlebell training, calling it “hardstyle: reverse-engineering what the best athletes do naturally” and earned both legions of adopters and a platoon of haters, some of whom dismissed his work by saying it’s not true to form. Yet, Pavel never claimed to be a “GS” (Girevoy Sports), guy, and created a system, that constantly evolves through revisions, practice, user feedback and more. He broke down kettlebell training in steps instructors can follow for continuity amongst themselves. Legit.

Erwan LeCorre started MovNat, and wants to be known almost as the guy in today’s trending of natural movement. He studied and researched all the European physical education teachers, and especially Hébert’s surviving teachers of Hébertisme. He made a strong point of the fact that he spoke to the survivors, and why they are “survivors”: because in over 100 years, there has been no evolution of that system, as he told me. So, he’s putting his stamp on it, adding new things. Legit, right? I’ll be honest: I have no formal MovNat experience. I have been exposed to primitive, or natural movement patterns, back in 2008, by people who’ve worked with Erwan so I can’t formulate a real opinion, but only mention him because we both swim in the “movement ocean”. Last week at the IDEA FIT conference was my first live introduction and conversation with Erwan and that’s what our conversation entailed. “Back then you had Hébert (…), now you have LeCorre“, he said. He also boldly said that he wouldn’t let himself be stopped by the naysayers and that he’d take over. And he may be right: he’s got the moves, the confidence, the charisma and certainly has the following and endorsements.

And in the end, that may be what it takes. Anyone that has spent a significant period of time working on something, specializing in it (even generalization can become a specialization, like a family doctor vs a specialist in dermatology, anesthesiology etc.) can call themselves an expert. An expert is defined as “someone who has comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area“. If you further dig into the definition of that term, comprehensive relates to “wide-ranging” and authoritative to “commanding and self-confident“. Of course, other definitions of the same terms could provide a slightly different meaning to the terms used to define the expert, like “considered to be the best of its kind and unlikely to be improved upon“.

If something cannot be improved upon, in my interpretation it would mean that it’s perfect. Also, it means that there would be no potential evolution or need to modify, revise, adapt or update. Therefore, are there any experts, really? I haven’t found anything that has reached perfection, yet. Or do we only need to select one possible definition of terms to provide the most accurate spin? Better yet, do we need to only focus on not “first to file”, not “first to market”, but only “first to mind”? If you look around, I believe the latter is the winner, and marketing has everything to do with it. Just like actors: there are many better actors than the ones you see on TV, struggling to make ends meet, whom you will never see or hear of.

The same goes for trainers, inventors, visionaries, high school varsity coaches who come up with their own additions to methods or systems. But if someone is using an old system, adding their twist to it, should it turn into another system, or should we just celebrate the teacher/performer of the method, like an actor doing their own rendition of a classical Shakespearian monologue?


Weaving the layers

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From the Fundamental Exercises to the Functional Exercises, and in this case, the Self-Defense Techniques, borrowing Pavel Tsatsouline’s concept of “linkage vs leakage”, it is easy to see how and why arm, leg and trunk movements serve more than a warm-up for the muscles or exercises for joint mobility.

All the stances covered in chapters 4, 5, 7 and 10 of the second Natural Method book are revisited in Chapter 8 in the standalone book on self-defense techniques.

As the saying goes, pictures being worth a thousand words, let’s explore how these arm, leg and trunk movements are applied for both functional and fundamental exercises.

In the picture below, we see the Forward Slit™ with various arm positions. That stance is akin to what I call “power stance” in my Ninjutsu training, and Zen-kutsu from my Shotokan Karate days.

Photo from The Natural Method: Fundamental Exercises (Book 2) translate by Philippe Til

To illustrate that last point, here’s what it looks like for throwing a punch: below, person on the right in the picture.



Now, let’s look at the following carryover of the Backwards Slit™ operating as a weaving maneuver to avoid a punch (of which the person on the left in the picture does a variation of).

Photo from The Natural Method: Fundamental Exercises (Book 2) translate by Philippe Til


The Balancing exercises covered in Chapter of the second book also can double up for kicking exercises (front kicks, hook kicks), as illustrated in the pictures below.

Photo from The Natural Method: Fundamental Exercises (Book 2) translate by Philippe TilPhoto from The Natural Method: Fundamental Exercises (Book 2) translate by Philippe TilIMG_20150706_0006IMG_20150706_0011

Even the ground fighting work has its roots in the bridging exercises or trunk movement fundamentals.

Photo from The Natural Method: Fundamental Exercises (Book 2) translate by Philippe TilIMG_20150706_0049

Once again, nothing is new, everything has been pretty much covered and it is indeed in the quality of the teaching, the execution of the basics, the development of the skills where the strength of an individual’s results lie. While many things have evolved since the creation of systems, at this point centuries old, if not millennia, History is there for a reason. I believe in adaptations rather than updates, as well as modern context and cultural preferences. The framework doesn’t change all that much.

You Have To Ship!

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Seth Godin, in his book Linchpin, mentions that no matter your craft, you have to ship, to publish, deliver. Artists ship, not just factories from their warehouses. You ship your art by bringing the paintings to the gallery, even if they’re not done in your mind.

Studios release movies, and sometimes may change stuff, add footage, delete some, provide a Director’s Cut on the DVD. But they back something into the theatrical release.

When I took on the task of translating Georges Hébert’s Practical Guide to Physical Education, I wanted to share the content as quickly as possible, within reason of course. The labor of love associated with it, the journey and discoveries along the way, took a tremendous amount of time that a married, working father of two, with a start-up company to boot, had to squeeze at the expense of other things.

I certainly could have taken my time and released it all at once upon completion of the entire translation. Instead, because of trending interest and alignment from friends with their historical research, as well as using the successful model of movie Studios releasing trilogies over time, the process of breaking things down allowed me to get better reacquainted with the material I was exposed to in my youth, and I was able to build, organically with my limited resources, interest in The Natural Method. People who never heard about it discovered something of value and interest, while people who already knew about it, and practiced as well as formed groups, on social media or in their cities, contacted me with appreciation for making Hébert’s work more accessible with the English language.

My self-imposed deadlines are very much that: self-imposed. No one really cares about them, but it keeps me accountable, and on schedule. Keeping things open-ended, as any time management expert will tell you, can result in things never getting done. Additionally, through a tried and true process I experienced myself in everything I’ve done, people are better off with getting pieces of information at a time. Otherwise they tend to skip over what interests them less.

You could argue that I am removing a person’s choice to work at their own speed, and who am I to have such power? It truly only matters during the timeline of the translation of the books. When trilogies like Star Wars, The Lord Of The Rings, The Matrix came out in trickle fashion, audiences were forced to wait. Now, it’s all available at once.

For those familiar with Hébert’s method, maybe getting it all at once would have been the way to go (which right now doesn’t matter, because nearly all the books are out, from this first guide). But for those un-familiar with it, the timely release of each section of the Practical Guide To Physical Education offers gradual discovery, application and everything positive related to the step-by-step learning process.

Natural Progression

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So many systems and methods out there, right?

Complication of the simple. From complication to compilation, here are a few clips of my son Fletcher, who is now 5 years old. Before any comments come back at me that I am an irresponsible dad who can injure his child, know this: Fletcher has been a very active child since before he could walk. He’s naturally been inclined to run, climb, jump on, jump off obstacles and keep running. He may have seen me lift a kettebell or barbell, and he naturally did shoulder presses, barbell curls, deadlifts, jumps, climbs etc. He loves to run, hitting is his favorite thing in T-ball, and when he found boxing gloves at home, he put them on and asked me to spar. We’ve been wrestling and roughhousing playfully for as long as I can remember (and his 1 year old brother now joins us in epic ground mêlée fights). He asks me to take him surfing, I don’t push or encourage anything, other than consistency and stick-to-itiveness so he doesn’t quit and learn effort and persistence.

The larger point I want to make is progression: he started low, he started young. As he gets older, he climbs higher, jumps from higher ground, but he’s also taller, so elevation is relative: the absolute goes up, but the proportional remains the same. The skill is engrained. There is minimal coaching, where applicable. But if he can do something well, pain-free, and wants to repeat it, I will not deny him the joy. The risk is calculated. The only risk is avoidance, because denying him his true nature is not what I am about.

In this clip here, he jumps off an elevation (depth jump) from a standing position:

In this one, he starts from a seated position:

The jump can be improved by having him swing his legs more, but since the “wall” doesn’t allow for a full swing of the legs to build momentum, the thing to do is to push off the wall using the hands, which Fletcher didn’t do. Not as good a jump, but he made up for it by rolling and increasing the duration of his landing, therefore reducing impact. And using ONLY the hips, he is building the biomechanical skill needed for swings, for instance. A little coaching into a natural movement.

In this last clip, he is simply walking on the equivalent of a balance beam: similar width, he can fall into or out of the boat he is playing on. He is training not only balance, but to work from an elevation.

You know how you can walk on a beam on inch of the ground, but fear doing so if 20 feet off the ground? Yeah, well, here, he’s learning to not be afraid of that.

So, there you have it, a sneak preview of jumping drills from The Natural Method’s 3rd book, due out in a couple of weeks, and balance work from the fundamentals mentioned in Book 2.

Lifting Terminology

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In the process of my translating Georges Hébert’s work, as well as the upcoming release of the 3rd installment of his Practical Guide to Physical Education, the chapter on lifting refreshed me with something something cool: lifting terminology in French!

Revisiting those terms I hadn’t heard since childhood P.E. classes was interesting, to see how some names almost cue the exercises to perform. I wonder also if they give any particular exercise some “freedom” to do the move (as opposed to rigid standards), the way Crossfit terminology adapted terms to avoid being chastised for incorrect form or deviation from standards in other lifting sports.

Anyway, here’s a fun translation of the terms used in English and what they are in French (translated already, so no French words in this blog). Grammatically, they’re conjugated, past-tense vs English nouns.

  • The standing Military Press/Shoulder Press: the “Developed”.
  • The Jerk: the “Thrown”.
  • The Clean: the “Shouldered”.
  • The Snatch: the “Torn Off” or “Ripped At The Roots”.
  • The Swing: the “Volley”, only one here that’s a noun. (Now, this is a one-arm exercise only, an overhead straight-arm swing, a move I have not seen, other than criticized versions thereof, which in this case is performed with a “Forward Slit”).
  • The Bent Press: the “Unscrewed” (a one-armed drill where the body leans down during the overhead pressing part, leaning side being the opposite of the pressing side, and done so to avoid jerking and keep it “grinding”. I’m going to play with that with my kettlebell heavy press!)

Exact descriptions will be presented in book 3, chapter VI.

A bench press, by the way, would be a “lying developed”, while the clean & jerk is “shouldered & thrown”, which sounds more appropriate IMHO.

My Upcoming Spinal Fusion

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Or disc replacement, depending on what the insurance authorizes.

Adam Sandler once said (I paraphrase): “I’m not the smartest, I’m not the funniest, I’m not the best looking entertainer, but I’m a millionaire”. He’s a great generalist.

I’m no millionaire. I’m rich in content and knowledge, but still embryonic compared to the vast level of knowledge there is to gather out there.

People fear the unknown and to many still, the Natural Method is that: unknown.

So, let me tell you a few things. You can’t run away from yourself, or the damage you’ve caused, choices you made. Eventually, you own up to them. In my case, I have had some injuries (car accidents, bad landings on my neck from flips, neck cranks in martial arts, or a 180lb guy landing on my neck, when I was a 13 year-old beanpole wading in a pool -intentional strike to hurt me-). It’s why I became a trainer and my niche has been post-secondary rehabilitation.

Through all the education I received, I’ve made myself stronger, more mobile, more free to move, with more skills and I’ve done some cool things. I’ve never been operated on other than my eyes (laser) and wisdom teeth. Hernias, inguinal or disc, have been around, but I can’t eventually run away from them. My ability to move and my strength have been reducing any symptoms that would cripple someone of lesser conditioning. I had an MRI recently, going for a CT scan and potential either 3-level disc replacement (best, Bentley of procedures) or partial or complete fusion of 3 discs. The point is: my doctor looks at the paper, and looks at what I can do, and the 2 don’t match.

I can go electively now, or I can go in 10 years. Things may get worse or stay the same. But at this point, they won’t get better. Numbness, tingling, stiffness, spasms. Those are all here, and peak at times, disappear at others. But the erosion, compression, loss of transfer of information still are there. You may have a real age that’s lower than your years on the planet (according to, I’m 31, but I am in reality 41). The mileage has nothing to do with how it looks or performs on a classic car.

You don’t have to be a dumb trainer to get injured. Maybe you were injured and became a trainer. There is a stigma with injured trainers. OK, so, if you are a spec ops guy, saw some heavy combat, came home wounded but lived, are you any less capable? I’m no spec ops, but I do make things better, I learned how to overcome bad things physically.

The Natural Method approach has made it fun for me to go and climb ropes, posts, beams, play on parallel bars, high bars etc. Joy, fun and skill. No setbacks from my injuries.

To all who fear the unknown, their injuries, or comparing themselves to a super athlete, fear not: you too can learn things that apply to your level, your skill and make things better. You too can build an “exoskeleton” of skill that can support your actual skeletal structure.

Strength, smart movement. Figuring out how much strength you need vs what is seemingly pushed on you in the fitness community, being the best YOU is what it’s about.

My expected recovery would be quick based on my abilities currently. Prehab!

On Jumping (post 1 of 2)

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Jumping consists of giving the body a sufficient impulse in order to cover a distance or any obstacle in one leap.

It is important to distinguish:

1)   The educative jump on a prepared surface with a predetermined obstacle.

2)   The applied jump with real obstacles.

These two types of jumps are useful, both from a practical standpoint as well as physical development.


The effects of jumps on the body are the following:

1)   They engage the most important parts of the body, particularly the cardiorespiratory functions;

2)   They have a powerful action on the muscular development of the lower limbs and the abdomen, especially jumps without momentum;

3)   They develop agility and hand-eye coordination;

4)   They strengthen the feet and ankles and train the body to sustain various kinds of impact;

5)   They promote flexibility and a sense of equilibrium/balance to avoid bad falls.

Applied jumps or over real obstacles do not differ from educative jumps in their mechanism of execution. In addition to the benefits described above, they provide a mental benefit, because they help overcome the apprehension brought upon the obstacle and to dominate, in certain situations, the instinctive feeling of fear. They thus promote becoming calm, cold-blooded and with a spirit of quick-thinking.

Jumping is not just a form of exercise of unquestionable functionality. Its regular practice helps avoid many injuries such as: sprains, contusions, fractures etc, which often are due to a lack of balance in the falls or lack of specific training of the feet and ankles.



Breastfeeding tips from a male trainer

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Oh, boy! What do I know? Is this one of those jokes like “tips to drive your man wild” from Cosmo written by bored females editors?

I actually know nothing other than what my wife experienced and told me, the lactation consultations she took and what I want to discuss today: nutrition. Yup, because that falls under training, and while I am not a registered dietician, I am happy to relay some tips we received from our doula for our second child. These are very important things to know and wish we knew for our first child, which may have avoided colic or other G.I. troubles. No guarantee, but this at least makes sense and can indirectly contribute to having things go easier for everyone. If baby is happy, mommy and daddy are happy too (and this is an expansion of a topic of my next ebook, Fitness Tips for Busy Dads)!


To make up for blood loss during delivery, and because breast milk is derived from the same substrate as blood, breastfeeding is sort of like blood loss! Bone broth is one thing to add to the breastfeeding mom’s diet.

Seaweed soup, from Korea, is another good staple for postpartum recovery and rejuvenation because of its richness in nutrients.

Another tip, more general, is to avoid certain foods which, while friends and family offer from the kindness of their heart, may not be kind to the belly 🙁 Certain foods take away from producing milk because of the extra effort placed on the digestive tract. Less than optimal milk can cause baby to get colicky, gassy and have troubles sleeping and even develop thrush! New parents are already sleep deprived, let’s not stack the odds against them!

So, get your friends and yourselves ready for some breastfeeding education by focusing on foods that are moist, oily, warm and well-spiced! I mentioned the two soups above, but here are more good ideas:

– Potassium broth.

– Oily vegetable soups.

– Cream of wheat with dates.

Foods to AVOID:

– Lasagnas.

– Baked goods like muffins.

– Breads.

– Ice creams.

– Caffeine.

– Refined sugars and flours.

– Dairy (other than raw).

Those above listed foods are hard to digest and extract nutrients. Frozen foods and leftovers also fall in that category, compromising the delicate nature of digestion in postpartum mommies. Avoid ice or iced cold drinks, keep the fluids warm! Eat everything warmer than room temp, spice foods to make them warmer, sip hot water between meals, avoid nut-based meals or desserts and add avocados and coconut as your primary fats and add ginger to your fresh juices!

How’s that for some breastfeeding tips!