Category Archives: Physical Education

Natural Method Kid Parkour

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A little while ago, I posted some clips of my (now) 5 year old son who was jumping from a height that makes most parents cringe, as if I was a bad dad risking my child’s health.

Some are natural athletes, others are made to be athletes. Some are genetically gifted, some still won’t look as good as the fitness models and movie stars despite smart, dedicated and disciplined training. Looks aside, we can all develop running, jumping, climbing and other skills. For when our daily environment doesn’t provide the stimulation or equipment to achieve a high skill level, a method is there for us, a system, and that’s what Georges Hébert created, and others since applied, by “reverse engineering what the best athletes do naturally”, to quote Pavel Tsatsouline.

Without further reading, watch this 3 1/2 min video of my son who developed his skills over the years. You’ll see that the jumps I posted a few weeks ago now will look less impressive, because they’re almost “expected”, after you see the training in his early walking stages that brought him to where he is today. Fast forward to the future in your mind. Maybe I’m not the bad parent, maybe I’m the one who prepares him…

You can get all three books by clicking this link, by the way:

Buy all three books on Amazon by click here

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.

Leverage In Arm Positions

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

In The Natural Method, especially in the second book where it is outlined, Georges Hébert lists the benefits as follows (excerpt):

 “MAIN BENEFITS OF THE FUNDAMENTAL ARM POSITIONS

The fundamental arm positions produce the same benefits/effects as the Upright Stance, but with greater intensity when it comes to stabilization of the shoulders backwards and the shortening of the muscles that bring the shoulder blades together.

The movement of “hands at neck” also acts very energetically on the realigning of the cervical curve.

Note: The fundamental arm positions, when executed dynamically (as movements) can be either performed in place, or preferably while walking/marching.”

Additionally, and I invite you to experiment this yourself, each position affects not only your posture, but your leverage and how you “top load” the body. An easy way to understand that concept is by taking a popular exercise like the Squat and go through the variations of how we load the body with weight and where:

  • Barbell Back Squat.
  • Barbell Front Squat.
  • Zercher Barbell Squat.

I am not of course discussing kettlebell goblet squat or double kettlebell front squat, or using a sand bag for the same moves (which is well-taught in Josh Henkin’s DVRT system, or Dynamic Variable Resistance Training), rather discussing the placement of the load in these variations and how the same weight may feel heavier or lighter from one variation to the next.

Try even something simple like some sit-ups with your feet anchored to a stall bar’s bottom rung or with a partner holding your ankles (and try that Janda-style too!) and let me know how that feels!

 

Über Fitness part 2 (final)

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Are you a well-rounded athlete if you are the top guy in your sport?

Does specialization make you better than general fitness?

These two questions are leading because their phrasing most likely steers you to the answer “no”, especially if you are educated in the field of fitness, or at least well-read.

Athletes, more specifically professional athletes, tend to have imbalances because of overuse patterns and the demands of the sport. The resulting specialization creates not only imbalances, but potentially limitations. Of course, we can argue that some sports offer some sort of all-around balanced development, but in general, the hyper focus on the task to accomplish makes it difficult for a sprinter to run a marathon, a bodybuilder to fight in the ring, or a gymnast to be a good diver (the latter example because gymnasts are taught to always land on their feet and the concept of going head first after some flips doesn’t compute).

We could discuss that with the Crossfit games, the displays of athleticism are tremendous (and I guarantee you the competitors’ training is anything but WODs), but that would be perceived as a cheap way to get readers 😉

Back to Georges Hébert and his Natural Method, since it’s still an unknown subject to 99.99% of the fitness population. His goal is all-around athleticism: a balance of speed, endurance, strength, mobility, skill and functionality. According to Hébert, games, sports and manual labor are the finality of physical education. These forms of physical exercise are useful for the following reasons:

  • They augment the general physical value of individuals and extend what can be called “physical knowledge”.
  • They entertain the “taste” for physical activity by breaking up the monotony of methodical training.
  • They help perfect agility, develop a sense of practicality, promote ingeniousness by giving complete freedom to individual action.
  • They satisfy a need for variety and pleasure by providing a release from methodical training.
  • They demonstrate functionality and bring out the advantages of good physical preparedness. Greater success is achieved, indeed, even more in the various branches of physical activity as one is better prepared thanks to methodical training (strength and conditioning).

So, what are we learning with Hébert’s Natural Method? Is it yet another secret sauce never revealed to you until now? While I could say if it’s new to you the answer is yes, the reality is that it’s a method that withstood the test of time, and that if you are a fitness enthusiast, your skills and abilities deserve the right to rekindle with your body’s natural desire to move well, as it is engineered to do so. Forget fat loss, muscle gain or some other specialized goal. All of that comes naturally, and it is so much more than just the moves posted on various social media. The philosophy behind the method is very wholistic and revolves around 3 major points:

  1. Hygienic action (not about being freshly scrubbed, read Book 1 if you want to know what that means in details about cleansing the system through air baths, circulation etc).
  2. Functionality/Utility.
  3. Mental benefits.

We all need that, we tend to forget those aspects too frequently, and that’s what the Method is also about 🙂

Workshop Syllabus Bulletpoints

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

THIS IS A “REFRESHED” POST INITIALLY PUBLISHED IN MAY OF 2015:

If you are reading this and want to register, click here and bring a friend and get a special discount of 2 people for $229 (save $129 on the second admission, or almost $65 each).


Standard/Special




I realize many these days tries to come up with some new method of training. Marketing gimmicks are running amuck on the ole “Interweb”. There have never been more public “secrets of fitness” than in the last 2 years, if I were to believe the numerous newsletters I get from people telling me they have the secret(s) I am missing in my training.

The best tools for training are your body and things you can get your hands on, to lift, put back down, throw, catch, climb on etc. The best tools for weight loss are your silverware and that hole in the bottom third of your face, or quarter depending on your facial symmetry. (Thank you, James Neidlinger, for “the best tools for weight loss” arsenal tip from your recent Facebook post).

To placate the skeptics or explain to the curious, below is what we’ll cover on October 24 at The Natural Method Workshop, in Los Angeles, CA, at The Gym @ Hayden.

It first starts with the upright posture which aligns and prepares the body for movement. Without a strong upright posture the movements taught will not be as effective. Once we are comfortable with the upright posture then we can start to explore movements in the entire kinetic chain.

  1. Arm Movements: positions at hips, shoulders, chest, neck and derivatives, as well as why we do them, what they do and how.
  2. Leg Movements: various “bends”/flexion/slits. Combine with 1.
  3. Suspension: hang and do leg stuff. Or lie down if you can’t hang to get similar benefits*. Btw, that noise also works your Dear Abbies. And hits the body parts from 2, like, hard, and from 1, but differently. And yes, that’s some aspects of pull-ups, but not limited to. This isn’t a class on pull-up variations.
  4. Support Movements: stuff that looks like push-ups, but isn’t limited to. This isn’t a class on push-up variations, though you may recognize or learn some.
  5. Balance Movements: equilibrium. Although symmetry is also balance, this is more literal. Combine with 1 and 2.
  6. Hopping Movements: not jumping. Hopping. Not like a bunny. More like jump rope (without the rope), or skipping as some call it. Not skipping like a kid, though I recommend you do that. It’s fun and beneficial and my friend Paul Daniels once taught a class where some people forgot how to do that. Combine with 1.
  7. Trunk Movements: the torso, the thoracic stuff, aspects of the core. Flexion, extension, twisting, rotation. Combine with 1 & 2. Wakes up your vestibular system. You need that.
  8. Breathing: why cover that last? Because now, we get to redo everything 1-7 but make it even better.
  9. Add tools and repeat 1-7 with 8 throughout.

And you’ll learn how to weave it all together for durations of 5, 10, 20 minutes or whatever time you need/have/want and whatever goal you aim for.

So, people, get ready to move, well and throughout the day. (quality and quantity guaranteed). And when we’re done, you’ll be tired and happy and free. Like getting some. And the next day, you’ll feel it before you’ll get to talk about it.

This is just a taste of what can be achieved with the method.

Ideally I would love to teach the method over multiple days covering other movement qualities like: walking, running, climbing, throwing, lifting, rescuing, swimming without water, jumping and more. But in 8 short hours, you get plenty of coverage of the fundamentals so you can explore and even program.

*benefits vs goals will be explained. Benefits are things that stay the same, no matter what the goals are. Like opening up the chest vs building a bigger chest.

Über Fitness (part 1)

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The world of fitness today is mostly dominated by heavy marketing of quick solutions with beautiful, toned, athletic bodies and the promise to reach that visual aesthetic goal. Usually more promise than actual fitness results.

On the other hand, there is a handful (relatively speaking in terms of percentage) of fitness professionals (personal trainers, sports coaches, small group training, group exercise instructors…) whose passion and integrity is about bringing quality movement to the masses yielding great athletic performance. Historical research is brought to the front through integration into their clients’ sessions, ancient fitness works translation (yours truly with The Natural Method) or sifting through hours and hours of half-century old footage of revolutionary physical education programs which Ron Jones, Shane Hylton and Doug Orchard have teamed up to accomplish. No promise, and most of the time, you achieve the aforementioned marketing promise, topped with some extra skills in your arsenal.

One such example of revolutionary (and by that, I mean remarkably simple, effective, minimum requirement to be a reliable body for the greater good, the Noble Purpose) was Stan LeProtti’s program at La Sierra High School. Watch and enjoy

The disclaimer warns you of the footage depicting teenagers doing amazing $#!† (like how the symbols I used look like letters, btw?). That’s what über* fit is today, that’s what normal was then, or ought to be. Even I have to eat a slice of humble pie (so long as it’s gluten-free, GMO free, organic with pale ingredients and only Stevia sweetened) when I watch this. (*über: denoting an outstanding or supreme example of a particular kind of person or thing.)

If there every is a movement to follow in fitness, pun intended, it’s this one. It’s functional movement, it’s the source, and it delivers lasting results.

 

For new or soon-to-be new dads

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Fitness Tips For New Dads - Cover

Your world is about to change, or recently has, as a new dad.

Sleep will become a hobby, sex a memory and the feeling of hangovers semi-permanent.

Yet, you will experience more love for another person than you could think possible, while feeling like you’re going to lose your sanity.

Don’t worry, you will make it. We all made it, somehow, or the species would be extinct.

Because there are a lot of resources out there for new moms, but not enough for new dads, I put together this little book with simple options that worked out great for me and tested it twice (after the second child). There can always be more added to it, but this will be a great start.

Coming out very soon!

 

Fitness Tips For New Dads - Cover

JFK Challenge

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“In 1962, JFK gave a speech to the nation challenging them to make a “great national effort.” He held the La Sierra High PE up as the model for the nation to follow. 4,000 high schools followed this program. This is the only known digitized copy of his speech. The footage shows one high school PE class. Remember, this is a normal PE class at the high school. This was PE 50 years ago in America!”

As you an read from the sentence above, caption for the video below, our History shows that Physical Education had a greater importance decades ago. This is an important aspect of fitness and to a greater extent, our economy as well (as healthier individuals cost less money to the government or corporations, but that’s not what I want to stress here).

Georges Hébert was a pioneer in his time and place, and others have also made waves, such as Stan LeProtti did.

My friend and fit pro peer Ron Jones of The Lean Berets has been working on bringing forth an important documentary on the subject of Physical Education and History. In his own words:

“What I want everyone to underscore is the technical quality of the instructors and the student instructors.  The teachers were PE teachers FIRST.  They understood that quality PE led to better athletes.

We have not been able to uncover any injury issues too.  If fact, no one we have interviewed can cite an injury at all and this is covering decades of work.  They have a few in normal PE activities like football, etc. which came after the calisthenic warm up drills and before the end of the class when they finished with apparatus equipment, but the actual footage in the film teaser we show—NO injuries.  They were well trained, resilient, flexible steel if you will…
It’s not a “local” story as much as it is an international physical culture story in some aspects.
The deeper story is the amazing life transformations that happened during the PE tenure and afterwards as the boys took these lessons forward into amazing careers.  They kept coming back to the PE program setting them up for success…for decades.  How many can trace back their success in life to a “PE” program?  There was something truly special here.
It’s not about a physical PE program exclusively!  That is the obvious, the proverbial tip of the iceberg, the superficial story.  What is underneath and behind?  That is the full FILM.  Yes, FILM. We are not just wanting to make a video, but a full documentary film that will inspire mind, body, and spirit.
The methods are still valid today.”
– Ron Jones