In his latest article on Parkour replacing Gymnastics in schools as part of the Physical Education Curriculum, Ben Musholt lists the 3 most important elements justifying and supporting that decision, and interestingly, they are directly aligned with Georges Hébert’s Philosophy and Natural Method, which he happens to re-define in my upcoming adaptation of his book “Le Code de la Force” (“The Strength Code“).
These 3 elements are:
- Becoming a movement generalist vs specialist: all-around athleticism vs single, limitations-generating activity.
- Safety and real world usefulness: no explanation needed, but for a shift in perception as people see the apparently dangerous stunts performed by “traceurs” as being unsafe, yet these are progressive and directly linked to our surroundings, where the only risk is to not take any (a rule for business as well!)
- Accessibility, not elitism: Ben has his own definition (which is why I encourage you to read his article), and I want to add that my personal life path is to raise the bar of fitness so everyone can enjoy physical activity, which Hébert also defines with abilities one should have at any age.
Ben makes a good case of Parkour vs Gymnastics, its cost, difficulty and more. Hébert adopts a similar POV. His is that if we consider all methods of physical education, physical culture, gymnastics or general training, while they have the same end goal in theory, the practice reveals the contrary.There is no thorough and complete consensus as to the measurability of physical aptitude and what it means, because some focus on muscular development, others on corrective exercise only, weight lifting only or sports without any practical usefulness in real life.
The Natural method is aimed at a complete and functional physical development. It applies to anyone, anywhere: in schools, corporations or the Military. Official tests performed in various military and academic environments have sufficiently proven the excellence of its results. Children especially accept it with enthusiasm and practice it with joy, because it gives them the opportunity to do everything they instinctively need and enjoy. It has also been made mandatory in the Navy, not only on Seamen, but also on children in Naval Academies ages 7 to 14, and youths ages 14 to 17.
Hébert later states:
The Natural Method derives from the following simple concept: Man(kind), as any other living being, must reach his complete physical development solely through his naturally existing means of locomotion, labor and combat/defense. Man is designed to live outdoors, with this simple covering that is skin, is built to perform specific exercises that address those needs. These exercise, which we can name “indispensable and functional”, make up eight distinctive groups: walking, running, jumping, climbing, lifting, throwing, self-defense (wrestling and boxing) and swimming.
It doesn’t take long to understand that each of these groups of exercises are all useful at various degrees through various stages of Life. Outside of those remain exercises like fencing, horseback riding, rowing etc., whose utility is secondary or limited to specific groups of individuals; or also sports and games, as well as acrobatics; but none of the former group are indispensable to all individuals, regardless of occupation or social standing.