I returned to an Edinburgh which was cloaked in snow - more snow than at any time since 1963 according to some reports. So instead of the sunshine and tropical scenery that you normally see in Erwan's videos, this was cold!
There were still classes going on at the gym when we all gathered there so we chatted outside for a while in the snow. Despite the weather Erwan turned up in his Vibrams! Guys had come from all over the UK - London, York, Shropshire, Cumbria, Glasgow (great to meet Craig)- as well as further afield: Belgium and Hungary.
We went into a cold gym and got changed - all barefoot - and then started a pretty intense 7 hours. I am not going to go through the whole day in detail - there was too much in there and some you really need to learn direct from MovNat. That being said, the day involved a number of things:
- Erwan explaining in some detail his philosophy of exercise and life
- Erwan demonstrating some techniques
- Erwan coaching us through a number of drills and movements
Jumping into the day, Erwan had us all introducing ourselves and talking about our background and interest in all this. I mentioned this blog (and Rannoch made some very kind comments about it) and it was nice to hear that others there actually read what I put up here, although a bit embarrassing too...
Erwan then talked us through the concept of natural movement and how he would define natural movement. We spoke about how what we do naturally is not always optimal or efficient and how we can learn and improve our movement skills, not learning how to walk or run for example....but how to do it better.
The sort of movements we were looking at were the basics - practical skills that you need for life, abilities that would save your life in extremis. We all walk, balance, crawl, run, climb, lift, carry, jump, throw & catch.....movements that are part of being alive, but we can learn to do each of those better, optimally and more efficiently.
We spoke about context and situation and how that affects how we approach movement and about the specificity of exercise.
In many ways some of this came back to the sort of principles that I've discussed here with the HIT guys - particularly Doug McGuff and Luke Carlson - when you learn a skill it is very specific. So you might learn and practice throwing a punch. It is a specific movement pattern that you must train and learn. Punching while holding a dumbbell will not make you a better puncher though - it will just make you better at punching while holding a dumbbell, it is a totally different skill. You can make the punching muscles stronger - do some chest presses - but to be a better puncher, you need to train the specific skill. A lot of the "functional training" dogma is that moves like kettlebell swings somehow transfer to a whole bunch of other skills...the hip snap will make you a better wrestler or whatever, when the evidence and the science is that you might get a stronger posterior chain with the swing but that you need to learn and perfect the technique to apply that strength. You need to apply it to the skill you are practicing.
Erwan made the same point - for example getting stronger at pullups will not make you a better climber. Sure you need some basic level of strength and pull ups may help there.....but ultimately you need to learn how to climb - you need to learn a specific skill. That goes for all the skills we looked at walking, running, jumping etc. Yes a big squat will make you stronger....but if you want to jump across a river or out of the way of a bus you will need to good at jumping.
Much of the day was thinking about these skills and some basic common principles of how we move efficiently and optimally. Erwan talked about the different classes of movement too - locomotive, manipulative and combative - and how we can improve each. A valuable chunk of time was spent learning about running technique. The MovNat running style is mostly like the Pose technique, but not dogmatically so - there are contexts in which you need to adapt and change style. One of the clinic participants was a Pose coach so he and Erwan worked together to critique and refine our style - this was a really useful bit of the day. There is so much to running well, much more than just footstrike.
Time passed quickly and it was a struggle to fit all the elements of the course into the day. Eventually the day come to an end and the Edinburgh Krav Maga guys came to lock up.
We retired to the closest pub where we had the chance to continue to chat with Erwan and each other. I really enjoyed the sense of this being a small world, a community: people that I follow and sometimes email like Robb Wolf or Richard Nikoley are friends of Erwan and it was good to make some sort of real life contact with this crowd.
I was also amused by all these paleo boys out on the town. At a fairly basic Leith pub seeing guys order a homemade beefburger with no bun, double bacon, no chips and extra salad all washed down with an espresso was great. Nice but I had a big glass of wine and mellowed out!
What I appreciated most from Erwan was his "life", his spirit. He came across as vitally alive, loving life and its possibilities, its experience. He is not shaped by a philosophy or a structured paradigm but by experience - he wants to live and experience things. It is what feels right and what works that matters not some overarching theory.
It may be a cliche to describe a Frenchman in this way but he has a "joie de vivre" - he is experiencing life, and movement is at the heart of that process, and more than that he is enjoying it....there is a gratification to the movement in and of itself. It is like Frank Forencich talks about in his Exuberant Animal approach - there is fun in this!
|Erwan dressed for the Scottish snow!|
I hope to meet and train with Erwan again. He is a great athlete - some of his climbing and mobility was astounding - but more than that he is a philosopher, a thinker. His videos capture your attention - they are impressive. However, what they should also do is to make you think about how he developed these specific skills and think further about the whole approach to movement.
the clinic has whet my appetite for this stuff and I am eagerly anticipating the book that Erwan is working on.
A really good day. I would encourage anyone to attend one of Erwan's clinics or workshops. The 5 day camps would be fantastic - with a lot more scope to expand on the material that Erwan could only touch on in a 7 hour clinic.
Time to think more on this - MovNat: Explore your true nature.