By Ryan Leech, Level 1 MovNat Certified Trainer
Besides moving the way humans are meant to move, MovNat also promotes a closer relationship with nature. To me, the best way to get closer to nature is to get right down into nature, as close as you can by becoming a part of the natural rhythm. We can do this by taking a look back to our ancestral pasts. Practicing primitive and survival skills can rekindle the fire deep within all of us that connects to our ancestors.
My son turned 7 last year. So, I thought it would be a good opportunity for him and I to do a “Survival” weekend during the summer. I also wanted to see just how many MovNat movements we would be using during this weekend, in addition to passing on some knowledge of the woods and just spending some good father-son time!
WALKING & RUNNING
We walked everywhere. The only mode of transportation was our feet, and we used them! We walked to find a good shelter location, walked to set traps, walked to find edible plants, and just walked everywhere we went. We also stalked. One of the late afternoons, we were sitting by the fire sipping on some pine needle tea, and we noticed some deer walking through the woods. His natural instinct kicked in, and he asked if we could try to stalk them. So, of course, I agreed! If you want a good workout try stalking. It requires balance, strength and awareness. Each step should take you no less than 60 seconds, and you will find yourself in upright, crouched, or crawling positions throughout the stalk!
Next time you are practicing a crawl or walk, try stopping and holding the position for a given amount of time. It will add a new layer to your training!
LIFTING & CARRYING
A true survival situation would mean you have no containers (even pockets are considered containers!). So, you would have to carry everything! We were “practicing” so we did have a backpack and some elm bark baskets that I had made years ago to help us out.
We still had to carry a lot. So, good lifting technique and proper grips were essential to stay as energy efficient as possible. We carried sticks and logs for the framework of our shelter. Then we carried piles of debris to cover the shelter. We also carried stones to line the fire pit. Lastly we carried larger flatter stones to use in our deadfall traps.
THROWING & CATCHING
Since we were practicing our skills, we wanted to practice some primitive hunting. We set up an empty water jug on a log and paced our various distances. Then I taught my son how to throw a stick (commonly called a rabbit stick) at the target. It requires some practice to get the “snap” which will get the stick spinning like a propeller. This is a very easy hunting tool to make and can be found anywhere in the woods. It allows for much more room for error than throwing rocks at prey and has been used for as long as humans have been on this planet!
We were in bear country. So, we stored our snacks we brought in a bear bag. In order to get it up in the tree, we attached the end of the nylon cord to a rock. Then I threw the rock over a branch so that we could hang the bag out of reach of any bears that may pay us a visit. Throwing with accuracy was a movement that was necessary and useful.
If you walk off the beaten path in the woods, there are almost always going to be reasons you have to balance. We avoided some wet areas by balancing over fallen logs. We also found ourselves just balancing because it made the walking easier. Oftentimes there were areas in our wandering that would have thorns and briars on the ground. We were spending most of the weekend in our bare feet, and that balancing on a log not only helped us to avoid the thorns, but also allowed us to stay quiet by not stepping on many hidden sticks or twigs.
CRAWLING & SQUATTING
You will find yourself close to the ground in a survival situation quite a bit. We gathered debris for our shelter by squatting low and “raking” leaves with our fingers, throwing them under and behind us as we made a circular pattern. These piles were then lifted and carried to our debris hut where they would be spread on the framework until the debris was about 2 feet thick. Once the outside is done, you need to put much softer debris on the inside. We used dead white pine needles and threw piles and piles inside the debris hut. Each pile would need one of us to crawl in, feet first, to weigh it down to give us enough insulation from the ground. For this, we did a sort of reverse Shoulder Crawl. At night, we would crawl in feet first in the same manner, as getting on the ground was the only way in or out of the shelter.
We also used Foot Hand Crawling on certain trails that required it. We had a pond nearby and we would crawl on our bellies using a Push Pull Crawl up the side of the hill of the pond to see if we could spot the frogs before they spotted us.
Survival situations require avoiding risk. So, anytime we went down a steep hill, the Inverted Crawl helped us to make sure we did not go tumbling down.
Squatting happened all the time and was not even a second thought. We squatted near the fire, squatted to pick things up, and squatted if we were resting during a walk. Squatting is also the only way to relieve yourself in the woods. I recommend holding on to a tree you can grasp in your squat if you do not feel comfortable in a full squat while relieving yourself. Also familiarize yourself with what plants you can use. Some do not want to become your toilet paper, and they will let you know after the fact!
CLIMBING, JUMPING AND VARIOUS OTHER MOVEMENTS
We did climb a few trees during the weekend, but it was mostly for fun. When we were walking through the woods, I would step over logs that my son would have to vault/climb to get over just because of the size of them. If we did vault, we stuck to the Tripod Vault for most, as it was much slower and more controlled.
To make the backrest shown in the photo, we used a foldable saw and a knife. So, grip strength was essential. Although my son has seen me make a bow drill fire at home, there was something special about this fire. We gathered cattail fuzz and the bark off of a river birch tree to help make the tinder bundle. The actual bow drill fire requires a good mix of mobility, strength and conditioning in addition to all the working parts necessary to create fire by friction. If you have never done this, I suggest you attempt it, as it can be a workout in itself!
Walking on a trail does put you in nature, and that is a great start for most of us. Practicing MovNat helps you to move in the way that you should be moving and is natural to our species. Combine MovNat with practicing primitive/survival skills and you will connect to the land, while moving naturally through it. When you sleep in a leaf shelter made by you, eat food that you hunted and gathered, and cook it over a fire that you made by rubbing two sticks together, you will have a much deeper connection with the land around you, that you will wonder why humans ever left it!
About the Author
Ryan Leech is a Level 1 MovNat Certified Trainer. He has been practicing wilderness survival/primitive skills for 27 years and published his book “Knowledge of the Ancestors: Survival Skills” in 2008. He currently resides in Northeast Ohio with his wife and their 3 children. You can find out more about him through his blog at www.trainfourlife.com and on Instagram @trainfourlifefitness.
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