Freedom of Movement: Reflections on the MovNat Paris Workshop, by Nicolas Pain
Before taking on any firefighting activity, a fireman goes through a general training, where the elementary techniques and the basics of survival in a firefighting situation are mastered. The same goes for a physician. Any physician undergoes a general education where the elementary techniques and the basics are thoroughly trained.
Is there any training out there that educates each of us about our movement abilities and helps us train them for maximum proficiency, power, and effectiveness? That helps us learn how to move, using the full range of our human, species-specific movement aptitudes?
If there is such a training for adults, MovNat’s workshops might be the closest thing to it. I attended the 2-day MovNat workshop in Paris in June with instructor Joseph Bartz. We trained in the Bois de Boulogne, a spacious park with a direct view of the Tour Eiffel. A full group it was, with distinct motivations, diverse in gender, level of fitness, and age. But we shared a common goal: learn how we, as humans, are capable of moving. To say that I was at the same time nervous and excited before the beginning of this workshop is an understatement. And I wasn’t the only one curious about MovNat – a French TV station sent journalists to film our training.
I’m blessed to be average. I’m not strong, I don’t have big muscles. I don’t have a specific advantage like height or speed, or any other ability that you and I could consider an outstanding advantage. Thus, in physical activities I tend to fall back on efficiency and technique
Joseph helped us maintain our focus on efficiency and technique in a way that made a great impact on me and that I’d like to share here. The core of his teaching was be smart and responsible, and first value and then refine the influence of your mind and heart on your activities. To help us train our minds to be sharper, we had to figure out how to move, ways to test what we thought were the best ways to move, and what criteria to evaluate and then we had to put forward the upside and the downside of a specific movement.
Joseph encouraged us, as well, to reclaim our heart. During practice, he prompted us to face our fears and work out what was best for each of us in a given interaction with the environment. Likewise, in the discussions, he explained briefly and clearly his lifestyle. His goal was to make us think about our priorities and our values, figure out what is best for us and the people we care about, and be aware of the political outcomes of a simple and harmonious lifestyle.
He also used one of the most efficient teaching tricks I have ever seen: the robot hypothesis. Briefly stated: the instructor is the robot and, like a mindless machine, executes the exact commands given by the MovNat trainees for a given movement. So the instructor becomes the trainee and the students become the trainer. There are several benefits correlated with this method:
- An appropriate level of skills: trainees suggest and analyze skills and techniques that they can execute and figure out for themselves.
- An intuitive and internal learning: we didn’t start from scratch, techniques and skills weren’t imposed on us. Everything started from what we know and what we can do. Suggestions from Joseph helped us progress further.
- An awareness of what works and what doesn’t. Training is nothing more than testing a movement with distinct variables in a given environment. With such a method, this process becomes clearer.
- The opportunity to share this knowledge and lifestyle. Once we put into words ourselves what we are practicing , movement-wise, we can then explain the specifics of the movement more clearly and share it with anyone, whether they are familiar with MovNat or not.
- Laughter and good will among the participants and instructors is a likely outcome.
Why are children able to move in ways that so many adults cannot? Is it because they possess extra capacities? Because they possess an extra-special knowledge ? Clearly, these are not the correct answers. The physical basis is the same and adults should be more experienced. So why can’t most adults move like children do, so effortlessly?
Because adults have built mental and emotional barricades, and children have not yet done this. Your first boundary, I’ve come to learn, isn’t the state of your body, but the state of your mind and your heart.
The purely physical element of MovNat is amazing. But as I learned through my own experience training MovNat, one can never learn how to be truly free, powerful, efficient, and useful in movement without also tackling the role of the mind and heart in movement practice.
Nicolas Pain is a French philosopher, teacher, and writer. He runs, trains in martial arts (Yang Jia Taijiquan), self-defense (Ryabko Systema), and in evolutionary fitness.
More on Nicolas Pain’s homepage and blog.
Photos & Movie : Paul Merino, 50mn inside, Nicolas Pain