Ich Bin ein Berliner: Vic Verdier Takes MovNat Aquatics to the Next Level

Circus Artists, Acrobats, Crossfitters, MovNat Alumni, Gymnasts, Dancers, Stuntmen… the list seemed never ending.

In total, 50 participants from all walks of life met in Berlin, Germany at the beginning of August to participate in Ido Portal’s Movement Camp. I was glad to be invited to teach four half-day sessions presenting the content of our upcoming MovNat Aquatics Certification to athletes, who traveled from as far as Canada, Australia, Israel, Europe, the U.S., and Hong Kong.

Click on this photo and count how many abs you can see...

We had Sean Milligan teaching rock climbing techniques. We had Dr. Andreo Spina talking about Functional Anatomy, and of course Ido Portal and Odelia Goldschmidt presenting Floreio and hand balancing.

So what was the reason to incorporate in-water sessions in an otherwise dry, land-based Movement Camp? The simple fact that being in the water is a very important movement capacity that so many athletes don’t really master.

Many people grow up in cities, learn to swim in their childhood, and only dedicate some time to in-water activities when they go to the beach or a pool to have a bit of fun with their friends. They sometimes fine-tune their swimming techniques by watching the Olympic Games or other swimmers nearby, but never really learn to enjoy being in the water for an extended period of time. Most parents get their kids to learn to swim, more as a survival skill than an enjoyable and useful activity. In case they fall in the water, they should be able to stay at the surface and eventually swim back to the shore if the current or the waves are not too strong and if they are not dragged down by their clothes and shoes.

Teaching 50 people all the principles and techniques of the MovNat Aquatics might be perceived as a challenge, but MovNat Instructor Joseph Bartz, MovNat “official” videographer Julie Angel, Ido, Odeli, and her brother, Roy, a competitive swimmer from Israel, were there to help me organize this big crowd into more manageable groups working side by side. So my task was to make sure that these elements were easy to understand, apply, and learn. Efficiency was therefore of paramount importance, especially when I discovered on the 1st day that the surprisingly low water temperature was a real problem for at least half of the participants. The extremely low body fat in general was a potential problem that was solved by a combination of having nice summer sun, getting used to cold water, and… renting wetsuits in a local dive shop.

Ido Portal, Vic Verdier and Joseph Bartz

That’s not the only thing that the participants had to bring with them. I also asked them to come up with some imaginative solutions to make sure they could float for an extended period of time in fresh water, regardless of the fact that most of them were “sinkers,” people with very low body fat who have a tendency to sink, even with their lungs are fully filled with air. Imagination was indeed on the program when I saw a collection of inflatable rings, crocodiles, penguins, boards taped with empty water-bottles and other water mattresses that had nothing to do with a serious swimming class.

But nothing should be serious in life, and we made good use of those strange, inflatable animals.
We had a whole morning dedicated to in-water perception drills and watermanship skills, where the participants could learn that their body was much more difficult to control in the water than on land, thanks to the combined action of gravity, buoyancy, current, and unstable bottom. Most of them weren’t as skilled at doing handstands and a back flip in the water as they were on solid ground.
A second morning was dedicated to studying various swimming strokes in their practical context, as techniques should be adapted to the environment and the task to be done. How to swim while pushing an object, rescuing someone or carrying something; how to improve their free-style or their back-stroke; how to master the fundamentals of the Butterfly.

"Come in! It's not that cold..."

A third morning was all about breathing techniques – breath holding at the surface and while free-diving. Local German people who were naked on the beach (apparently something that was very common in former East Germany) were surprised by all of these athletes displaying six-pack abs and impressive muscles while performing some weird diaphragmatic breathing drills, imagining they were trapped in a building on fire trying to escape a room full of toxic fumes. But they were even more surprised to see them a few minutes later, sprinting in the water, and alternating high jumps in the air and underwater duck dives to test their resistance to Carbon Dioxide build-up in their lungs.

"It's all about breathing"

The last morning was a very entertaining combo mixing all of these techniques in quite an intensive fashion. Even if the level of the participants was very varied, all were challenged in a lot of different ways, some of them overcoming their fears or apprehension, others pushing the limits of their body. The energy was great, the progresses obvious, and the level of exertion quickly noticeable.

Mixing fast swims with free diving, and rescue techniques with breath-holding quickly pushed everyone to dig in to their reserve to be able to complete the 30 minute long combo.
For pretty much everybody, the main obstacle was to deal with a high level of Carbon Dioxide in their lungs, rapidly incapacitating whoever wanted to hold their breath underwater for more than a few seconds. Unless it was to avoid colliding with Fritz, the camp dog, whose favourite activity was to fetch a stick thrown in the water by swimming straight without paying attention to the crowd moving around.

"Let's start swimming now!"

I was very glad to see some people who couldn’t even put their face in the water on day 1, already able to stay underwater for almost half a minute after only 3 days of practice. We’ve had some very positive feedback from these world-class athletes. Some of them managed to conquer their fears, others to toughen up their mental strength and deal with extensive periods of time in cold water.

Vic & MCT, Leon Rawlings, movnatting in the warm, crystal clear waters of Koh Lanta.

A few  are already talking about coming to a Thailand workshop to fine-tune their technique.

Warm waters, you are so appealing…

For more information about MovNat Aquatics Certification, please contact vic@movnat.com.

By Vic Verdier, MovNat Master Instructor

Movement Camp Photos: Julie Angel

Ido Portal‘s testimonial about this workshop:

The MovNat Aquatics workshop was a unique experience to get some exposure into the world of water behavior – swimming, diving, apnea in static and dynamic conditions, rescue and more.
Nowhere else can you find these skills presented by an experienced and professional teacher. Vic spent most of his life exploring movement in water as part of his background in the French Navy, in addition to being a world record-holder and world renowned diver.
If enhancing your ability to survive and understand  water better is on your list, I highly recommend the Aquatics workshop by MovNat led by Master Instructor Vic Verdier

Copyright © 2012 MovNat

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1 reply
  1. John-Edouard Ehlinger says:

    Dear Vic,

    this sounds as you spent there a great time, enjoying teaching one of our common passion: water!
    I found very interesting the part about the “sinkers” (people with very low body fat). As a former life guard for the french fire fighter, I trained a lot with other trained fire fighters. Theses guys had also a very low body fat. However towing some of them was very simple, other just like a stone! So that I think fat is not the only element to float, but also your bones and which kind of muscle (bodybuilding vs. bruce lee).

    Just my few thoughts…


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