Our approach to fitness draws from gymnastics, mixed martial arts, parkour, functional fitness, primal fitness... the list goes on and on. Why? Because none of it is actually new per se. Most of what is presented to the fitness world as innovative and new is in fact just re-packaging of what has gone before.
In our view, the most evolution-friendly method is to roam far and wide as generalists, acquiring a working knowledge of a range of disciplines rather than relying on one single skill.
All of this is by way of introduction to the late, great Georges Hebert and his book The Natural Method. Hebert was a French Navy officer during WW1 and subsequently PT instructor to the French marines. His wartime experience gave him an acute awareness of the need to ground physical education in the real world rather than mere aesthetics, which soon come anyway.
To be strong to be useful (etre fort pour etre utile), fitness needed to develop not just physical attributes such as strength, conditioning, coordination and so on but also character attributes such as courage and altruism. This system became The Natural Method and by the time of WWII it was the French military's de facto training protocol.
A Natural Method session is composed of exercises belonging to the ten fundamental groups: walking, running, jumping, quadrupedal movement, climbing, equilibrium (balancing), throwing, lifting, defending and swimming.
A training session consists, then, of exercises in an outdoor environment, perhaps a few hundred meters to several kilometers, during which, one walks, one runs, one jumps, one progresses quadrupedally, one climbs, one walks in unstable balance, one raises and one carries, one throws, one fights and one swims.
The step from there to modern-day Parkour and Obstacle Course Races is but a small one; just browse the images above for examples of what Hebert got up to. Look familiar?
For those looking to dig a little deeper on this subject, there is of course the original French text as well as a translation by Philippe Til available as four (remarkably cheap) e-book downloads on Amazon: an introduction section, Fundamental Exercises, Functional Exercises and Self-Defence Techniques.
If you would like to see what it's all about for yourself, sign up for a session via our class schedule here.