Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Methode Naturelle... The Grandfather of Parkour

Georges Hébert (1875-1957) was a pioneering French physical educator, theorist and instructor.
An officer in the French Navy prior to the First World War, Hébert was stationed in the town of St. Pierre in Martinique. In 1902 the town fell victim to a catastrophic volcanic eruption and Hebert heroically co-ordinated the escape and rescue of some seven hundred people from this disaster. This experience had a profound effect on him, and reinforced his belief that athletic skill must be combined with courage and altruism. He eventually developed this ethos into his personal motto, "Etre fort pour être utile" - "Be strong to be useful."
Hébert had travelled extensively throughout the world and was impressed by the physical development and movement skills of indigenous peoples in Africa and elsewhere:
Their bodies were splendid, flexible, nimble, skilful, enduring, resistant and yet they had no other tutor in Gymnastics but their lives in Nature.
While still at sea, Hébert began to systematise a method of physical culture training patterned on the abilities of the indigenous peoples he had encountered.
Upon his return to France, Hebert became a physical education tutor at the College of Reims, where he began to define the principles of his own system of physical education and to create apparatus and exercises to teach his "Natural Method". As well as the "natural" training regimens he observed in Africa, he was inspired by classical representations of the human body in Graeco-Roman statuary and by the ideals of the ancient Greek gymnasia.
The final goal of physical education is to make strong beings. In the purely physical sense, the Natural Method promotes the qualities of organic resistance, muscularity and speed, towards being able to walk, run, jump, move quadrupedally, to climb, to walk in balance, to throw, lift, defend yourself and to swim.
A training session consists, then, of exercises in an outdoor environment - a course of greater or lesser distance (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.

This course can be carried out in 2 ways:
1 - the natural or spontaneous way; i.e., on an unspecified route through the countryside.
2 - within an especially designed environment.

All of the exercises can be carried out while progressing through this environment.
(info from

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