MOVEMENT IS LIFE
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© Pieter Derycke 2019
  • Pieter Derycke

My own (re)discovery of natural movement

People often ask my about my own road to natural movement. That’s a good question, but not easily answered, because my views more or less emerged, spontaneously, and over a longer period. But let me give it a try:


As the title says, it was a re-discovery. As for almost all natural movement aficionados I know, my real first discovery was as a child while playing outside. I had the luck to be born in a time when free, outdoor play was normal. We wondered around, running, jumping, crawling, climbing trees, throwing sticks and stones… And all this was done spontaneously, playfully, in multi aged groups and without adult supervision. And we did this all day long, every day. Yeah, there was school too, but otherwise: playing outside. My sports were some playful gymnastics very early on, and basketball from about 8 years old.

Basketball became my main movement interest. I still moved a lot, and luckily basketball is a sport needing some good all-round athleticism, so I considered myself a decent athlete and mover. But then came university, and after that, I started working. Although my profession (physical therapy) is all about movement, my personal movement and activity levels dropped.


My interest in movement was largely professional, and luckily, my job made me move from time to time. But my professional movement interests gradually merged with some other passions of mine: biology, psychology and neurology, Africa and anthropology. I remember searching pubmed for everything I could find on ‘hunter-gatherers’ and ‘back pain’, ‘anthropology of pain’, ‘evolution’ and ‘fitness’, … I can assure you that there was not that much to find on pubmed, at that time.


Partially inspired by evolutionary psychology, I had conceptualized the basics of what could be called evolutionary physical therapy, or natural movement, or ancestral musculoskeletal health. These concepts were very rudimentary but exciting.


(partially because of these children I spend my days barefoot now, although, ironically, when they get a bit older are allowed to wear shoes and look at bare feet (and at shorts) as something for kids…)

I remember one specific moment, while trekking in Uganda in 2006. Somewhere between Lake Bunyonyi and Kisoro, in the beautiful south-west, with the Virunga volcanoes on the background, I saw children play football on a little open space, barefooted. And I thought they had these exceptional feet to be able to do that. A bit later on, coincidentally, I crossed that same open field without my shoes, and it really hurt my feet. I couldn’t walk normally because the field had little stones and pebbles everywhere. I saw the little girls looking at me and I could hear them think: “What a tall mzungu, but what a sissy!” And I immediately knew that what they were thinking was right, and that I was the one with exceptional feet. Weak, stiff and unadapted feet. At that time, at that place, I knew that barefoot walking and running was the norm. That thought had crossed my mind before (I had been to Africa before), but I never really appreciated the significance of it.


A bit later on that same year, almost by mistake, I typed ‘evolutionary fitness’ in google, instead of pubmed, and it brought me to an essay from Art De Vany, with the same title. Now that was an interesting read. It had two major consequences for me. It sparked my interest in nutrition from an evolutionary point of view (until then I was only concerned about movement and musculoskeletal health). And secondly, it opened my eyes to the World Wide Web, which is, of course a mixed blessing. Until then, my internet use was searching on pubmed and reading the noigroup forum (does not exist any more).


Next was a time of experimenting with barefoot running, the paleo/primal diet, strength training, and other lifestyle modifications. I also discovered that my rudimentary concepts of natural movement and evolutionary physical therapy were already discovered, by some people who had taken the idea a lot further. I discovered Frank Forencich of Exuberant Animal. It was also the time were I saw the first video featuring Erwan Le Corre and discovered MovNat. I can still remember being thrilled by that video! A few years earlier I had been amazed by Parkour, but MovNat made even more sense.


So instead of only running barefoot in our local forest, I started jumping, balancing, climbing in trees, lifting logs and generally playing around. There I rediscovered natural movement again, gradually becoming a better mover, but also understanding and experiencing the deeper and maybe more profound effects of natural movement. Life is movement, and the better and more you move, the better and more you live.


I started thinking about doing something with natural movement besides my physical therapy. When I saw that MovNat came to Belgium for a workshop, I immediately signed up. A year later, there was another workshop and a possibility to become a Movnat certified trainer. And now I’ve started up my own natural movement sessions.


My goal with my own natural movement sessions, is to help people to discover the full scale of their movement capacities (homo sapiens is a good all round mover by birthright), the let them rediscover skills in a safe, healthy and playful way, and to inspire them to see the world differently, to live their lives more fully, and to help them inspire their fellow human animals, especially the little ones.


Because for me, what worries me a lot, is that in the future, my natural movement training may not serve to REdiscover, but to really discover for the first time, because the young ones will not have had the freedom to roam outside and learn to move fully on their own.


So parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles, teachers … let the children play outside! They don’t need natural movement instruction, just let them play, explore, experiment on their own. Let the children discover natural movement from day one!


And inspire them to do all of this by leading by example.


Thanks for reading,


Pieter