I’ve waited along time for this day. Two years to be precise. Why so long? Oh you know, life! I suffered an abdominal tear during parkour practice. Then I discovered I had a degenerative knee condition and meniscus tears in both knees from too much elite gymnastics. Oh, and there was some finger surgery to remove a piece of sea urchin that should have stayed in Bali!

You know, life.

But here I am. Finally! And in the words of my 3 year old son, “Let’s Do This!”

There are eight tests to complete today. All of them are a challenge but they’re not meant to be impossible. MovNat instructors must sign off on your accreditation personally so their own reputation is on the line when vouching for your competence.

MovNat demands that its trainers be able to teach and do. That’s an important part of MovNat’s brand and in my view a critical element of the program’s strength. All of this means that if you want to leave with your Cert III Certificate today you’ll need to move like a Cert III and be able to do that NOW!

Here’s how the day went for me.



I have medial meniscus tears in both knees so I can’t physically attain the requisite range to initiate a Single Leg Squats (SLS). The assessor knows this and the medical docs I’ve proffered confirm it.

This does not mean that I’ve failed to train squats. I have. And for the range my knees will allow they’re pretty strong (if I do say so myself!). But as far as my attempt at the SLS test goes, I’m worried that a knee blow-out now could ruin the remainder of the day so I’ve opted to use my one ‘redo’ at the end of the day.

I needn’t have worried about me knees. I had much bigger problems to deal with.


This test seems simple enough. Three short 2x4s are set up along the ground in a line, which leads to a raised 2×4 beam. We need to carry two 32kg kettlebells along the low 2x4s and then carry one 32kg kettlebell along the raised platform.

This test was way harder than I expected and it revealed a HUGE gap in my training and preparation.

I almost make it to the end but I step off the beam just short of the end. Darn! Fail!

Carrying this huge weight while balancing was REALLY hard and the slightest wobble caused my  body to lose control. There was no way around it. The sheer weight requires a VERY strong core and mine was not strong enough. ‘Game over’.

I was not alone. The fail rate on this test was high and the MovNat assessor appeals to our fears, “You have your entire life to video your future efforts and submit them to us.” And, “Few pass Cert III in a single attempt.”

None of this consoles me. I’m overwhelmed by my thoughts. All the time training. All the money spent to get here. The long journey with my entire family. All wasted? I’m angry and in my minds-eye I’ve left the venue.

Day over!

FAIL #1 (0/1)


A jump to precision is ordinarily an easy skill for me. ‘Pres’, or ‘Precisions’ in parkour training, are a daily activity for me. From a standing jump or a running leap I’m comfortable with this skill, but in the test my right right foot slips off the face of the target and I take a good chunk of skin off my shin in the process.

FAIL #2 (0/2)


Spoiler alert. I fail this test too!

Rail balance and safety bails are also well within my capacity to perform but again I fail the test. Something is off clearly off. There is a panic that starts to set in and a confusion. I need to stay calm and figure out what’s going on and I need to do that quickly.

Fail #3 (0/3)


The group leaves the Sports Halle but I stay. I need time to sort my head out.

I turn my mind to the last two tests: precision jumps and the rail balance sequence. Things I can easily do.

I’m aware that we’re allowed to make video submissions after the course has concluded but with the equipment right in front of me, already set up, I figured that now was as good a time as any to shoot some footage.

I set up my tripod and iPhone and BAM! I nail the precision jump and rail sequence on my first attempt. I email these to the assessor immediately.

The successful efforts restore my confidence and I realise that I’d let my emotions cloud my thinking and judgment. I was so overborne with self-loathing that my emotional state had impaired my physical ability.

I’ve missed lunch so I eat a handful of nuts and drink an espresso from the self-service machine. The crew is regrouping and it’s time for ROUND TWO. As I pass one of the assessors he looks at me and says, “You’re back!”

The glum, ashen faced person that he left behind in Sports Halle before lunch had been reconstituted and replaced with something more upbeat.

I high-five him as I pass and reply, “Yeah I’m back! Sorry about that.”


There’s a pre-lunch version of me, who sucked. And a post lunch version, who rocked!

Somewhere between a few successful video resubmits, some personal reflection and the consumption of caffeine I’d found my rhythm and restored my confidence in my abilities.

Over the past three days I’d given 100% to this course and was enjoying every second of it. In that time I’d made genuine friends and felt comfortable standing among them as an equal. I was not about screw all of that up with a shitty attitude.

Time to bring an ‘A-Game’.



This is a difficult skill test.

You need to be able to get on top of a high bar twice during the sequence; once using the Power Up Method and then using a Roll Up (Chin Up Pull Over).

Once you get on top of the bar you need to stand up and perform a rail balance at significant height without safety mats. By the time you stand up your head is about 4 meters off the floor, so if you’re afraid of heights ….

I’m afraid of heights.

People find this hard to believe but this reality has been an every-present theme in my entire gym career and it’s still very real. Over the past 4-day course I’ve faced this fear several times; mostly by taking a big breath and letting my body do its thing. It’s a strategy that has worked so far but this test is a little different.

This test is is slow purposeful.

I know I have the skill for this. I know this  intellectually but the rising feeling of nausea in my stomach has a very different I idea of what I can do.

As I squat on the rail and prepare to stand up I stare down past the rail to the blurry floor below and say to myself, “There is no height. There is no height!” And I’m done!

PASS #1 (1/4)


The MovNat Cert III preparation training notes suggest that Fireman’s Carry test would involve carrying someone equal my body weight over half a mile. I’d trained for this possibility but today it changed.

Today we’re required to perform a fireman’s lift of someone equal or greater than our body weight and complete five full squats on command. Not easy, but better than carrying someone over distance. Especially because my legs feel like led from yesterday’s hike.

This kind of squat is well within my knee range and my legs are strong enough.

PASS #2 (2/5)


No trouble here.

PASS #3 (3/6) 


The final test is an all-out obstacle course at speed. It’s a test about endurance, efficiency and flow. A test of unconscious competence where every skill is linked together and the task is to let the body do what it does best … FLY!

And I LOVE this stuff. The course:


  • 3m vertical wall run
  • Horizontal arm hang traverse
  • Leg hook get up
  • Box Jump descent (3m – 2.4m)
  • Safety drop and roll from height
  • Dash vault
  • Power Side Swing Traverse (8meters)
  • Lache
  • Monkey Bar Traverse (8meters)
  • Run to rope climb (6-7meters, no legs)
  • Sprint to finish

I thrive in obstacle courses. I just love them. To feel the flow of movement and allow the mind to be quite while my body finds it’s way through an unfamiliar course at speed is pure exhilaration.

The obstacle course is a fitting end to the MovNat course. It brings to life the full range of movement capacities that all MovNat participants have; and to a person we excelled.

PASS #3 (5/6)


It’s over and its time to receive some individual feedback.

My video submissions of the two skills I failed earlier were received and accepted so I’ve nailed 6 from 7 skills at this point. The Balance & Carry test will need to be completed at a later stage. That’s not so bad.

We chatted about what happened to me during ROUND ONE and the discussion was enlightening.

I’m a perfectionist in some areas of my life. Often to a fault. And being able to dispel the ‘darkness’ that descends on my emotions when things don’t go according to plan is something I need to acknowledge and work on.

The feedback also highlighted some positives.

It seems that Erwan, Danny, Jerome and Brun are confident that I understand and appropriately embody the philosophy and pathos of MovNat as an organisation. I also learned that the leadership group recognise that I’m competent enough across the bulk of the syllabus to be able to represent MovNat as a Cert III Trainer …

… Once the Balance & Carry is completed.

How precisely I’m going to re-engineer the BALANCE & CARRY test while traveling is anyone’s guess but hey, a core principle of MovNat practice is adaptability right?

Finally we discuss my physical limitations (my knees) and the Single Leg Squat test.

It may be that an alternate test might need to be considered in my case that suitably tests my leg strength and accounts for my knee limitations. It’s agreed that “Well keep talking about this over the next few weeks or months.”

So the final outcome?

I don’t get to leave Austria with my Cert III Accreditiation today but I’m ecstatic about my performance overal.


After the Cert II course in Austria my family and I have continued to travel and spend time meeting with and learning from people and organisations dedicated to whole body movement training.

So … somewhere in Portugal about a month later. I’m ready to tackle the Balance & Carry test.

To  be continued …

I’ll write up a summary reflection on MovNat Cert III course in the weeks ahead but right now it’s time to take a break from that topic. Let the meaning of the experience settle in. In the meantime I’m continuing to travel and explore the world of exercise, fitness and the natural world. I can’t wait to share with you those stories.

Damien Norris is the founder and senior whole-body movement and lifestyle coach at The Wilding Project (LINK), Perth Western Australia.

Recently featured in TEDxPerth (LINK), Damien teaches children, young people, adults and seniors how to move and live a full life!

Olympic Fun & Fitness and The Wilding Project like Rewilding is dedicated to a movement rich life. Programs like Gymnastics, GymFIT, FootyEDGE, Parkour, Workplace Athletes, ActiveAgers and more all follow a simple philosophy, “Learn to move well and then never stop.”

Damien Norris