Georges Hebert – History

To understand La méthode Naturelle, it is helpful to understand the man who created it, through doing so you may better understand why he created it.

Georges HEBERT was born in Paris on April 27th 1875, this boy whose fate nobody could foresee, nor imagine the influence that he would have in the field of physical education. At the age of 18, he entered naval school and quickly became an officer of the French Marines. Navigating ships, he admired the strength, flexibility and physical resistance of the gabiers (seaman who works aloft in boats), real athletes moving on ropes and aloft.

Within the Marines, Hébert crossed the oceans and visited distant parts of the world where natives lived a primitive existence. They were physically well built, healthy and of a radiant physical condition. Hébert noticed that these tribes owed their shape to the daily physical exercise which they practised by carrying out the natural movements necessary for their subsistence: running, jumping, throwing, carrying, swimming, etc.

He witnessed some revolutions in South America as well as the Cuban insurrection, events which highlighted the attitude and behaviour of the men faced with difficult situations.

On May 8th 1902 the volcano of the Peeled Mountain erupted, Hébert, was on board the “SUGHET” which was anchored in Fort, France. During the eruption which destroyed the city of St Pierre de la Martinique he participated in the rescue of survivors (40,000 people were buried under debris and the lava in minutes), once again, he realised the importance of physical condition and strength of character, essential to be able to act efficiently in such situations.

Becoming an athlete and preoccupied by physical education, G.Hébert undertook study for a plan to reform the education of gymnastics in the Navy. In 1903, he was appointed to the school of the marine riflemen of Lorient to put into practice his ideas. From 1904, he is authorized to apply his principles to a group of 1,200 men and, in 1905, he introduced the usage of the “quoted performance”, based on five tests, it allowed the determination the progression of the results from the Natural Method. In 1909, Hébert was made responsible for applying it to all services of the Navy. In the meantime, he improved and introduced the concept of working by “waves”, principles of individual freedom in collective work and the alternation of strenuous and moderate effort. He gave demonstrations in the main cities of France and presented the results of 350 sailors to the International Congress of Physical education of Paris in 1913.

The public, teachers and journalists were won over. From his success he was able to create an Institute of Physical education to teach the method. Soon, Hébert became the director of the Athletes’ secondary school of Reims, created with the support of the marquis de Polignac.

1914! War erupts. While a first lieutenant Hébert ‘s was seriously injured in Dixmude leading a company of marine riflemen. The event was mentioned in the dispatches of the army. After a long recovery from his wounds (he nearly lost the usage of an arm), he was placed in charge of the physical training of the soldiers. Headquarters acknowledged the “huge advantages of Héberts Method”. At the end of the war, in 1918, the athletes’ secondary school of Reims was in ruins so Hébert orientated his action towards the physical education of children and the women by creating gymnastics schools to help them. But the youth of the post-war period dreamt only about spectacles, about matches and about records, to the detriment of useful physical education. This mentality caused Hébert decide to lead a campaign against commercialized and badly organised sports. He published an article “Sports against Physical education” which created for him opposition and problems in the sports press.

Hébert developed the principles of the Natural Method in several books published from 1936 “Physical Education moral and virile with the Natural Method”. Although not perfect, the Natural Method progresses and Hébertiste centres are created little by little everywhere in France.

The second world war started in 1940(1939). The Government of marshal Pétain adopted Méthode Naturelle for the physical education of young people and modified it. Hébert judged that those modifications altered its philosophy. He published a booklet in which he distanced himself from the collaborators# and their principles of education.

1955 celebrated the fiftieth birthday of the Natural Method and G.Hébert was given the title of commander of the Légion d’Honneur by the French Government who wanted to convey to him the French gratitude for his actions.

The collection of his writings continued to expand with the publication of volumes dedicated to the different families of the natural method. He had just finished the writing of the last one on swimming when a heart attack killed him, on August 2nd, 1957.

George Hébert leaves us a method of physical education with efficient principles: movement, freedom of action, continuity, alternation of efforts, gradation of intensity, etc.

This article ends with Hébert’s definition of Physical education by Natural Method: “a methodical, progressive and uninterrupted action, from childhood to adulthood, assure the entire physical appearance; to augment organic resistance; to emphasize aptitude on all types of natural and useful exercises is necessary; to develop energy and all other qualities of action or virility; finally to target all your physical an virile knowledge to a predominant moral idea: ALTRUISM!*”

*Altruism definitions:
– unselfish concern for the needs or interests of others, providing gratification vicariously or from their responses.
– A form of behaviour in which an individual risks lowering its fitness for the benefit of another.
– Altruistic actions are those performed for the sake of others. Altruism is the hypothesis that morality involves acting for the sake of others.

#collaborators = the name of the French government who worked with Hitler during WW2.


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