Thursday, May 15, 2008

The European RKC Tour - Epilogue

Morning #3 back in L.A....

I've been spending most of the last few weeks travelling so much that I can't tell where the hell I'm sleeping any more these days. Got back on Monday evening, drove out to Covina on Tuesday afternoon to see Squealie & Courtney, came back to my apartment in West LA yesterday late morning, worked an 8-hour stint in my Santa Monica clinic non-stop from 2-10pm, and came home to crash out.

Today, I woke at 4:30am, started cooking a serious pot of mac & cheese with diced ham and turkey breast, only to have to dump it out since 1 packet of cheese mix I dumped in was rancid. Damn.... waste of food and time.

I've got a mountain of work to catch up on, both in terms of patient/client load and paperwork/writing, but the overall experience of RKC Europa made everything so very worthwhile.

Now, here's where I left off on the blog posting... Flashback time

RKC HUNGARY... in brutal detail

Wow! Talk about prepared! The Hungarians are surprisingly well-prepared for this event. Snatch-test wise, I've only had to fail a couple, mostly due to injury. Only 1 person wasn't up to the task of the Tsar of Lifts due to form issues, and by the end of the weekend, even she'd conquered the requisite number of reps.

Hungarian RKC, Lakatos Peter, had prepared his people VERY well. In terms of broad strokes, they were almost all very comfortable with the 6 RKC basics - swing, TGU, clean, press, front squat, & snatch. During the entire week of my stay, I never once heard the man raise his voice above a smooth, calm, patient tone, but he was obviously good at getting his people to emulate KB training methods at a relatively high user level.

There were a few snags, though. The assistants weren't all biting at the bit to get out there and show their stuff. Whether due to the linguistic challenges or cultural differences, the reason's not important. If you come to assist at ANY RKC event, you'd better get the opposing digit out of the digestive tract exit and be eager to assist the Chief Instructor, Team Leaders, and the students in any way you can. If you're there to jaw and strut, just go home.... And thankfully some did. But that just let the remaining assistants rise unencumbered to the top. The few that were iffy will likely not be invited back. And with almost no exceptions, the ones that remained not only picked up the slack, but kicked arse doing it. Regardless of whether it was translating, motivating, or organizing, these fellas did a rockin' job.

The language barrier and the "first time" struggles with the new location & organizing were a bit draining. Being a Team Leader or a featured instructor at any workshop is always high-output. When you have to do it and deal with a different culture and language on top of that, your energy output doubles or triples.

When it's your 3rd consecutive weekend teaching the RKC in a different town, and a different language, it's bloody hard to keep the same sense of urgency about the importance of technique and just let things slide. But when the Chief Instructor himself is making the rounds to motivate the troops, you feel the morning coffee kick in harder than the 2 Benadryl tabs you just downed to combat the mist of pollen & dust floating through the air.

Professor Roy Harris's BJJ & JKD instructor training came in handy here, and I found myself getting the Hard Style point across to the RKC candidates with shouting, hand gesturing, and good ol' fashioned body language. Only once did I have to resort to the right cross and round kick.... just to demonstrate the point of wrist alignment on the TGU, clean, press & snatch.

Starting at the Inosanto Academy and manifesting in Copenhagen, Pavel had me leading a goblet squat workout. Pavel's words of praise from Copenhagen were still ringing in my ears. With his usual Soviet-style sarcasm, he said, "Doc Cheng will now demonstrate the perfect squat technique. The rest of you, just watch this and accept that you will never get this good." By the time I got to Budapest, I was forced to actually do every rep of the workout with the RKC candidates just to make sure everyone was on the same page via visual cues. To set the pace, I did it with a 32kg bell, while prior to that, I'd only done it with a 24kg (53lb) kettlebell. In August at UCLA, something tells me that I'll be doing it with a Bulldog or Beast.

Kenneth Jay, King of the Danes, taught the only other Team. Instead of the usual division where there's roughly 10 people per Team Leader or Senior RKC, there were about 25. Add the language barrier to that, and you've got a challenging weekend. As I think I mentioned in my prior posts, I always learn some very salient detail whenever Kenneth opens his mouth. The last 2 weekends were really epiphanies for me as far as the press & overspeed ecentrics. The more I got to hear these lectures replayed in my head, the more I understood them and valued them. [SIDENOTE: Interestingly, as the RKC Europa Tour went on, Kenneth's English got better, while Pavel's got a bit rougher. Must be some inverse proportion law at play there.]

Kenneth got the Scandinavians mixed with some other English speakers and a couple of non-English speakers. Team Cheng, on the other hand, was pure Hungarian. It took a little extra work, but by the end of the first day, my group had a sense of group participation. By the end of the second day, it became a sense of identity, a sense of belonging. By the end of the third day, it was family. And they hoisted me into the air, a la post-Copenhagen Big Willie style. Hopefully somebody snapped a pic or two of that.

Pavel taught the swing, I taught the TGU progression, Kenneth taught the clean & press, I taught the snatch, and Pavel taught the front squat. It was a fast cycled division of labor, but it worked perfectly, and the Dane, the Russian, and the Chinaman ended up spreading the Hard Style Gospel to a willing congregation of Hungarian locals, an Aussie, and folks from several other countries.

We had to resort to some physical antics that we normally don't have to do in the states just to get our points across. Once, Pavel & I crossed paths during the practice session, and he said, "I don't think they're getting the idea of breathing behind the shield." So I narrated the concept while having Team Cheng member Rita Nemeth stand on my abs. Thanks to the priceless work of our translator (Rita's boyfriend, Assistant RKC Ervin Toth), the point seemed to get across far better than just leaving it as a stupid human trick. [SIDENOTE: At the end of the workshop, Rita & Ervin gave me a bottle of Unicum (a local Hungarian liquor that's supposed to be similar to Jagermeister) and a stuffed dog for Squealie, which he's been kissing nonstop since I gave it to him.]

Team Cheng took the technique competition thanks to a petite blond named Eniko. She and Superwoman Gabi Katschthaler were our entries to the competition, and little did I know that Eniko's boyfriend was one of the contestants fielded by Team Jay. Due to time constraints, Pavel decided to limit them to demonstrating the double swing only, but the explosiveness of their hip and leg movement was amazing. I was so proud of my team and the women that we fielded.

At the end of the weekend, the failure rate for RKC Hungary was quite low. Only 1 had to re-test for teaching purposes, 1 needed to tighten up technique on the snatch, and 2 were unable to complete the snatch test due to injury. Just as in St. Paul, an injury sidelined one candidate (Daniel) briefly, but he gutted out the rest of the weekend and showed perfect form with his one remaining hand.

By the end of Sunday, I was drenched in SPF 50, dirt, and hugs. It was a good event. I'd even got the chance to meet, treat, and hang with Eyal Yanilov, THE leading authority and headmaster of Krav Maga. The first RKC Hungary event was a hands-down triumph for Peter Lakatos and for Dragon Door.

KJ, the Swedes & Norwegians, Amnon (one of Eyal's top instructors from Israel), Matt (the Aussie), and I went out to dinner afterwards. A 20 minute walk away down an unlit road, the restaurant was a surprising oasis of great food and good times. After we'd all inhaled our dinners, we spent the rest of the evening inhaling desserts and downing seemingly endless Irish coffees, pissing away Florints like there was no tomorrow. We were joking that our crew looked like the beginning of a good bar joke.

Tommy Blom, a Swedish RKC and a Krav Maga instructor, started telling us about the last gathering they'd had there. Tommy pulled out his iPhone and started playing sound bites that got us all laughing about the practical jokes that could happen with them. Snoring, screaming, and the Benny Hill theme song were some of the ringtone gags that we were regaled with. And eventually the ringtone-fest turned to 80's music. Kenneth, Tommy, and a couple of the other guys were pulling out their phones and playing music and sound clips back & forth until we were all completely unwound.

Like an absolute bunch of schoolboys, we were there bobbing our heads to the theme song from Airwolf, then Rocky, then a bunch of other very typical 80's theme songs. We made our way back to the barracks, stumbling through darkness and laughing all the way, and called it a night.

Only it was a very short night for me & Kenneth. By 6am, we were already back at BUD and eager to fly home. Once I'd gotten to Dusseldorf, I could tell that the wind and sun had done a number on my face. Despite slathering on SPF 50, my cheeks were sore as hell, and when I went to look in the washroom mirror I could see that they were already scabbing up from the burning they'd been taking over the weekend. On the bright side, I had a row of 4 seats to myself on the return to LAX from DUS. My face leathery with sunscabbing, I was all too thankful to pass the first night back in my own bed, with my own fluffy towels, and dousing my cheeks with my own soothing aloe vera gel.

After all of that, I gotta say that I'm looking forward to doing it again. And with the conversation the way it's going, I very well might. I've already committed to teaching in Scotland in October, and it looks like the Hungarians are pushing for another event in October as well. As much as I thought '08 was going to be a travel year, something tells me that '09 is going to be even more intense.

On deck now.... The CK-RKC... All of my prayers (as far as Gray Cook's Functional Movement Screen and kettlebells for corrective exercise) have been answered!!!

More pics to follow later today!


Kenneth Jay said...

Awesome post Doc! It was GREAT hanging out with you and I can't wait for the UCLA RKC!

Hope you had a safe travel back.

Pass my love to Courtney and Mark Jr.

Kenneth Jay said...

by the way: here is the clip with Mark O. Madsen that we were talking about:

Mark Reifkind said...

great great writeup Doc, although I expect nothing was almost as good as being there,lol.

Taikei Matsushita said...

Great report, and am amazed you did 3 consecutive cert.
Starting to use word "bloody", your English's polished into original European?

Peter Lakatos met my very close Japanese Krav Maga chief instructor, and Eyal Yanilov made me sing and choked my neck(choke defense demo) back in 2003.

rita nemeth said...

thank you for the excellent job you performed as leader of Team Cheng! Looking forward to have you back in October! :-)

Kettlebell Instructors/0311 said...

Pal, good to have you back. You killed it over there. Rock it out at FMS. Sent you Yahoo email, talk soon.


Boris said...

Sounds like a great time! I wish I could have been there for the 80s music especially although I don't know if I'd recognize the Airwolf theme music...

Franklin B. Herman said...

Cheng Boshi,

It would be a great understatement to confess that I yearn to attend and be apart of the RKC Certification experience.

Thanks so much for providing such vivid details of your experience which only confirm that my goal of obtaining RKC Certification is an honorable one.

Dr. Mark Cheng said...

KJ, the family sends you & yours our love. The 3 weeks I got to spend with you picking your brain were priceless. Let me know when you've got your LA tickets arranged. I'll make sure that you are taken care of to the T!

Rif, while it was nice making my debut as Team Leader in Budapest, I still have to say that it was a better experience for me to assist you in Copenhagen!

Matsushita-san, I updated this blogpost just to put the pic of Eyal & me up for you. :) And, yes, I have been around too many UK folks lately. I actually miss Scotland, Rannoch, & Vadim quite badly.

Rita, you are one of the great prides of Team Cheng! Having you on my team was an honor & pleasure, and I certainly look forward to having you on my team again in the near future, but this time as an assistant! :)

Big Willie, the KBLA Yahoo e-mail account is frozen for whatever reason. Hope you got my reply before everything turned to shite.

Boris-san, you'd have been a very happy man. Good friend, good training, good times. We'll have to get our families together one of these days and do that!

Franklin, believe me when I tell you that the RKC experience is what it is because of Pavel. There are plenty who can sway it one way or the other, but when the man at the top carries himself with the kind of ethical rigor that Pavel does, the rest of us can't help but to fall back in line whenever we veer off course.

As Prof. MC wrote in her blog, I go to plenty of these RKCs as an assistant, even when I hold Team Leader ranking. Why? Because it's such a valuable learning experience. If Pavel were to promote me to Sr RKC tomorrow, I'd still go to assist others (even though it might be frowned upon by the powers that be). It's THAT much of a good thing!!!

Franz Snideman said...

Thanks for the update! Sounds like it was a total blast and a very interesting experience! Europe is really taking hold of the RKC huh? The Europeans are representing...big time!

Rock on Mark!