Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The European Tour - Part 1

Danish Get-Up

I could easily call the span of time from April 24 - May 12th the RKC Trifecta Tour. St. Paul, Copenhagen, and Budapest in 3 successive weekends is making for quite an experience.

I'm typing this just outside of Budapest right now, at the home of Peter Lakatos, head of RKC Hungary and Krav Maga Hungary. Today's been quite restful. And yesterday as well. Spending hours & hours vegging out in CPH and waiting for Brussels Air to post the gate information turned out to be one of the most needed down-time experiences I've had in a long time. Today's essentially more of the same, but in the comfort of a beautifully built home and an ancient city.

RKC St. Paul, MN

St. Paul was awesome. A long overdue reunion with the man who coined the pronunciation Hard Styyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyle was a joyous thing. Sr RKC Dave Whitley and I got to do some long overdue catching up. RKC TL & TKD master Jon Engum was also there, and we got to steal a few minutes here & there during lunch breaks to trade Taekwondo kicking combos and Shuai-Chiao takedowns/throws.

I got to meet a few people that I'd seen on the forum a bunch of times, including Abdul Mujib and Prof. Amy Jurrens. It was also my first time serving as an assistant under Master RKC Andrea Du Cane. I'd been with her at several RKCs, but never served with her as an assistant. This time, it was very educational to hear the details of her thoughts on the technical proficiency of each candidate. There are certain technical variations that are well within acceptable limits, and the Masters and Seniors have varying insights into what is acceptable and what isn't. While that sort of individuation can lead to mild confusion, Pavel issued a renewed direction to teach "by the book"... in this case, the RKC Manual.

For the newbie, the absence of a well-defined Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) creates stress and potentially danger. Understanding that, Pavel has reminded the Seniors & Team Leaders to remember that and maximize clarity. Just as in martial arts, there's a tendency towards individual expression and personal styles, there has to be a baseline of primary skills and execution methods that are SOP. As the School of Strength grows and evolves, each and every member needs to remember that the School's founder has the last say on toeing the line.

Pavel also promoted Sara Cheatham to the highly exalted rank of Senior RKC. Sara blogged on her promotion by citing the RKC Code of Conduct. And Pavel reminded me of that Code in St. Paul when a couple of students were evidently upset about seeing an instructor drinking during off-hours. When all is said and done, Pavel IS the RKC, and as RKCs, we are a reflection of him, his high standards, and his rock-solid values. It's an honor to be part of his team, to be a member of the select group that he founded, and part of our membership revolves around our ability to "recertify" on a daily basis through his RKC Code of Conduct.

After the cert wrapped up, Master Engum took me to dinner with his family before heading to the airport. We found what might've been 1 of 3 Korean restuarants in all of Minnesota. Seeing him with his son, Victor, and a Korean family with a baby sitting next to us, I had such painful pangs of longing for my own son. Thank God I got to spend some time with him back in LA after St. Paul, even if just for 48 hours before flying off to Copenhagen.

Whitley, Engum, & I might be touring Asia for an RKC prep course. More on that coming up...

RKC Copenhagen, Denmark

Rannoch Donald RKC was right. Denmark is the MOST expensive place I've ever been to. The US dollar isn't worth beans, and my lunch at CPH airport on my departure date cost me about USD $50... for just a small piece of lasagna and 2 cokes!!! BLIMEY!!!

The RKC itself, however, was perhaps the BEST cert I've been to. The Europeans were far more disciplined and prepared than most of the US RKCs that I've been to, and they showed serious motivation to succeed. As Cpl. "Big Willie" Williams RKC Team Leader said, "The whinyness factor here in Europe is 1/10th of what it'd be stateside, and the candidates are far more prepared." Perhaps something to take to heart, eh?

Also, serving Sr RKC Mark Reifkind again as one of his assistants, I was back in familiar and enjoyable territory. Rif & I have a wonderful synergy, and it's a high listening to him teach and lecture. One of these days, Rif might actually get off his arse and put his "What is the RKC System" lecture on his blog. The first time I heard it a few years ago, it gave me goosebumps. Just like in St. Paul, the RKC cert evolved, and so have Rif's already formidable presentation skills.

Rif's Best Stuff

One of Rif's best moments was when he was explaining neuro-muscular inhibition. If you are a fan of Rif's, you'd have jumped for joy hearing him talk about this. He said that if you're uncertain or uncommitted to lifting a weight or applying a force or doing something, just step away from it because you're destined to fail. Even if you get the weight moving, the odds are that you're doing it incorrectly... using muscles and compensation patterns that you don't need to use. I was thinking about all the times I've said something along those lines to my students, and how many times some of them still manage to defend their weakness instead of attacking it by themselves. Pray that Rif blogs on this more in depth, or pester him to death about it! :)

Pavel also improved his teaching methods for the Squat portion, cutting out a few "extraneous" things to fast track the learning process. Again, this is why I keep saying that the RKC system is CONSTANTLY evolving and improving. Pavel is not dogmatic in his approach to the kettlebells, and he gladly researches any means of imparting knowledge and ability with an eye toward safety. Thanks to that open-mindedness, even if you go to 4 RKCs per year, you learn more & more each time! It's not a stale, dead system, but rather one that requires constant involvement and study to stay current.

RKC Jacob Sondergaard, Kenneth Jay's right hand Dane, represented his mentor with serious Hard Styyyyyyle. His sharp eye kept the candidates in line and training properly, while his serious strength kept inspiring them to push harder. He's my new Danish brother.

Inspiration was the key word of the weekend, and I started off doing my usual psyche 'em up routine... this time by yelling out an impromptu "Spartans! What is your profession?" and hearing the "A-wooooo!! A-wooooo!! A-WOOOOOO!!!" in reply. By the end of the weekend, it was "Team Rif! What is your profession?" And the last reply of the weekend became "A-WOOOO!!! A-WOOOOO!!! RKC!!!!!"

All that aside, nobody can take the place of my brother, Dr. Vadim Kolganov, Master of Sport in Sambo, who was my roommate this past weekend in Denmark. I've blogged on his background before, but now he can add 3 more letters after his name.... RKC!

He rocked all the way through the weekend, and his meeting with Pavel was a Russian Reunion in Hard Styyyyyyyyle. Vadim shared his memories of training with Dr. Valentin Dikul, one of Pavel's heroes, as well as his experiences and insights on the value of Hard Style kettlebell training. Look for an interview with him to come out soon in an upcoming issue of Hard Style Magazine!

The day after the cert, I caught a ride to the airport with Rif, Vadim, & Dr. Ricardo Nieves RKC, who graciously drove us. Nicole & John Du Cane rolled in not too long afterwards, so I got a chance to sit down and have a long chat with Nicole while we were waiting for our flights. What a well-spoken, broad-minded, and down-to-earth person she is!

All that social stuff aside, the last 2 RKCs renewed my interest in the Press. Sr RKC Kenneth Jay had some great explanations of the Seesaw Press, and Rif & I had some ideas about the footwork. This will be on my plate when I get back to LA! That and overspeed ecentrics...

From the last 2 RKCs (Denmark & St. Paul), I got a better idea of how many people are reading my blog and watching the Youtube vids. Folks that were there both as RKC Candidates & victims came up to me and told me how much they enjoy this blog, mail some of the posts to their friends, and use the vids in their classes. I really appreciate the kind of heartfelt, personal positive feedback I got from those of you who stepped up to share your thoughts with me. It made me appreciate what a global influence KBLA has and reminded me of my responsibility to all of you.

Foodwise, Denmark was quite an eye opener. At first, it seemed like the blandest food I'd ever eaten, until I was chatting with my Mom via IM. She made a comment that the food only tasted bland because Americans wildly oversalt their food. I have to agree. Maybe that's the solution to the American obesity issue... charge $50 USD for a tiny portion of lasagna and 2 cokes.

Budapest, Hungary

The RKC is still a couple of days off, but I've had my first chance in Europe (in my 5 trips) to go into a Catholic church (that was founded in the 1300's) and pray. Budapest is a chill place so far, and the RKC organizer, Peter Lakatos is a first class host and a very impressive man. While I almost thought I'd be roaming around Budapest lost for the first few days of my arrival, he turned all my worries inside out.

At his beautiful home in St. Andrea, just outside of Budapest, I've been able to chill out, catch up a bit on returning e-mails, sleep in late, and hang out with his wonderful family. This soft-spoken, gentle-mannered guy is a hard-ass, though. The chief instructor for Krav Maga Hungary and Hungary's top RKC, he's NO joke.

This afternoon, Peter took me to walk along the Danube, where I spied these ducks swimming along. My son would've been thrilled about them, so I post these "Ducks on the Danube" here in the hope that my wife will show them to him before I return.

The next few days are going to be interesting. Tomorrow, I meet the legendary Gabi of the Hungarian Courage Corner blog!

If you have pics of me from the last couple weeks, please e-mail them to me. Thanks!!!


Amy said...

Fantastic update! I've been checking your blog daily hoping for it. I'm glad you're getting some down time in. You deserve it.

Enjoy the last leg of the Trifecta. When you fly home, wave as you pass over Iowa.

Dr. Mark Cheng said...

Professor, thank you for your kind words. I thought you guys were in MN. Where exactly are you based out of?

Guarden said...

Dr. Cheng.

thanks a lot for some fantastic inspiring days in your company. Great BLOG you have, must check it out more often.

See ya.

Damien of Denmark

Amy said...

I live in northwest Iowa, in the tiny town of George. I'm about 200 miles from St. Paul. See how dedicated I am to KBs? I travel four hours to meet with Brad Nelson for one-on-one training. ;-)

Boris said...

Wow! Great stuff - wish I could've been to those!

Taikei Matsushita said...

Nice Doc!

John "Wild" is gonna be the first wave of kettlebell invasion here this July.

Far East's going to be hot this year.

Rannoch Donald RKC said...


Glad to see you're getting some downtime between gunfights! Thanks for returning Vadim in one piece.

Sun is shining in Edinburgh, looking forward to having you back to Alba before too long. This time you'll get the Kilt!



Kettlebell Instructors/0311 said...

brilliant blogging brother bronzeman. Bravo and bienvenidios as I bust some rust. Loved working with you this past, and will see you on the continent.

W2 out.

Mark Reifkind said...

Man what an honor and a priviledge to have had your help as an assistant at this cert. It was truly a unique RKC and one I'll never forget.You took care of me from the get and made my job as easy as it's ever been.What an amazing group of instructors we had on Team Rif and what a wild group of candidates! And what an amazing transformation we witnessed and helped instigate.Thanks so much man, looking forwards to working with you again soon.