Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Relaunching my website!

Just a quick heads-up that I've relaunched my website -

While there are certainly a whole bunch of updates & content that needs to be refined & organized, that website will be the new portal for all my ventures, explorations, and teachings in the future.

Please do me the honor of bookmarking that page & sharing it via social media.

With great appreciation,

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Dr. Mark Cheng: Professional resumes, CVs, & a long-overdue clarification

Recently, I've been getting quite a few more requests for different workshops, and occasionally the hosts ask me for a resume or a CV or some other sort of info about me to help them promote the workshops or events.

Over the years, I've written & re-written so many different CVs for different projects & hosts that trying to look through all the different PDFs & files to update them has gotten to be chore that I don't have the bandwidth for, especially when they ask for skill-specific CVs.

Why the difficulty with skill-specific curricula vitae? 

Because my life and my passions are INSEPARABLE from my professional pursuits. The toughest thing is having to explain over & over again that the combat arts are traditionally inseparable from the traditional healing arts as well. While more & more people are clear on that reality, it's always time consuming to have to explain over & over again that my martial arts training (especially with some of my early teachers) is part & parcel of my medical education.

Oh! You're the kettlebell guy! The acupuncture guy! The martial arts guy! The rehab guy! The Tai-Chi guy!.... Actually, step back about 50 feet and take a big picture look at what I do. 

People love to look at specific things to be able to compartmentalize. That gives them a better sense of security, of feeling like they know what something or someone is about. But that's just not who or what I am, how I operate, or how the real world is on a practical level. People who are hardcore specialists are awesome, but I'm a guy who prefers to see life in a multifactorial perspective.

In ancient times, martial arts masters were recognized as such for their practical understanding of the human body. They understood the training methods that made it work better. They understood the techniques to disable or dismember it. To be able to retain students and pass on their teachings, they also understood how to effectively treat and rehabilitate the injuries that occurred in combat training. My whole life has been centered around this reality, and there's no distinction in my heart between strength training, functional movement, manual medicine, acupuncture, herbology, injury rehab, combat sports, and tactical science.

Similarly, the hours that I've spent on studying strength training, movement screening, and diagnostic/rehab methods also fit in perfectly with martial arts by improving performance and reducing downtime from injuries.

Nonetheless, everything I just said still has to meet the public on its level of understanding before changing the paradigm. So I'm still going to post my 2 basic CVs, focusing on:

  1. Human Performance & Rehabilitation (with a sub-section on Strength Training)
  2. Martial Arts & Combatives Research
I'll edit these & update them as errors or omissions are brought to my attention. BIG thanks go to each & every one of you who has reminded me countless times to get this info up online. As someone who is already pretty damn busy with all of my clinical, writing, researching, & teaching.

Human Performance & Rehabilitation
Emperor's College of Traditional Oriental Medicine, Santa Monica, CA - Masters Degree Traditional Oriental Medicine (MTOM) 2002
State of California - Acupuncture Licensure (L.Ac. designation) 2003
American Liberty University, Fullerton, CA - Doctorate Degree: Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine (PhD) 2005
Functional Movement Systems, Chatham, VA - Faculty Member 2010-present
Emperor's College of Traditional Oriental Medicine & Yosan University - former faculty member (Tui-Na)

Strength Training
Russian Kettlebell Instructor Certification - RKC 2006, personal student of founder, Pavel Tsatsouline
TRX Suspension Training Sports Medicine certification 2012-present
StrongFirst Kettlebell Certification - Senior SFG Instructor 2012-present

Functional Movement Systems - Kettlebells From the Ground Up 1 & 2 - Prehab-Rehab 101: The Groundwork Progressions

Martial Arts & Combatives Research
California Institute of Technology, Assistant Tai Chi Instructor to Prof. Daniel K. Lee 1991-1992
UCLA Kung-Fu Club, Founder 1993-1997
Black Belt Magazine, Contributing Editor 1996 - present
American Combat Shuai-Chiao Association, Black Belt Instructor certification
Gee Yung Sil Lum Fut Ga Martial Arts Association, Instructor certification
Yod Khun Pon Thai Martial Arts Association, Level 1 Instructor certification
Inosanto International Martial Arts Instructors Association, certified Jeet Kune Do & Inosanto Kali Instructor certification 2014

Dragon Door Publications - Kettlebell Warrior: Applied Combat Kettlebells for Maximum Martial Power
Unique Publications - Combat Tai-Chi
Beachbody - Tai Cheng
Black Belt Publications - Hwa Rang Do: Defend, Take Down, Submit, co-authored with Taejoon Lee
Chen Kuan Book Co., LTD - Chan Chiao: The Art & Science of Combat Shuai-Chiao, assistant translator & editor, authored by David C.K. Lin

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Kettlebell T-shirts, Hoodie Sweatshirts, & Long-Sleeve Ts

Ask and you shall receive...

For those of you who've been asking about the original KBLA T-shirts, they are no more. I maybe have 2 or 3 XXLs somewhere deep in the recesses of my garage, and that's about it.

But since we kicked off the KBLA Sunday morning "Gathering" again, where I was asked several times about the availability of Kettlebells Los Angeles T-shirts, I figured that it just might be time to make some new offerings.

I'm proud to announce that thanks to the help of Sifu Steven Resell, I was able to find a way to make sure that the new v2.0 design was printed on quality apparel and available for shipping to all.

Whether you're looking for

  • a premium fine jersey T,
  • a Gildan Ultra Cotton long sleeve T, 
  • a Hanes Women's nano fitted T, and/or 
  • a Gildan Heavy Blend Hoodie

we've got you covered with the new gold-band design on the front, the original KBLA logo on the back, and the neckline URL.

Check it out HERE & place your orders soon!! Orders will only be taken until February 4th:

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Sunday morning Kettlebells Los Angeles classes are BACK!!!

You asked, you waited, you encouraged, you reminded me gently, you expressed your support, and now you're getting your wish...


Starting on January 25, 2015, the Sunday AM class will be back in full swing (pun intended) at 360 Krav Maga in Westwood thanks to the generous hosting of Alan Predolin. 

360 Krav Maga
1365 Westwood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90024

Sundays from 8 - 9:30am as listed on the KBLA Facebook page

For those of you who remember the good ol' days when I used to start teaching at 7am outdoors to weed out the un-serious, you can cherish those memories. With the kind of schedule I'll be trying to keep in 2015, there's no way I'll be showered up & halfway out the door at 6:30am, so classes will start at 8am SHARP and go until 9:30-ish. 

If you think my classes are going to be nothing but Turkish Get-Ups, you're sadly mistaken.

There WILL be some dates when classes will NOT be held, so it's up to YOU to check the KBLA Facebook page for the dates when classes will not be held. When Doc is out of town, no classes will be held at this point. The Kettlebells LA website has not yet been updated as of 12/29/14, but it should be updated by late January 2015 in time for the start of the first class. 

If you have your own kettlebells to bring to class, that would be encouraged, as it's almost always best for you to be learning on the same equipment that you'll be training with at home. The downside to that is that since we're on the 2nd floor of a building with steps, bringing your KB up & down the steps without incident will also be a test of your attentiveness and skill.

A few new rules.....(which are subject to change)

1) EVERYONE WILL BE REQUIRED TO SIGN A WAIVER indemnifying our hosts, instructors, and the property. If you get hurt from training with the kettlebell in the KBLA classes, 99.99% of the time, it's because you didn't listen to instructions & didn't check yourself when I or one of my assistants told you to.

2) NO KIDS ALLOWED without adult supervision. The space we'll be using isn't vast & doesn't have a lounge for kids to play in safely unsupervised. While I wish we had a situation where there was a licensed childcare professional on hand to keep kids in check, the logistics at this location preclude that option. The class is only 90 minutes. If you can arrange for coverage, great. If not, there are some great babysitters who are looking for work and who'll keep an eye on your child while you train. With the briefness of this class, we need to minimize distraction & get as much done as we can. If your child is capable of sitting quietly and containing himself/herself without disruption for 90 minutes, he/she can sit in the lobby during class and either observe or hang out quietly.

3) CLASSES ARE BY DONATION: Suggested donation is a minimum of $20 cash/class. No checks or credit cards will be accepted. This may change in the future, but this is how we're going to run it for the time being. Anyone abusing the system will be asked to leave and not return. I want to develop this into something that's sustainable for the host, for me, for the future assistants/interns, and for you. If you think things run purely off non-monetary charity in a sustainable manner, then show your charity and find us a biga$$ed location with lots of parking, matted floors, licensed daycare, and reasonable rent.

4) SAFETY IS FIRST AND FOREMOST ALL THE TIME. Anyone caught clowning around, acting stupid, being a showoff, or otherwise being reckless will be asked to leave. A warning is a courtesy, not a right.

5) SUNDAY CLASSES ARE NOT PRIVATE TRAINING SESSIONS OR MEDICAL CONSULTS. If you come with a medical problem that interferes with your ability to perform the lifts safely, you will be asked to sit on the sidelines and observe until you have medical clearance to participate. If I tell you that you have a medical condition prohibiting you from a certain exercise or lift and you continue to perform it in spite of my advice, you will be asked to leave. If you try to monopolize class time by asking me questions about your particular condition, you will be asked to make an appointment with me in the clinic or asked to seek out care from a qualified & well-trained medical professional. At most classes, there will be SFG & RKC certified instructors learning alongside you. If you would like to pursue private training outside of class, any arrangements you make with those instructors is at your own risk & with your own discretion. Those instructors are not necessarily endorsed by me or anyone affiliated with me.

Don't try asking for a fitness solution to a medical problem.

6) FOLLOW DIRECTIONS OR LEAVE. Let's face it.... Training with any object in a ballistic fashion is a higher-risk activity. If you're going to participate in my class, then you're telling me that you're there to learn things in the way that I'm teaching them. If you'd like to experiment on your own and do your own individual thing, there's nothing at all wrong with long as you do it on your own time and at your own place. All my patience these days is taken up already by my kids. If you feel like testing mine, you can either pay a sh!tload of money to train with me privately, or you will leave.

7) YOU WILL PAY IN FULL TO COMPLETELY REPLACE ANYTHING YOU DAMAGE. We're guests. And guests who are conscientious (and not entitled, worthless leeches) will make sure that any inconvenience they cause their hosts is made up for. For example, if you drop a kettlebell and it damages a mat, you've just agreed to buy the host (in this case, 360 Krav Maga) a brand-new mat to replace the damaged one.

Carelessness is the #1 cause of non-contact kettlebell-related injuries that I've seen. So if you've got financial skin in the game, I'm more than happy to use that as a motivator for you to be extra mindful and to develop the control you need to become a better girevik (kettlebell user).

Ego is the #2 cause of non-contact kettlebell-related injuries that I've seen. So if I tell you to put a weight down, to stop a set, or to make sure that each & every kettlebell hits the deck silently, please refer back to rule #6 [Follow directions or LEAVE].

CHALK: If you're one of those people who likes to use chalk when you lift, that's fine. Just make sure you bring an extra towel to clean up any & all chalk from the mats.

Jeez, Doc! Why so intense & mean?
Precision is your salvation.

If you have to ask questions like that or you have that feeling already, please save yourself the hassle of coming to Westwood to train with me. I stopped teaching group classes a couple of years ago when Mika was born because I no longer had the energy to put up with adults who really need to be in daycare instead of in my class. When I don't have to explain the fundamental philosophy of how I teach and I'm surrounded by the kind of respectful, diligent people who are fun to teach, then the class is LOTS of fun for everyone. So that's why I'm setting the ground rules firmly now... from the get-go.

I'm doing this again because there are professionals in the strength & conditioning community, the amateur & pro sports communities, the clinical rehab community, the martial arts community, and the fitness community that have been exceptionally polite & supportive of me restarting this group class. I'm NOT doing this just to add more to my already overflowing plate.

If you're down to be part of that select group, it'll be my honor to teach you. If you want to come to just test your physical limits & get a grueling workout in, go somewhere else. These classes are about attention to detail, precision, and high awareness. If that doesn't sound appealing to you, there are plenty of places that will pander to your desires.

For the rest of you who are down to do serious work, I look forward to seeing you on January 25th in Westwood!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Endure the pain of discipline or suffer the pain of regret!

This started out as a blogpost that I began over a month ago, but as one of my business consultants said to me this morning, "Lots of good stuff you have gets lost when you're one of those guys who has to keep too many plates spinning."

But this is an important topic that I didn't want to let slide. There are so many thoughts that pop into my head for blogging & writing & recording & podcasting that I really need to have a dedicated multimedia assistant working with me on a regular basis to get more of this $h!# out to you on a more regular basis. I understand that this is an issue for me, and I'm working as best I can on creating a change in processes that will streamline the flow of what will hopefully be useful information out to you. And I really need to thank each & every one of you that's been dropping me messages of encouragement, offering your expertise & help, and sharing my posts all over Facebook, Twitter, and the rest of the web.

You inspire me..... and because of that, I want to leave you with this bit of inspiration as we head into the Holiday season. [EDIT: Yes, I started writing this well before the holidays.]


More than a month ago, one of my dear friends, Jason Ferruggia posted an awesome tweet that I hold VERY close to my heart.

To me, this is one of the most powerful sentences in training, in sport, and in life... and it is also one of the most grossly misunderstood.

For far too many who read that sentence, the words "pain", "discipline", and "regret", are the ones that stand out, so the reflexive interpretation in American society is that even if you have pain, you need to show discipline by not quitting. Otherwise, you'll regret it. Unfortunately, I think there's been a myopic view of that sentence that has damned countless athletes and injured no shortage of children.

Some folks have adopted the mindset that 'not quitting" means not changing anything and just putting more effort in, even when it's causing you pain or hampering your performance. In those situations, people have mistaken stubbornness for discipline, and I've seen that well-meaning but critical error victimize everyone from youth athletes to rehab patients.

As my big bro, Mark Reifkind (former Master SFG, ultra-marathoner, powerlifter, gymnast, & probably Mossad operative trainer) has said, "Consistency trumps intensity every time."

Let's define "consistency" as "dedication to a pursuit". 

Your pursuit can be an athletic goal, such as placing in a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) championship, winning a team trophy like the Stanley Cup in hockey, or even something as simple as being able to make it through your wife's salsa class without fatigue or physical pain... because the mental anguish is out of my field of expertise ;-). 

Your pursuit could be a medical one, such as surviving cancer, reintegrating smoothly into civilian society after a particularly harrowing deployment, or getting back on the mat after ACL reconstruction. 

Your pursuit could be a social one, such as learning how to take criticism without getting defensive, overcoming paralyzing shyness, or becoming comfortable with public speaking. 

Regardless of the pursuit itself, we need to be clear about 3 things:
  1. Being clear on our short and long term goals
  2. Being honest with our performance
  3. Being open to guidance

Once we're clear on those, let me just pick one goal in particular in the interest of time... say, conquering a strength training goal, like a PR (personal record) military press.

This was a bottoms-up press that the photographer liked better at an angle. Nothing helps you appreciate rest more than when your photographer is taking multiple shots of you in mid-lift, changing lenses & angles! ;-)

So perhaps it goes something like this...

1) You work hard & consistently every day to increase your press training volume (number of reps). You don't miss days on your program and don't give excuses. You're the ideal athlete and you steadily increase your loads and your performance.... OR you skip days every now & then and decide that you'll just pile on more reps and "go harder" the next time you train to "make up" for your inconsistency. 

2) As you work on improving your press, you plateau out at a weight that's less than your goal regardless of your level of consistency (or inconsistency). 

HERE, where the honesty counts, is where lots of people are made or broken. In this case, you can either, seek out where your form was suboptimal, forcing you to struggle harder than you needed to and likely steering you towards injury, OR you could just stubbornly drive through even harder with more mental dedication in spite of physical deterioration. 

The second of the 2 choices MAY get you to your result, but it won't be sustainable. Your pursuit of that PR press may have forced your rotator cuff, scalenes, and other structures into such profound compensation that you injured yourself badly enough to need a surgical intervention for the numbness, weakness, and/or pain that your arm is now experiencing.

3) When you realize that your performance has plateaued and you can't improve any further on your own, seeking out the guidance of a true expert (and actually taking their advice) can make all the difference in the world. 

Let's say that you seek out a world-class physical therapist (like Dr. Ann Wendell or Dr. Charlie Weingroff) to help you clear up what's causing you the pain, and let's say that they advise you that there are some neck and thoracic spine issues, along with some trigger points, that need clearing up. You're told to stay off loaded overhead lifts (get-ups, presses, snatches, jerks, and even pull-ups) until you've demonstrated an effortless, pain-free range of motion unloaded.

You can either adhere to their advice, put your favorite lift on the sideline for now, go through their prescribed treatment protocols, and troubleshoot all of the dysfunctional movement patterns that were sabotaging your lift in the first place and move past your plateau... OR, since you second guess the experts you sought out, you can still continue to train your press because you might be 3 months away from something like your StrongFirst SFG Level 1 certification, and you're afraid that not pressing will make you weak.

In the latter case, you're being dishonest with yourself and with the person you sought out for guidance and help. And as a result, you just might manage to make it through whatever athletic event you're training for, but you'll be injured for a long time afterwards. Instead of being the picture of strength and embodiment of the ideals you're trying to teach your fitness clients, you'll be the picture of a dumb jock or jock-ette who didn't listen to the professionals who were trying to teach you how to avoid that injury in the first place. What's worse is that you'll likely turn into one of those washed up athletes-turned-coaches who does nothing but sell dreams of his/her glory days to unsuspecting clients who'll likely be injured trying to follow the same methods you used.

See, what most people fail to understand in the over-glorified worlds of sports, athleticism, fitness, and even work is that oftentimes less is more if you have the right priorities. So when Jason Ferruggia posts that you need to endure the pain of discipline, that discipline, when you're not getting the results you want, sometimes takes the form of having the self-control of pulling yourself back enough to take a different approach to the same goal. 

Gray Cook often shares his vignette about taking professional football players off of the squat rack and having them focus on individualized corrective exercise progressions until their Functional Movement Screen scores are "2s on everything with no asymmetries or pain" for months. When these world-class athletes return to their usual strength and conditioning workouts, they're often shocked to see that they not only didn't lose strength, but oftentimes increase their max lifts. The key here is that they had the discipline to follow directions and not just do more of the same. 

Einstein has been well-quoted as saying that insanity is doing the same thing over & over and expecting a different result. Now while that term has been used to brand a workout routine, let's not get it twisted. If you're not getting past the plateaus or the pain that's in your way, it's time to reassess your strategy, your honesty, and your discipline. Regret is a poison that never leaves your soul, so make sure you deal with the factors that contribute to it!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Projection: Or how to show your clients that you're not listening to a damn thing they're saying

I can't remember the exact year, but I remember wading through LA traffic to get downtown to the Convention Center for a meeting with my mentor, Gray Cook. When I'd arrived, we sat down for a quick bite at the eatery on the ground floor, where he introduced me to a Scotsman named Alwyn Cosgrove, saying "Our meeting can wait. I want you to listen to this guy."

Gray & I sat in the back of the room, and Cosgrove started to work his magic. Speaking with incredible charisma and the kind of easy confidence that only rock-solid experience can bring you, he started to explain how fitness trainers are oftentimes their worst enemies.

Cosgrove explained that there are some trainers who come into the field & think they know it all already because of their past as a competitive athlete. He shrugged them off from the get-go, saying that many of them would just perpetuate the injuries they were given as kids onto the next unwitting group of people that became their clientele.

On the other hand, another group are people who come into fitness training from whatever background and are hungry to learn more to improve themselves. Those people, he explained, were also often guilty of being their own worst enemies. They hear about some awesome training method that falls in line with their aspirations or their area of curiosity, and they hammer all of their clients with whatever it is that they've just learned or been exposed to. Those trainers, too, were also sabotaging their business reputations by projecting their personal fitness goals onto their clients.

He went on to illustrate it with a particularly memorable analogy that went something like this, occasionally slipping into his native Scottish accent...


Let's say you're a recovering bodybuilder and you just got out of an awesome presentation on hypertrophy. One of your clients is a 50-year-old mum who just had her third child and just wants to lose the baby weight and be able to keep up with her other two kids. Tell me exactly why the f*** would you write a "heavy arms day" into her program. D'ya think she's gonna go up to the other mums after school, flex her biceps & go "Hey! Check this $h!# out!"?

Or do you think it's more likely that she's going to get discouraged after a while of you hammering her with workouts that make her feel sore for days and inadequate and then quit coming to you for training?

So you have to ask yourself this... Are you training your clients like YOU want to be trained? Or are you training your clients to help them meet and then exceed their goals? If you're doing the first of the two, you're not listening to a damn thing your clients said to you. You're projecting what YOU want for YOURSELF onto them. And while it might be well-intentioned, you're being your own worst enemy.


My recall of the exact wording of Cosgrove's presentation is grossly inadequate, but the analogy, the profanity (which left the entire room cracking up and Gray Cook grumbling "How come women clap and laugh when he does that $h!t and they complain when I do it?"), and the essence of his message are spot-on.

If you're in the fitness field, it's a damn good idea to ask yourself with frequency whether you're training your clients in ways that excite, inspire, energize, and empower them towards their goals, OR are you projecting your training goals onto someone else and living vicariously through them while they're the ones paying for it?

Remember: Raw enthusiasm is no substitute for intelligent awareness.

If you're a fitness professional and this DVD hasn't made it onto your radar, grab it. When you've got Gray Cook, Dr. Lee Burton, & Alwyn Cosgrove teaming up to guide your programming to a streamlined process, you can't go wrong!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Fit, Fashion, & Function: Are your pants f***ing up your movement?


One of the things that I've been paying increasing attention to in the past 8 years with all the traveling I've been doing is how improperly fitting clothing can contribute to decreased performance and/or health issues. I see it with footwear, with sports bras, with eyewear, and even jewelry.

For me, one of the most noticeable pieces of clothing that affect my movement and comfort are pants. When you're forced to sit for hours at a time aboard a flight, or hustling to get to your gate in time, pants that are too baggy or too restrictive have the potential to make life uncomfortable and even unsafe. I'm amazed at how many guys tolerate wearing pants that make them feel like their legs are falling asleep, probably because it's so hard to notice until they try to get up & actually walk.

The more I wear these 5.11 Tactical Traverse pants, the more I like them. In climates as varied as wintertime Canada & summertime Hawaii, the pants have still remained comfortable wears. I don't think I've ever had a pair that looks, fits, & feels as good as these do. Regardless of how much stuff I have to load the cargo pockets with, the elastic "magazine retention bands" inside help keep the phone, wallet, keys, EDC, or whatever else from bouncing all over the place, and the 4-way stretch fabric never makes my legs or hips feel like I'm wearing a tourniquet so that my circulation is never impeded.

Photos courtesy of Fitness Ranes of Honolulu, HI

As a guy who has a bit of a caboose, slacks that are cut without the extra room in the backside make me cringe. The Traverse, however, moves with the comfort of a well-broken-in pair of sweatpants with the look of something respectable enough for a boardroom or a patient consult. While wearing pants that look classy enough to go out to a business meeting dinner, I still feel comfortable throwing a kick vertically without the fabric pinching or tearing.

Since I often have to wear the same clothing to a dinner engagement directly from teaching an all-day workshop on rehabilitative movement (a la Prehab-Rehab 101), Hardstyle kettlebell training, or even martial arts, I was a bit concerned about whether or not the synthetic fabric would show signs of "pilling" with friction, but no signs of any such wear so far. Whether teaching kneeling and ground-based movement drills on Astroturf or dropping shin kicks into a muay Thai bag, the points of hard contact still look unblemished, even after several washes. Unlike some synthetics, this blend hasn't retained odors yet, regardless of how intensely I've sweated in them.

Working on "Sphinx" position during my Prehab-Rehab 101 workshop in Honolulu with participants who came from as far away as Los Angeles & Jakarta!

To have an "all situations ready" pair of pants is quite a feat for me considering all the stuff I spend my time doing - from treating patients, to sprinting after my kids, to training pro athletes, to researching traditional martial arts, to hauling ass from one flight after another, to the rare "quiet dinner & drinks" with the Mrs! The Traverse from 5.11 Tactical leads the pack of all the pants I've ever worn.

My final review: If you live a fast-paced, active lifestyle that requires you to be on point in a variety of situations, these are worth every penny & then some! CEO Tom Davin & crew hit the ball straight out of the park on this one.

UPDATE: 12/29/14 - After washing & wearing the hell out of these things & long wearing sessions during travel, the fabric is starting to pill around the seat area. I haven't yet gotten a hold of one of those electric things that shaves the pilled fabric off yet, but I'm curious to see how it responds.