Saturday, December 29, 2007

Social Synergy

The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.
- Epictetus

That's a serious challenge that came down the wire from Dr. Eric Cobb, the founder of Z-Health. John Du Cane posted it on the Dragon Door forum, and now I'm posting it here.

Cobb's assertion is that the quality of life you create by constantly keeping company with those who bring out the best in you is going to put you on a completely different tier than those who fight with the inner urge to smite those that they have to spend time with.

I couldn't agree more!

I had a long conversation with someone last night about occasionally doing "surgery" on your circle of friends. Every now & then, the group of people that you think of as friends needs a little pruning. While the idea of friendship is generally somewhat rose-tinted, the idea of your closest circle of friends working towards a shared goal or a common vision is always one that creates exponential enthusiasm, unparallelled support, and incredible brainstorming.

The same can and should be said of your clientele or your workplace as well!

If you find yourself dreading the office or your place of work simply because you hate dealing with the personalities that fill that place and you feel like the odd person out all the time, do something to change it.

And as Hwa Rang Do's Chiefmaster Taejoon Lee says, "It's far easier to change yourself than to change others."

So put your CV out there if you need a new job, or if you're in the selective customer service sector (e.g., a personal trainer) fire those clients who stress you out. While it sounds so unceremonious to "fire" them, you can do it in a way that makes you look good by "referring" them to other trainers that you feel are more socially or emotionally equipped to deal with them. That way, you send business to someone else and you rid yourself of an onus all in one fell swoop!

Life's best lived when you have the chance to create a positive synergy. That's a lesson I've seen played out time and time again with my mentor, Pavel Tsatsouline. And now Dr. Eric Cobb has challenged us to live that same way.

Let's do it!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Breaking New Years Patterns

I read an article on Yahoo News today quoting Presidential candidate Barack Obama. He said, "That's the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result."

How many of you are thinking the same way about your New Year's Resolutions this year as you did last year's?

What are you doing differently to achieve what you missed achieving last year?

One guy I have to give immense credit to is Guro John Spezzano. He's one of the senior instructors at the Inosanto Academy, one of my martial arts tutors, and an RKC candidate.

A lot of people, myself included, are really good about making excuses for not doing something, for flaking out, for missing "just this one time", for cheating ourselves out of the discipline we should show and the associated benefits. Spezzano is one of those who does his best to run the opposite from those tendencies.

He'll investigate something, recognize the worth of it, and then pour his all into studying and mastering it. That's what makes him successful as a martial arts instructor and as a girevik. He's not content to repeat patterns if they don't lead to an improvement in outcome. He's geared towards success, and it shows in how he handles his life, his work, and his training.

Check him out online at or come out to the Sunday morning beach class to meet him in person!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

San Diego flashback

I hope all of you had a very Merry Christmas and are getting some good work done in preparation for the New Year!

I'm finally getting around to looking through some of the pics I've taken in the later part of 2007, and here's a pic of the packed house that I was teaching to at the Harris Academy in San Diego.

In this shot, I'm teaching (what else?) the Naked Get-Up... basically going through the Turkish Get-Up without the KB in hand so that people get a chance to familiarize themselves with the sequence of movements without the stress of having to support the weight or maintain the wrist & elbow positioning.

I'm going to try to crank out some good work for you all in the coming weeks.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Just say Thank You, or shut up and emigrate!

As you can tell by the title, I'm damn opinionated when it comes to law enforcement. I grew up in a day, age, and place where parents taught their kids to wave hello to police, to thank them, and to respect them.

Sure, there have been a few rotten apples in the orchard, but the majority of apples is good, unspoiled, and there to nourish us from our own hunger. Some folks have gotten too good at being hip, at knowing all the latest conspiracy theories, at spouting off some bullcrap excuse for their own weakness and stupidity instead of taking responsibility for their errors, suffering the consequences, and changing their errant thinking patterns and behavior like decent members of society.

I challenge you to do this... The next time you see a cop, policeman, or other law enforcement officer, wave to him or her, say a kind word, give a nod of appreciation, or thank them for risking their lives daily to keep you safe. Teach your kids and your friends that same kind of habit, and see what happens.

If you can't rise to meet that challenge, maybe you should look into emigrating to some other country that will humor your fanciful ways.

At Last!
By Thomas Sowell
Tuesday, December 11, 2007

People for whom indignation is a way of life -- and there seem to be an increasing number of such people -- repeatedly have outbursts of outrage whenever the police fire a lot of shots at some criminal.

People who have never fired a gun in their lives, and have never had a split-second in which to make a decision that could mean life or death for themselves or others, are often nevertheless convinced that the police used excessive force.

As someone who once taught pistol shooting in the Marine Corps, it has never seemed strange to me that the police sometimes fire dozens of shots at a criminal. While an expert shooter can run up impressive scores in the safety of a pistol range, it doesn't take much to make shots go off into the wild blue yonder in the stress of life and death shooting. Even on a pistol range, it was not uncommon to see shooters not only miss the bull's eye, but miss the whole target, which was the size of a man's torso.

Among other things, this suggests that a pistol may not be the best firearm to keep for home protection. A shotgun is far more likely to hit the target -- and far less likely to have to be fired in the first place. Any intruder who hears the distinctive sound that is made when you load a shotgun is likely to decide that he would much rather be somewhere else, very quickly. Nor is he likely to return.

Getting back to shootings by the police, now -- at last -- there is a study introducing some facts into controversies that have thus far been largely a matter of emotions, rhetoric, ideology, and politics. This study shows how often the police in New York City miss when shooting at various distances during the stress of actual confrontations with criminals.

Even within a range of 6 feet or less, the police miss more often than they hit -- 57percent of the shots at that distance miss and 43 percent hit. As you might expect, there are even fewer hits at longer distances. At 75 feet -- which is less than the distance from first base to second base -- only 7 percent of the shots hit. Moreover, just because a shot has hit does not mean that it is now safe to stop shooting.

First of all, this is not like an arcade game, where lights go on when you hit something. Depending on where the shot hit, the policeman who is firing may have no idea whether he has hit the criminal or not. With the adrenalin pumping, the criminal himself may not be aware that he has been hit, if it is not a serious wound.
Even if the policeman knows that his shot has hit the criminal, the real question is whether the hit has rendered the criminal no longer dangerous. If the bad guy is still capable of shooting back, it is no time for the cop to stop firing, because his life is still in danger.

When there is more than one policeman on the scene, there is no reason for any of them to keep track of how often the others have fired. After it is all over, it may turn out that 30 or 40 shots were fired at the criminal.

But so what? It is very doubtful that the criminal has been hit 30 or 40 times.

Only part of the problem is that many people have no idea of the capabilities and limitations of different kinds of guns, much less how much difference it makes if the shooter is in the safety of a firing range or in the stress of a life and death battle.

What is a bigger and wider problem is that too many people feel no hesitation to go spouting off about things they know nothing about. People who have never run even a modest little business assert with great certainty and indignation that heads of multinational corporations are paid much more than they are worth. People who know nothing about medicine and nothing about economics unhesitatingly declare that pharmaceutical drugs cost too much.

Maybe all this is a product of the "self-esteem" taught in our schools, instead of the academic subjects in which American children trail children from other countries.

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy!?page=full&comments=true

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


James M. Kilts, the man who is widely credited for taking Gilette out of the toilet and back into the corporate heavens, has a book called Doing What Matters. I heard about this book a while back, but decided to let it gather dust while I was out & about, working like crazy.

Now that I'm recovering from a flu and on quarantine at home, I decided to crack it open and start reading it. By page 5, I found some lines that rang so true to the heart of what I believe in and what bothers me with how things are run in the "positive reinforcement" day & age that I know I'm going to enjoy reading this book cover to cover several times:

Kilts writes:
"Let's take the performance measurement system as an example of what had to be done. Like many companies, Gilette used the five-grade system of Does Not Meet Expectations, Needs Improvement, Meets Expectations, Exceeds Expectations, and Outstanding. Perversely, the worse a company does, the more likely it is that more people will be graded higher. Managers don't want to demotivate people in bad times, so they move them up the scale. That's why two-thirds of Gilette's managers were at the top of the performance scale despite the company's ongoing decline in performance.
Over time, the system has little meaning and actually hurts performance."

This is the ESSENCE of integrity. Instead of having the courage to tell someone that what they're doing is substandard, most people simply shy away from the confrontation. If they were given stronger behavioral and social leads to follow from the management at the top of their firm, perhaps these same individuals would have no problem stepping up and motivating their slacking co-workers to either get cracking or get out.

Get this book and read it, re-read it, digest it, and implement it! This is some AMAZING technology!

Book Cover

Monday, December 10, 2007

A month of bells!

Wow.... What a month!

A workshop at Harris International in SD, Pavel's Tactical Strength Course, and now 1 more Hard Style Intensive at Harris International again this coming Sunday... and it's only the 10th of December!!!

If you live anywhere near San Diego or know anyone who operates out of Miramar MCAS, serves with SDPD or Sherriff's, or any other branch of LEO, fire or military, and you haven't yet gotten yourself or them to a Hard Style Russian kettlebell intensive workshop, then you're not only missing out, but you're downright depriving them of the kind of training technology that could save their lives.

Wanna give someone an unmatchable Christmas present? Give them a gift that can dramatically improve their quality of life and allow them to live with strength, vitality, and power! Get them out of the house for 4 hours this Sunday afternoon, and watch the results!

Due to unforeseen demand, I'm driving back down to SD on Sunday for another workshop at Harris International from 1-5pm.

Visit for more information!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

PERSONAL request for help

OK... I know the past couple of blog entries haven't been about kettlebells or anything hardcore or exciting, but the issues are near & dear to my heart, so please bear with me.

I know that people around the world read this blog. And so I pray to God that one of you has a friend or colleague in the Los Angeles area that speaks fluent Cantonese and English and can help Kate to communicate to Thai's mom about his insurance policies. For more info on what I'm talking about, please read the preceding blog post.

Please drop me a line by clicking on my picture to the right, and then clicking on Email in the contact section on the left. Or simply leave a comment.

If you were in Thai's shoes, you'd want your friends to rally the world for those you loved and left behind. If you were in my shoes, you'd run through Heaven & Hell to do just that.


IN MEMORIAM... and fighting forward!

While I was in San Diego, I had the chance to catch up with a long-time friend from UCLA and former roomate, Dr. T.J. Desch-Obi. TJ's dear friend who I rarely get the chance to hang and spend time with, but someone who's influenced me greatly in my course of study in martial arts anthropology. He's an instructor of Capoeira Angola under Mestre Joao Grande, a purple belt under Rickson Gracie, a former translator for Helio Gracie, a Judo black belt, and a well-rounded martial artist. My moments with TJ are usually filled with laughter, sweat, and good training. He's a history professor at Baruch College in NYC, but we steal any opportunity to get together and vibe.

As good as my time was with TJ, I got a very sad message while I was down in SD.

Thai Sam, a friend of mine, was killed in an auto accident in Beijing. I met Thai while doing a couple of articles on Aikido's Matsuoka Haruo, the former top student of Steven Seagal. Like Matsuoka sensei, Thai was personable, generous, and highly skilled. We struck up a friendship and logged in some time together both off and on the mats. In addition to his high-tech, high-demand job, Thai was also the head instructor at South Bay Aikido. No matter how busy, he was never too aloof or conceited to shoot out a quick e-mail, asking how I was doing and just keeping in touch. I sorely regret all of the times I missed the chance to spend just a little more time with him training, hanging out, or whatever.

But the story doesn't stop there.

Thai was starting a family with his girlfriend Kate. She's due in February and now stuggling to make heads or tails out of her current situation. As much as I'm grieving the loss of a friend, I can't imagine what Kate's going through right now, but I do know that Thai was the kind of guy who was a real friend. If he knew you needed something, he'd do it for you himself. So while I try to do my best to suport Kate and help her get back on her feet and keep moving forward, please say a prayer for Thai and Kate. If any of you want to help contribute to Kate & their unborn child, drop me a line and let me know.

Much love,

KB workshop at Harris International

I'm finally back in town from a week of intensive training at Prof. Roy Harris's academy in San Diego. For those of you who aren't familiar with Roy Harris, he's the BEST grappling instructor I have ever worked with. Until Guro Dan Inosanto introduced me to him, I NEVER EVER liked training on the ground. Every time I got on the ground to grapple, I always came away with some injury... some worse than others.

Now, I'm not only comfortable on the ground, but more competent as well. The real meaning of Jiu-Jitsu is "soft art", and while the rest of the grappling world is doing a strength and force based modern version of the art, Roy Harris is running in the opposite direction. His grappling is based on minimal effort, detailed understanding of leverage and stability principles and maximum results. If you haven't checked him out already, go visit

While I was down there for his Apprentice Instructors' course, I had the pleasure of giving a kettlebell training workshop, hosted by his academy. We didn't have much time to advertise this workshop, so I was pleasantly surprised when the workshop sold out and the floor was full of people swinging Russian iron. As the Harris Academy revolves around detailed, scientific instruction, the students and instructors who attended my workshop were all over the high level of detail presented on the swing, swing variants, my Turkish Get-Up progression (including the Naked Get-Up), and the quick intro to the clean. We had a few non-Academy members joining us as well, and they were quick to remark on the pleasure of having the opportunity to really learn how to properly execute KB exercises instead of just having one dropped in front of them and told to emulate an exercise after minimal instruction.

Due to the strong response from the attendees, I might very well be down in San Diego again for another intensive kettlebell workshop at the Harris Academy on Sunday, 12/16. Keep your eye on the DD forum and the Harris International forum for news on that!