Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Turnaround - Attitude

"Happy face, Comrade! Happy face!"

If you're coming to the RKC this weekend in St. Paul, be prepared to hear Pavel (and a few of the rest of us) speak those words to you. But before you blow it off as some glib comment, you'd better know what the hell's behind it.

It's VERY easy to get caught in a negative spiral. You name the situation, and the spiral exists. Whether it's "poor spending habits" leading to "the inability to save money" leading to "debt" leading to God knows what else, OR it's a "bad relationship" leading to "drinking & drugs" leading to "violence" leading to "incarceration", there are all kinds of ways that lead down the road of ruin.

"He talks, but he's never been through anything really challenging himself."


There've been a few times in my life that I dealt with less-than-ideal situations in a less-than-ideal manner. Here's just one snapshot... At one point, I was putting away a full bottle of Bacardi Silver and smoking 1.5 packs of Camels or Marlboro Reds a night! I was in the process of ending a very bad relationship and had a temper that's far worse than anything I've exhibited in the last decade. If there was a fight to pick, I picked it. If there was a drink to down, I'd slam it. If there was a bad-boy behavior, I'd either revel in it or try it out.

Dark, brooding, angry, depressed... call it whatever you want, but the bottom lines looked like this:
- Bad grades, on the verge of failing my way out of UCLA
- Horrible relationships, although plenty of pretty girls
- No steady income stream
- In danger of incarceration almost any given night for fighting
- Constant bad mood and generally dark outlook on life
- And less-than-healthy habits, although I was training like a maddog back in those days.

Sometimes I wonder how I made it out of that period of my life without ever doing hard drugs or ending up dead.

What made all that change?

A simple decision... Instead of going with the "life sucks" crowd and just "living in the moment" as I had been doing, I started trying to live life forcefully in the direction of what my highest ideals were.

It's not like I made a total 180 right there on the spot. Not even bloody close. It's been a slow turnaround, and it's still in progress. But that turnaround begins and gains momentum each time you have a choice to do something that is not in keeping with your highest ideals and you consciously accept responsibility for your actions, for your words, for the look on your face and act in accordance with your ideals.

You train yourself to live life with greater integrity. Then you prune your network and surround yourself with those who will truly bolster you towards those goals you set. You create a support system with social synergy - like-minded individuals pushing themselves and each other for a goal. That network reinforces your mindset and makes it easier and more rewarding each time you make decisions and act in a positive manner.

So the next time you reach for the six-pack, the ice cream tub, the rolled-up dollar bill, or the next time you make a snide remark, mumble away some complaint, flip someone off on the freeway, pass gas in a co-worker's cubicle, or do anything less than what is really positive, ask yourself "What benefit did I create for myself or anyone else by doing that?"

If you can't give a sincere answer where there is true benefit, then choose otherwise. Life is about choices. Failure is about allowing ourselves to make excuses. Success is about choosing responsibly.

So at those moments when life gets hard, relax your face, focus your mind, engage your body, and kick some arse!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Crunch Time! --- OTG

OK... It's 1 week away from when I get on a plane, and I've still got 10 chapters to edit, 4 Taegeuk forms to re-learn, and 2 articles to finish.

Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh!!! Crunch time. Workouts are going to have to take a serious back-seat to me getting this book edited (and as close to done as possible) before next Wednesday 4/23.

Luckily, today was my first day back into KBing with relatively serious intensity all with a 24kg KB. This morning, under the eye of my mentor, Pavel Tsatsouline, I warmed up with 5 TGUs per side, 4 sets of Goblet Squats (10 reps each w/holding the bottom on the 10th for 10 seconds), lunge stretches, Cobras, and a 10-minute press workout (taking breaks as needed & switching at will).

I haven't done a lot of pressing in ages, probably because it's my least favorite thing to do. I'll snatch, swing, or clean whenever, but I hate to press for some reason. Feeling a slight twinge in my right scalene 45 seconds out from the 10 minute mark, I put the bell down and gave it a rest.

At the end of the training session, Sifu Dan Inosanto asked a great question: "Is it better to go for higher reps with lower weight, or lower reps with higher weight?"

Pavel's answer was dead-on: "Sir, first and foremost, your form should be your concern. Each rep should be done with strong form. Otherwise, it's smarter to put the bell down."

OK, folks. If you're pulling for me, I thank you for your understanding when I drop off the grid for a while. I will be teaching until I get on the plane, and while I'm out of town, my group classes (both martial arts and KBs) will go on as usual under the lead of my instructors.

I look forward with great excitement to meeting many of you in St. Paul, Copenhagen, and Budapest at the RKCs in the coming weeks!

Monday, April 14, 2008

KBLA rocks the party again!

Nikki Shlosser, RKC Candidate for the August UCLA RKC, doing a TGU with the 32kg (70lb) kettlebell.

Watch it and weep boys!


Talent does what it can; genius does what it must.
- Edward Bulwer-Lytton

I'm here in the clinic taking a little break between a tele-conference with my Combat Shuai-Chiao master, seeing patients & clients, and writing like a madman. Thank God for these little moments of respite.

I went to check my Gmail when I saw the above quote at the top of the page in the Web Clip section. It really brought a smile to my face. Even though I was feeling a little ragged with all the stuff I'm trying to fit into the day and the pace it's all flying at me, that quote made me feel like the sprinting's all worth it. In fact... MORE than worth it.

I think about the kind of highly directed & fast-paced workload that guys like Pavel, Gray Cook, my Dad, my CSC master, and some of my other sources of inspiration handle, and it motivates me to produce higher quality in all that I do. They come from a place of truth, integrity, transparency, and work ceaselessly towards the goal of "maximum benefit" for others.

Just wanted to take a sec to share that little bit of inspiration with you all. See how much of your day and your energies you can orient towards "maximum benefit" for others, and then take the little boosts where they come and get crackin'!

More later after the day winds down and I get back to the Panda Cave.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


That's how the groove is feeling right now.

With a day full of teaching martial arts & a KB workshop at the Inosanto Academy, standing in a long-arsed line to send out taxes, family social appointments, and all sorts of random miscellany, I had no time to do jack other than little GTG-type stuff here & there.

The most KBing I got to do was a modified 4-Play with a 32kg at the workshop. Teaching, while rewarding, is CERTAINLY a very different thing from training. I MISS training in a big way, but I also love the looks on people's faces when they experience the Eureka moments of Hard Style.

A note on yesterday... After wrapping up a busy day at the clinic, I hosted the first KBLA instructors' dinner at EN Sushi in West LA. In addition to clearly spelling out what I felt were some important points of the KBLA mission statement and explaining my expectations for my RKCs, we also celebrated Anton Summers's 21st birthday. We've got a lot to accomplish in the coming years, so I'm glad I got the chance to make sure we're all on the same page.

OK... It's freakin' hot, I'm barely fed, I'm tired, I'm slightly freaked out about the sheer amount of writing work I've got to sign, seal, & deliver by the end of this week, and I'm going to make today my kettlebell Shabbat and go right to bed with a Crown & Ginger.

Tomorrow will be a higher, harder, hotter, and more wicked day of performance & training. Bank on it!

On tap... Taegeuks 1-4, 100 swings (28kg), RKC Snatch test (1 weight class up), and my old UCLA Kung-Fu stretching routine.

The heat made sleep a little hard to achieve for a bit. The result? Late night swing session & a quick shower

1 restless Chinaman + 1 35 lb KB = 100 continuous swings

With a weight so light, why swings?... Simple, swings give you no rest, but they spare the skin of your hands. You have to stay in constant motion. Snatches, on the other hand (no pun intended) allow you to rest at the apex and can shred the skin of your palms if you're not wearing some sort of protection... uh, hand protection, that is.

Guess I got my KBing in after all. The downside? With all the Tui-Na patients I've been seeing this last week, my hands are starting to throb a bit. Better re-think my workout for tomorrow.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Still Snifflin'

Damn... I don't know what's taking me so long to kick this thing completely, but my nose is still a little sniffly. It's like Custer's last stand up in there. My lungs are basically clear, aside from the occasional furball (as Pavel would call it), but I'm still not yet at 100%. Bollocks, I say!

Started the morning off with a little more Taegeuk action 5 reps each of 1-3, then hit the beach to train a client. As the session wrapped up, Courtney got to do her workout, and Pavel rolled up wearing the KBLA shirt. I couldn't have been happier without a winning lottery ticket. :)

While my client was taking breaks between sets, I hit the pullup bar to whip a quick 5 reps out (sternum to bar) and demonstrated fine points of the clean, allowing me to sneak in 10L/10R @ 24kg. Later, while Courtney was training and I was watching Squealie, I snuck in a little more GTG'ing. While Squealie was sitting on my shoulders and watching Uncle Pavel doing his TGUs, I did Cub pistols 2L/2R. I also snuck in a few reps of my favorite Kossack-Pistol combo 5L/5R, still with Squealie on my shoulders.

It's amazing how much extra work it is to do something with a moving object. The pistol-Kossack exercise I do usually isn't much of a strain with a 35lb KB, but a 20-some pound toddler on my shoulders felt like more work for sure!

Since today's a relatively family-oriented day (although I have a business dinner from 5 - 10pm, I'm going to try to crank out some more KB work when/if Squealie the Cub goes down for his afternoon nap. Wish me luck!

On another note, I just heard from my dear friend and Scottish brother, Rannoch Donald, RKC, that he has to withdraw from the Denmark RKC to handle some things. While it certainly won't be anywhere near the same without my dear friend and compadre, it will still be a kick-arse time. Vadim Kolganov is coming, and I'm going to have a great time cranking out an interview with him, as well as assisting my mentor again.

That's all for now. Hopefully more in a bit! Going to go down some herbal concoction of mine and hope that it helps me kick the last little bit of this flu.

OK... after running errands, doing the domestic thing for a bit, and then spending the majority of the afternoon sitting in traffic on the 405 to see my accountant, I'm heading off to my business meeting & running late. Today might have to be my light day, and then I'll just pay for it dearly later tonight or tomorrow AM.... or... maybe I'll just look like a weirdo and sneak in a quick few pistols during bathroom breaks.

True to my prediction, the meeting ran WAAAAY late. Luckily, whenever one of the participants had to take a loo-break, the pistoling got some GTG love with a rep or two here & there. An end-of-the-day set, however, was not gonna happen. I rolled into the apartment at 11:30pm, kissed my son, and passed out cold.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Rat Race

The day started off fairly well, but work was non-stop from the get-go.

By 7am, I was already sitting here at my desk and cranking away at an article for Black Belt Magazine. Between tape transcription and editing content, that kept me tied up until 11am. I did, however take breaks now & then to pop out a few pistols here & there.

Began the day with 5L/5R, and then kept shooting throughout the day.

From 12noon - 8pm, I was with patients & clients NONFRICKINSTOP. It got to the point that when the receptionist came to tell me that my next appointment had arrived, I had to just keep them waiting another few minutes to pistol out 2L/2R and then wash my hands before the next intake. Thank God for a few KB clients mixed in there too, since that gave me a chance to do a bit of random GTG work here & there (snatches, cleans & front squats... albeit no numbers I can remember).

Came home, ate my first & only meal of the day, and did 10 reps of Taegeuk Sam Jang using the same pacing that I did yesterday. It's funny... I've been focusing so much on throws and takedowns over the past few years that even doing reps of a relatively lower level TKD pattern like that can still get my legs feeling a little worked. I used to pride myself on my kicking back in the day. These days, I'm far more well-rounded in terms of my martial artistry & combative capabilities, but I want that footfighting athleticism back too.

Feeling the urge for more iron in my diet, I finished off with 4 sets of 25 swings @ 28kg, 20 BW Kossacks (10 ultra slow/10 fast), and 30 seconds of cobra.

Until the RKC later this month, my martial pursuits are going to be pretty limited to the Taegeuk review (so my fellow RKC Team Leader & 7th Deg. TKD black belt Jon Engum can prep me to finally do my black belt test) and Combat Shuai-Chiao. I'll be with Master Engum in St. Paul and in Copenhagen, so I'm hoping that we can steal away some good training time here & there.

Ever since the days when I was teaching Kung-Fu at UCLA, I've always wanted to be able to do TKD. Most of my friends were Korean and all of them did TKD together. I used to cross train with them once in a while since I liked how their sports science influenced training methods made sense. The UCLA TKD instructors always encouraged me to train for my black belt, and through the years, some of my TKD colleagues have even offered me honorary black belt rankings, but that was something I wanted to avoid. Over a decade after graduating from UCLA, I decided that this is going to be the year that I finally get that accomplished. Olympic style TKD is one of the most athletic and fast-paced of the stand-up martial arts. Don't believe me? Check this out! These guys are the modern whirling dervishes or the Korean answer to the Tasmanian Devil.

After I return from Hungary, I'll be doing whatever homework I need to do for the TKD, and prepping hard for my CSC 3rd degree black belt test. I will probably have to demonstrate some 16 throw combos & counters, fight Sanshou rules (imagine Thai style kickboxing with extra points for big throws), and then finish with fighting Shuai-Chiao rules. Lots of preparation to be done before then!

Courtney & Squealie just rolled in the apartment from Covina, so I'm off to bed now. G'nite, folks. Have a strong day and a strong finish to your week!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Time & Progress

OK, today's going to be my first day back into training since I dropped off the radar with the flu.

I have a few major desk projects that I need to crank out, but I'm also going to do something I've never been able to do before with any modicum of success... and that's keeping a training diary.

Every time I've tried to log down the reps or the exercises or whatever I do in training, I inevitably slack off and drop the project altogether. I'm consistent about some things, but keeping a training diary heretofore has not been one of them.

So starting later today, I've decided to follow the lead of Sr RKC David Whitley and buckle down and keep a training log in a disciplined fashion. My motivation before was less concrete. Now I have a specific cat that I want to skin by going this and keeping it going.

Since I started shifting my lifestyle from one where I was making my living teaching martial arts to one where my main source of income became clinical medicine, I've started to slowly gather rust on a lot of my hard-earned skill sets. Whether it's BJJ, Thai swordfighting, Combat Shuai-Chiao power training, JKD dummy sets, Sil Lum flexible weapons, TKD footwork drills, or whatever other gems have accrued in my martial treasure chest, I need to start polishing those with regularity if I don't want my efforts to have been in vain.

Additionally, I'm going back to the kind of wicked endurance workouts that Pavel put me through back in the days when Guro Inosanto, Prof. Harris, & I would meet and suffer on the sand. When I hit 36 later this year, I want to be in the best shape of my life, and having to keep myself accountable to the world is probably the best way of going about that. You'll see it all go down right here on this blog!

THE RULES: On days where I have multiple workouts, I'll just append the existing entry for that day rather than make a whole new entry. Lessons with my instructors will still be logged so that I can also measure technical progress.

Days when I eat tons of "cardiac arrest" grub, I will log what I ate and the corrective measures that I ask my students to do. For every (normal) mouthful of unhealthy food, do 20 swings.


Early evening light workout: TKD & Pistols
Taegeuk Il Jang - 10 reps (3 slow, 2 moderate, 5 balls out)
5 pistols L/R
Taegeuk Ee Jang - 10 reps (same breakdown)
5 pistols L/R

Got a lot of MAJOR deskwork to still get done, so I've gotta get short & sweet workouts in while I can. Also, it's windy & chilly outside, so I need to limit my exposure since I'm still not 100% recovered.

Hopefully I'll get in a little swing workout before hitting the shower at the end of the night.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Which hat do I have on now???

For those of you who know me fairly well, you know I wear a bunch of different hats... which is perhaps why I sometimes have a hell of a time answering the question "What's your job?"

The hat that I'm wearing right now as I type this blog entry is martial anthropologist.

My master, David C.K. Lin, has just finished the first book on Combat Shuai-Chiao, and I'm in the process of editing it in the English language. This is one hell of an undertaking, and I'm glad that I have something urgent that's going to keep me relatively stationary for a while. The flu's almost out of my system, but I know that given the chance, I'd be pushing it way too much, too soon.

Lots of martial arts related writing to crank out this week. Thank God I love what I do, otherwise I'd get sick of it so fast!

Better get back to work and gut out another couple of hours while I can.