Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Christmas in May

OK... so it's not as impressive as Christmas in July or August, but what a bloody great day it's been!

After getting to have a rare morning where I wake up and get to kiss Squealie, I get dressed in my RKC Team Leader polo and head out for a photo shoot at Black Belt Magazine.

Rick Hustead, the photographer, & I have worked together on a number of projects, so we know how to get stuff done in jiffy. I know angles, he knows lighting, and we crank out a shoot in no time flat.... although doing a 70-lb TGU repeatedly and holding positions while he adjusted lighting was a little, well, interesting.

The day only gets better when I get to see the quality pics that Rick has generated. VERY cool! Look for some of them online and in print soon, and I'll be sure to give you guys a heads-up.

On top of that bit of fun, I got to hang out & have lunch with my boss, the executive editor, Robert W. Young.

I come home to a bunch of things that I've ordered off of ebay... Surefire flashlight batteries and a pair of wide frame Wiley X sunglasses (for the next time I find myself out in the sunlight for long hours).

The best gift of all was from someone who requested anonymity... the Emerson folding karambit with the wave technology feature. So Doc's Wishlist has once again been updated.

There are days when you feel so very blessed. A supportive blog comment from a colleague, a kind word from a boss, a gift from someone unexpected, and light traffic on the 405 just make for a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Better get back to crackin' on Master Lin's book. Hopefully I'll crank that out before the CEU weekend on the 6th!

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Time Management Workout - Maximum Effectiveness in a Minimum of Time

I just had brunch with my wife's best friend and her husband. They were visiting from Oregon and got to talking about what else but KBs.

Brad asked me, "So how long does it take to go through a workout with KBs?"

"It really depends on your goals. You can do all sorts of stuff with KBs, but you can get a vicious workout done in 3 minutes," I replied.

"3 minutes?!?!?"

"3 minutes, man."

"How does that work? I mean, how do can you possibly get a workout in such a short amount of time?"

"Well, you're combining resistance training, cardio, and flexibility improvement all in one, so.... nevermind, come here. Anything I tell you is going to be worthless compared to experiencing it firsthand."

We go outside to the parking lot, and I whip a kettlebell out of the trunk, starting him on the swing with a 16kg (35lb) kettlebell, the men's starter weight. A judo black-belt, he picks up on the exercise in moments.

And after 10 reps, he's huffing & puffing. After 2 more sets, he's like, "Wow... OK.. I get what you were talking about."

Grinning wickedly, I tell him, "Set a timer for 3 minutes and see if you can keep that level of form and explosiveness for 3 minutes NONSTOP. You can switch hands any number of times, and go from 2 to 1 to 2 hands. All you have to do is just keep the bell moving. Unlike a lot of other exercises and JUST like you experienced in Judo competition, you CAN'T zone out, otherwise, you'll get whooped... in this case, hurt your back or strain something. But if you can keep blasting out swings for 3 minutes, and do that daily, you'll be in some of the wickedest shape of your life faster than you could ever expect."


For those of you in the RKC community, most of you've heard Pavel's super-terse response to many of the FAQs thrown at him.

"Pavel, what exercise do I do for [fill in the blank]?"


When the Seniors and the rest of us tell you that the Hard Style Swing is the center of the RKC universe, we're not joking. Depending on how you vary it, it's part of the ultimate conditioning routine that you can possibly get yourself into. If time management is an issue for you, and you need to improve your endurance, your body shape, your fitness level, your body fat percentage, your athletic performance, there's basically a go-to answer sitting right in front of you... SWINGS!

Got your kettlebell already? Good. Then get my mentor's DVD, Enter the Kettlebell, to learn the finer points of the Swing!

Go find out how 3 minutes can change your life.

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!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Budapest RKC... It's gonna be interesting!

0730 at the base, just outside of Budapest... the pic above is the view from my room of the quad outside the dorms.

Advertised as having WiFi, the internet connection here is iffy at best, kind of like the hot water in the shower. If this post actually makes it up on my blog, I'll be bloody amazed. Normally when I open up IE or any other browser here, I get the no-internet-connection error message. On a whim, I gave it a try before leaving my room to wander around, and it worked.

It's a good thing I pulled a Chinaman and scrounged the Hilton amenity soaps in St. Paul, otherwise, Pavel & Kenneth Jay would've been a little less fresh this weekend.

It's an even better thing that Gabi, the wonderwoman from the Hungarian Courage Corner blog is staying right across the hall from me and she happened to bring an extra towel.

Breakfast begins at 0800, and the RKC officially begins at 0900. Amenities aside, this should be a rockin' cert. The Hungarians & other Europeans who are here have a STRONG will to learn this stuff, and they're eager to get going.

More later...

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!!!