Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Safety, Sanity, and Salutes

Safety: Oft overlooked, never overemphasized. I'm going to give you one rule that will help you develop strength while minimizing downtime. As soon as your form deteriorates, STOP. I can't tell you how many times I've pushed myself too far and suffered some stupid sort of injury from trying to "gut out" those last few reps of whatever. To quote THE Chief Instructor of the RKC, "Change of exercise is a form of rest." So follow that advice and watch your performance take a jump! Change the exercise and the intensity to see how well your neurological system adapts.

Sanity: And in that same vein, change of workload outside of physical endeavors is also an intelligent idea. I've been awfully guilty of overdoing my own workload lately, and it took almost everyone in my circle to tell me the same thing before I realized that I really have been overdoing the pace and intensity of my work. Once this one project's off my plate, I'm REALLY going to fall off the grid for a couple of weeks! (Let's see if I can hold to that.)

Salutes: I'm so glad that many of this blog's readers took the time to email me with positive comments about the prior post. After posting it, I was concerned that some might not read it carefully and misconstrue my remarks as a challenge or disrespect to organizations like the USMC, LAPD, or NYFD (when in fact, those institutions are what I've constantly credited with mad respect and gratitude for keeping us safe). I'm very pleased that everyone who dropped me a line, including some individuals from those organizations, absolutely got the spirit of my message... that we ALL are responsible for creating a powerful, orderly, and effective learning environment.

If you read Power By Pavel Issue #165, Pavel Tsatsouline cites the KBLA offer for first responders in there. We are DEVOTED to creating the safest, strongest, most efficient learning environment for you. You've been good enough to meet the needs of others. Let us meet yours.

I know... it's a short post, but it's 11:15pm, and I've gotta sack out now to wake up early and get some work done. Hopefully this one big project will be off my plate in less than 2 weeks, and you'll get to meet a VERY happy Chinaman. :)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Rules of Engagement

Ordinarily, I'd not bother writing this sort of thing, but after today, it just needs to be said.

The Social Commandments of KBLA

1. If you come to train with me or my instructors' satellite groups, unless we already know you, get off your a$$ and introduce yourself politely. Don't stand off and expect that someone's going to come up, kiss up to you, and coddle you. Show at least the minimum of social grace. I could care less where you come from or what you've been through. You're in LA now, Dorothy. Get with the program.

2. I don't give a damn what rank of RKC, AKC, PhD, CSCS, ATC, PT, USMC, LAPD, NYFD, or whatever else you are. If you come to my class and screw up, I'm going to call you on it in a tactful manner, usually without embarrassing you. If you think you can sit back on your laurels and just take up space or be "impressive" with how much you think you know, you are nothing but SOL.

Go home and impress your mirror. We're here to learn and to practice improvement.

Remember too that the majority of the corrections I give are for the sole purpose of maximizing safety. If you're just out to lift a KB however, go train elsewhere far away from me. 99% of injuries arise from stupidity - either from carelessness, lack of awareness, or foolhardy daredevil crap. Do that stuff elsewhere and on your own time, not with my crew. And remember that KBs don't injure people. Stupid people injure people (oftentimes themselves). Stupid people who are trainers unfortunately injure the innocent, but not in my crew and not on my watch.

3. If you are spoken to or given direction to, answer in the affirmative if you have heard and understood the command. If you do not understand, ask for clarification. If you want to act like you couldn't be bothered to speak, go find a pasture to play in far away from my crew.

4. If you screw up either a social interaction or training technique, make EVERY effort to fix it either through a meaningful apology or a concerted effort to improve your technique. If you can't be bothered "just because", you're a sheep. KBLA's a gathering of sheepdogs.

5. Review #1-4, especially #4.

This is how we do it..... HARD STYLE!


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Oh, Squealieeeeeee!

As a guy who used to condition his fists by punching the hell out of very hard things (like steel plates) years ago, I couldn't help but to read & re-post this. It makes me wonder about the possibilities for people complaining about their hands after the RKC snatch test.....

BERLIN (Reuters) - Vitali Klitschko used his son's wet nappies to keep his fists from swelling up after winning his WBC heavyweight title bout against Nigeria's Samuel Peter, the Ukrainian told a German newspaper Tuesday.

Klitschko said he wrapped them around his hands and it helped him recover.

"Baby wee is good because it's pure, doesn't contain toxins and doesn't smell," the 37-year old boxer told Bild after he won back the WBC title Saturday.

"I wrap nappies filled with my three-year-old son Max's wee around my fists," he said, adding he got the idea from his grandmother. "The nappies hold the liquid and the swelling stays down."

Klitschko said Peter should try the nappy trick as well.

(Reporting by Josie Cox, editing by Alan Baldwin)


With any KBLA instructor worth his or her salt, YOUR SAFETY IS OUR #1 CONCERN! That's why I'm so militant when it comes to paying attention while I'm teaching. The details I'm doling out are about safety and optimum performance, not just me railing on you to push harder or being dogmatic about random details. If you don't have the sense to know when to stop or the awareness to know your own limitations and liabilities, our job is to be vigilant enough to see when you can't cut it and to put the brakes on for you. So if we bench you, suck it up. It's for your own good.

If you could care less about your safety and just want an a$$kicking visited upon you, there are better places to express your masochism.

That said, if the fires are still going on in LA County on Saturday morning (which they hopefully WON'T be), there will be no KBLA Sunday training session.

Monday, October 13, 2008



Once again, with the advent of the Santa Ana winds, the Los Angeles air is filled with ash.

I remember the first time I saw the air thick with ash was back in the mid 90's. I was shocked to see big chunks of ash coating car windshields, and thinking that I really need to pull my T-shirt over my nose & mouth. After being outside for only like 10 minutes, my black UCLA Kung-Fu T-shirt was littered with white specks, and my hair looked like I could've been the poster child for Head & Shoulders.

Yesterday morning was a milder replay of the same. The 7am KBLA gathering was somberly subdued by eau de le feu hanging thick on the morning dew. [Dear God, have I been reading too much Will Williams lately?!?!?] After teaching for less than 30 minutes, my voice already started getting scratchy. By the 60 minute mark, I was thinking about Halls with Mentholyptus, and by 90 minutes, I wanted to go home and wash my lungs out with soap.

Times like these make you REALLY appreciate the men & women who put it all on the line for us & keep us safe & sound when fan blades meet feces.


1. Coming soon, there will be an LA Firemen's Relief Association fundraiser. Instructor Nikki Shlosser, RKC, will be donating private kettlebell training sessions. Please keep checking her blog for more information as the date draws nearer!

2. As of today, the Santa Monica-based KBLA classes will extend FREE attendance to all firefighters showing proper ID. Anyone who has not trained with KBLA before and comes in to train with KBLA-Santa Monica accompanied by an ID-bearing firefighter trains for half-off. A maximum of two civilians can accompany each firefighter. This offer is good from today until the end of 2008.

If you're a first-responder and you don't understand the importance of strength & conditioning, you're either going to predispose yourself to meaningless injury, fatigue too quickly under stress, or endanger your teammates in a crisis situation. Find out about the wicked edge that KBLA's kettlebell training gives you before it's too late.

3. 5-0... We appreciate you, too. Don't think otherwise for one moment. Thanks to the hard work of people like Ofcr. Mike Prosser, RKC candidate, the Westside is a better, safer place to be. For all Santa Monica Police personnel, you are comped as my guests for the remainder of 2008! Just like the firefighters, show your badge, and you train as my guest.

And just like the last bullet point, you also don't want to find out about the importance of strength & conditioning, agility, and raw power too late. This is hot stuff, and we're giving you a chance to discover it firsthand from some of the best in the West for FREE.

IN FACT... There's MORE! Com. Nikki & I are working on putting together a special kettlebell training clinic specifically for Firefighters. Details will be forthcoming, but if you're interested in staying informed about that, please drop an e-mail to trainhardstyle@yahoo.com, and we'll make sure you're kept in the loop.

So what's the acronym all about at the top?

All Fire Fighters Free For Fall! (The SMPD part didn't exactly work in keeping with the alliteration, but you get the idea.) KBLA shows love to Fire, Police, & Military personnel all the time with our standard 50% off discount, but for the remainder of '08, we're giving you ALL our love.

Give us your all, and KBLA gives you ours!


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Cutting through the Gordian Knot

I just read this on a dear friend's blog. It's so good, I just had to repost it here... with her permission of course. Since her blog's currently written anonymously, I'll protect her identity, but she's given me the green light to link to her myspace page: http://www.myspace.com/xucre.

This woman is one of the most insightful and brilliant writers I've had the pleasure of reading on a somewhat regular basis. I aspire to be just that skilled in communicating myself. Enjoy!

things don't have to be. really... they don't.

things are only as complicated as you make it.

or are they?

no, i understand...

there exists factors that make things complicated. but are these factors really real... or are they constructs of our own fears that cause us to hesitate, to stay stuck, to waffle on the fence of indecision, to... not act?

maybe things are for real complicated... where the factors are not limited to our own mindsets, but are real life, real situational barriers that, if breached, will make things... awkward.

and no one really wants to deal with awkward, right?

but maybe the key to making things less complicated is to acknowledge the complications. put them on the table. hold them up like a mirror and face them. and maybe in doing so... in choosing not to ignore them and pretend like they don't exist... maybe things become less complicated.

because maybe by putting them out there, we can wrap our heads around just how complicated things are and determine whether or not the complications are something we can and want to either deal with... or not.

so yes... let's do that then. let's put it all out there. let's take a good long hard look at all the complications and determine what they really are and where they're coming from. and then let's decide ~ yes or no.

can it really be all that simple?

yeah... (sigh)... i know...

it's complicated.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Seamless: The Universal Importance of Mind-Body Connectedness

I say it all the time, but I'm blessed. Don't get me wrong... Anyone who really knows me knows full well that there are certain parts of my life that are absolutely wretched. But on the whole, my life is wonderful beyond all imagining.


Because with very few exceptions, the threads of my life are very interwoven. It's hard for me to tell where my work begins and my play ends. Everything that I do for work is something that I'm into, something that I'm curious about, and something that I have a hunger to learn. Notice that I didn't say "something I have an aptitude for". Plenty of people do stuff they're good at but don't love. I love what I do, and even if I suck, I'll still do it because I love it.

Let me give you an example by way of these vignettes...

On Thursday afternoon, I was having lunch with Guro Jeff Imada, one of the seniormost senior instructors of the Inosanto clan and a true expert in Jeet Kune Do and Filipino Kali. We met up at a Japanese supermarket that had a food court, were talking about martial arts, life, work, and all that sort of stuff, and I look up to see Haruo Matsuoka standing in line. Both of us got up, greeted Matsuoka Sensei, brought him over to where we were sitting, and enjoyed each other's company for what turned out to be a VERY enjoyable lunch. Both Imada and Matsuoka had worked with each other on some of Steven Seagal's earlier movies, and both are seriously accomplished martial artists.

Our conversation ranged from just catching up on each other's personal and professional lives to talking about our latest discoveries in training and teaching. Matsuoka spoke about his "A-HA" moments with his aikido and kenjutsu training, and he spoke about the feeling of moving with the whole of one's being... not just one muscle or series of muscles, not just one thought about one movement, but executing an action with the whole of one's being.

I couldn't help but think, "Boy, this sounds oddly familiar..."

Matsuoka continued by saying that he's been discovering that real efficiency isn't about trying to minimize the number of muscles being used, since that actually maximizes the load on each muscle. Instead, he explained that having the energy of every cell in your body working to create an outcome is where real softness comes from. I couldn't help but think of Hard Style and the concepts of commitment and irradiation.

He then continued by talking about how thought gets in the way of effective, natural movement. I can't recall his exact words, but the essence was that if you have to think about moving, then your movement is going to be both contrived and late. You'll be too slow to block, or move, or blend with the opponent's motion, he explained. I was amazed. Immediately, I thought of how Gray Cook would say time & time again not to overcue someone while they're doing the Functional Movement Screen.

I used to think that for good movement, you have to give good directions. And while that's true in terms of instruction and learning, it's NOT true when it comes to tested movement. The Functional Movement Screen is a sort of test - a test to see what your body's going to do REFLEXIVELY when faced with a particular task.

It's like seeing how someone's going to react in a fight, in a sense. In other words, when someone throws a punch at you unannounced, are you going to... stiffen up and scream, stiffen up and gasp, duck and cower, lean back, duck to the side, headbutt the incoming fist? There are so many possible outcomes, but the FMS is trying to discover what your natural movement is like before you have time to prepare or psyche yourself up to do something. It's a test to see what your maximum efficiency level is like.

So you see... all good things, all good bodies of knowledge converge on certain ideas. It's like different threads that come together in a seamless bond. And back to what I opened with... I'm not the top dog in most of the fields I pursue.

I'm not the baddest dude on the mat when it comes to Combat Shuai-Chiao or BJJ, I'm not the closest disciple of my Fut Ga master, I'm not even an apprentice instructor in the Inosanto method of JKD, and I hold no rank in any Japanese martial art. I'm not the dude at the top of the Hard Style Russian Kettlebell food chain, and I'm the newest addition to the faculty of the FMS.

But I'm BLESSED to be a part of what I'm a part of. To have the quality and caliber of people who teach me, invite me to train and study with them, and to simply pass time with them is the greatest gift and my greatest joy. When I was a kid growing up in Delaware, if you told me that I'd be hanging out & having lunch with guys like Jeff Imada & Haruo Matsuoka and on a first name basis with them, I'd have told you that you should've laid off the funny tasting brownies. If you'd told me that two days later, I'd be accompanying Pavel Tsatsouline to teach a kettlebell workshop to some 70 people at the National Strength & Conditioning Association, I'd be checking your arms for needle tracks and looking to see if you had a runny nose.

To be living the life I'm living now, to have the knowledge of what inspires me, to have the opportunity and access to gaining more knowledge from the top instructors in the fields that inspire me, to see those fields converge fluidly, and to get paid for pursuing my dreams is a thing of unbelieveable beauty. To all of you who are part of this dream I'm living, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Addendum: If you haven't seen it already, watch Chris Rock's Kill the Messenger on HBO. Aside from him being ridiculously funny in a way that's somehow both gutter in its profanity and godly in its insights, Rock talks about the difference between a job & a career. With a job, he says, the time just doesn't pass fast enough. With a career, you can't find enough minutes in the day to do what you want to do for your work.

Addendum #2: I just wanted to thank all the people that have come up to me and privately given me such incredibly warm feedback on this blog over the past 4 days. While it never ceases to amaze me how many folks from how many different places leave comments, it floors me even more to know how many people actually read my blog regularly and gain some benefit from it. Your blog comments, your private e-mails, your Facebook posts, and certainly your face-to-face feedback, handshakes, and hugs means the world to me. Thank you for always lifting me up, pushing me to do more, and inspiring me constantly!