Sunday, November 30, 2008

Denial again - Turning a blind eye to compensation

We'll get back to the Shoulder series when I'm back stateside. I'm about to get a quick workout in before showering up & hopping on the plane, but I just saw this article, and I think it sums up a lot of what's at issue with a lot of the world.

We do it in our training, too. We're too quick to allow errors in form or compensations to slide under the radar. And with each successive rep, we "add strength to dysfunction"... allowing our stubbornness to be substituted for sensibility.

Remember what Ohshima Sensei said about having the strength, honesty, and courage to look inside and cut out one's weaknesses? Let's get back to that... HARD STYLE!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Shoulder Dynamics - Observation & Mimicry: Part III in the Shoulder Series

Still here in NZ and taking a quick moment to try to append the blog and finish this discourse on the shoulder. Since I'm trying to do this in between running out & doing touristy stuff, teaching, and God-knows-what-else, I'm doing this sorta piecemeal, so please forgive the briefness of these posts.

Human beings learn through one or more of 4 basic routes of input - visual, audio, tactile, or conceptual. Let's define each of these as they apply to functional movement, strength, and potential dysfunction.

Visual means that you see a movement, and you mimic it based on what you saw. This is perhaps the primary means of learning for the vast majority of people... Thus the phrase, "monkey see, monkey do". I don't say that disparagingly, however. Sight offers us perhaps the quickest means of making a "rough copy" of someone else's movement pattern.

Unfortunately, sight relies on our brains to take the information we saw and comprehend it as completely as possible almost instantaneously. Once it's comprehended, then the actual motor neurons and muscles have to interact properly for the observed movement to be reproduced correctly and effectively. If it wasn't this way, everyone would be Bruce Lee after watching Enter the Dragon.

However, I can't tell you how many times I've seen someone try to reproduce a motor pattern after seeing it and managing only the crudest sort of facsimile. In my own experience, I must've tried countless times to imitate Agassi's forehand, Becker's canon-like serve, Sifu James Lin's unstoppable throws, Grandmaster Arthur Lee's thunderous hand speed, Prof. Roy Harris's BJJ positional controls, or Kenneth Jay's pressing technique. Yet more often than not, even after repeated practice, I fall well short.

It's in falling short yet trying stubbornly to achieve the same results that I've often found myself afterwards dealing with some sort of injury, usually due to strain.

So... the easiest way to change the likelihood of injury is to change the focus or redefine the goal. We can see an example of this very clearly with the kettlebell swing. Instead of trying however to get the kettlebell to swing up high and to keep it moving in "Malcolm X" style (i.e., "by any means necessary"), the goal gets redefined to create a swing with a Hard Style Lock at the apex, a symmetrical and pain-free Deep Squat pattern at the bottom, and a well-timed backswing that loads the hips and unlocks the hips and knees only at the last possible millisecond.

That combination of attributes, especially when focused on one bit at a time, creates a process through which we can learn more effectively and safely. The audio cues we get from more advanced movement experts, such as our coaches, masters, and instructors, help us more completely comprehend the facets of movement that need to come together to create ideal technique. Tactile feedback, whether as simple as a smack on the head to remind a fighter to keep his hands up or as subtle as Gray Cook's Reactive Neuromuscular Training methods, help further reinforce the total learning process. With input from the visual, audio, and tactile routes, the conceptual "fermentation" process becomes more rich, and the actual applied skill improves dramatically.

With shoulder specifics, this deals a lot with awareness. At the outset of learning, there's no real depth of awareness that's going on... just crude mimicry.

For example, a pitcher might wind up his arm too far, a tennis player may over-relax the stabilizing muscles needed during a powerful serve or overhead, a martial arts student may lift his shoulder up towards his ear before throwing a punch, and a kettlebeller might swing the kettlebell up so high that his or her neck becomes the core instead of the midsection.

The awareness and understanding of what constitutes proper form (in this case, when stabilizing the shoulder via the lats while in motion) is a HIGHLY necessary step in the process of learning movement that should be emphasized more than upping the number of reps, adding weight, or increasing measurable output. The last thing we should be doing is "adding strength to dysfunction" as Gray Cook would say.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Shoulder Stabilization & Dysfunction - Part II

Kia Ora from New Zealand, mates! The Chinaman's once again hit the ground swinging, teaching Combat Shuai-Chiao on the first night and Functional Movement Systems repatterning & Hard Style Kettlebell Essentials on the second night.

As many of you know, my passion in kettlebell training & teaching revolves around using kettlebells as rehabilitation tools. Over the past 2 nights of teaching, I've had the chance to convey to my Kiwi audience that proper functional movement patterns are essential for REAL performance. While people often tend to dismiss movement fundamentals as necessary for those who have the inability to perform exercises. However, the strongest are sometimes the most injured, as they compensate their way through the tasks at hand.

Back to the shoulder...

In my last post, I talked about some of the signs & symptoms of shoulder pattern dysfunction. But let's talk a little more about WHERE these problems originate. The next post will talk about HOW those problems come about from a pathophysiological perspective. [I'd write on it all right now, but I've still gotta shower up and get ready to roll around Auckland & do touristy stuff within 30 mins.]

Dysfunctional movement patterns can happen all sorts of ways. When it comes to the shoulder, these patterns can be learned or developed through:

1. Observation & mimicry - seeing someone else do a movement and learning to reproduce their dysfunctional pattern or mimicking someone else's proper movement pattern improperly

2. Pain inhibition - pain at the site of movement (usually from some sort of injury) creates a pain inhibition situation, where the motor neurons that guide muscle firing patterns are being overruled by pain signals arising from injury

3. Secondary compensation - pain or limitation in range of motion somewhere else in the system creates a compensation pattern in an otherwise unaffected joint.

OK... crap, I'm running later than I thought. I'll expand on each of those 3 concepts in my next posts. If you're enjoying this series of posts on the shoulder, please feel free to either drop a comment here on the blog or shoot me an e-mail. For those of you who've already e-mailed me with such appreciative comments, I thank you too. You're the reason why I do what I do and the reason why I continue to love what I do!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Shoulder Stabilization & Functionality - Part 1

Amazing how hectic it gets right before a trip... a zillion & one things to check & double check, and the on-the-fly prioritization that always seems to go right out the window. This afternoon, I've gotta get this blog entry done and wrap up an overdue article, hopefully all within the next 2-3 hours.

One topic I've been meaning to blog about for a while is shoulder stabilization. As I mentioned in a previous entry, there are times when I write posts to give advice to others and there are times when I write them more to remind myself. This is one of those that's more of the latter than the former.

Throughout most of my life, I've had shoulder, neck, & upper back problems. Whether from rotten posture (years of playing the piano, nerding out, & full-contact sparring), traumatic injury or strain (from a twist serve in tennis or overly enthusiastic joint locks), or just downright rotten movement patterns, my shoulders have given me years of grief.

It wasn't until well after I'd earned my RKC and started studying Gray Cook's materials that I realized how much neck and shoulder damage I'd been suffering senselessly. Here are some symptoms to look for in yourself or your clients... I'd suffered almost all of these at one point or another.

1. Neck stiffness
2. Headaches
3. Tight traps (or shoulders)
4. Achiness between your shoulder blades
5. Numbness & tingling going down your arms or in your hands
6. Throbbing in the shoulder joint or upper arm
7. Pronounced weakness in one arm/hand compared to the other
8. Chest pain
9. Jaw pain

Now while some of these may seem a little "left field", bear with me. For right now, all I want you to do is think about these symptoms and start opening your mind as to how they might arise from shoulder dysfunction.

OK... off to crank out the article. For those of you who're interested, let's just say that it has to do with a certain legend in the martial arts world and one of mankind's most primitive weapons.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Smoked Out

The air outside tonight is downright unbreatheable. If you're looking here to see if we're training tomorrow, the answer's NO WAY!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hard Style Kettlebell Training & RKC Prep in Phoenix, Arizona

As if you thought we weren't hardcore enough, the weekend after I teach in Auckland, New Zealand, the Hard Style Gospel is coming to Phoenix, Arizona!

On the morning of Saturday, December 6th, 2008 I'll be giving TWO (2) HIGH-DENSITY, IN-DEPTH workshops - 1 on how to get the most out of the least by using Pavel Tsatsouline's "Program Minimum" and the other on the RKC's "Final Four". As anyone who attended my more intimate workshops in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Los Angeles, or San Diego can tell you, you'll leave my workshop with a whole new level of comprehension and ability... REGARDLESS OF YOUR PRIOR SKILL LEVEL!

The morning workshop on Program Minimum will be some of the most enlightening 4+ hours of your life, dealing with the 6 most useful exercises you may ever encounter. The first three "NAKED" bodyweight exercises set the stage for perfect movement in the next 3, accelerating your learning process and solidifying your understanding more than any other instruction you'll find out there.

As revealed in his Enter The Kettlebell textbook, Pavel Tsatsouline laid out a deceptively simple plan called "Program Minimum" for making extraordinary gains with kettlebell training. Those gains are not only in the sense of bodysculpting, strength, and wicked endurance, but also in terms of remarkable rehabilitative and rejuvenative results!

Because the KBLA teaching method is so powerful and so detail oriented, we're keeping registration numbers FAR lower than any ordinary kettlebell workshop. The material covered in this workshop will blow your mind as far as fitness, strength & conditioning, flexibility, spinal health, athletic performance, and injury rehabilitation.

Whether you're a personal trainer, an aspiring RKC candidate, a wellness coach, a chiropractor, a martial artist, a tactical operator (police, military, EMT, firefighter, etc.), an athlete, a soccer mom, or a weekend warrior, this workshop's going to have all you want & more.

Pre-registrations are being accepted right now, so don't be late. We are trying to coordinate an adequate number of kettlebells for everyone, as well as making top-of-the-line Dragon Door brand kettlebells available for those who are interested when pre-registering. If you have one or more of your own that you train with, please bring it (them) since you'll want to be learning on the same tools that you're going to be using when you get home. If you don't have one, we'll e-mail you once you've registered to discuss which is the appropriate size for you to pre-order based on your weight, sex, goals, and any pre-existing physical conditions.

Early bird registration ends on November 21, 2008 just before midnight so sign up via Paypal now to reserve your spot. If the spots sell out before the 21st, we're not adding more. Make sure to let us know if you don't have a kettlebell of your own and need to purchase one from us on site.

That afternoon is an RKC-prep workshop from 1:30 - 5:30pm. We'll be covering the RKC Final Four techniques that come after Program Minimum. They are the Clean, the Press, the Snatch, and the Front Squat. For those who are interested in becoming RKC certified kettlebell instructors, this workshop is an absolute MUST. Even if you think your technique is airtight or you're already certified as an RKC instructor, this is going to be some priceless review and correction.

As with all of my workshops, we'll be covering not only the proper execution of these techniques, but also revealing teaching and coaching tips for the ultimate in higher performance and rehabilitative results!

Please click on the buttons either in this post or on the side of this blog to register for the Hard Style KBLA-Phoenix workshops! If you sign up for both, you'll get a $50 discount!

Location details will be announced after 11/23/08 to all registered participants.

I look forward to seeing you there!

And if you're in the Australia / New Zealand neck of the woods, I look forward to seeing you at my workshops there!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


The ranks of gireviks around the world are filled with men and women who are either Armed Forces veterans or active duty from their respective countries. If you come across one today, whether in the line at the mall, pressing two 24kg kettlebells in your gym, asking for change on the side of the street, meeting you in the executive boardroom, or praying at church, please (at the very least) give them a smile, a nod of respect, and a "Thank you so much for your service and sacrifice."

Friday, November 7, 2008

Dogs, Destroyers, and Dragon Door

As I was putting dear friend and Dog Brother Mike Florimbi through his snatch test preparation, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver walked by. After a quick "Good morning, Governor", answered by nods & smiles from both of them, the man who played Conan the Destroyer watched the Dog Brother snatching the 24kg Dragon in Hard Style while his wife looked on with interest.

OK... Back to the book. More in a few, God-willing.


Back again. So as of maybe 6pm last night, the manuscript got sent out to the powers that be for additional editing and contributions. While I don't feel like I'm completely in the clear yet, I do at least feel like I can go and spend time with Squealie guilt free. Hopefully, I won't find a bootprint from a Good Ol' Boy on my backside after the manuscript is actually reviewed.

Reformulating how I'm going to spend my time has become a major goal, and I plan to make inroads on that this weekend. Using an idea I heard on the RKC Instructors Forum, I'm going to schedule my OWN training sessions and restorative sessions first and then input everything else around those. Let's see how this affects my time management. Once I've battled it out, I'll let you guys know the outcome.

For now, I'm glad to just be home for a couple of hours before heading off to teach at the Inosanto Academy again. This morning's Fut Ga Kuen & Tai-Chi classes were outstanding - solid progress and a deeper appreciation of how the fundamental concepts and movement patterns apply in everything from Chi-Kung to swordsmanship. Days like today are what keep me teaching traditional martial arts.

OH, and before I forget, Nikki Shlosser, RKC, did a bottoms-up Turkish Get-Up this morning with a 16kg bell on both sides. Still think you're hard?

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Yeah, I know it's been a while since I blogged, but with a book that's long overdue, parents that have been in town for the past 2 weeks, and being under the weather (or fighting to not go back under the weather) for the past couple months, the Chinaman's run the soles off his kung-fu shoes and the rims off his rickshaw.

While I've still been doing my best to keep up with my group teaching committments, I've had to put a lot to the side for the past couple of months. If I can crank out what I need to crank out this week, there'll be a new dawn in more than just American politics.

Keep your eyes peeled, folks..... And thank you all for all your comments, your e-mails, your text messages, and your phone calls of support.

Oh, and by the way, any of you guys good with layout design? Holler at me ASAP if you are, please...