Monday, December 29, 2008

Do YOUUUU understand the words that are comin' outta my mouuuuuuth?

It's amazing that there's always someone who'll wait 'til close to the 11th hour and then email people in a panic, wondering how to cover their arses.

The updated RKC certification requirements have been out for a while now, folks. Get to know them. Start to love them. We've posted these new requirements on the main RKC website, on the Dragon Door forum, and on the instructor forums. More than a few RKCs have sent these new requirements out in emails and posted them on their blogs & websites. If information is light, then this updated RKC prep information should be downright blinding at this point.

If your instructor doesn't know these and prepares you to take the snatch test differently, fire your instructor! If you told your instructor that the RKC snatch test requirements were anything other than what you see posted below, fire yourself. [Have I heard of both of these situations happening at RKC certifications where I taught? YOU BET!]

I was thinking of cutting & pasting the entire page on here for such folks to read, but then I realized that they were missing the "bottom line". So here it is... taken directly from the RKC website.

Kettlebell Snatch Test Requirements
An RKC candidate is required to put up the number of reps matching his or her weight in kilograms, up to 100 repetitions.

Students heavier than 100kg are still required to do only 100 reps. For instance, an 60kg student needs to perform 60 snatches, an 82kg student 82 snatches, a 100kg student 100 snatches, a 122kg student 100 snatches.

Kettlebell Sizes

Men Open Class 24kg
Men Masters (50 and Older) 20kg

Women Open Class 16kg*
Women Masters (50 and Older) 12kg

* Women under 50kg /110 pounds in the open class may opt to perform 80 repetitions with a 12kg kettlebell instead.

You will be given 5min to complete the test.

You are allowed to make as many hand switches as you wish. The sum of both arms is scored.

You are allowed to set the kettlebell down and rest. If you have let go of the kettlebell before it has touched the ground (dropped it rather than set it down), your attempt will be disqualified. This applies to the last repetition as well.

You are allowed to make multiple back swings.

FINALLY... one last piece of advice: Don't "eyeball" anything. If you think you had good form on your snatches, you think you got your reps done in 5 minutes, you think you weigh a certain number of kilograms, and/or you think you were using the right kettlebell, then CHECK, CHECK, CHECK, and RE-CHECK until you are ABSOLUTELY SURE.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

To each and every KBLA blog reader out there,

You've all been tremendous gifts to me throughout the year. 2008 has brought me more blessings than I could have ever dreamed of. For a nobody kid from central Delaware, I've seen more of LA International Airport (and a others) that I'd have ever imagined in my wildest dreams this year... Scotland, Denmark, Hungary, New Zealand, countless trips domestically, and plenty more to come in 2009.

Your comments, your e-mails, your instructor reviews, your phone calls, your text messages, your handshakes, your pats on the back, and your hugs have made me and my mission heartier, higher, and HARDer, and I can't thank you all enough for that.

My thoughts are never far from the men & women who are serving their countries overseas, far from their families and loved ones. May God watch over them and bring them home safe, sound, & sane.

My martial arts teachers & masters are due their special respects, especially Master David C.K. Lin & his son Sifu James Lin (Combat Shuai-Chiao) and Master Arthur Y.S. Lee & his son Sifu Harlan Lee (Sil Lum Fut Ga). I remain lifelong in your debt.

I'd like to express a very special note of thanks to one man who changed the course of my life with a few introductions that he made. Guro Daniel Inosanto introduced me to both Prof. Roy Harris (my BJJ and Kalis Ilustrissimo mentor & big brother) and to Pavel Tsatsouline (my human performance & kettlebell training mentor). Pavel, in turn, introduced me to Gray Cook, and the two of them have turned the direction of my life and my life's passion inside-out, upside-down, washed it, dried it, and ironed it to military spec.

To my students and readers around the world, thank you for opening your hearts and minds to what I've had to say, to teach, and to share. I've had unique blessings to drink directly from the fountains of knowledge that are shaping our understanding of orthopedic medicine, physical therapy, elite human performance, and combative martial arts. With each time you open your worlds to me, you allow me to share the experience with you. And I get the greatest satisfaction when I get to see you all share that message with your clients, students, and patients. This is why the KBLA RKC instructors are my greatest professional joy!

I wish you and your loved ones a VERY Merry Christmas! May 2009 bring us all a STRONG YEAR!

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Shoulder Series - Part V: Secondary Compensations

Image courtesy of Lauren Keswick at

Just one look at the lattice work of soft tissue and bone that makes up the shoulder and its neighbors, and it's little wonder that damage or injury in one area can lead to a ripple effect in others nearby.

Many of you have heard the orthopedic saying - "If you injure the neck, the shoulder suffers too; and if you injure the shoulder, the neck suffers, too." Well, that's just the tip of the iceberg...

Let me give you a few examples of how a problem elsewhere in the system can manifest as a "shoulder" issue. Looking at the shoulder anatomy image above, it's not too hard to see how these situations might arise.

1. Neck: Some sort of soft tissue trauma occurs with the neck, whether from a car accident, a fall, or a stiff jab to the face. Even a bunch of swings done improperly such that the shoulder is raised to try to pull the bell upward will cause strain to the neck muscles! The soft tissue will recover from the strain/sprain and knit more easily when it's in a shortened position. However, that means that the shoulder will be drawn up closer to the neck. This can lead to what Gray Cook refers to as "stabilizers acting as prime movers and prime movers acting as stabilizers." As the neck tries to regain its stability, it recruits the shoulder into helping with extra stability. That, in turn, forces the muscles of the shoulder and arm to work harder to create "ordinary" arm & hand movements.

2. Elbow: Just as Gray Cook and Brett Jones used the tagline that "The hip is a bad neighbor", so too can we argue that the elbow is that way too. Movement pattern issues in the elbow can manifest either as wrist or shoulder pain. As regards the shoulder, if the elbow doesn't have its usual ranges of motion in an unfettered manner, the nervous system will recruit other muscles nearby to create the movement that's been compromised.

3. Thoracic Spine: The T-spine is a source of mobility for the shoulder. No two ways about it. If the muscles that move your T-spine start to exhibit the length-tension imbalances that are usually part & parcel of a sedentary lifestyle (office worker, long distance driver, etc.), then you're going to lose ranges of motion when you try to do overhead work with your arm. If you just try to lift your arm straight overhead without moving your T-spine in the slightest, you'll notice that you've probably maxed out at something like 20-30 degrees away from vertical. If you remove the limitations in the T-spine and do the same ROM test, you'll notice that ROM improves towards the vertical if not achieving it!

All of the above mechanisms create patterns of compensation. And compensation's like fire. It spreads and spreads until everything that can be burned is burnt out.

What's the long & short of this as relates to the RKC's HARD STYLE kettlebell training? Simple...

1. Mobility is a pre-requisite to stability. If you're going to do strength work, make sure you have unfettered ranges of motion. If you don't, then work on achieving them.

2. If you're injured, you can still train around your injury, but you have to make VERY sure not to feed any compensations.

3. NEVER push yourself past the limits of your form. If you lose form on one rep, put the bell down. If you've not lost form so badly that you can still regain perfect form on the next rep, go ahead & continue. If you do 2 reps with poor form, put the bell down.

People immediately get defensive when I say to "put the bell down", but that doesn't mean that you have to go and check yourself into an ER or give up your beloved way of training. Rather, it means that you need to cease the exercise you were doing when you lost form, and change your activity temporarily.

- If you were doing Swings, then go to the Turkish Get-Up.
- If your hands are too tired to even grip the bell, then go for a jog.
- If your legs are too shot to hold you up, then do the cobra stretch.

There are always options in intelligent training. So please go back and re-read all of the installments of the shoulder series and think about how the neck, upper back, hand, or shoulder discomfort that you or one of your clients/patients might have could be avoided or addressed.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The KBLA brain trust

photo courtesy of Coach Ron Jones

Below are some excerpts of an e-mail I sent out to my RKCs last night. I have to say that the talented group of individuals that are KBLA continues to awe and humble me time after time.

The sheer fact that so many people would get out of bed on a cold Sunday morning, load their iron into their cars, and drive out to Santa Monica (sometimes from as far away as San Diego) is a testament to how great you've all made the Kettlebells Los Angeles family. From Singapore to San Jose, from Auckland to Arizona, and from La Mesa to Los Angeles, we're going to continue to improve as much as we can, bringing the most methodical, progressive, and safe kettlebell training methods to make you faster, stronger, leaner, and healthier..... HARD STYLE!!!

Thank you all for what you've made Kettlebells Los Angeles into!

RKCs ---

This past Sunday morning, as I looked around the class and made introductions to our Kettlebells Orange County RKC Candidates, I was awed by both the sheer number of RKC certified instructors who continue to train and learn and improve with me. This e-mail was addressed to only my fully-certified RKCs, of which there are 22 of you... That's nothing short of amazing when you consider that in December 2006, there was only me!

And while this e-mail isn't addressed to the RKC Candidates who were also in attendance, I can't help but be awed by the accomplished group of people in their ranks as well.

The KBLA roster boasts a brain trust & skill set like no other... elite athletes, world class martial artists, sports performance specialists, doctors of all sorts of specializations, wellness coaches, physical therapists, and plenty of "just ordinary folk" who are anything but ordinary.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Shoulder Series: Part IV- Pain Compensation

It feels good, or it hurts.

Those are the 2 main reasons why we do what we do. If an action elicits a pleasure response, most organisms gravitate towards repeating that action. You can think of this as the "Club Med" response. Contrarily, if an action elicits pain, then most organisms tend to avoid reproducing that action. This is the "Yipes!" response.

Now, let's say that something you might do (whether in sport, in work, in daily life, in whatever) causes you some sort of injury or discomfort. Guess what's going to happen? Your neurological system trains you to avoid it like the plague. You either mentally associate some sort of distaste with the action, and/or find some way around it if you have to continue to move the affected joint(s).

In the case of the shoulder, I've heard it described by former professors as the body's loosest joint when compared to the loads that are placed on it. If you look closely at the skeletal anatomy of the shoulder, there's not a lot of support for it. The bones that make up the shoulder interact with thin, relatively small surfaces that are tied together with thin ligaments and relatively narrow muscles (with the exception of the lats... This is sorta giving away the ending already, but I have to mention it here). That relative looseness allows the shoulder to achieve incredible ranges of motion compared to other joints, but the construction sometimes gets pushed beyond its limits thanks to either excessive forces or faulty movement patterns.

In fact, most of the time, you see patients whose injuries result from forces that would NOT have been excessive if the proper biomechanics were being followed. Let's look at a few examples...

- A martial artist or boxer throws a hard punch on a heavy bag that jars his shoulder because his shoulder was too protracted at the point of impact. Instead of keeping his elbow in FRONT of the plane of his body, he wound up for the punch by drawing his arm way behind it. Additionally the shoulder elevation further weakened the stabilizing ability of the shoulder girdle muscles, most likely straining both his rotator cuff and his pec. The next time he hits the bag, the strike will be more painful and probably less committed. If the round continues, there will be more guarding, reticence, and compensation.

- A young mother is holding her young toddler for extended periods, but she leaves most of her shoulder stabilizers too relaxed. The shoulder can't handle the load of her child's weight for such long stints, and the muscles become congested and fatigued.

- While training with his trainer, an athlete is playing catch with his trainer using the medicine ball. The trainer throws the ball short once and the athlete bends forward kyphotically to reach for the ball. His shoulders are loose, slack, and unbraced, and the medicine ball jerks his arms forward as it drops.

That's how the injury happens. The compensation mechanisms for those same 3 individuals might look like this...

- The martial artist's punches start to become more grazing rather than heavy, penetrating blows. Instead of reaching forward with that injured side or attacking with it, he chooses to block or shield with it instead. Additionally, while training or sparring, the injured shoulder is drawn in tighter and tighter as a protective response. That, in turn, manifests as pain and limited range of motion during the rest of the day.

- The young mother starts exhibiting neck & shoulder pain. Her neck becomes her core, and she tries to lift the sagging child by shrugging her shoulder up and also by kicking her hip out underneath the load. Eventually, if the problem is left to go on long enough, she'll feel pain, numbness/tingling, and/or weakness down the affected arm and into her hands, not to mention lower back pain (which sorta takes me towards my next installment).

- The athlete will likely start getting closer to try to catch the medicine ball more conveniently. However, when throwing the ball back, he'll be trying to generate the forward momentum in ways that allow him to protect that injured shoulder. He'll likely recruit muscles that shouldn't have a role in stabilizing the shoulder for a throwing motion. As Gray Cook would say, "The prime movers become stabilizers, and the stabilizers become movers." No good can come of that.

As you train yourself and watch those around you, keep your eye on the shoulder mechanics you see. You might find that you start noticing connections between certain movement patterns and certain aches and pains that people complain about. And then you'll hopefully start looking at your own movements with a keener, sharper, more disciplined eye.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


The shoulder analysis will continue this weekend, after I've touched down in PHX. Just too much to do in too little time right now. But this little bit of news alarms me, and again, makes me glad that although I live & work on the Westside, I won't be at home defenseless!

Police plan raises fears on Westside
LA Times

Residents worry that fewer patrols and the shift of LAPD officers elsewhere could mean increase in burglaries.

By Richard Winton and Martha Groves
December 2, 2008

A plan to slash the number of Los Angeles police officers who patrol some Westside neighborhoods has reignited long-standing political tensions over the priority the department gives to nonviolent property crimes in affluent neighborhoods.

The Los Angeles Police Department plans to move 26 officers out of the West Los Angeles Division as part of a citywide reorganization designed to free up officers for police stations opening in the West Valley and Koreatown.

One reason given for the reduction in Westside patrols was that there is so little violent crime there. But residents argue that the far-flung canyons and hillsides of upscale homes need regular patrols to deter home break-ins, robberies and other property crimes.

"It unfairly disadvantages our whole side of town," said Richard G. Cohen, chairman of the Pacific Palisades Community Council. "It's a particular problem for the Palisades, which is geographically remote so response time will be jeopardized."

To Councilman Bill Rosendahl, it is the latest example of how those who pay among the highest taxes and garbage fees in the city are getting shortchanged because their streets aren't teeming with gun violence. He and some residents wonder how the mayor's trash fee hike to pay for an extra 1,000 police officers is being used when the city cannot maintain 241 officers in West L.A., the largest geographic division in the city.

"I'm upset about it. We are the ones who put in the most tax dollars, yet we're getting fewer patrols," said Rosendahl, who will meet with Chief William J. Bratton next week on the issue. "They say they are not singling us out. But to me it is unacceptable. We pay good money for good protection. We are not happy."

LAPD officials said the reductions in the West L.A. station were necessary because the new stations would require 75 officers for each 24-hour period. But Bratton said the decreases in staffing were not limited to the Westside. The shifts were made with help of a computerized formula that considered crime types, response times, distance and 22 others factors at stations across the city.

For decades, the LAPD, in a city with vast geography and hugely different demands, has had to carefully balance the need to patrol the more upscale Westside and Valley neighborhoods against the demands in the decidedly more violent areas on the east and south sides.

Bratton said the shifting staffing levels were designed to put officers where they were needed -- including in some Westside areas that sometimes need extra troops.

"We put significant numbers of officers in Venice Beach each summer," the chief said.

Councilman Jack Weiss, who represents parts of the Westside, backs Bratton's approach, saying: "The best way to protect low-crime areas is put the cops on the dots in high-crime areas. That protects us all."

He noted that when Bel-Air and Brentwood experienced a string of serial robberies last year, the LAPD created a task force to deal with the crime wave.

But that is little comfort to homeowners in Pacific Palisades, Brentwood, Bel-Air and other communities.

Cohen said it took Pacific Palisades residents years of "arguing and fighting" to secure a dedicated patrol car that the police agreed not to pull out except in emergencies. Cohen said the department has pledged to keep the dedicated patrol car.

"Otherwise, it just would be open season," he said.

Shirley Haggstrom, president of the Pacific Palisades Historical Society, is also concerned about having fewer officers around. "I think good police protection prevents us from having violent crime," she said.

Michael Moore, senior lead officer for Pacific Palisades, said residents have a point that response times could rise.

"Realistically, one car is not enough" to cover an area the size of the Pacific Palisades, he said. "Generally speaking for West L.A., there is a tendency to have cars assigned to huge amounts of territory they couldn't possibly hope to cover. . . . You look at it and say, 'Why is it that such a big area is left almost unprotected?' "

If the number of police officers is reduced, senior lead officers such as Moore could be ordered into patrol cars, limiting the amount of time they could spend dealing with a neighborhood's particular issues or speaking at community meetings.

Phillip Enbody, Brentwood's senior lead officer, said the potential loss of officers in the area worried him.

"I like to have 24-hour coverage," Enbody said. "We are a property crime division. When a person comes into an area to break into cars, they break into multiple cars. In one night, I can have 10 to 15 crimes."

Winton and Groves are Times staff writers.