Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Day Sobriety Kettlebell workout

Hope you're all having a GREAT wind-down to your Holiday Season!

And knowing full well that many of you are griping about how much you ate (and the griping about how much you drank tomorrow), I've got a quick, easy solution for you.

If you want to get the post-inebriation haze out of your system, take a small sip of water, grab a light kettlebell (guys - 16kg, gals - 8kg), set your iPhone timer for 3 minutes, and Swing rep for rep with a proper Hardstyle hip snap.

Now you're very likely going to want to go from 2 hands to 1 hand to the other hand and back to 2 hands, which is all well & good, but concentrate on keeping your neck out of it, keeping your eyes and your mind focused, and keeping your glutes snapping strongly behind each & every rep. Do NOT stop until the timer goes off, but REALLY concentrate on making each rep as explosive as possible. Shoot your hips forward as powerfully as you can, keep your shoulders linked, keep your gaze straight ahead. You'll find that if you can keep all of these points constant, you'll be done in no time flat and your tummy will feel flatter too!

Not only will you feel like you got rid of the booze haze, but you'll also have kick started your metabolism to shed off that wee bit of pudge that you may have packed on! Fatloss fast & furious, folks... welcome to Hardstyle!

If you don't own a kettlebell and aren't sure what a Swing is, then click on that Quick Start kit to the right and get started!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Kettlebells Los Angeles holiday shout-out

I just posted this to my KBLA Yahoo mailing group, but the Holiday message in it bears repeating. So with a few edits and additions, please read it below.

Happy Holidays to each of you, and may you find the inspiration to redefine yourselves to a standard higher, stronger, and healthier than you've ever lived before!

The Christmas/Holiday Season is upon us again, and it gives us time to reflect on our accomplishments of the past year and to set goals for the next one.

You've all been instrumental in the growth of Kettlebells Los Angeles and are proof positive that the KBLA standard of quality control is setting the bar higher & higher with each passing year.

Expect some changes to come in 2010, along with a shuffling of the guard. We want to bring you only the FINEST instruction from the FINEST instructors, so we'll be not only revamping our website to show the attendance dates of each & every KBLA affiliated instructor, but also highlighting those individuals who show consistency in their dedication to improving their pedagogical skills.

Also, look for a series of SoCal-based summer workshops featuring both Master RKC Kenneth Jay and I. Just like this past year's workshop in Irvine, we're going to gear it towards not only the total beginner, but also the highly seasoned RKC. If you doubt that we could do that successfully, just ask anyone who was in attendance there this year!

We're not just raising the bar. We're also giving you the means to clear it, too!

I'll be teaching the Sunday morning KBLA class (weather permitting) at Clover Park, in Santa Monica on Dec. 27th and on Jan. 3, so if you're in So Cal, get up, get out, and get to work shedding the pounds that you packed on from Holiday eating, and redefine your boundaries of your own human performance!

Finally, on behalf of the KBLA RKC instructors and our affiliates, I'd like to wish each and every one of you & your loved ones a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Strong, Prosperous 2010!

Please keep those who have less or are suffering more than you in your thoughts and prayers, and take the time to:
- drop a new, unwrapped toy off at your local Fire Station,
- volunteer a few hours of your time at a homeless shelter,
- give some canned foods to church or other group that works to alleviate hunger, or
- send an e-mail to the troops overseas via

With warmest wishes to you & your loved ones,
"Doc" Mark Cheng, KBLA Chief Instructor

Monday, December 21, 2009

Kinetic Confusion: Does your butt think it's your foot?

It's an undeniable fact of life for many of us.

We sit.... and we sit a LOT.

Whether it's in front of the computer, the steering wheel, the TV set, the boardroom table, or the dining table, life's become increasingly sedentary for far too many individuals in the "modern" world.

With long commutes, with computer-based jobs, with the TV culture, the effects on our bodies are almost too slow to perceive until they're ingrained and it's almost too late.

As I was watching my son play outside at the park, I got into a conversation with another parent about my mixed feelings about Squealie going to grade school. Watching him move so well on the playground and develop balance, proprioceptive awareness, and other neurological skills made me happy with his progress and concerned about the long hours of enforced sitting that he'd have to endure in school. As schools have less time for recess, no resources for physical education / gym classes, & fewer sports programs, I can't help but be a little uneasy.

Looking at the adult population that I work with clinically and consult for internationally, one of the biggest things that I see with pain seems to be the result of long-term kinetic confusion.

Let me explain it to you...

Looking at the joint-by-joint view of closed chain movement that FMS founder Gray Cook talks about, the foot is the root of our movement and what relates the body to the ground for leverage. Thus the foot needs to create a stable platform of linkage to the ground to allow the rest of the kinetic chain to create effective, powerful movement.

Next up the chain, the ankle needs to be mobile, which in turn allows the knee to be stable and the hip to be mobile.

So remember, in an ideally functioning kinetic chain per Gray Cook, we've got:

* Foot - stable
* Ankle - mobile
* Knee - stable
* Hip - mobile
* Lumbar spine (lower back) - stable
* Thoracic spine (mid-upper back) - mobile
* Lower C-spine - stable
* Axis & atlas vertebrae - mobile

So you can see that each successive joint or joint "team" has the opposite function of the neighboring joints. Thus, problems arise when these joints or joint teams get locked into functioning in the opposite manner in which they were intended.

Let me make it absolutely clear that I NEVER said that these are the ONLY ways in which these joints & joint teams are meant to function. However, when muscles are trained to move or hold joints reflexively in a certain fashion, we need to pay attention to whether or not the joints are meant to function OPTIMALLY in that fashion.

So let's look at what happens in sedentary culture.

Your rear end becomes the primary point of contact for your body to the ground (via a chair). So those hips which were meant to be mobile and driven by the glutes turn into your primary point of stability. The glutes spend hours on stretch and the hip flexors shorten.

Moving up the "sedentary chain", your lumbar spine starts becoming more & more mobile as you reach for things and move around while maintaining your seated position.

The T-spine stiffens up to maintain some semblance of posture, and the next thing you know, you're suffering from lower back, shoulder, & neck pain... and your butt now thinks it's your foot.

Wanna un-do this kinetic confusion? Get out there & do some Swings!!!

Wanna do even more? Check out my Kettlebell Warrior DVD series!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Doc Heads Down Under - Hard Style, High Density in Adelaide, Australia!

For those of you mates who are in the Southern Hemisphere or in Australasia, I'm heading your way VERY soon!

I'll be teaching a special TWO day workshop in Adelaide, Australia, going over the ins & outs of Pavel Tsatsouline's Russian Kettlebell Challenge (RKC) system of kettlebell training.

Pavel's RKC system hinges on a system of movement and a strength concept known as "Hardstyle", where the ability to maximize tension is a central focus. The "Level 1 RKC" kettlebell instructors' certification is known as the most demanding and thorough kettlebell instructor preparation and certification course in the world. It requires candidates to demonstrate proficiency in teaching and performing 6 main lifts:
- Deadlift & Swing
- Turkish Get-Up
- Clean
- Front Squat
- Military Press
- Snatch (including the RKC snatch test)

For those of you interested in providing BEGINNER level kettlebell instruction, Pavel Tsatsouline has also come up with an entry level certification called the Hardstyle Kettlebell Certification (HKC). The curriculum for this level of certification revolves around the Deadlift, Swing, Goblet Squat, & Turkish Get-Up. Two dates have already been confirmed for the HKC certifications in Melbourne. These techniques will be the focus of Day 1 of our workshop.

On Day 2, we'll be conducting a quick review of Day 1 and covering the advanced ballistics (Clean & Snatch) and the King of the Grinds... The Military Press. The RKC Snatch Test is perhaps the most intimidating part of the RKC certification weekend, but only because instructor candidates failed to learn the lift in proper detail, foolishly choosing instead to gamble on their abilities to either rely on pure athleticism or muscle through it.

We'll be covering these exercises in consummate detail, along with introducing concepts from Gray Cook's Functional Movement Systems (FMS). The FMS technologies have allowed some of the world's most elite professional sports teams & military units to dramatically decrease their incidence of injury while also accelerating their return to functional movement and high performance.

For those of you who are fitness professionals, personal trainers, strength coaches, physiotherapists, martial arts instructors, or other movement professionals, the information you're going to get will make you more competent in your field and quickly improve the results you're getting from your clientele.

For those of you who are trying to get back in shape or lose weight, for those of you who are recovering from injury, for those of you who seek to prevent injury, for those of you whose earning potential is based on your optimum physical performance, the information presented in this workshop is PRICELESS.

On January 23rd & 24th, I'll be teaching all of this and more in Adelaide. We're running an EARLY registration special and we're SEVERELY limiting the number of registrants for this workshop. We're going from 9am - 5pm on Saturday and roughly the same time for Sunday.

Expect about 14 hours of some of the most high quality and high density information that you've heard to date! Just ask anyone who's been to one of my workshops or come to LA to take my tutorial and they'll tell you that you'll leave with enough material to make your head spin and jumpstart your career!

I want to make sure that each and every participant comes in and gets to work DIRECTLY with me, feels the tactile cueing that I've become known for, and improves their ability to move powerfully and reflexively. So I'm making sure this workshop stays small and the quality stays HIGH.

If you want to make sure that we've got a place reserved for you, I strongly suggest that you pre-reg now while there are spaces available and the price is AUS$100 lower than what it'll be after 9 January 2010!

The Paypal registration links are below, and the address is:
(rear of) 54 Sir Donald Bradman Drive
Mile End, South Australia
(entrance from the corner of South Road and Daringa Street)

Contact Nino Pilla (08) 8212-5606 for more information!

Register NOW & see you Down Under!

Select Days

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What's a Pattern?

Functional movement patterning is something I'm fascinated immensely by. And that fascination boils down to a two part question:
1. Etiology: How does dysfunction develop?
2. Treatment: How do we take dysfunctional patterns and re-educate them for optimal function again?

With screening & assessment tools such as the Functional Movement Screen & the Selective Functional Movement Assessment, we are able to identify dysfunctional movement that lies at the root of problematic movement or pain. With any variety of corrections that are available - ranging from manipulation/mobilization, to corrective exercise, to Z-Health, to yoga/martial arts - we can directly affect how the body's neuromuscular system deals with a particular motion.

Wait a minute!!!

What about joint problems?

What about muscle cramps?

What about tendinitis?

What about bone spurs?

What about compressed discs?

Yep... I hear you... and I want you to think slightly outside the box for a moment. Follow me through this line of thought, please.

All of the situations you've described above can be seen as mere symptoms. Not the true root of an underlying problem.

One of the mantras I've heard Z-Health practitioners use is "The nervous system is plastic."

No, that doesn't mean that your brachial plexus is 99% nylon. That means that you are capable of change.

Your body's muscular movement patterns, which are controlled by your nervous system, can be RE-PATTERNED by re-training your nervous system. And retraining the nervous system is often done by imposing a different level of awareness on an action.

My mentor, Gray Cook, calls that "proprioceptive awareness" when spoken about in the context of movement. But there are a growing number of studies where researchers are showing that movement training can directly impact individuals with cognitive disorders.

No $h!#... The Chinese have been saying for millenia that "The inside manifests on the outside, but the outside can change the inside."

Fortune-cookie-speak translation: If you recognize someone (or self) with psycho-social issues, no matter how minor or how major, you can positively affect that person if you can get him/her/yourself to modify your movement patterns.

NOW... back to the title of this post... What's a pattern?

A pattern is an established way of doing things that has become ingrained through practice. What oftentimes is dismissed as genetic or "inherited" is more likely a learned behavior.

Whether the pattern in question is valgus collapse under load, poor spinal posture when typing on your laptop, inappropriate scratching in public, binge eating, saying "uhhh" every few words, or being pathologically late, the reality is that all of these patterns are manifestations of a LACK OF CONTROL.

And that lack of control comes from two things: a lack of SELF-AWARENESS and a lack of understanding of CONSEQUENCES.

Let's take posture for example...

Someone may not be aware of their posture being kyphotic (slouched forward), and as a result, when they think they're standing straight, a 3rd person observer can see clearly that they're not. The nervous system, in this case, has calibrated itself to read the flexed T-spine as "neutral".

For that pattern to be broken, an intervention of sorts has to occur. Whether the person in question decides on his/her own to QUESTION and EXAMINE his/her own posture, OR a therapist intervenes to re-train the posture, the pattern needs inspection, analysis, and active modification to be re-learned. Ask anyone who's successfully changed their posture how difficult it was, and they'll almost all tell you that it took a lot of mindfulness - constantly reminding themselves to sit up straight, walk tall, etc., etc.

The same is true for speech, for movement, for any moment of any action that we are involved in. Mindfulness is the key to recalibration, the key to growth, the key to change.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

KBLA's Sunday Group Training Classes - Special Missive for the remainder of 2009


My "little brother", George Samuelson RKC II/CK-FMS, gave me a great example of generosity of spirit and greatness in times of scarcity.

We live in a world where the have-nots have even less these days. And I'd like to ask your help in changing that.

For the next 4 Sunday classes at KBLA, I ask that instead of your usual $20, you bring a new, unwrapped toy worth at least $20 or $20 worth of canned groceries.

This is not the time to be "looking out for #1", but rather the perfect time to look out for those who are way down the totem pole.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Joint Function - Where's the problem?

"My neck hurts."

"My elbow hurts."

"My back hurts."

"My knee hurts."

"My head hurts."

How often have you heard or made these complaints? And how often have you thought that there was something wrong with the joint(s) in question?

Anna Shum, RKC, posted on her Facebook page "what does a stuck door and your [insert ailing body part] have in common?" with a link to Coach Mike Boyle's very insightful video that accurately explains the nebulous approach towards human aches & pains.

So much of what's put out there in terms of healthcare these days is myopic. And when the younger hotshot surgeons who get paid megabucks to do the total knee or hip replacements or other snip-shave-bolt-sew procedures for others make sure to exhaust every "alternative" option before they themselves go under the knife, that SCREAMS something loud & clear.

Let's face it.

A joint, by definition, is the meeting point of two or more bones. Bones are held together on the deepest level by ligaments, and they're buffered by things like bursa, cartilage, and synovial fluid in the joints that do the most movement.

Muscles span joints. They're the reason that bones move or don't move, depending on the neurological command executed in any given situation.

So when there's pain that seems centered on a joint, wouldn't it also be logical to do a thorough examination of the muscles & tendons that span the joint? OF COURSE!

But how often do physicians look past the X-rays & MRIs and take the time to appropriately evaluate muscle function and movement patterns with the appropriate tests & palpation? RARELY.

The most common knee-jerk replies to a patient's joint pain that I've heard far-too-often are "It's arthritis" and "Stop doing that movement and take these pills."

If arthritis is defined as an inflammatory condition in the joint, then what's the underlying cause of that inflammation? MOVEMENT! And if there's a defect in the movement, don't we need to address that?

One of the best lines I ever heard from an ortho specialist that I admire is...

"MRIs are snapshots of the body. Just as a photo can make things look disproportionate in size depending on perspective and angle, so too can an MRI or X-ray."

So unless the radiologist sees something incontrovertable, like a fracture or bony growth, how dependable is the medical imaging at portraying the situation with absolute accuracy and relevance?

That depends on the skill of the "photographer", or the imaging technician in this case.

If you're experiencing aches and pains that seem to be joint related and you're not suffering from acute trauma, deformity, or similarly serious condition, please look past the joints and pull the focus back a little. When your doctor says, "Let's schedule a surgery to have a look around in there" and the doctor's talking about your joints, that generally means that he or she isn't certain enough to bet money on. But they'll certainly bet with your money and your wellbeing.

The neuromuscular movement pattern and how it affects the skeletal system may be to blame for your discomfort!!

Look outside the box and see what the underlying cause of things might REALLY be, folks...

- The neck pain you feel may be because of T-spine strength/weakness & immobility issues.

- The knee pain may be because of weak intrinsics in your foot and poor recruitment in your hip.

- The headache may be stemming from you gritting your teeth and ducking your head every time you hear your neighbor's kids.

And once you take the time to LEARN HOW TO IDENTIFY and then RESET the movement patterns, you may find that your aches and pains are a thing of the past.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Doc's Travel Calendar - Kettlebell Workshops around the world

There's been a lot going on lately, folks. I won't deny that that's been why it's been a month since the last major blog update.

Rest assured that there's been some major stuff afoot on this end, and the new blog updates will have all of the CONFIRMED upcoming travel dates posted on the sidebar.

I'm essentially maxed out for travel in the first half of 2010. So please drop me a line at with the subject line reading "Workshop request" if you'd like to have a workshop for the second half of 2010 on of any of the following topics:

1. "Hard Style, High Density": RKC & FMS fundamentals, geared towards the fitness or medical professional & covering the 6 basic lifts required for RKC level 1 instructor certification as well as the rehabilitative and prehabilitative applications of these exercises with Functional Movement patterning.

2. "Hard Style, High Impact": RKC fundamentals as geared towards both traditional & mixed martial artists and combat personnel. Tactical applications will be shown and drilled. Usually taught with SrRKC & World Taekwondo Federation 7th degree black belt, Jon Engum.

3. "Yin & Yang of Kettlebells: Kettlebell Yoga & Viking Warrior Conditioning" with Danish Olympic strength & conditioning coach and Master RKC Kenneth Jay

All of the Hardstyle Kettlebell Certification appearances will also appear in the sidebar updates, so if you're reading this post in Facebook, please visit

Looking forward to seeing YOU in a city near you soon! In the meantime, for those of you in LA, I look forward to seeing you training out with me on Sunday mornings when I'm in town and when I'm not, you'll STILL get top-notch instruction from the KBLA-RKC crew.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Kettlebell Form Clinic: Squatting Swings

One of the most common errors that appears with kettlebellers of ALL levels is the squatting Swing. Instead of the kneecaps staying relatively fixed in space and the shins exhibiting minimal motion, some folks perform Swings with their shins swaying back & forth and their knees jutting forward over their toes. This happens when people "squat" into their Swings.

The Swing operates essentially on the same biomechanical platform as the Deadlift from the armpits down to the soles of your feet. That said, we need to revisit the 3 Prys and the Hard Style Lock again.

There are 2 main problems that need to be addressed with squatting Swings: lumbar strength & pelvic rhythm.

Lumbar strength
The lumbar spine needs the strength to maintain extension (a slight arch). Under load, the joints of the lumbar spine are in a biomechanically advantageous position if you keep them in extension. As soon as you fall into flexion, a couple of things happen.
1. The lower back is more vulnerable to injury because of the lesser degree of protection from the lumbar extensors.
2. The kettlebell drops out of the "upper triangle"* (formed by the knees and the groin), which tends to cause the lumbar spine to flex even further, the shoulders to elevate & protract, and the neck to "shorten". The arc/trajectory of the kettlebell becomes less of a Swing and more of a "scoop". If it sounds ugly or dangerous to you, that's because it is.

Pelvic Rhythm
How your pelvis rocks back & forth is absolutely crucial when it comes to the ballistic lifts - Swing, Clean, & Snatch. The apex of each of those lifts should result in a solid Hard Style Lock. At the apex of the Hard Style Lock, the pelvis is posteriorly rotated slightly, thanks to the maximal contraction of the glutes.
--- BUT, the bottom of those lifts should look identical to the bottom of a good Deadlift, a la the 3 Prys. Thus, relative to the femurs, the pelvis is anteriorly rotated at the bottom. So the pelvis has to be MOBILE and COORDINATED enough to move with the direction of the load dependent on where it is.

The timing of the pelvic rhythm is actually pretty simple. If you maintain the Hard Style Lock as long as humanly possible while the bell is on the downswing such that the KB Swing trajectory stays well within the "upper triangle", you'll find that the hips "hinge" or "pry" backwards instead of squatting downwards.

Get back to your training, and train with intelligence and humility. The top dogs in the RKC organization aren't those who are clamoring to show off, but rather those who are jockeying to receive corrections from those who have taken their lifts and their understanding of those lifts to new heights!

As an RKC who came through to the recent workshop Kenneth Jay & I taught at Kettlebells Orange County said to her colleagues, "Things you know the Swing?.... THINK AGAIN!"

*More on the "upper triangle" another time.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

This Sunday's events - KBLA morning class and the Doc & KJ workshop

Doc & KJ at the 2008 UCLA RKC

For those of you who were dying to come to the Yin & Yang of Kettlebells workshop that the Dane of Pain & the Doc are teaching at Kettlebells Orange County but slacked on registering and are now wishing that you'd registered sooner, fear not.

The Kettlebells Los Angeles (KBLA) Sunday morning Line-Up* will be in full effect tomorrow morning. What're we covering?

Well, since it's gonna be a warm one tomorrow, it'll certainly have to do with the TGU and the 4 Knots mobility stuff that I've been hammering home for a while now.

Bring your beach towels if you have them, and bring your friends. I keep hearing from folks how they think kettlebell training is potentially the most dangerous fad in fitness these days... and I HAVE TO AGREE.

If you look at half of the bovine feces that's on Youtube these days and how many people take that trash as credible reference material, you too will think that kettlebell training could seriously damage someone.

That's where WE fit in.

KBLA's on a mission to spread the most solidly taught movement science training around. So regardless of whether you're an athlete preparing in the off-season, a child learning the basics of fundamental movement & strength training, a mom who's getting back into exercising after your second kid, or an executive that wants to get back in shape after ACL surgery, we've got the method to help you meet your goals and do so SAFELY!

* moniker courtesy of Coach Ron Jones, RKC

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mobility FIRST - Strength training and optimal joint function

A question I often get asked is whether or not someone can exercise around a restriction or limitation in range of motion/movement. Clients/patients and their coaches/trainers often want to simply train around a restricted joint or pattern. Their rationale is that if there's enough muscle around a limited or painful joint, then the muscle will protect the joint from further injury and hopefully take away the pain altogether.

The problem with that logic is that strength training perpetuates and reinforces existing patterns. So if there's a problem with the way a joint moves, strengthening the muscles around the joint might often do more harm than good.

While there are certainly times when a limitation is unavoidable - due to serious musculo-skeletal irregularities like bony outgrowths, implanted hardware, or completely severed tendons - more often than not, such limitations CAN be dealt with successfully.


- When in doubt, refer back to one of the FMS system's mantras - MOBILITY FIRST!

What sort of mobility are we talking about improving here? Active or passive?

- YES. If there's at least passive mobility, then you know that a joint or a series of joints has the ability to move through a range of motion unimpeded. When a joint is restricted, the body tries to create movement somewhere else in the chain. And that's the essence of compensation. When you have neuro-muscular compensations that cause stabilizers to exert their force to create movement and prime movers that become hypertonic (tense or tight) to add stability, the body starts moving in a manner that it wasn't designed for. This, in turn, leads down the road of self-destruction. Exercise starts exerting greater-than-normal shear forces on joints, and that is NOT a good place to be.

What if stretching, foam roller work, and massage therapy don't work?

- Then maybe you need something a little more hands-on to regain range of motion in the locked-up joint spaces.

Sometimes, what a joint needs most, especially a joint with deep intrinsics that are guarding a pathological positioning or movement pattern, is a passive mobilization that a skilled chiropractor, PT, osteopath, or Tui-Na specialist can provide.

After the mobilization, re-check the movement patterns and see if they improve. If the movement patterns improve overall, you've got your answer as far as the efficacy of the approach!

More later... sprinting off to another hectic day!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Training this weekend

I'm praying for rain. In fact, I'm praying for it to rain like hell for a couple of days.

Now if you know me, you know how unusual that is since I grew up on the Eastern seaboard where there was rarely a paucity of rain.

However, with air quality so bad from the MASSIVE wildfires that even the spiderwebs in parts of West LA & seaside Santa Monica look like they've been spraypainted white & sprinkled with ash, there's no way that I could teach outside in good conscience.

To that end, I'm cancelling my Saturday morning Tai-Chi class, as well as the Sunday morning KBLA Line-Up, in the interest of keeping your lungs just that much healthier.

Later this weekend, I'll be posting a special workout for you guys, assuming the Flip camera I just got works properly. :)

But in the meantime..... PRAY FOR RAIN!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Training, Health, Performance, and Body Image: Look the Part

OK... I live on the Westside of Los Angeles. We're known for good looking people, many of whom are... "enhanced", "sculpted", "augmented", or whatever else you care to call it.

Now while the only blades that have so far made contact with my skin are those that have malicious or combative intent behind them, cosmetic surgery is not a big deal to me. I can understand that sometimes our bodies need a little jump start to get to where we'd like them to be.

However, that's a totally different issue than
a) a lack of discipline or unwillingness to consistently modify one's lifestyle & behaviors to achieve fitness and overcome weakness, obesity, etc., and/or
b) a surgically sculpted physique that has only cosmetic appeal yet no functionality of athletic movement behind it.

Following the 2009 Camp Pendleton RKC, Team Leader Mark Toomey & I had a discussion that centered around one of the comments received from the Marines who took the course. The Marine commented something to the effect that it was somewhat surprising to have a couple of PT instructors on the field who looked like they'd be totally useless after trying to jog a mile, do a snatch test, or bang out a few pullups.

The comment was not without merit.

The RKC is not only a school of strength, but also a lifestyle of true physical fitness. Now that the RKC is essentially married to Gray Cook's FMS system, there's even less excuse for anything less than optimal human performance and health. Plenty of people use all sorts of excuses to weasel their way around getting in shape. They argue for everything from injuries, to strong vs. skinny, to metabolic disorders, to all kinds of $h!#.

It's rubbish. It's cowardly. It's over.

As adherents of the Hard Style RKC School of Strength and students of Functional Movement Systems, the KBLA-RKC crew has a missive. We, as RKCs, represent the elite among the elite within the fitness and human performance world. If all we have are unique looking training tools and 3 extra letters behind our names, but still look and move like sauntering livestock, that's wholly unacceptable. We have to LOOK THE PART! Our bodies not only have to perform like athletes, but also look like athletes as well.

Our job is to INSPIRE others with every facet of our being - from how we act, to how we perform, to how we look. We CANNOT be part of the institutionalized hypocracy that plagues the fitness world and allow ourselves to be just another fat trainer with an embroidered polo shirt, telling others to do what we don't or can't.

Some folks are reading this and thinking, "Oh, my God... I've gotta get to the gym and hop on the treadmill and do a hundred crunches a day."

More rubbish.

Just stop shovelling the ice cream into your mouth and bang out a couple of 2-3 minute swing sessions, do some pull-ups, and start your day off with some Janda situps!

Yes... it IS that simple.

The people who clamor up & down that it's not that simple to get in shape are the ones who usually lie to themselves (and thus to others) about what they eat, what they drink, and how little they train. While there are certainly those RARE few who have endocrine disorders and the like, more often than not, there are those who use such labels as excuses to let themselves look like Jack Black.

If you think injuries are an excuse, then you obviously haven't seen Master RKC Mark Reifkind. The man is no spring chicken, has sustained more serious orthopedic injuries than many professional athletes, and still looks good with his shirt off.

Tyson Penrod, a newly minted RKC from the San Diego certification weekend, completed not only his snatch test, but the entire weekend of training with a fractured wrist.. discovered after he returned to Reno & had an X-ray.

Excuses are endless for poor performance or failures. However, successes, especially multi-faceted successes, are the result of sacrifice, of diligence, of focus, of integrity of purpose, and of inspiration.

Choose your side, choose your weapon, and jump in the fray!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Training on Sunday 8/30/09

Kettlebellers ---

Due to the unhealthy air quality from the fires, I am cancelling KBLA's Sunday 7am class tomorrow.

Stay indoors during the fires and stay safe.

Looking forward to seeing each & every one of you when I get back from RKC San Diego!


Dr. Mark Cheng, L.Ac., Ph.D., FMS, RKC Team Leader

Sent via mobile phone

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Yin & Yang of Kettlebells - What is real Power?

Russian Kettlebell training has always been seen as hardcore, as strong, as aggressive (or yang) in its movement. But there's a balance. There's a yin side to the training as well.

For those of you who follow the RKC's principles, tension = strength. If you can't generate tension, you can't demonstrate strength.

However, the equation is a little more complicated than it first appears. Power is evidenced by the change in tension per unit of time. So the greater the change in tension through the smaller the amount of time, the greater the power output.

THUS... if you're fairly stiff to begin with, and then you generate an MVC (Maximum Volitional Contraction) in say 0.5 seconds, the change in tension levels isn't going to be that impressive.

However, if you're able to relax your muscles to the point of almost total flaccidity and then generate the same MVC in the same 0.5 seconds, your power output is phenomenally better than if you were stiff.

This is where the concept of "intelligent mobility" comes in to play.

If you spend all day stretching and kneading your body until you're as pliable as Gumby, that's great as far as being able to tie yourself into postures that'll be the envy of everyone at yoga class. But it doesn't necessarily mean jack when it comes to having the power to punch through a car window or an attacker's larynx to save a life.

I first heard this principle from my Combat Shuai-Chiao master's elder son, Sifu James Lin, before I started training with kettlebells under Pavel Tsatsouline. The late Grandmaster Chang Tung-sheng believed that stretching too much can actually inhibit your strength and power. Thus, Master Lin said that it's not good for a fighter to be too flexible.

This is where the Turkish Get-Up & Viking Warrior Conditioning methods come in. The Turkish Get-Up, taught in the FMS-influenced manner, is one of the premier movement patterning exercises in the US today. Its slow, precise movement trains the body to use its musculoskeletal system in the most linked fashion possible, giving you strength and control while developing grace and coordination.

The RKC Hard Style snatch with the VO2 protocols developed by Kenneth Jay train the body like no other to load & explode like a cross between a cheetah and Michael Jordan. When combined with the Turkish Get-Up, these two exercises will help you maximize your human movement potential like few others can!

Who in their right mind wouldn't want to have a physical training regimen that gave them strength through a maximal range of motion?

Who doesn't like the idea of having both the POWER and COORDINATED CONTROL to both pull a child to safety in a crisis situation OR to comfortably handle an unruly person in a non-life-threatening situation?

Who doesn't have a few pounds that they'd like to shave off in the right places?

When Master RKC Kenneth Jay & I hit Irvine, CA to teach our Yin & Yang of Kettlebells workshop at Kettlebells Orange County, be ready for some of the most detail oriented training of your life.

The 4+ hours you spend training with us will leave your brain (and probably a few muscles) aching for more... more insights... more training... more fun... more mobility... and more POWER without bulk.

The available slots may already be sold out. But drop Kingston Heng, RKC, a line at and see if he'll squeeze you in.

The Viking & I are looking forward to seeing you!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

How to make your wishes come true

I'll do a blogpost on something more corrective & kettlebell related soon, but I just had a Facebook conversation with a friend that brought to mind a lot of conversations that I've had over the past year(s).

As I look at today's date (18 August 2009), I realized that I've yet to complete my SCHEDULED travel for this year. I still have San Diego, St. Paul, New York, New Jersey, Korea, and perhaps 1 more destination on tap before the holiday season.

And the roster for the first HALF of next year (2010) is looking pretty hectic already. Australia & New Zealand in late January & early February, probably a couple of domestic trips in late Feb - April (including Gray Cook's CK-FMS workshop in St. Paul in May), Scotland in May (or June), followed by Denmark in late May, and Japan sometime in June or July.

One of the comments I keep hearing is "You're so lucky to get to travel like that". And the other is "You're so lucky that you get to meet & train with the people you do."


Not a day goes by that I don't count my blessings. From the people I get to meet, to the people I get to teach, to the people I get to study and train with, it's frickin' amazing being me.

But for every sunrise, there's a sunset. Don't get me wrong. I'm not boohooing my life, but there'll come a time when the piper needs to get paid, and I keep thinking back to that line in Spiderman where "With great power comes great responsibility."

And that just reminds me how much work I have yet to do to make the most of what I've been taught, what I've had the chance to learn, what resources I've been given, and what people I've had the blessings to have in my life. And that keeps the fire lit under my backside at all hours, every day, in every season, year after year.

If you want to live your dreams, be ready to suffer. If you can work hard enough to suffer, you'll get to have glimpses of the best parts of your dreams in the moments of your waking hours.

To all of you who've come into my life, thank you for all the richness you've brought to it. Whether from meeting me at the Inosanto Academy and telling me that you learned English from my articles & columns in Black Belt Magazine, from talking to me at an RKC instructor workshop and telling me that a blogpost made the difference for you in your rehab, from an e-mail of thanks from a clinic patient who can finally breathe deeply without pain, to the sweet hugs & kisses I get from my beloved wife & son at the end of a day, YOU ALL ARE PART OF MY DREAMS COME TRUE.

Thank you.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Training with Legends

I'm sorry it's been a bit longer than usual since my last blogpost. Right now, I don't think I could possibly be busier unless I changed my name to John Du Cane. Normally, I like to share some insights with my blog readers, but this post is going to be a glimpse into one of the most hectic, yet rewarding, days I've had in ages.

This week, I've had the pleasure and honor of having Dr. Vadim Kolganov visiting me here in Los Angeles. As we both share three common loves (Hard Style kettlebell training, manual medicine, and martial arts), there never seems to be enough hours in the day.

We both couldn't help but realize that +2 hour training sessions felt like barely 30 minutes, even when wearing a thick Judo gi top in the Los Angeles summer heat. Whether reviewing Sambo fundamental mobility drills, throw set-ups & entries, pins, submissions, or Kali blade work with Guro John Spezzano, the training sessions were always over far too soon.

Yesterday was an action packed day. Starting with a morning get-together with Dr. Kolganov & RKC Chief Instructor Pavel Tsatsouline for a brief workout, we continued on with a private training session for Raleigh Enterprises President, Mark Rosenthal, who is graciously hosting Dr. Kolganov at the Sunset Marquis Hotel & Villas, and after a couple of errands, returned back to the Rosenthal house for a powwow with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu/JKD/Kali expert, Prof. Roy Harris.

To watch two brilliant minds and two high level experts like Harris & Kolganov exchange technique and talk about their favorite techniques in their respective fields of experience and preference was about as cool an experience as someone could hope for in martial arts. Dr. Kolganov gifted a kurtka (Sambo jacket) to Prof. Harris and shared techniques from both Sambo wrestling & Retuinskih's ROSS system, and Prof. Harris shared his insights into Kalis Ilustrissimo weaponry, the JKD mindset of streetfighting, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Later in the evening, Dr. Kolganov & I drove down to the Perform Better Summit in Long Beach and met up with Functional Movement System masterminds Gray Cook & Brett Jones. Every time I meet up with Gray, no matter how short the interaction, I always leave with some clinical pearl (or 10) that leaves me both dumbfounded and inspired at the same time. By the time we made it down to Long Beach last night, I was dead tired. On the drive back, I was re-energized from Gray's insights, keenly aware of how much and how urgently I have to grow and improve as a clinician.

Today.... R&R.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Kettlebell & FMS Workshop and Seminar Scheduling Changes

In keeping with my promise to spend more time with my family and devoted to my OWN training, I've decided to postpone the Australia and New Zealand Hard Style kettlebell training & FMS certification workshops until early 2010.

Right now, we're looking at late January for Australia (Sydney & Adelaide), and early February for New Zealand (Auckland). I'm working with my local coordinators in Australia & New Zealand to set dates & venues. So if you'd like to help out, please drop them a line.

The extra time will allow us to arrange for bigger, better, international-level learning experiences for you Down Under & in Kiwi-land. Rest assured that if you're anywhere near Oz or New Zealand, the workshops you come to of mine will be worth every penny, Yen, Won, Dollar, or RMB you spend to get there. I guarantee it!

I know this is a bit of a schedule change from my previous post, but it's all for the good.

Why? For a few reasons...

1. First & foremost, I'll get to spend more quality time with my family. I can pretty honestly say that my family life's never been better... and I'm LOVING it that way.

2. My physical training is slowly coming back to what it should be. I'm getting some good hours in on the mats, practicing throws, doing a little rolling, training with some of the best & brightest in their chosen styles, schools, and systems.

If it's a choice between some money & notoriety or having a first rate, once-in-a-lifetime learning experience with Southern California-based legends like the peerless Dan Inosanto, Combat Shuai-Chiao champion James Lin, Tsutomu Ohshima disciple Tom Muzila, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu genius Roy Harris, or Hwa Rang Do grandmaster Taejoon Lee, the choice is obvious.

Even visiting masters like my Krabi Krabong teacher Col. Nattapong Buayam and Sambo master Dr. Vadim Kolganov make it REALLY hard to want to leave right now.

The same can be said for my own kettlebell training with RKC Chief Instructor Pavel Tsatsouline. The chance to train with my mentor at the October Hard Style Ventura workshop is a large reason as to why I decided to reschedule.

Why am I prioritizing this so highly right now?
Teaching around the world has taught me one very clear lesson. There are plenty of people who'd gladly cut off a finger (theirs or mine) to be in my shoes, to have access to training with the people I have on speed dial, and to enjoy the kind of relationships that I've worked to cultivate and enjoy with these very special individuals.

I've seen that kind of jealousy manifest in many varied ways, and the only thing that I can do to properly and professionally address that sort of sentiment is simply to work HARDER to be deserving of the relationships, rights, and privileges I enjoy now. The skill sets that I'm learning and researching are not for me to hoard jealously. Rather, the workshops that I'm teaching are for the express purpose of improving the quality of life for each and every participant who comes to learn THROUGH the optimum application of those skill sets.

Remember... it's all about social synergy for me. If your agenda's different, that's on you, not me.

3. I WILL be heading back to the US East Coast sooner than expected. I'll be making a stop at City Wing Tsun to meet Grandmaster Leung Ting in late September, and then teaching an in-depth RKC prep course in Hamilton, New Jersey with George Samuelson, RKC II, CK-FMS during the October 3rd weekend.

We've JUST finalized the details on this workshop in the past 24 hours. From what I gather, however, spots are ALREADY selling briskly..... AND WE HAVEN'T EVEN FORMALLY ANNOUNCED THIS YET!

So please visit and register ASAP before the pre-reg spots all sell out.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Summer '09 KBLA update & Fall '09 Workshop Updates much has happened in the past few months. Where do I begin???

Better go with a list format to make sure I hit the points I need to:

1. East Coast Debrief: The East Coast Workshop Tour was AWESOME. Starting with Chris Wright-Martell's Modern Self-Defense Center in Middletown, CT, followed the next day by the inaugural Delaware Kettlebell Workshop in Middletown, DE's St. Andrew's School, and finishing with a special workshop in Hamilton, NJ's Israeli Krav Maga Center, and with a few private consults along the way, the tour was a whirlwind of maximum energy and minimal rest.

Sandy Sommer, RKC of Charm City Kettlebells did a great job organizing the Delaware Kettlebell Workshop, and George Samuelson, CK-FMS followed suit in NJ. Rest well assured that I'll be back to both of those places. In fact, we've already got the dates locked down for next year's Delaware Kettlebell Workshop, so get ready for more of the best comin' your way!

What did we cover? Some of the points we touched on are here in this blog: 3 Prys, Hard Style Lock, Swing Cues, Naked Get-Up, combat applications, etc., etc., as well as a plethora of cues & teaching tools that gave even the most experienced of lifters, athletes, & tactical personnel benefits that they weren't expecting. ;-)

I got to see colleagues I hadn't seen in a while (such as RKC II Rolando Garcia, Sr RKC Will Williams, CK-FMS & RKC II Phil Scarito, RKC Jen Morey, RKC Dr. Don Berry, RKC AJ Oliva, RKC Steph Myers, & RKC II Prof. Steve Freides), while meeting other RKCs I'd never met before, like Anton Iskersky, Deb Vollers, & a bunch of kettlebell instructors from other associations & federations. To say it was a blast is understatement at its most blatant. The hospitality, the respect, the warmth (both socially and climatewise), and the

At every stop along the Tour, I had the opportunity to work with people who are some of my favorite folks to interact with - martial artists & tactical personnel. It warmed my heart to see operators from the NJ State Police & PA State Police, as well as other departments make it out to the Tour stops. Their feedback on how these teaching & training methods directly affect and improve their on-the-job performance means perhaps more to me than anything else, as these are the men & women whose lives are on the line constantly for our safety.

I got to log in several hours teaching Sifu Alex Richter at City Wing Tsun in Midtown Manhattan. Sifu Richter is the USA's representative for Grandmaster Leung Ting's Wing Tsun organization, and he's a perfect example of the "yi wu hui you" (Mandarin - "making friends through martial arts") ideal. He's been working with Rolando Garcia and is going to make an AWESOME RKC someday soon.

David Kahn is another such instructor who's a class act all the way. As Chief Instructor of the US branch of the Israeli Krav Maga Association and with a list of high-profile clientele longer than an Oly bar, he made me feel completely at home while teaching at his facility. I'm pleased to call him a friend, honored to have worked with him, and look forward to seeing him again.

My NJ Workshop Participants - For some reason, the pic's getting truncated. Click on the image to see the full pic and all the participants!

To everyone who participated in the East Coast Tour, I'm deeply grateful for all your feedback, I've noted your requests for future workshops, and I'm hard at work RIGHT NOW on putting together more dates and stops.

I may have to sneak back east for Philadelphia's first ever East Coast RKC certification workshop in early October!

2. Going Down..... Under - Yes, the rumors are true. I'm heading to Australia & New Zealand in October. The dates & city stops are almost finalized, but I need to tie up all the loose ends with the organizers. Rest assured that once things are nailed down, the first place you'll get registration info is RIGHT HERE!

3. Apologies: I need to take a moment to apologize to the folks who were looking forward to the Irvine & Riverside, California workshops that I'd originally scheduled for June & July. After coming back from the East Coast, I did a bit of soul searching and realized that the one person who depends on me most was perhaps seeing me the least.

If you're not sure who that is, look up at the top of the page and watch the slideshow. Most of the pics are of him in some way, shape, or form. So in the interests of being a better Dad and spending time with my beloved son, I asked the organizers to work with me to reschedule those workshops, which we will do at some point in the future. I apologize again for disappointing you & promise that these workshops will be held at a future date.

As Sean Schneiderjean, RKC told me on Facebook, Zig Ziegler is quoted as saying, "Love is spelled T-I-M-E." And that precious lesson is one that I'm going to keep in the forefront of my head & my heart.

4. Hit the Beach with Pavel Tsatsouline! - Speaking of Sean, he's set up a very special workshop with RKC Chief Instructor Pavel Tsastouline in Ventura, CA on the beach! If you've ever wanted to learn directly from Pavel without the pressure of a certification or having to spend multiple days at an event, this one-day event in October is your hot ticket. Sean's even set up a special discount code for those of you who are coming as referrals from KBLA, but it's ending at the end of this month! The official deadline is August 7th, but I wouldn't drag my arse on registering. Even some Sr RKCs (Will Williams & David Whitley) are coming in from the East Coast just to have the chance to work more directly with Pavel himself, so please don't sleep on that. REGISTER NOW before the discount ends and the spots are gone!

5. USMC - 1st ANGLICO: I had the honor of attending the Change of Command Ceremony at the invitation of Lt. Col. Michael Gann, RKC. Heading back to Pendleton brought back memories of a great RKC weekend there, and it was a pleasure to see the Devil Dogs again. Please join me in wishing Lt. Col. Gann and his family nothing but Godspeed as they relocate to the Army War College in PA. The Marines of 1st ANGLICO were damn lucky to have a leader like him. And I've NO doubt that his successor will be Hard Styled soon! We salute you, Sir. OOOOO-RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

6. Foot Fundamentals: Instead of a monthly workout, I challenge you to do this...
Set your feet about shoulder width apart at a STRICT parallel along the centerline of the foot. Without allowing the balls of your feet to lose contact with the floor or pivot/slide in any way, bend your knees and pry them out until the center of your kneecap is moving in the same vertical plane as your foot. Get 5 reps of that perfectly throughout the day, and use that as your summertime repatterning drill. You may be amazed at how much your feet feel like they're working overtime, but the rest of your lower body will thank you for it. Wanna know more about the science behind that exercise? Get to one of my workshops or classes & find out!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Self-Limiting Exercise: Are you ready, willing, and enabled?

Ever since the CK-FMS workshop of May 09 and hearing the strong endorsement of my mentor, Gray Cook, I've changed my opinion of the Vibram Five Fingers from "interesting" to "must have". How did this come about? Well, let me backtrack a little bit.

Cook's explanations years earlier about how core development patterns can often be thrown off in childhood really struck a chord for me as a new Dad. Newborns evolve through a progression when it comes to developing movement patterns - rolling, sitting, kneeling, crawling, and standing, with reaching included at every step along the way. Those are the same movements we develop in the Turkish Get-Up sequence, and that's something Gray, Master RKC Brett Jones, and I discuss & break down in depth with the Kettlebells from the Ground Up manual & DVD.

However, we as a society have learned to circumvent the natural processes of evolution with technology... and it's not exactly in our best interests!

Case in point
- The baby walkers that are so popular right now are actually robbing our babies of crucial core development. A quick search on Target's website just yielded 11 items in the "baby walker" category. It's not like these things aren't selling, and I've seen them in homes of every socioeconomic strata. As Gray has said many times, core development is at its best in the infant & toddler stages.

One of Cook's more humorous quotes is "Want a great core workout? Try moving around with a head to body size ratio like a toddler's. Go strap on a 40 lb motorcycle helmet, crawl around a little, lie down, get up, and walk around. Then tell me how your body feels."

But technology has allowed us to shortcut development, allowing us to develop strength where we may not have an adequate based of functional or fundamental movement. Most children, as they develop, build the strength to stabilize their bodies in the sitting, kneeling, crawling, and then standing positions before they ever go for a walk. The baby walkers artificially suspend children in an upright position, giving them external stability and robbing those core stabilizing muscles of training that these youngsters will need later on in athletics and movement.

We are artificially ENABLING each generation to do movements they are not ready for, and their bodies are paying the price. Want proof? Look at the data as far as what's become acceptable as far as childhood fitness and adult ranges of motion.

Per Gray Cook, authentic movement systems are SELF-LIMITING. In other words, if your baby's not strong enough to walk and stand unassisted, then the lack of strength and coordination are limiting factors. Allowing the child to struggle on their own and develop those attributes gives him/her a chance to bump up against their limits, acknowledge them, and then overcome them. Believe it or not, a growing baby knows what he/she can or can't do, but that doesn't stop them from trying... or trying your patience. ;-)

The same can be said for the equipment we use on our feet.

The multimillion dollar athletic shoe business has evolved by making what should be a self-limiting exercise (e.g., running) and facilitate it past the point where many peoples' intrinsic foot, leg, and hip muscles are ready to maintain solid movement patterns. Over time, we get used to training longer and harder than those muscles are ready for because of the equipment (i.e., shoes) that we consider de rigueur.

So what happens when we switch back to a more "natural" system, such as created when running with the Vibram Five Fingers? We bump up against our limits.

If you're used to running 2 miles a day, the first time you go for a run in your Five Fingers, you might have to drop back to 3/4 of a mile. While I'm not an avid runner by any stretch of the imagination, my first run in the Five Fingers forced me to realize some movement patterns that were grossly amiss with that particular exercise. A 2 mile run, which is not terribly unusual for me, became wickedly uncomfortable shortly after 1/2 mile. My right calf was starting to scream at me, and I realized that I'd been able to run for longer periods because the running shoes I'd worn heretofore had essentially trampolined my every step, catapulting my body forward off the cushiony midsoles.

Instead of training my body for optimum performance, I'd been enabling dysfunctional or weak movement patterns in the guise of exercise. Going back to what is essentially barefoot running has been quite an eye opener as far as posture, body mechanics, and humility.

Instead of muscling through the 2 miler I'd set out for, I walked for the remainder of the mile with very tall posture, paying attention to how my feet were relating to the ground. I'd come up against my limit, I recognized a weakness, and I'm going to take my time pushing the envelope as my body develops the mobility, stability, strength, and coordination to be able to get back to 2 miles in the VFF shoes.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Balancing Instruction with Pushing the Envelope

For the past few months, I've been focusing the Sunday morning KBLA training sessions intensely on form, technique, corrective exercise, mobility, and the soul of the RKC system - the Swing.

Now it's time to continue the circle, back to the format of the original KBLA beach training sessions. Those who are intermediate/advanced will be assisting with teaching in order to prepare you for RKC certification or re-certification, and those who are beginners will be benefitting from your guidance.

The pace of the class will be faster, more intense, and will go back to finishing with a circuit, so make sure you communicate with your partner of choice! I'm going to be joining in with the circuit. Bring beach towels or be ready to get dirty for anything from Brettzels, Armbars, Turkish Get-Ups, or Deck Squats (aka Rear Breakfall to Squat/Stand).

We're gonna DO WORK! Don't think for one second that we're going to sacrifice the quality of instruction that's made KBLA a magnet for people from as far away as Phoenix, Bakersfield, and San Diego. Instead, we're just going to set the standard as far as how we demonstrate having it all by working it all.

For people complaining about not having the body they desire, we're going to set the standard of training. All you have to do is repeat it at least twice more during the week, eat along the lines of either the Warrior Diet or a similar format, and enjoy the results!

KBLA is going to always strive to set the standard in the RKC community. Whether from our strict KBLA-RKC quality control standards, or our "look the part" missive, we're not going to sit back and be content to rest on laurels, ranks, or accolades. Real achievement is constant, not sporadic.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Amnesia of the Gastrocnemius?

The first time I heard Gray Cook talk about a "sleepy calf" muscle, I was intrigued. But as always happens with Gray's presentations, there are a thousand and one things that I go back to study & review. So inevitably, something slips through the cracks.

The sleepy calf comment had to do with a tight hip, something with which I've recently been stuggling with. In spite of being able to drop down cold into a full Van Damme, my right hip is a little tighter than my left, and I can feel it. It irritates me occasionally during sleep, I feel it change my biomechanics when I kick, and for decades now, I always feel like I want to get a serious cavitation ("pop") from my right hip joint.

But I figured, "No, it must be something else for me. My calves are symmetrical. And I do enough footwork with martial arts that it can't be my calf."

So this morning I went for my first run in the Vibram Five Fingers. About 3/4 of a mile into it, I noticed something odd. My right calf & Achilles felt like they were starting to ache. The left side felt NOTHING. So instead of bullheadedly finishing off my run, I changed pace to walk out the rest of the mile, paying close attention to my stride.

With each few steps, I could feel how my right hip was starting to move more freely as my right calf was starting to howl. It's going to be interesting to see how this all plays out in the coming weeks as I work to make a habit of putting in at least a mile in these Five Fingers every other day. Needless to say, I'll keep you posted. :-)

Off to do a few errands before Courtney's birthday dinner!

Have a great Independence Day weekend, and remember to give thanks to the Vets that you come across. Were it not for each & every one of them, we'd not be enjoying the beer, barbecue, & blessings that make up our lives here in the USA & the rest of the free world.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

I know... I know...

Yes, I'm well-aware that the blog posts require some updating. There's just been so much going on since I've been back east, and of course since I've arrived back home.

Just been spending the last few days unwinding, enjoying Squealietime, and attempting to catch up on the sea of e-mail that's been accruing since I had such limited Wi-Fi access back east.

Rest assured... The blog and the full debrief on all 3 stops of the East Coast Tour will be updated sometime this week. Thanks for your patience, thanks for your viewership, and thanks for your support.

I have to say once again that I was totally blown away by the depth of interest in what I had to teach, as well as the quality of the people I met and had the honor of working with.

For this week (and hopefully for this entire Summer)... Lots of TGU & pressing, lots of mobility, and lots of high quality martial arts training!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Coach Al Wood on The Delaware Kettlebell Workshop - Debrief #1

This has been such an amazing trip. In so many ways, this has exceeded my expectations, and I've got so much to write about and recap for you. But it's a little late and I have to get up early tomorrow to catch a train to Jersey.

Here's a little glimpse into my Hardstyle Homecoming at my alma mater - St. Andrew's School - as written by the Strength & Conditioning Coach & Associate Athletic Director, Coach Al Wood.

With his permission, his e-mail to me has been reprinted below, and I look forward to the day when he can add the letters RKC to his name.


Dr. Cheng,

First, I would just like to thank you for the outstanding workshop on Sunday! It was a great experience. I also want to thank you on behalf of St. Andrew's for your gracious donation to the school.

Second, I'd like to share with you a few things I took away from the workshop that I'm very excited about:

Before the Delaware workshop, I had seen the youtube video ad for one of your workshops where there was a lot of kettlebell swings being performed. I had tried a mutated version of the kettlebell swing with a dumbbell and considered it a hybrid of a smooth clean and a front raise. When doing my version of the exercise, I felt the primary amount of fatigue in my shoulders, upper traps, t-spine, and unfortunately, lumbar spine. At the time, I thought it might serve a useful application as an introduction to my athletes who had trouble learning an olympic hang clean. You know, power shrug, up on the toes, triple extension but don't lock the knees. I think a lot of RKC's would have vomited had they seen what I was teaching as a kettlebell swing.

Then, after 4 hours of re-educating my body on how to contract certain muscles, on how to relax other muscles, and on how to breath, I picked up a kettlebell and performed 10 reps of proper swings. I immediately noticed how hard my glutes were contracting. There was no effort in my lower back or neck. The fatigue was in a completely different place than I had predicted. While I found this interesting, my "Ah ha" moment didn't happen until the next day.

The morning after the workshop, I awoke with soreness in my glutes. That's not really something new for me. I've had some pretty killer traditional leg workouts. At a bodyweight of 181lbs I've squatted 605lbs x 1 and 405lbs x 22. I use a low bar, powerlifter style squat and go deep. Trust me, I couldn't get those numbers without knowing how to activate my glutes hard and I've had leg workouts that have left me almost crippled for days with soreness. It wasn't that I was sore in my glutes that surprised me, it was where I was sore in my glutes that surprised me.
The upper, outer glute medius was sore and still fatigued (no doubt from prying my knees out all day) and the upper, middle glutes were sore (a place that I've never had sore before.) But before you close this email thinking, "Who is this crazy guy and why is he telling me what parts of his butt are sore?", just bear with me. My "Ah ha" moment came when trying to recreate that sore, flexed feeling in my upper, middle glutes.

It only came when I locked my knees out very, very hard. We discussed during the workshop that there was this long-standing wisdom in weight training of "never lock your knees out". Not only that , but in the exercises that I rely on most to activate my glutes like squats, split squats, glute-ham raises, and RDL's, there really isn't a hard emphasis on the knee lockout. When I squat or split squat heavy, the last 6 inches or so at the top I am decelerating to a stop. I've accidentally locked out too hard at the top of a heay squat and it can make a bar with 405lbs. resemble a bodyblade in the way the plates start to flap up and down.
It's not that I hadn't been taught to lock my knees out during squats, it's just that it felt very unstable and unbalance when I did. To activate my glutes with squats, split squats, and RDL's I'm relying primarily on the deep eccentric stretch at the bottom of the movement and a hard concentric contraction to return from the bottom. 95 percent of the contraction is occuring with my knee in front of my body. The top part of those movement are to "come in for a landing" and rest or
sometimes to give a voluntary squeeze of all the muscles in the legs as an afterthought. Even if you consider the clean to be a great glute activator at the moment of triple extension, the activation is extremely short lived and softened by dropping into the catch of the movement.

This may seem like a long-winded explanation of how I contract my glutes, but it occured to me that in my current program (and the programs that many of my athletes follow) I am leaving a lot of unrecruited gluteal fibers on the table. And not just any fibers, but the ones that are responsible for explosively contracting the glutes while both the hip and knee are in full, hard extension like the left leg of Michael Johnson below:
It's not that I've been performing or teaching leg movement exercises incorrectly all of these years, it's that those exercises are simply incapable of producing the same pattern of gluteal contraction as a kettlebell swing. No other exercise powerfully locks the knees and contracts the glutes safely. This is truly amazing to me.

I wanted to write you this email not only to share with you what I took away from your workshop, but to also share with you that I fully believe that the integration of kettlebell training, in particular the kettlebell swing and clean along with the other resistance training and speed development tools that I already use will result in faster, more explosive, and less injured St. Andrew's athletes. That is priceless and I thank you for the donation of your time, experience, and wisdom.

Director of Sports Medicine
Athletic Trainer
Strength and Conditioning Coach
Associate Athletic Director
St. Andrew's School

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A little martial nostalgia

Today's hangtime with Shotokan karate legend Sensei Tom Muzila, and the subsequent review of some of the Black Belt Magazine instructional videos that were shot over a decade ago, brought back more than a few memories from the days I think of as my first set of "golden" training days - college.

Tom was working as fight coordinator on a movie called The Hunted, with Highlander star Christopher Lambert and The Last Emperor star John Lone. They had some re-shooting to do for some scenes at the end of the movie, and Tom brought me on board to double John Lone as we were roughly the same height, and Tom was familiar with my martial background of Chinese martial arts and some training with our mutual teacher - Master Tsutomu Ohshima.

Close Range Combat Academy Wing Chun headmaster Sifu Randy Williams was staying with me at the time as he was in town shooting his own instructional video series with Unique Publications, then owner of Inside Kung-Fu Magazine. So Sifu Williams & I went to the set, a feudal Japanese castle rebuilt inside a Santa Monica Airport hangar.

Tom had me come in to watch some of the non-fighting reshoots and to get a feel for the project, so I got to the set and sat quietly in the back with Sifu Williams. Not wanting to let Tom down, I was focused on taking in the whole process of filmmaking and the flow of the set when suddenly this tall guy stands RIGHT in front of me, obstructing my field of view. Mind you, back then, I had way more fight in me than diplomacy, so I took a bokken (wooden training sword) in hand and gently nudged the man to the left, out of my field of view. Not even looking up to take my eyes off the scene being filmed.

As soon as the director yelled "CUT!", Sifu Williams and Tom looked at each other in total shock, and I looked up to see the man who immortalized Connor MacLeod standing right in front of me.

I, of course, didn't remember pushing anyone out of the way, as I was so focused on studying the scene, but Sifu Williams and Tom didn't let me live that one down, saying, "You pushed Christopher Lambert out of the way on his own set!!!"

Lambert graciously dismissed my profuse apologies saying, "No. You were doing what you should have been doing, and I was in the way. I'm the one who's sorry to you." And I was completely dumbfounded by the classiness with which he handled my faux pas. During the re-shoot, which took something like a week, Lambert was always kind to me, always unpretentious, and never too busy to mingle. Shooting the fight scenes with him at the end of the movie was a great honor, and I'll look back on that memory with fondness.

OK... flashback & nostalgia time over.... BACK TO WORK!

But in case you're done with work already and too curious to let this one lie...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Reactive Neuromuscular Training: Reverse Psychology for your body

One of the problems that is often identified in sports training, athletic performance, or rehabilitative medicine is when a muscle or muscle group isn't firing to its potential or is firing asymmetrically compared to the opposite side.

When muscle recruitment is less than optimal, that can be a sign of anything from injury to compensation to poor motor learning. Neuromuscular patterns are akin to thought processes or computer programs. Over time and without proper education/training/debugging, corrupt bits of "code" sometimes pop up in the program, making the execution of the program, thought process, or movement dysfunctional.

To deal with this from a neuromuscular standpoint, therapists, trainers, and clinicians sometimes employ a strategy known as Reactive Neuromuscular Training (RNT). RNT operates on the premise that the body will do what it needs to maintain balance - homeostasis.

However, with faulty movement patterns, the body doesn't recognize that the pattern it's maintaining is sub-optimal. Left unchecked for a long time, these simple proprioceptive errors (such as being unaware of the knee position) can lead to a plethora of other compensative mechanisms and injuries (meniscal tears, TFL & IT band pathologies, etc., etc.).

Think of it like a person driving a car who doesn't realize that the passenger side wheels are drifting into the next lane because he's using his driver's seat perspective to keep HIMSELF in the middle of the lane instead of the vehicle. Now on a countryside dirt road and at a low rate of speed, there's not much that could go wrong aside from scraping up the side paneling a little. On a Los Angeles freeway, where speeds can hit well over 80mph during non-rush hour times, such a mistake in proprioception can be fatal.

So to assist the "driver" in recognizing the error in proprioception, the therapist, trainer, or clinician simply "feeds the mistake" with barely enough force to get the movement pattern to correct itself.

In other words, if the knees tend to drift medially from the midlines of the feet during a squat, then pushing the knees inward while instructing the patient/client to resist the push will cause him/her to activate the muscles that externally rotate the femur (thigh) in the hip more intensely. Instead of telling the body "not" to do something, you give the body something to push against, forcing it to react neurologically and muscularly to implement a better, safer, stronger muscular recruitment pattern.

In this way, the movement pattern in question is used to clean itself up, rather than reverse engineering the movement down to isolating a single muscle in a fixed axis machine. As Gray Cook often says, "Does turning on your glute give you a better squat, or is giving you a better squat a better way of teaching you to fire your glute?"

RNT is a quick means of training the brain & the nervous system to recognize and implement new movement patterns quickly and efficiently, helping them become habituated faster when the body must perform a given fundamental movement.

These cues rely on tactile stimuli for maximum learning. So if you're performing a hip bridge and can't quite get the glute to fire the same way on the right as it does on the left, then...

1. Bridge up,
2. Tighten your abs and make sure you're not arching your lower back to cheat a little more hip height,
3. Relax your neck (so that you focus all that much more neurological energy down into your hips & legs), and
4. Have someone gently press down on your hip at the anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS) as if they were dribbling a basketball.

That irregular pressure will give your body something to react to, giving you the tactile cues needed to activate the glutes and create the hip extension against the bouncing push.

Need a more self-sufficient way of experiencing RNT? No problem. Gray Cook has designed elastic bands that allow you to rig up tactile feedback cues for yourself or with a therapist. Click on the pics below to find out more about them!

His exercise tubing program DVD helps take all the guesswork out of it for you, so if you want to fast track your progress, grab this as well...

Hope that helps, folks! We'll be covering RNT, as well as the ins and outs of Hard Style Russian kettlebell training in the workshops that I'll be teaching on my East Coast kettlebell workshop tour from June 20 - 24!

Please check the sidebar on the right for more info on these workshops!

Monday, June 1, 2009

East Coast kettlebell workshops - New England & Mid-Atlantic

Back from assisting at the CK-FMS weekend with my mentors Gray Cook & MRKC Brett Jones, as well as my Redneck brother, SrRKC Jeff O'Connor. To say it was a first class learning experience would be gross understatement.

The new 4 day format for the CK-FMS made for a much less stressful learning experience. The FMS system is a new concept for most people to begin with. To try to learn the importance of it, the execution of it, the analysis of it, and the application of it in 3 days was something akin to cerebral suicide. With the added learning hours an extra day afforded, plus a smoother, more logical teaching format that Brett & Gray came up with, the entire experience was not only less stressful, but far more effective.

And perhaps this time more than last time, the emphasis of sticking to the outline of the screening system and enjoying its effectiveness were hammered home.

Some points to recap...

- Stick to the screen & let the screen mentor you
- Bottom 4 fix top 3
- Movement (or rather "mobility") FIRST, FIRST, FIRST
- Find the asymmetry
- Be disciplined on the front end with sticking to the screen, and be creative on the back end with your correctives.

And finally, for those of you at the CK-FMS workshop from the East Coast, I hope to see you at either New England's 6/20/09 Connecticut workshop (which, in spite of its name, is NOT just for martial artists, fighters, & tactical personnel) where I'll be reviewing FMS movement patterning in addition to in-depth review of Hard Style RKC kettlebell training, or the 6/21/09 Delaware Kettlebell Workshop for the mid-Atlantic region.

If you attended the CK-FMS workshop this past weekend, just e-mail the organizers and let them know. Bring along someone you've wanted to introduce to kettlebell training or Functional Movement patterning, get them registered at the regular price, and we'll bring you in for 1/2 off! We'll make sure to get you in, as it's crucial for you to get the chance to reinforce what you've been taught, and how to see it correctly with your students, clients, and patients!

Needless to say, don't hesitate to drop me a line with any questions you might have.

Looking forward to seeing you back east!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Memorial Day weekend kettlebell training

As has become KBLA tradition, when there's a holiday that honors those who sacrifice in the name of our safety, we follow suit.

I don't need to remind you all of the importance that the men & women in uniform hold to your country, to your society, and to your way of life. If I do, then you might want to pull your head out of the sand.

There are a few individuals whom I've seen poo-poo the efforts of civilians to pay tribute to those who've made the ultimate sacrifice while serving their country. Those individuals might want to perform a serious gut check and take a long look in the mirror before blurting out any more garbage.

This weekend, this Sunday, if you've been on deployment or are currently active duty, come by.
Come train.
Come get the best that the RKC system of strength and kettlebell training has to offer.
And come as our guest.

We salute you.

Friday, May 22, 2009

More pics of the new KBLA gear

Yeah, I know... the Denmark debrief will be posted later. So much to catch up on right now, and still fighting the jetlag. I have no idea how constant travellers like Sifu Dan Inosanto do it.

Here are a couple more pics of the new KBLA long & short sleeve T's fresh from the field of battle in Copenhagen... as well as a pic of me stylin' the new KBLA RKC jacket.

Here's Dr. Zolnai Vilmos, a Hungarian Shotokan champion, a dental school professor, a student of the legendary Gabi Katschthaler, and Team Cheng's technique champion styling the new long sleeve T-shirt

Shipping Options
Please specify size S-XXL

And another pic of Danish Army Sgt. Kevin Lassen with me in the KBLA short sleeve T.

Shipping options
Please specify size: S - XXL

The backs of the shirts have the same logo, but smaller, just underneath the rear neckline URL. It's exactly like what you see on Squealie's shirt below. Remember that the prices have shipping & handling included, so a short sleeve shirt to Europe is just $30 total. These are selling faster than I expected so get yours while they're still in stock!