Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sacrifices & Strength

As I'm hanging out on set today at Raleigh Studios Hollywood, I'm reminded of a priceless experience I had just hours earlier. Once in a while, a youngster gets lucky enough to unexpectedly receive the guidance and advice of an accomplished elder. Last night, that lucky youngster was me.

While hanging out near my office, waiting to meet up with dear friend and Master RKC Kenneth Jay, I happened to bump into a patient of mine, one of Hollywood's elder lions. He's been working in this town for 40 years and become one of the entertainment industry's most recognizable faces and successful actors. Obviously for patient confidentiality reasons, I can't disclose his name or provide his picture, but that's not nearly as important as the words of advice he gave me.

When I bumped into him, I hadn't seen him for a while, and after the intial pleasantries, he had me grab a seat and we started talking about family. I asked him how he'd been able to maintain a solid family life with all the distractions and temptations and inevitable challenges that both this town and relationships bring, and he offered me some outstanding words of advice.

One of the points he made early in the conversation was that the whole current thing about "following one's bliss" is a crock of $h!#. He explained that most people take those words and interpret them at their barest face value. Whether because of ignorance, outright willful stupidity, or abject denial, these people fail to look beyond the obvious and recognize the myriad of reactions for their actions and consequences for each of their choices. No matter how foul these people can make a situation, they have an excuse. Whether the excuse is...

"Don't judge me because I'm an individual."

"I have the right to follow my freedom."

"My values are different."

"I deserve to be happy."

"I deserve to be recognized for my contributions."

"I'm in touch with my spirituality."

"That's not my fault."

"My personal savior forgives and loves me."

or any of a zillion other stupid lines, it doesn't matter. The bottom line is that people who choose to be irresponsible will latch onto these lines and subvert them away from the direction in which they were most likely intended by the original speakers. The sick or weak minded use these lines as excuses to repeatedly give in to weak will and feeble character and dodge responsibility for their actions.

When he broke these points down for me in such straightforward talk, a lot of thoughts crystallized in my head. And he reminded me that for every choice an upright person makes, there's a consequence.

Those consequences, he said, can play themselves out in a bunch of different ways. There are people who pursue their immediate happiness, and while they give in to momentary pleasures or weaknesses or conveniences, they give rise to a web of pain and suffering that afflicts not just them, but also the ones they love. These are also the people who will usually deny tooth and nail that they are such. So it is in our best interests to not only avoid such people, but to also work assiduously against becoming such a person.

This wiser, older lion said a lot more to me, but perhaps the most applicable essence of his talk with me lies in the lines above. If you stop to consider how those lines can apply to the different areas of your life, it's amazing how it ties over to diet, exercise, time management, and relationships.

We have to investigate more incisively, reason more responsibly, declare more decidedly, and act with an awareness that extends far past the "A meets B", but to see the ripple effect of our actions throughout eternity.

So you can do those last few sets of swings with poor form, eat all of that carbonara, drink those next 2 beers, skip the following few days of training, shoot off your mouth without putting real thought into what you're trying to say, kick the dog, and leave your friends & family in the lurch when they need you. It's OK... because you've got the right to follow your own bliss.

Just make sure you have the strength to handle the consequences when they come knocking.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

USMC Kettlebell Training - RKC Camp Pendleton 2009

There is something truly special about teaching kettlebells, combatives, or rehabilitative exercise training to people who are active duty military operators. The people who've been there and done that in their real lives, the people who've had to fight for their lives and the lives of others, the people who've had to march for miles with a pack that weighs more than some of our children, the people who know what an advantage that strength and powerful, pain-free movement is and what a potentially life-threatening disadvantage it can be to lack it... these folks appreciate what you're teaching them in a totally different way.

The men of the 1st Anglico FMF (and a few other operators) got treated to the Russian Kettlebell Challenge directly from the RKC Chief Instructor - Pavel Tsatsouline. Accompanying him were seven of KBLA's finest, and we brought the love for the troops (most of whom were just back from deployment to the Sandbox) in Hard Style.

The Pendleton RKC took the standard 3-day course and compressed it into 2 action packed days. From sun up to sun down, calls of "Snap those hips!" were heard across the field. Looking at the physical development of our troops, specifically our Marines, it's evident that the particular training methods developed by Pavel are a quick and highly effective means of giving our fighting forces what they probably need most - durability.

As Gray Cook speaks of all the time in his presentations, it's great to have raw strength and stubborn endurance. But without the ability to undergo stress, exertion, & fatigue, and emerge uninjured, all of that is for naught. Thus, Pavel's mantra to keep good form was shouted at full volume repeatedly throughout the day... leaving a hoarse Chinaman by 1700.

While I went over some corrections and finer points on the Turkish Get-Up section [as seen above], the need for corrective shoulder girdle reprogramming became quite obvious. The human animal lives most of its life by means of its hands these days. We move about thanks to our legs, but we've become so hand-dominant that we've lost the knowledge of how to move our arms in a linked fashion. ENTER THE T.G.U.!

OK... the next patient just arrived in the waiting room, so it's time for me to wrap this post up. More later... probably from LAX!

Monday, January 19, 2009

International Kettlebell Training Workshops & Seminars

Before I met Pavel Tsatsouline, if you told me that I'd be travelling the world to teach how weight training can actually rehabilitate the body, I'd have told you either to go somewhere that Dante wrote about or to ease up with the inhalants.

Nowadays, I can't believe my eyes when I look at my monthly calendar and see the places I'm off to and how often I'm back at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). When the emails come in asking me to do a workshop here or there, domestically or internationally, part of me is still shocked that I'm getting paid well to do what I would have never imagined was even possible - to use a kettlebell to dramatically improve someone's quality of life by taking them out of pain and putting them back in the game of life with powerful movement.

2009's barely begun, but already, I'm fielding emails from 4 continents asking me for local workshops this year! The domestic USA requests are mind-boggling... nevermind the RKC instructor certification workshops that I'll be appearing and teaching at.

To those of you who've been e-mailing, to those of you who've been reading this blog, and to those of you whom I have and will have the opportunity to interact with... I PROMISE you that I will constantly make every effort to deepen my understanding of the subjects I am passionate about and improve my abilities to communicate the myriad of benefits that my mentors' training methods can and will bring.

And, yes, I'll blog about the Camp Pendleton RKC sometime this week before I'm at LAX again on Friday morning!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hard Style at the Harris Academy - BJJ & Kettlebell Workshops in San Diego, CA

Think you know BJJ? JKD? Strength training? Think you know kettlebells?

Get ready to have your world rocked!

The Harris Academy is having 2 back-to-back days of seminars that will spin your whole world upside down and inside out.

On Saturday, 1/31/09, from 12noon to 3pm, Prof. Roy Harris will be personally teaching a seminar on leg locks. This is a no-gi seminar, so there's no excuse for you not to make it if you're in the area!

And on Sunday, 2/1/09, I will be teaching a workshop covering the 6 Fundamentals of Hard Style Kettlebell training (for RKC Certification) and Program Design. The workshop will go from 1-5pm. For more information, please view the associated post on the Harris Forum, and e-mail me at if you'd like to pre-register.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


There are times when you just get a gift, an absolute breath of fresh air or invigoration on a day or at a moment when you didn't even know you needed it.

This morning, my students at KBLA gave me just that sort of lift. Combined with a bright sky, crisp breeze, and outstanding enthusiasm and attention from my students, I went from dragging my arse out of bed to ready to rock & roll.

I got a great compliment this morning from a visitor who drove a little more than an hour to get down to class this morning at 7am. He said that while other instructors provide a great workout, nobody gives the kind of detail and attention that I do. While I'd qualify that by saying that he's never trained with Pavel, I'm honored and glad to receive his compliment.

On a separate note of inspiration, the buzz here in the USA has been growing lately for the new Yip Man movie. While I'm not primarily a Wing Chun kung-fu man myself, I've had some tutelage in the art from Prof. Daniel K. Lee (student of the late Bruce Lee) and Sifu Randy Williams (who studied with Ho Kam-Ming student, Augustine Fong, and with George Yau). Those two were my main teachers, and I've also had a chance to take WC seminars with instructors like Sifus Francis Fong and Robert Chu. Through Sifu Dan Inosanto, I've had a chance to study Wing Chun's most famous offshoot - Jun Fan Gung Fu / Jeet Kune Do.

So while I qualify myself as a Wing Chun outsider, I have a bit of affinity for it.

And while I'm proud to be American born and raised, the blood that flows through my veins is pure Chinese. Call it nationalism or ethnic pride or whatever you want, when I saw the trailer for Yip Man and some sneak clips that are out on Youtube right now, every hair on my head and neck stood up with goosebumps.

There are certain stimuli that inspire the best from us, that inspire strength, courage, and determination from us. The clip above is one of those things for me, so hopefully you'll get a bit of the same buzz that I got from it, whether or not you're Chinese or a Chinese martial arts afficionado. It might not hurt to be a Donnie Yen fan either. :-)

And if you're looking for a world class intro to Wing Chun, Sifu Francis Fong will be teaching 2 days back-to-back at the Inosanto Academy on Jan 17-18 from 12noon - 4pm. Go there to check it out if you've ever had a remote curiousity about Wing Chun, JKD, Bruce Lee, or martial arts. Fong's own master, Jiu Wan, was (according to some) supposedly the BEST of Yip Man's students in the baat jaam do or Wing Chun butterfly swords.

Back to the dummy to practice my sets. It's been a while....

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Foam Rollers - Laugh all you want

The first time I saw someone using a foam roller, I remember thinking, "What a total crock!"

The exercises I saw on it left me completely nonplussed, and when I saw it on the schedule at the RKC II workshop, I thought that I'd just sit there and try to stay awake.

Funny how things change.

After a presentation from Mark Reifkind (now Master RKC), a little over a year later, and a lot of research hours, I've found the foam roller to be one of the most intelligent self-care, maintenance, and restorative tools I could share with many of my clients, students, and patients.

Case in point...

I came across a patient who'd been downing over-the-counter pain medications (ibuprofen, aspirin, whatever...everything that was legal without a prescription) like most people won't even down vitamins. He'd been suffering for years with knee pain that was slowly working its way up to his hip and lower back.

His orthopedist told him that he'd likely need surgery for his knee, which horrified him as someone barely in his 30's.

This was a guy who was athletic, strong, and did a lot of very active things until his knee pain started getting in the way of what he could do. Surgery was something he wanted to avoid at all costs, so he sought out chiropractic, physical therapy, and acupuncture treatments, but he complained that the results were marginal at best.

Frustrated, scared, and close to wits end, he came to my clinic. After a couple of tests, I said, "Aside from the cost of this initial consultation, the solution to your problem's gonna cost you about $20."

He looked at me like I just slapped his little sister in front of him.

I explained my diagnosis and the mechanism of his knee pain. Then I had him try just ONE specific release pattern on the foam roller.

Screaming like Mel Gibson during the electrocution scene in Lethal Weapon as he performed the release pattern, he got up afterwards and tried out his knee. He was shocked at the dramatic reduction in pain... a reduction that nobody else had been able to provide him with!

Like a true results-oriented man, he e-mailed or texted me every few days after that with "still good". One day his e-mail read "I can't believe how a few minutes on that $20 foam roller did more lasting good for me than hundreds of bucks that I spent on other treatments, but what really scares the sh-t out of me is the realization that I almost went in for surgery on this knee. Thanks, man."

Now don't get me wrong. There are PLENTY of great reasons to get orthopedic surgery. But if you're intelligent, you try to exhaust all of your more conservative options FIRST and use surgery as a last resort. Even the best surgeons I know say that to their friends & families!

I'll be doing a foam roller workshop down at Kettlebells Orange County in Irvine and again as part of my Hard Style workshop at the Harris Academy in San Diego later on this winter. We haven't finalized the dates yet, but if you're interested in attending, please join the KBLA Mailing list by clicking here!

In the meantime, get a hold of your own foam roller from Perform Better. It's a quality item that will hold its shape and resilience better than 99.99% of the imitators out there. This is some of the safest, cheapest, yet most high-yield stuff you can do for pain relief that gets right to the cause of your agony in many cases. Now just come on out and learn how to do it right!