Monday, March 30, 2009

The Heights of Humanity - Doc & Jon's Excellent Adventures: Final days in Korea

In front of the Olympic Gate in Seoul

As I blog to you now just a couple of hours before my flight's scheduled to take off, I wanted to share with my readers a tremendous awareness that hit me time and time again over the past couple of weeks.

For those of you who've been following my blog, you know that I've had a hectic few weeks. From the San Jose RKC, to Col. Nattapong's arrival & seminars in L.A., to being here teaching & doing meetings in Seoul, there's been very little rest for a very weary Chinaman.

However, there are moments when the inspiration is so tangible that you can almost touch it. And in some ways, when the inspiration comes in the form of a man-made edifice, you actually CAN touch it.

Leave it to Grandmaster Jon Engum, WTF Taekwondo 7th degree black belt & SrRKC, to drag me out of a hotel room when I want to lounge & unwind on the last day of this trip. Instead of sleeping the day away like a hibernating bear, we took the subway down to the Olympic Park. Coming out of the subway station, the first thing that falls into your field of view are the Olympic Gates (pictured above). The 5 rings that make up the Olympic logo send a rush up my spine and cover my arms with goosebumps. I am walking into a place of greatness.

When we walk into the courtyard of flags, it happens again.

I am overwhelmed by the sense of pride, of cooperation, of dedication to excellence, and of using sports as a vehicle for peace as I look around at the countless flags that surround the courtyard as they flap gently in the breeze.

I have other pictures that will have to wait until I get back home to upload here on this blogpost, but one of the sculptures and the Olympic flame itself were two of the best highlights of that excursion. The pics will tell their stories by themselves.

These sorts of moments, along with the good vibes I've been enjoying with so many people around the world, reminded me that because of my involvement in martial arts, so many blessings have been afforded to me. From friendly phone calls with Kru Bryan Dobler (one of the USA's best Muay Thai fighters and coaches), to my friends & family at the Inosanto Academy, to earning the appreciation of my Tai-Chi students, to having met my kettlebell & physical culture mentor Pavel Tsatsouline, to being offered the championship gi used by a Korean Judo superstar as he took the gold medal in the Asian Games, I'm still floored by the kind of good vibes and warmth that I've experienced through involvement in the arts of war.

Physical culture is a vehicle for creating friendships, improving health, and promoting the drive to succeed. Without it, without a sense of our bodies, we lack the awareness of self and other that lead to chaos, distrust, and violence. When we deprive our children of the means to exercise or participate in sport, they fail to realize their human potential on more levels than just the athletic.

More pics soon!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Kettlebelled Korea - Doc & Jon's Excellent Adventure: Day 5 & 6

We gave it to Hanguk Hard Style!

The second and final day of our Seoul RKC Prep Course went over smashingly. As with any training workshop that's taught in an immersion setting, it's inevitable that you'll see serious jumps in the skill levels of the attendees. From barely swinging 12kg KBs with questionable form to snatching 24kg KBs, it was a pleasure to see once again why the RKC's Hard Style method stands in a class by itself.

While the language barrier certainly didn't facilitate things, it wasn't insurmountable either. We had a couple of people in the audience that were fluent enough to translate accurately, as well as a translator with a physical therapy background.

And once again, I'm thrilled that SrRKC Jon Engum is with me on this trip. This having been his 9th trip to Seoul, his familiarity with the layout of the city, his comfort with Korean culture (manners, food, & some terminology), and his teaching style are great assets to have. He & I teach in ways that fit together perfectly, and the flow between the two of us made the tagteam teaching feel both easy and powerful.

The comments we heard repeatedly right after the workshop from Kettlebell Korea CEO Kenneth Lee were that the participants were simply blown out of the water. They not only learned how to tap into strength that was lying dormant, but also learned a tremendous amount of detail about Functional Movement training and applications for RKC-style kettlebell training in the prevention and rehabilitation of injuries.

Before the workshop started, I took a second to share some of the simplicity and effectiveness of Kalis Ilustrissimo that Prof. Roy Harris taught me with one of the American attendees using sticks to demonstrate. Hunting the hand and hacking the head, I nullified every attack that came in with superior footwork and positioning retirada-style and returned with the salto to the face or neck. The military academy professors were watching carefully.

I also had a chance to get my throw-on with Korean Judo superstar Kim Kyoung-Han. I can't remember all of his titles, but I believe he won the Asian Games and some other major international tournaments. During the lunch break, he showed me one of his favorite combos, and I showed him one of mine. Kim's girlfriend, a champion fitness model, is pictured above perfecting her Press.

Day 2 started with a quick review of the Turkish Get-Up and quickly moved into the Clean, Front Squat (& variations), Press, and Snatch. I took the first 2 for the morning shift, and Jon bat the ball out of the park with the second 2 after lunch.

The Q&A session at the end led to some outstanding questions (ranging from training youngsters and the elderly, differences between kettlebell sport and Hard Style, and training with injuries), which then led to some strong answers.

The wrapup Korean BBQ dinner was absolutely delicious, and with a bit of Baek-Se-Ju to wash it down, we capped a great weekend.

Now, on the morning of our last full day in Seoul, it's almost a bittersweet moment. But it'll be great to be back at home in LA with my family, friends, teachers, students, and patients.

Next on tap... Riverside Kettlebells - April 5th!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Kettlebelling in Korea - Doc & Jon's Excellent Adventures: Days 3 & 4

No rest for the wicked.

While Friday was supposed to be a day of NOT teaching and R&R before the weekend workshop, it ended up being anything but.

While our morning didn't start with roll call at 6am, and we had the chance to enjoy a leisurely breakfast of bulgogi (YEAH, BABY!!! First thing in the morning!!!), the R&R stopped there. In the later part of the morning, Men's Health - Korean edition came by our place for a photo shoot. They knew about as much about kettlebells as I do about speaking Swahili.

I'm gonna digress for a moment here.

Since we got here, the Koreans have been nothing but critical about almost every aspect of how we do things and what we do initially. I got an earful about the lack of PowerPoint presentation and handouts making it harder for students to learn, and then another earful during the photo shoot about how the RKC instructors' uniform (khaki Patagonias & black T-shirt) were unstylish and made me look fat... like I give a $h!#.

But with all things on this trip, Jon & I seem to meet the initial Korean skepticism, and turn it on its ear Hardstyle.

So back to the point at hand... Having had plenty of experience directing photoshoots for Black Belt Magazine, I told the photographer which angles to shoot from, and the results were far more than satisfactory. So while you won't see Doc & Jon in colorful Nikes with spandex shorts and neon T-shirts on with bright pink kettlebells, you WILL get to see some of the RKC's finest representing the system and the organization with the integrity that matches the RKC Code. Just wait, folks.... the pics'll be posted here when I get them.

Following that shoot, which ended up being rather long, we had an interview with MFight Magazine, which is Korea's MMA-focused periodical. Trying to verbally describe the benefits of kettlebell training and FMS-style repatterning with any semblance of accuracy to someone that's never experienced it is almost futile. So we forcefully invited the interviewer to attend the first day of Hard Style Hanguk. His protests about knee pain were met with my cocked right eyebrow and a deadpan reply to just show up.

Day 1 of Hard Style Hanguk was a blast!

We got there at 9am, people filtered in on Korean time, and we rocked the house at Sportime. Much to my surprise, there were at least a half a dozen women in attendance. And in a country where the fitness movement is still in its infancy (although they don't think so) and where female trainers are not as common as in the States, their presence was a pleasant surprise.

The rest of the attendees ranged from a couple of Americans who were working in Korea to personal trainers to physical therapists to strength coaches to athletes to military educators. Hmmmmm, sounds like the roster at a regular RKC, doesn't it?

The first day was obsessively focused on Program Minimum and its myriad of applications. Squat patterning, Hard Style Lock, Deadlift, Swing & Swing variants, Naked Get-Up, & Turkish Get-Ups made for the menu on Day 1. Between my detailed explanations and Jon's corrections that are straight out of the RKC Manual, the participants were treated to a level of training that we heard was "unexpectedly thorough!"

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Kettlebells in Korea: Jon & Doc's Excellent Adventure, Days 1 & 2

The CEO of Kettlebell Korea, Mr. Kenneth Lee, practicing the Naked Get-Up progression

Annyong hasseyo? Howdy from the Land of the Morning Calm!

The RKC's favorite Chinaman & TKD master are over here in Seoul, Korea, about to start Day 2 of our excellent adventure here. I should've brought the USB cable to be able to post pics directly to my blog, but I'll have to post some individually after I get back stateside or just point you to my Facebook page (search for to see the ones I was able to upload via iPhone.

Immediate impressions upon landing: It's FRICKIN' COOOOOOOOLD!
I haven't seen snow in person since a brief encounter back at the April RKC in 2008, and far too many years of shoveling it in my childhood. When I walked out of Incheon International and saw the white stuff descending from the heavens, I thought (to borrow a phrase) "No good can come of this."

Exhasuted from the trip, I fell asleep in the car on the ride to the center where our host is housing us. A hot shower & a comfortable bed made falling asleep far too easy.

The morning of our first day in Korea was spent preparing our organizer (Kenneth Lee) for the work that lay ahead of him. Deadlift, Swing, & a very brief intro to the Naked Get-Up put his brain into overdrive, along with giving him a taste of what Hard Style is really about. He'd taken an instructor course with a non-RKC group before, so I knew right away we'd be rocking his world off the foundations upon which it was built.

He struggled with the changes and the concept of "tension is strength", but you could tell that his brain was ruminating on everything he was fed from us all day long. During the meetings we had in the later morning & afternoon with some of Seoul's mega-gyms (we're talking like 11 floors in some of these, folks!), I heard his presentation go from simply pitching kettlebells as a new training tool to explaining the merits of the Hard Style method. From one meeting to the next, you could almost hear the gears turning in his head as he was mentally digesting the information taught to him in the morning.

Interestingly, one of the people we met with is an instructor who goes by the nickname of JK. JK's an enthusiastic member of the Gray Cook fan club, he's Titleist Performance Institute certified, and he's got some of Korea's top pro-golfers coming in to train with him one after another.

By the evening, Mr. Lee helped translate for us while we taught a small presentation to some physical therapists. And I heard him recap the material Jon & I'd taught him that morning almost point-for-point. "Korea's off to a good start!" I thought.

The next day was more of the same. Jon & I awoke early, had a massive Korean-style breakfast, and then spent the rest of the morning exchanging Taekwondo & Combat Shuai-Chiao training before Mr. Lee arrived. Going over the TGU in high definition blew his mind again & again, and Jon Engum's presentation on the Clean & Press using the principles of high tension made a bunch of light bulbs go off (both in the morning & evening presentations).

The afternoon was once again filled with meetings. From seeing Korean high-tech applications to fitness training to meeting with the Korean Olympic weight training facility directors, the meetings were high powered all the way.

The 2nd evening picked up where we left off, but with a slightly larger group. Jon & I sped through the Naked & Turkish Get-Ups, the Clean & Press, and the Snatch in what must've been record time. It's been an absolute pleasure to have Jon Engum along with me on this trip, since watching him teach is a reminder of some of the useful cues that I tend to overlook or fail to appreciate.

Again, more pics will be posted when we get back to the States, and more adventures will be posted hopefully at the end of today. We've got 2 interviews & a photo shoot today, so hopefully I'll have a chance for a nap somewhere before then!

Monday, March 16, 2009

REBOOT! - the aftermath of the Level 1 Movement Repatterning workshop

After one of the most demanding weekends I've had since the RKC, I'd like to thank Kingston Heng, RKC, Kettlebells Orange County, and the staff of California Martial Arts for hosting me this last Sunday afternoon for the inaugural Level 1 REBOOT! workshop.

While the workshop was a resounding success, although I do have to begin with one very serious apology. I grossly underestimated the amount of time needed to cover the information in the level of detail that the participants were able to appreciate.

Usually people who are not fitness or medical professionals could care less for all the details and concepts behind what makes the human body work. They just want to feel better and let that be that. But this group was different. After unintentionally going 30 minutes overtime, I realized that people who are non-fitness professionals are eager for the insights, corrections, and concepts that feed into the sources of their pain.

INSIGHT #1: The consumer has become educated and wants more than just a bandaid to cover their symptoms.
So what we're going to do (possibly even before I get back from Korea) is work to set another date when we'll have the Level 2 REBOOT where we can actually get to work on loaded movements using KETTLEBELLS and review the foam roller techniques.

INSIGHT #2: People will do what you've taught them IF you remind them.
So here are a few of the highlights... which I'd like everyone to practice, even if you didn't make it to the workshop.

- The 3 Prys: Pry the knees outward so that as you squat, your knees stay in the same vertical plane as your feet. You'll need a mirror to verify what you're doing is correct. Don't trust yourself. For most people, proprioception is little better than self-deception.

- Glute Strength: If you haven't gotten to the point where your glutes are strong enough to bite your finger off, practice more. Load your heels, lift your toes, lock your knees, and try to pinch your finger at the top of your glutes the way you were taught. Even when you get up out of a chair, drive your heels down and start firing your glutes. You'll find that your movements take on more power with less pain!

- Rolling: If you're too weak to roll on the ground for at least 10 reps to the left and to the right, then work on it! It may seem like something either too easy or too irrelevant, but rolling is one of the most important primitive movement patterns that American adults lose. Don't be one of them!

Need someone to train with? Then have a look at our RKC certified instructor roster and get together with one of them! The roster for some of the people I've personally trained and had a hand in preparing is here at

INSIGHT #3: Prepare for the unexpected.

Perhaps one of the things I expected least was the amount of questions I'd be getting afterwards regarding when the next workshops I'm teaching are scheduled for. That's quite a compliment. And like an idiot, I didn't refill my wallet with business cards as I was more preoccupied with lugging around a dozen Thai swords in my van for the Krabi-Krabong workshops I was assisting with.

So if you attended the workshop (or the training session at Clover Park that morning) and had a strongly positive experience, could I bother you to post it on my RKC instructor review page?

Looking forward to meeting you at one of my workshops or appearances in the near future -- Seoul, Riverside, Modesto, Copenhagen, St. Paul, etc.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Women & Heavy Weights - The Bulking Up Myth

What a crock... Everytime I hear this, I just smirk or want to change the channel.

Here's the bottom line. If a woman uses ANY weight (even her own bodyweight) and trains with movements that do not put the body through a full range of motion or trains consistently to failure, then the odds are pretty good that she'll experience hypertrophy (bulking up).

But I DARE anyone out there to tell me that my wife (Dr. Courtney Mizuhara-Cheng, RKC II) is bulky. And the pic of her above shows her doing swings with two 24kg kettlebells (that's a total of 106 lbs).

In fact, doing swings with heavier weights helped her to shed the weight she'd put on during her pregnancy even faster.

Do big weights make women look manly?


Improper training methods & crappy movement patterns make women look manly. In Courtney's case, bigger weights helped her slim back down to the svelte Asian chick body shape after the birth of our son. Heavier weights actually forced her to engage her core more fiercely to control them - dramatically firming her post-partum midsection and turning her legs into rock-hardness.

And as many of our female comrades have said, Hard Style kettlebell training is the butt modulator. If you have too big of a butt, the kettlebell will fix that. If you have no butt, the kettlebell will fix that.

Come to one of the workshops listed above or on the right and find out what the hype is all about!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

More Workshops and Seminars & A Quick Thank You

Coming up next week - Some VERY intensive Thai martial arts (Krabi Krabong & Muay Boran), as explained briefly in the post below. Right now, it looks like the only "OPEN" workshop we're having is on Saturday, March 14th from 4-6pm at the Inosanto Academy. Contact the Academy for more information or to register.

The day after that will be the REBOOT! kettlebells & corrective strategies workshop in Irvine, California, hosted by California Martial Arts & Kettlebells Orange County. From what I hear, this is almost completely sold out. If you're interested in attending, holler at Kingston Heng, RKC right away.

Right after that, off to Korea for Hanguk Hard Style for the last week of March.

A few days back to get re-orientaled with the time change and then Hard Style, High Density" in Riverside, California hosted & assisted by Gary Toppins, RKC on April 5th.

Easter Sunday will be here in LA with my family, and then the next weekend, we're off to the Selective Functional Movement Assessment - Level 2 with Gray Cook in Phoenix, Arizona.

And just added to the schedule is a special kettlebells and combatives workshop that we're unveiling at F2 Strength in Modesto, CA, where I'll be assisted by Chuck Halbakken, RKC II.

That takes us to May, where I'll be heading to Denmark to assist & hang with my Viking brother & Master RKC Kenneth Jay, and to Team Lead at the RKC Instructor Certification Workshop in Copenhagen, and sprinting back to the states to assist with the CK-FMS workshop with Gray Cook & Master RKC Brett Jones.

I'm scheduled to be attending the RKC II in June, but we may have a schedule conflict with moving, so that's a little iffy.

There are a couple more workshops requested for the later half of 2009, but the details are still being hammered out. You'll be kept posted for sure.

Every time I travel, I come back shocked at how many people I meet who give me an incredible amount of positive feedback on this blog. It still shocks me how many people read and benefit. To all of you who are reading and have found worth in these posts, thank you for making it so worthwhile to do what I do.