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.