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“The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism” – Norman Vincent Peale
Feedback is a valuable tool in any endeavor. However, as the above quote states, people tend to solicit compliments as opposed to seeking out constructive feedback. The reason is simple – praise feels good and criticism stings. It’s an easy trap to fall into. Another variable affecting this dynamic is the person giving the feedback – not always an easy thing to do depending on the person you are interacting with. We all know the person who needs a huge dose of “honesty” but it’s not worth the emotional explosion that follows.
A starting point is yourself – have you done an honest assessment of your strengths and development areas? If you can’t be straight with yourself, there is a high probability you won’t be receptive to direct advice from others. Write out what you see as your talents and weaknesses – be specific.
As an example, if you are looking to improve your k-bell competition lifting, evaluate yourself in the following areas:
The above list can be more detailed/specific depending on the person, and of course, it has to be objective, otherwise it’s a waste of time. In addition to the above, video your competition lifts and evaluate your mechanics, alignment, breathing, k-bell trajectory etc . Often times, you will be surprised at what you see. Another incredibly value tool is a training journal. The numbers don’t lie and will be your best indication of what direction you are heading.
So, you are now being honest with yourself. From this point, it’s a great idea to solicit feedback from others. Seek out people who really know you and aren’t afraid to be direct. Avoid people like your Grandma…“Ken, you are such a handsome young man”……and instead ask your Dad….. “Ken, don’t mean to bust your ass but you are no Tom Jones. Developing your personality will be critical.” …ha ha…My dad is a great guy and his point was well taken. Thus, that is why at that time (I was around 18), I chose not to emulate Tom Jones (who would really??) and opted for Jean Claude Van Damme instead. My closet was loaded with “Van Damage!” – cowboy boots with silver tips, dress pants and tank tops with clips. Oh yeah! Couple that with some jump spinning kicks on the dance floor and I had found my niche. All good things come to an end though. The outfit is now retired to a dark area of my closet like some old superhero costume. Makes me misty thinking about it….
Okay, way off topic. When getting feedback from others, make it easy for them. Getting in their face and yelling.. “Go ahead, tell me something I suck at” may not be productive. Same thing for… “Hey, my set looked good right?”. Intimidation and fishing for compliments isn’t what we are looking for.
Instead try the following:
As it relates to the k-bell sport world, attend a competition. This will give you feedback on where you are at and it’s a great environment to get an evaluation of your performance from lifters you don’t normally interact with.
The more you repeat this process, the more comfortable you will become. Make a habit of being honest with yourself and continually making it easier for others to be honest with you as well. From there, reflect on the information you’ve gathered and make the necessary adjustments to your game plan. The data you gathered is of no use if you don’t apply it. Of course, it goes without saying that you will have to filter the feedback you get – not all information is valuable. Some folks are too critical or simply just don’t have a clue.
To give you a real world example of this process in action, let’s look at the movie career of IKFF UK Director Rannoch Donald. Below is a promotional poster for his first movie “Heartlight”.
It’s a passion project paying tribute to Rannoch’s two favorite things – the Twilight movie series and his muse Neil Diamond. His idea was to create a musical centered around teenage vampires and the struggles they face (Rannoch has always attacked meaningful topics). However, because he was so excited about the project and its success, he avoided the opinions of others to protect his feelings. The end result was a disaster at the box office that rivaled even “Waterworld”.
This story has a happy ending though. After Rannoch opened himself up for input, he hit a homerun and produced an independent film on the life/times of Madonna. What made this so extraordinary is that he cast himself in the lead role. Below is a still from the movie:
“Rannoch’s reenactment of the “Like a Virgin” video is Oscar worthy”……Entertainment Weekly
“Despite a much needed bikini wax, Rannoch’s performance is superb, brave, and inspiring”……USA Today
”My t-levels have never been lower”…Mike Mahler
So, let Rannoch be our inspiration. Be truthful with yourself, solicit honest information from others and watch your performance skyrocket!
Keep on truckin!
Historically, this is the time of year we all make our “New Year’s Resolutions”. We create all kinds of goals that will take us to the next level.
“I am going to lose 20lbs”
“I will go to the gym 5 days a week”
“I will reduce my monthly expenses”
“I will stop waking up at 4am, sleep walking to the refrigerator, eating half a jar of peanut butter and returning to bed looking like a deranged homeless guy” (Yep, that’s me)
Actually, my girlfriend says I look like a “gargantuan infant with a goatee covered in Jiff”. Go ahead…picture it…I don’t think it’s a compliment…ha ha
Anyway, in looking at myself and those I train, I noticed several variables that influence the probability of achieving goals. Following are some of my observations:
1. Think big! - Steve is the best personification of this principle I can think of. Steve thinks global instead of local. He thinks of being in a movie vs. just being on You Tube. You get the idea. Why limit yourself by defining a narrow range of possibilities? And for sure don’t let ANYONE else define what your limits are.
2. Progression – Although it’s important to have “big” goals, you need to have smaller goals that bridge the gap between now and then. You have to conceptually connect the dots until you can truly picture/feel that goal is a possibility. This is critical. If you really don’t feel it’s a possible, you will eventually lose steam.
3. Modeling – No need to reinvent the wheel. If you know someone who has accomplished what you want, find out how they got there. Research not only the process, but how they thought – their attitudes, their beliefs, how they responded to obstacles etc.
4. Write it down – It’s been said the simple act of just writing down your goals will increase their probability of happening by 15%. This starts the manifestation process and creates a sense of accountability (more on that later). Similarly, develop a “vision board” - a wall or cork board with pictures connected to the things you want. If you desire to visit the UK, include pictures of London and Edinburgh. If you want to do bad ass feats of strength like IKFF Instructor John “Wild” Buckley, include the below:
If you want to be part of the IKFF rap group “Double Snatch”, include the below:
5. Be specific – ambiguous goals are like ambiguous driving directions; your chances of getting where you want to go are slim. State them as specifically as possible.
6. State as a positive – The unconscious mind doesn’t understand negation. So, when people say things like “I don’t want to be fat”, the unconscious mind hears “I want to be fat”. It’s more productive to state “I want to be super lean with a bodyfat percentage of 9% by April, 2010”.
7. State in the past tense – Again, to get the unconscious mind working for you; state your goals as if they have already been accomplished. Example – “I won my division at the Arnold Sports Festival Kettlebell Championships and set a new PR”
8. Include a timeline – All goals should have a clear start and completion date. Example – “I will jerk the 40kg k-bell 100 times in 3 minutes by March 7th”.
9. Make it Measurable – One of the reasons I love training for kettlebell sport is because it’s very measurable. I can track weight, repetitions, length of set, recovery time etc. There is always clarity as to whether I am moving towards/away from my goal. Thus, regardless of your desired outcome, ensure there is always a clear way you can measure progress.
10. Failure is only feedback – although easier said than done, learn to disconnect from the emotional component of failure and just see it as feedback. As Edison said - “I didn’t fail ten thousand times. I successfully eliminated, ten thousand times, materials and combinations which wouldn’t work.” So, in a sense, if you aren’t failing, you are not trying.
11. Awareness – Always be aware of whether your actions are taking you closer/ further away from your goal. Having the sensory acuity to stay dialed in to what’s going on will save you time and keep you on track. Thus, make it a daily task to assess where you are at.
12. Flexibility – It’s been said that the person with the most flexibility within a given system will have the most impact on that system. In other words, your ability to deal with adversity and create new plans of action when things aren’t working is a huge component of success. So, as mentioned above, if you become aware of a better way, it’s critical that you adapt and change your game plan.
13. Make yourself accountable – set timelines for your goals, tell others and share them in other ways (like blogging about them). Example - below are some of my training goals for 2010:
· Long Cycle: 32kg’s x 10 min x 82 reps
· Long Cycle: 24kg’s x 10 min x 110 reps
· Jerk: 24kg’s x 3 min x 100 reps
· One arm jerk: 40kg x 3 min x 100 reps
· One arm Pressing: 32kg x 2 min x 100 reps
· Chair Press: 32kg’s x 10 min x 72 reps
14. Congruency – This is important on several levels. Your goals need to be in alignment with your desires, beliefs and values. Example – maybe what initially pops into your mind is a promotion to a new position at work. However, maybe that position isn’t really congruent with who you are? Thus, in the goal setting process, it’s key to do a comprehensive inventory of what is important to you, what things you value most, identify your strongest beliefs etc. In addition, once goals are set, you need to ensure your follow up actions are in alignment with attaining those goals. This ties into the comments on awareness mentioned above. You may be crushing it in the gym, but if you are staying up late/not getting enough sleep, your recovery will be compromised and so will your results.
15 .Study motivation – Research and learn what motivates you. This is your fuel! Everyone is excited and passionate about goals in the beginning. However, this tends to dwindle with time as the hard work accumulates. Utilize whatever tools you need to stay motivated – visualization, setting short term goals, telling others and so on. Also, give yourself some rewards along the way as you reach certain milestones - plan a night out, order a new fitness product, or set up a photo shoot with IKFF heartthrob Jason Dolby.
16. It’s not always fun – Our friend Mike Mahler wrote a good article about how doing what you love is not always easy. Actually, it can be more difficult than doing something you really don’t care about. Thus, have a strategy in place for how you are going to deal with the low points in your journey – it’s inevitable it will happen so have a plan for that as well.
17. Have goals in all areas of life – Everything is interrelated. Your finances affect your ability to travel, your job affects the amount of time you can train, your relationships will support or undermine your goals etc. So, have goals in all the key areas: physical, mental, spiritual, family, social and financial. Have all areas working FOR each other instead of against each other.
18. Action – All of the above is useless unless you take action. To quote Aristotle – “We become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave actions”. Many folks do a fantastic job of writing out their goals, creating vision boards and implementing the right mental strategies. They just don’t take the next step – implementing the plan.
19. Act as if – Once you start this process, DO NOT wait to feel good about yourself. Thoughts and behavior are habitual. Thus, the sooner you start “acting as if” you have already reached your goal, the more those thoughts/ behaviors will contribute to making that goal a reality. Muhammad Ali is a terrific example of this. His actions were that of a champion on every level long before beating Sonny Liston for the Heavyweight Championship. Below is an awesome video connected to all of this. Enjoy!
At the “Kettlebell Training in the Age of Quarrel” course this past October, one of the primary themes was keeping an open mind as it relates to fitness - understanding that knowledge is fluid, evolving and coming from a variety of sources.
Examples of forward thinking individuals in their respective fields are Bruce Lee (martial arts), Albert Einstein (physics) and Captain James T Kirk (functional arrogance). If you know what the “T” stands for, keep that to yourself since there are social consequences for knowing that information.
All joking aside, the importance of keeping an open mind and expanding our awareness/perception cannot be overstated. The below diagram is a good illustration of this:
So, in an effort to continuously move forward, we need to explore the grey area outlined above - “what you don’t know you don’t know”. An expanded awareness gives us more choices. More choices then equates to a higher probability of achieving our goals.
However, although it sounds very nice and straight-forward, being open to new things isn’t always easy. Below are common deterrents.
In the kettlebell industry, there seems to be no shortage of close mindedness. People have locked into a particular way of thought and refuse to acknowledge the benefit of any other approaches. As I’ve mentioned in other articles, it reminds me of arguments that used to occur frequently in martial arts in regards to which fighting discipline was superior. Over time, it’s been shown that almost all martial arts have value depending on variables such as the individual’s body type, skill set and the context/distance in which the confrontation is taking place. The same thing can be said of kettlebell and fitness in general – there is no “one” answer to everything and all approaches have benefits and drawbacks depending on the context.
So, as with the fighting arts, there are many different ways to improve and reach your goals with kettlebell training. Research what’s out there, experiment to find what works best for your body type & mental disposition and get to work. To be efficient, I recommended talking to others who have explored a similar path. There is a LOT of information out there and anything you can do to avoid wasting time/re-inventing the wheel is a good thing.
I’m not speaking from a position of condescension. I have made my fair share of mistakes in the learning process over the years. It’s easy to get excited about something and exclude other resources.
One of our goals with the IKFF is to always be open to new training methodologies and respect what others have to offer. Our courses reflect that attitude. We have been fortunate enough to interact with gifted athletes and coaches from all over the world. As we are exposed to new information, we are committed to sharing that and contributing to the evolution of what we & our coaches teach.
So, the CKT course we are teaching now and the CKT course we will be teaching a year from now will most likely be different to some degree. It may be comfortable/easier to keep things static and the same, but we have no interest in that. Evolution isn’t easy but we are ready to do what need to be done.
IKFF Advisor Rannoch Donald takes this thinking to a higher level. He put his ego aside and traveled to Vegas to train with comedian/fitness junkie “Carrot Top” for an entire week and saw fantastic results. Take a look!
It’s been said that regret is the heaviest emotion. When I was younger I remember my boxing coach saying “Win or lose, make sure you leave your fight in the ring”. I also remember him saying “you have the ideal cranium for this sport”. Anyway, at the time, I got it, but it truly didn’t resonate with me until I got older. With age comes wisdom. Often times it comes with regret as well. You reflect back on what could have been and it’s not the best feeling in the world.
When faced with a challenge, most of us have had a moment where we didn’t engage, or if we did, we didn’t give it 100%.
With the later, it’s the moment when things get tough…we make a choice….and decide to exit the situation before completely emptying our physical and mental reserves. That’s regret. Knowing you could have fought harder but chose not too.
Some folks have the opposite problem. If they “show up”, they give it a 110%. However, the only way they DO show up is if they feel completely prepared. As an example, when I was younger I was considered a gifted athlete in kickboxing, boxing and BJJ. I liked how that felt. So, I was reluctant to risk losing that by entering competitions when I didn’t feel “100%”. Of course, that is the perfect game plan for NOT improving. You protect your ego and inevitably your progress shuts down. “100 % ready” is an elusive if not completely fictitious concept.
Since then, I have changed my thinking and am happy with the results/progress I am experiencing in k-bell sport and other athletic activities. With the folks I train, I emphasize there are two general variables in regard to being happy with their performance.
1. Show up
2. Leave your fight in the ring/leave it all on the lifting platform.
Although this is a great starting point, it’s not enough.
Many show up AND decide to give it everything they got. But then something happens – physical suffering. This in turn leads to a lot of internal dialogue and imagery…. “Why am I doing this again?”… “This really SUCKS ass”…. “I want my mom”… “Mike Mahler lied – the magnesium isn’t helping”…and so on. BTW – Just kidding Mike, the Magnesium is awesome for recovery..ha ha
Thus, it’s necessary to develop strategies for dealing with this. You have to decide what you will be saying to yourself and what things you will picture in your mind. The ability to manipulate and change your sensory modalities is a HUGE advantage to a competitor when done right. If you look back at a poor performance, ask yourself the following questions:
*What was my internal dialogue? What was I saying and what did that voice sound like? If you hear that creepy dude’s voice from “Family Guy”, see a therapist immediately.
*What visuals were running through my head? Were they positive or negative? Black & white or in color? Were they static pictures or “movies”. Were you observing yourself through your own eyes or third person?
Compare this up against what sounds and pictures you recall during an awesome performance. Ask yourself the same questions and identify the qualities connected to the sounds and visuals. This is a beginning point for identifying and then configuring your thoughts to improve performance. You can develop a strategy for dealing with those ultra challenging points in a set.
Specifics strategies and techniques will be the topic of future articles/posts.
As a summation of what I am talking about, check out the below video of Sergey Rachinskiy. This is an inspiring example of leaving it all on the platform! Of course, I’m not advocating everyone push to this point. Sergey also has the world record WR squat 100 kg - 180 reps.
As part of my long cycle/jerk training, I have incorporated a great assistance exercise called the “bump”. The bump is essentially the first part of the jerk – generating power via leg drive and thoracic extension. Your legs and rib cage “bump” the bells up. The arms are flaccid. Okay, let’s change the wording on that. The arms are very relaxed. We want to ensure the primary movers (legs, back) are doing almost all the work.
To see a demonstration of the bump, check out the below video of Mitch working with the 32kg’s. Note – his bodyweight is only 135lbs and the bells are 141lbs; a solid example of the strength/endurance and structural integrity developed via proper k-bell training.For a detailed explanation of the bump, check out Coach Denis Kanygin‘s clip below as well:
These drills, along with assistance work in general, function as valuable assessment tools. They highlight a strength/expose a weakness you may not have been aware of. Most of the folks I train struggle with the bump because they are unfamiliar with using their ribcage/thoracic spine as a source of power. Good news though – they fix that hole in their game and their progress is going to take a nice jump forward!
Embrace the idea of finding weaknesses in the k-bell puzzle. Ignore the ego’s tendency to focus only on what you are good at.
These past couple weeks I have been having fun doing jerk sprints with 2 x 24kg bells. It’s a nice change of pace from the long sets with the 32kg’s and seems to be challenging in a different way - “less rack more jerk.” I know, sounds like bad ad-copy for a new loneliness based beer .
I originally got the idea for jerk sprints after attending the AKC Classic in Las Vegas, NV last month. By the way, If Mike Mahler invites you to eat with him at his favorite Indian restaurant in Vegas be prepared. Here is what happens: T-levels go up (from hanging with Mike)…gastro-intestinal stress goes up (from healthy vegan dish)….probability of romantic activity with your girlfriend later that evening goes WAY down (from decreased attractiveness). Conclusion - high t-levels and being quarantined to the far side of the bed is a bad combination .
Anyway, while at the AKC classic, World Champion Ivan Denisov did 93 jerks in 3 min with the 24kg bells! Everyone in attendance was impressed. Thus, I decided this was something I wanted to try and thought would be a good training tool for a student I was conditioning for an MMA fight.
This past Tuesday, I did 83 jerks in 3 min with the 24kg’s. I followed that with several one minute sprints. As I mentioned above, this is a nice change from the slower paced sets with the 32kg’s. It requires/develops a different type of conditioning and involves a different mind set. Next week I want to shoot for 90 or above.
I modified it slightly to hold the rack for 30 seconds and the top position with the legs locked for 30 seconds. I did this to put more emphasis on holding/relaxing in the rack position which is a weak point for me. This is much different than the sprints but I feel compliments them well. This really isolates the two rest positions in the jerk and thus puts more emphasis on static strength, relaxed alignment and a patience mind set.
It has been so long since I have blogged. My apologies for that and many thanks to those of you who have persevered. My travel and teaching schedule is immense right now, bringing me all throughout Europe, Asia, South America, North America. You name it, if there are kettlebells or if there will be, I am teaching there. It won’t be slowing down any time soon, with more courses in Los Angeles, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, India, LA again, Boston, Barcelona, Australia, Thailand, Germany, Italy again and South Africa, just in the remaining months of 2009.
As such, I have been delinquent in keeping up with the blogging. Things are going great, however busy, and among other things a brand new IKFF website is weeks away from going live, which will make the blogging much easier and frequent, with blogs from myself, Ken Blackburn and other guest bloggers.In the meantime, here is a new video demo I did with Sean Croxton, the Underground Wellness Coach, in our hometown of San Diego.
What a fantastic course in Toronto on Saturday!I was invited and hosted by Shawn Mozen, the founder and leader of Agatsu, the leading Canadian-based kettlebell education program, and the person credited with bringing kettlebell training to Canada.
Shawn and I had only met one time before over 6 years ago in St. Paul, MN when he and I took Pavel Tsatsouline’s RKC course together. What I remember most was how terrified this French-Canadian was while riding in the back seat of my rental car. Apparently he was not used to the California driving style, hahaha.
So it took 6 years, but Shawn finally recovered enough from his memories of the Streets of St. Paul to contact me a few months back to invite me as a guest presenter at his Agatsu Kettlebell Certification (AKC) Level 2 and Canadian KB Convention Weekend. He asked me to come out, however made it very clear that he would be driving, or basically anyone but me.
Shawn takes no prisoners and apparently beat his sterling group of Level 1 instructors with something he called Tabata Sprints. Something about runs up a ski slope followed by Tabata calisthenics! So, many of them were quite sore when they arrived for my Full KOntact Kettlebells workshop the next day. However, they are Canadians, and they are tough. After a thorough warm-up mixing dynamic mobility exercise, footwork drills and plyometrics, they were warm and ready to get to work.
I will say I am extremely impressed with every last participant. What a fit and eager group, it honors me so much that Shawn arranged such an outstanding group. So we had a lot of fun swinging and jerking and cleaning and squatting, mixed with animal movements and all sorts of ranges of movement. Some qigong to regenerate and rejuvenate and before we knew it, 7 hours or training has passed and we called it a day!
As a professional, I am so impressed with Shawn, the job he had done developing his business and his service, and the attitude he shows. He is a true leader. There are those with leadership qualities, however not true leaders because when push comes to shove, they cannot take the heat. To me, true leaders lead from the front and are always students of the game, students of life.
In the fitness business, egos tend to be very fragile. Often leaders of industry will be very insecure about their position and wish to control all around them. Shawn is the opposite, which is why I respect him so much. He didn’t have to, however he opened his program to me. That shows that he has a lot of confidence in his own abilities and security in what he is and what he is not, that he is able to bring a guest instructor to his students and give me full reign to teach what I wanted and how I wanted. It didn’t matter whether or not I might have different way of teaching a movement or even a different philosophy about how and why to do things a certain way.
It is very encouraging to interact with leaders like Shawn, because it means that there are others with vision enough to see that the most productive way is to work together and learn from each other.
Also I wish to thank Dhani Oks, an awesome gentleman who was gracious to allow us to use his gym, Crossfit Toronto West: http://www.crossfitgyms.ca
It is a great venue for training. If you are in Toronto area or passing through, check out Dhani and his gym.
During last weekend’s CKT course in Ft. Myers, Jared Glenn and Louis Searcy show some of the traditional acrobatic conditioning methods that are a part of the Chang Hung Xi Sui Gong Kung Fu Association’s broad body of information. In modern times these types of training methods don’t serve as much of a practical application as thing such as firearms have rendered the need to defend against traditional sword and spear attacks obsolete. However they still offer value education with regard to coordination, overall conditioning and body toughening. Plus they are fun and entertaining.
You’ll see that Jared is doing springs without use of his hands, which requires a very strong and flexible neck. Later you’ll see Louis Searcy show some neck bridging variations that have allowed him to dominate in the various grappling and Chinese Wrestling tournaments he has won. Both of these young men are outstanding students as well as talented kettlebell instructors, and make the gong fu family proud as well as the IKFF to have such standout young men involved in our holistic mind-body methods of health, fitness and well-being.
NOTE: This is NOT a training video or suggestion, it is purely for entertainment and education
These days I am everywhere, spreading the good word
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, or so the story goes.
Had some fun times in Finland while training and afterwards. I want to give special thanks to Marko Suomi who has always been a great friend and host to me when I have come to Finland and has been a top ambassador to the modern revival of kettlebell lifting across the globe. Everyone in the kettlebell world knows Marko and if you haven’t seen it, you should have a look at his excellent and informative blog:
Also, thanks to Tuomo Kilpeläinen who hosted myself and John Wild Buckley for the first-ever CKT Level 1 certification course in Finland. Tuomo is probably the hardest working man I have ever met, John and I were impressed by his ingenuity and constant entrepreneurial spirit. Tuomo sells high quality equipment and training services at http://www.voimatoimi.net
In addition to a lot of hard work during the days, at night we had fun, although there was hardly any nights at all, with daylight almost around the clock in Oulu.
Here is some of the fun we all had while Marko and I bear wrestled:
I guess if the bear-fighting doesn’t work out I can just keep the suit on and market myself as a fat-loss expert!
June 5, 2009
I have been getting a lot of inquiries from students in Japan who wish to invite me for a course.
Recently I did an interview with a Japanese website/blog.
For your reading pleausre, from the heart: