John Wild Buckley is a physical force of nature. On meeting this giant of a man ( I admit, I am of pretty average height, but believe me, hes a giant) you receive a potentially bone crushing grip, wonderfully welcoming smile and a friendly arm around the shoulder faster than you can say long cycle. With the Orange Kettlebell Club, founded with co-founder Nazo now establishing branches all over the world, his infectious charm and enthusiasm for the sport names him as yet another major personality of the kettlebell scene.
We met recently on his teaching trip to Japan and although time was short, we managed to fit in a two hour chat at a Japanese izakaya restaurant, with the other attendees of the seminar sitting around listening in.
GKJ- Hi John, it was great meeting you today and watching you in action. Perhaps we can start off with you tell us all a little bit about yourself and your background, and how you got involved in the kettlebell sport.
Hi Mark, It was a pleasure meeting you and I would like to thank you for all of your help with the Tokyo workshops and your support of the OKC and the IKFF.
I first started working with Kettlebells in 2003 with my friend Gavin Van Vlack in New York City. Mostly it was playing around with a new modality but it was fun and refreshing, I knew right away that there was something special about them. I wanted to learn as much as I could and when I got to the Bay Area in 2004 my education really began. I was introduced to Kettlebell Concepts by Victoria Grey and then to the RKC by Jason C. Brown.
I was working every day to get better using books, DVD’s, workshops and certifications. I had gone through a few certifications when before I met Steve Cotter. After meeting Steve my professional life would change forever. Shortly after our meeting I went to San Diego to work with Steve and the AKC. After that I had my audition to assist Steve at the first IKFF certification in Chicago. Since then I have been lucky enough to travel around the world with Steve and the IKFF as well as taking my own Kettlebell Club, the OKC, international. Traveling around the world to teach has presented me with the greatest side effect I could imagine, I got to learn from some of the best international lifters in the world.
I had always enjoyed lifting but once I learned how technical the core lifts (snatch, jerk, long-cycle) could be I became committed to mastering them. It has become clear to me that this endeavor may take the rest of my life, so be it.
GKJ-Today, after your workshop, we talked a little bit about fluctuating strength, and the need to sometimes drop down to a lower weight and check form and technique in order to make personal gains. Can you elaborate on this for me and why this is important to do? Many people get caught up using a heavy weight, and then fear going back down again, thinking that in some way, this is a loss. What is the right attitude?
I am always wary of saying something is “the right” attitude, method, or way. I have been sure in the past about many things and have been proven wrong in absolute and ego crushing ways. I had to drop weight because my weakness is my endurance, not my strength. It is easy for me to lift heavy. Sometimes I find myself indulging in showing off or fooling around with feats of strength and I don’t see the harm in it. I enjoy it and most of the time people find it entertaining but that is fun time, not work. When I go to work it is my weakness I need to address so it may be the 16’s or the 24’s but I am not allowed to touch the 32’s, 36’s, 40’s or 48’s. I have to admit, it really is work. I train alone because my ego can’t stand people watching me work with 16’s. I understand where people are coming from when it comes to training light, but I do the work, and my numbers will show the results.
The way I look at it is a lifter is always coming from two directions. A lifter will have a strength and a weakness. The weaker side will have the biggest opportunity to improve. Improvement on your stronger end will come more slowly. The objective should be to connect the dots. Correcting your weaknesses is the fastest way.
GKJ- We also talked a little about hand care. People that decide to take their kettlebell work beyond the basics and in to long cycle and the Girevoy Sport style of training, find that their hands often take a beating, experiencing skin tears, blisters etc. What can you tell by looking at someone’s hands, and what can be done to improve their technique?
Hand care is the key to great lifting. The funny thing for me is after a real big tear I was forced to work on my jerks because I couldn’t snatch or clean. It was lemonade! However, not tearing is better then living by bad clichés. The only way not to tear your hands is to master your technique. Even then you may tear due to fatigue or a mistake while lifting. As someone makes a transition from a harder-style snatch to a more technical snatch they may experience hand damage in different places then they are used to but eventually it will subside and the overall damage to your hands will decrease over time. I hardly tear at all any more. I have developed new calluses on my fingers and at the base of my index finger. I have learned how to let the bell slide past my calluses as I transition from my open grip to my hook grip. It has required a lot of practice and patience, but it has been worth the work.
As for my own training the biggest challenges I face are my lockout, rack position, endurance, power sequence…shall I go on? The list is endless. I feel like an old car, every time I fix something, something else needs to be replaced. At least with all of the work my numbers keep going up. I hope that doesn’t sound too negative. I really do enjoy the challenge. When I say “old car” I mean it in the restoring a classic sense. I have to rip out all of the old parts and replace them with newer, cleaner, stronger parts. The more I work on my shortcomings the better I get as a lifter and a coach. I have to learn new techniques to correct all of the mistakes I make. The process has been very fulfilling. I really get excited about training as well as teaching and sharing what I have learned.
GKJ- Lastly, we started talking about the “mind training” element of kettlebells, and the concept of a strong mind. Obviously we are not talking about muscle strength here, but the element of the will to go beyond personal limits. Can you talk a little bit more about this, and what advice do you have for the kb’ers out there?
For sure, kettlebell training for sport trains your mind. When you are working on a ten minute set you are not going to be comfortable the whole time. You will be required to stay focused under extreme duress and that in itself is a skill. You will be required to stay cool under pressure and stick to your technique. You must be patient. Some words that come to mind are toughness, empty, willing, gritty, and peaceful.
GKJ-Nazo did a great job today with the translations, and she is a real asset to your presence here in Japan. Have you been working together for a long time?
Nazo is a co-founder of he OKC and she is a key element in all things OKC. Her presence here in Japan is ten times mine and her reputation is well deserved. She has also taught Kettlebell in Japan, the US and Europe. She is a talented lifter and teacher as well as a GS Champion. I am thrilled that you enjoyed her translation. She gets stronger everyday, just like the OKC.
Many thanks for the interview John!