The quiet revolution.

 
Its been two years since I moved out of the center of Tokyo into my current digs; a 55 year old traditional Japanese house on the side wooded hill near Mt Takao. After what was in all respects a major life transition, I spent a lot of that time quietly thinking about who I was and what I represented, not only as a fitness advocate but also as a basic human being.
 
I was out at an informal dinner the other night with some students of a dance class I have been attending, and as usual for a new member of any group, I was grilled over the course of the night as to my regular activities and lifestyle. This gradually fed through the table of classmates to the teacher of the class, who ended up coming to sit next to me near the end of the evening.
 
“So, let me get this straight. You run 5 days a week, do yoga every day, meditate every day, lift weights and kettlebells regularly. Wow- you sound busy!”
 
I just smiled in response, because in fact that’s not the complete list of activities either. What was interesting for me was that some people saw my regular schedule as extreme, when if anything, it is not.
 
But it is consistent. 
 
There was a moment early on when I had just moved and I was struggling to adjust to being on my own again so after many years. I realized that out of all the things I was interested in doing, I needed to prioritize those which I wanted to achieve results with, and then focus on those activities alone. 
 
My life, as with many of us today, was just too damn busy. I was doing too much, easily distracted  by our constantly updating social media lifestyle, stressed at work and the sum of all this plus the life change meant that I felt down a lot of the time. I needed to find my motivation again.
 
I realized quite quickly that some serious decisions were crucial. How I spent my time each day, and whether these activities were truly enriching my life or simply just aimless distractions and time fillers.
 
We all have justifications, often repeated ad infinitum to friends and family but ultimately sounding hollow to us in our private moments. I wanted to get beyond that and just be.
 
There were many revelations.
 
More important to me than just having a strong body was to have a holistic, body, mind and spirit approach to fitness that embraced all aspects of my daily life, and worked around a 9-5 job. 
 
I am not a professional athlete, nor a one-discipline specialist; but just your average “Joe the plumber” type with a regular job trying to achieve some kind of healthy balance in my life. And if other people found some resonance with that, to share what I know.
 
I read a lot of books, talked with some of my fitness friends from all over the globe, did a lot of meditation and contemplation, and started off from scratch again by adding one regular activity at a time to my schedule. For me, that in itself was a major achievement. Once I felt confident that the activity was a part of my daily routine, I added another, all the while making sure I wasn’t overloading my life, and that all necessary parts of my daily needs were being met.
 
That meant making some major changes to lifestyle.
 
I also started stripping away the unnecessary. My eight year affair with social media came to an end, and while I had reconnected with many old friends because of it, from then on it would be up to more traditional methods of communication to keep in contact. The constant drone in the background was no more, and I found it much easier to focus in on my goals because of it.
 
Television? Gone. I got into reading again in a serious way and if I needed entertainment, there were plenty of movies and you tube to watch.
 
One book that particularly stands out from the last two years was The Four Agreements, a life changing book for anyone of any background in need of a personal refocusing. 
 
I got back to basics with training as well. Tim Ferriss’ Four hour body,  David Kessler’s The end of overeating, books on Ayurveda and all kinds of topics, all inspired and helped me focus in on want I wanted to achieve..
 
I started paying more attention to my food intake and habits around food and drink. Cooking for yourself can be very rewarding if one makes the effort to keep it interesting and spice things up a bit once in a while. Variety, in all things, is key. Laziness means making poor diet choices, and ultimately, you need to be responsible for your own health. A fact so often forgotten in today’s modern lifestyle.
 
I made a big decision to simplify me as well. Learn to listen better and say less, to be what I believed and to let it manifest naturally as my own personal, living truth. 
 
Beginning, middle and end. Follow the process and enjoy the journey. Results come as a natural bi-product, but are not the main focus. Smile more, complain less. Beginners mind.
 
Two years later, I count my blessings. A healthier life, better sense of balance at work, a smaller group of real friends and an ongoing desire to contribute to this world that I live in as a giver, not a taker.
 
Its small steps maybe for some, but for me, important ones that cover many miles.
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AeroSling: Ready to work!

download 1 I was recently contacted by a fellow called Elmar Schumacher over at Aerobis Germany to test one of their suspension trainer devices- The AeroSling Pro Set. Knowing that I had pretty extensive experience with other suspension trainers and that I have been using them for some of my clients here in Japan, I appreciated their forthrightness in approaching me for a critical evaluation of this new line of equipment

The Goods.DSC_0107

The first thing you notice when you receive one of these kits is the packaging. Its well thought out with little extras that make it obvious that a lot of effort and thought has been put into making this kit as complete as possible. For example, I liked the re-sealable plastic bags that all of the equipment came in, instead of the usual rip and throw variety. It shows an environmental sense. The main parts of the aerosling come already assembled, with accessories separate and each with an instruction guide as to how to set up or add to the assembly.The handy doorknob sign for the busy businessperson staying in a hotel that lets people know- hey, I’m training in here! The exercise chart and easy to follow dvd made my first workout a breeze, with little time spent in set up. My first impressions were- this kit is well thought out.

Getting started.

Compared to other equipment I have used, the Aerosling was both lightweight and sturdy.For anyone carrying equipment or wanting portability with their workouts, a few grams here and there make a big difference. This equipment fits easily into the draw string carry bag (comes with the kit) which can be put in a backpack for an outdoor in-the-wild adventure or take with you to your gym. Here in Japan, we have a mainly urban environment, so the ability for me to pick up the kit and head to the local park is a big plus. All the components were sturdy and built for hours of use. Attaching the device to a wall mount or overhead beam etc was as simple as flipping one end of the attaching cable over the attach point, and then clipping it on the carabineer. For more sturdiness, two winds around the beam give you an extra sure attachment point. Then a simple weight test to check proper set up, and you are off to work.

Having used similiar devices before, I found this one really simple and user friendly. Don’t get me wrong- I like heavy duty, and there is a place for such types of equipment, but there is also some sense of overkill at times, such as in weight. I usually carry other equipment with me, such as kettlebells etc, so the ease of trasnportantion was a big plus for me. For your average athlete or gym who needs equipment that can take a hard workout and still be ready for me, the Aerosling fits the bill.

Instant fun.DSC_0117

If you are already used to doing body weight/resistance training, or have some gymnastic background, you will immediately sense of advantage when training- the core muscles are instantly involved to balance you while you work out. For first timers with this kind of equipment, I recommend watching the instruction video and setting up your Aerosling for beginner intensity level. Then as you gain confidence, you can up the intensity easily by a quick unwind of the main handles.

Scalable workouts.

I love the versatility that this equipment brings a workout. You can push yourself as hard as you like, or take the more moderate path. Each exercise shows a simple form and then an advanced level version on the cd, and the exercises are easy to follow. I recommend though that you watch all the exercises through completely first, and perhaps don’t attempt to do them all straight away. Pick a particular area of  your body that you want to train, and then follow the related exercise. DSC_0122

I tested the Aerosling out on a couple of my students, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Its a fun machine that you can set up in your own house, take to the gym, or set up outside. For us, it was smiles all round and my students were exhausted after a 45 minute session. I can see it being a real boon to any professionals out there wanting to keep fit while they travel for business and have to adjust to busy schedules. You would hardly notice this kit in a suitcase, even a carry on bag. Perfect. Crossfitters, this equipment has something for you too. Fighters, well enough said- this equipment rocks.

What it will cost you.

The staff at Aerobis have made this equipment very affordable. ( see the details and special offer below!)

Summary:

For those who travel, the lightness, sturdiness and well thought out design of these easy to use kits will mean that you can take it anywhere with you and give yourself a good workout. Whether you are a professional athlete, sports trainer looking for equipment for your clients, or someone just out to keep your body toned, this kit has something for you.

Two thumbs up from me.

Q: How do I get one???

Elmar at Aerobis headquarters sent me these useful links and some extra information for you :

Go to Aerobis.com
http://www.aerobis.com/shop/en/index

Go right to the aerosling models:

http://www.aerobis.com/shop/en/Suspended-Pulley-Trainers/aeroSlings (our aeroSling Models)

http://www.aerobis.com/shop/en/Suspended-Pulley-Trainers/aeroSling-Sets (I received a Set which is called the aeroSling ELITE)

A new model for you to check out as well. I will let Elmar explain:

The new aeroSling XPE is a lightweight smaller brother of the ELITE that you tested. It retails at 139 EUR incl. Door Anchor and DVD. It also has great material but is simpler as such as it cannot be extended with other grips etc.. So professionals would go for the ELITE or ELITE set – beginners in Suspended Pulley Training would go for the XPE.

And a special coupon offer from Elmar at Aerobis for you!

People that are interested will get a coupon code for 15% off to cover shipping and such (100 EUR order value min):

MDA2011CHL

So..what are you waiting for? Go get one!!! Smile

Merry Christmas and Happy holiday season to all

Healthy Alternatives Well its early afternoon on this sunny but cold Christmas day here in Japan, with the promise of a big party to go to tonight. I am two weeks in to my new Primal lifestyle, and feeling good. My appetite is amazing- I don’t feel “full” like I used to, and my energy level is stable. This next year promises to be full of surprises for both myself and you, but more on that later.

I have turned into a hunter gatherer; regular trips to bulk food store areas here in Tokyo to source out my food supplies and alternatives to grains, sugars and cereals. Most definitely consuming more meat but my stomach is starting to function more effectively and I never feel heavy afterward now. I have lost a solid 2 kgs since I started, but its mostly off my waist and not my muscles, which is fantastic.

This is my Christmas present to myself- feeling fit, feeling healthy and with a strategy to keep it that way well into the unknown future.

My personal kb training has grown up a lot- ten weeks of online training with Ken Blackburn merely tested the waters, and after a good six week back-off, I will be ready for another round at the end of January. Improved flexibility, check. Better understanding of my body dynamics, check. Conditioning base extended, check.

Here is my Christmas aspiration for all my friends and readers:

  • may you use the next year to your best advantage
  • may you keep all the elements of your life in balance
  • may you keep hitting those fitness goals and
  • may you keep on keeping on

Enjoy today.

Cheers,

Markeu

Here it comes….

Lifestyle change. Capital letters. I am tired of constantly struggling with food choices, and wading through the slew of false information out there as to what is best for you, good for you, fat free etc. I can say that in many regards I am as confused as my stomach feels after a normal meal.

In other aspects of my life and training, things are definitely improving. I am hitting some of my own personal training goals, bringing in more and more kettlebell practitioners, and keeping a pretty good balance between work and down time. I stopped drinking alcohol 2 months ago, and I can say that I feel differently because of it. But I really wish that I could get more of a peace of mind from what I eat.

Now I want my regular food intake to support me in a cogent way, hence I have been edging slowly over the last few months towards the Paleo lifestyle.

Don’t know what it is? Have a look in my links bar and take your pick 🙂

Lets just say I am sticking my toes into the water right now and seeing how I feel, reading up differing approaches to emulating a paleo lifestyle in the modern world, and then brainstorming on how I can support that lifestyle change here in urban jungle Tokyo.

To others who might be considering a similar move in the near future, here is a great piece by the recently retired blogger Methuselah of Pay Now, Live Later who pretty much nails many peoples pet fears and misunderstandings about changing what they eat to a Paleo system and how to get there gradually.

Its going to means saying goodbye to grains and sugars for a start. But if it means I am going to look and feel healthier, so be it.

Gotta get back to study.

Peace.

Ten minutes to Eternity

You may have been wondering where I have disappeared to over the last few weeks, but I have been subjecting myself to eight weeks of online training with IKFF key member and all round great guy, Ken Blackburn. After having had quite few months off due to surgery, and resigning myself to building my strength back up from not far off scratch, lets just say that the regimen has been a boot camp for me as I start the long journey back to form, and beyond, towards a level of fitness that will allow me to compete in the Girevoy Sport.

The way I have started to accomplish this goal is by online training.

So what is online training all about? It is a combination of intense weekly schedule exercise routine, video recording and fitness level observation and adjustment which aims at taking your current fitness status to the next level and beyond. In all honesty, for me, that has been a combination of physical re-boot and ongoing foundation preparation for competition within the next year or so.

Sitting now at week seven, with about one week left to go, I can say that it has been a long and arduous journey, confirming my view that the older you get, the more that the balance of all the elements in your life come critically into play. Since I am not a professional athlete and I have to fit my training schedule around a busy daily schedule here in Japan, this makes that balance all the more important.

The big three

I am concentrating on the three standard competition lifts: the kettlebell jerk, the snatch, and the Long Cycle/Kettlebell Clean and Jerk. In all honesty, the biggest improvement has been the snatch, and the exercise is akin to a delicate dance with yourself; to be able to generate enough power to bring the bell overhead repeatedly for up to ten minutes at a time, and be able to walk away without having half the skin of your hand ripped off from over gripping.

What I have learned the hard way
Its not just about strength; its more about overall flexibility, your level of conditioning, and your all round ongoing physical maintenance that makes this form of sport so compelling. For many looking in from the outside, they can say, well what’s the point? The fact that serious practitioners of the sport can continue to compete well into their 50’S, 60’s and even 70’s is proof positive of the overall benefits to health and wellbeing that the Girevoy sport has to offer.

Stretching

I believe I am not alone in saying that many kettlebell practitioners do not stretch enough., especially me For the Russian gireviks and other international athletes of the sport, stretching is integral to their training sessions, before working out, between sets and afterwards in cool down. It is through this constant maintenance and confirmation of basic postural mobility that strength is truly built. Without it, we are walking down a path towards injury and interruption to our overall goals as athletes.

I haven’t been stretching enough. Some of the long cycle work that I started to do with Ken was initially excruciating in the sense that I became all too aware of the lack of flexibility in my spine, and the effects that caused me when working out intensely, with ‘bells extended above my head or just trying to stand in rack position.

I sit at a desk eight hours a day, and if I don’t do some kind of maintenance and stretching it will eventually relegate me to permanent poor postural alignment and poor athletic performance regardless of what activity I choose.

Stretching, band work, yoga, and regular checking in with your body area the keys.
Its all about doing it- regularly.

Blow by blow

The program started off gradually enough, and I managed to get through the first week without any hand damage at all, despite the long sets and higher workload. Ken had promised not to kill me straight out of the gate, and rolled on the workload gradually till by the end of the second week I was operating pretty much at maximum capacity. As the workload increase I started to notice that some muscles were just tiring out much faster than other parts of my body, and that tension and energy leaks were showing up everywhere.

Tension tension tension- I was a bundle of nerves and tightness, panting and sweating trying to deal with a body that hadn’t been challenged in quite  a while. Then the wear an tear started to show as the amount of reps I was doing and length of the sets started to increase. End of week two I ripped a chunk of skin off my right hand.
And we wont even discuss into the GPP work which came at the end of the session twice a week…

Ken had me video my performance of the exercises, and the first few views were humbling to say the least. It made me realize that video and feedback are excellent tools for any student of the kettlebell sport and that added to personal coaching, nothing could make you improve faster.

Grip strength and forearms

Doing serious sets of snatches for up to ten minutes at a time will beat your hands up, period. I found that my forearms were just pumping up so much that the heart rate monitor was cutting into my wrist by the end of the set, even when I had set it fairly loose at the get go. Surprisingly, the hand that has shown the most tendency to get beat up is my right hand, on the stronger side of my body, indicating clearly to me that although stronger than the left side, I was more prone to tension on the right side of my body.

By the beginning of week three there was a feeling of obvious trepidation every time Ken sent me an update for that week’s workout. The interesting thing was- he wasn’t killing me, and my desire to overcome my own physical limitations kept me fueled up enough to make my training preparations a daily occurrence- stretching, getting enough sleep, keeping my food intake balanced enough to support the workload.

I found it harder to train by myself than when my buddy Jan Kaszuba came by to train with me. His sense of humor, encouragement and shared experience of training hard kept me focused. I kept hitting right up against my own physical limitations week after week, but Ken’s encouragement and affirmation of what I was doing right kept me from dwelling too much on what I was doing wrong. Which believe me, felt like a lot.

A Girevik isn’t built in a day.

To be continued…..

Kicking my own butt

Its damn hot in Tokyo today. Long weekend, Sunday already slipping by fast, and as the sun starts to set, I head downstairs for the relatively cool garage and set myself to work. The ipod blazes away as I get into the rhythm and let myself dissolve into the technique, avoiding thoughts of the copious amounts of sweat that starts coursing down my body.

Ah… nothing like it, but right now it still comes across as a form of punishment.

One word rattles around in my mind- consistency.

Know thyself: IKFF Certified Kettlebell Teacher training, Level 1 and 2

IMG_8118 Already a week has gone by since my four day baptism of fire, and my life is still reverberating from the consequences.It has been good for me to check in with other attendees and hear  that for them too this was the toughest thing ever attempted, because this confirms and justifies for me the incredible battle that I had with myself over the course of the event.

Rather than feel an immense pride at my accomplishment, I am in fact humbled by the depth of the teachings that were given to us by Steve Cotter and Qigong teacher Ed Coughlin, and the realities, limitations and potentials of my own body that are now revealed to me in vibrant color.
To say that I learned a lot is in itself an understatement because above and beyond what was shown to me over the course was the primordial lesson of working with my own mind and my own understanding of the words effort and persistency. Rather than stay in semantics, I will recount for you events as they occured and you can draw your own conclusions.

Welcome to the four days that changed my life.

Beginning
It was a cool evening in Malaysia when Steve and I flew into the airport in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday night last week.We had just completed a weekend of demonstrations, an IKFF introductory kettlebell seminar and a few meet and greets here in Japan, and during all that I had taken the opportunity to rest as well as I could behind the very busy schedule, for I knew that what would come next would test my very mettle.
We were in Malaysia for the CKT 1 and 2 training, where 11 other students from around Asia and Oceania had gathered together in order to receive pith instructions from the very best there is.

At the start of each day we did a very vigorous warm up, combining both Qigong and mobility drills, preparing the body for the heavy workload that would be endured by all. One thing that strikes me even now is how we balanced hard work and rest- after each intense burst of energy, we recharged, sometimes for as little as a minute or two, but then were soon back at work doing the same thing- pushing hard. Breath became so important- when it left the body, when it entered; each cycle crucial in charging and priming the body for further effort.
On day one, we concentrated on the basics- kettlebell swing variations and the kb clean. I must say that I did not realize just how detailed and technical these lifts were, but Steve broke down every possible factor of the exercise and introduced the physical issues that can appear in a student which need to be corrected before further progress can be made, dealing with our posture, joint mobility and flexibility. Pretty early into the course I understood that he was teaching from two perspectives- both to us as potential teachers and to us as students, so that we could remain with an open mind ready to spot problems with those wanting to learn the way of the kettlebell.
I was nervous for sure, as indeed were most of the group, as Steve’s laser eye and warm smile went one by one around the room time and time again, using our own physical issues and tightness etc as practical examples of remedial exercises that could be applied effectively- stretches, joint flexibility checks and warm ups, then back to the exercise to note the effect this had on each movement. Bone by bone, nut by bolt, we went through the body until it started to operate in harmony with the bell. IMG_7968
It was hot, rainy season hot- so hot that by the time we were about fifteen minutes into the warm up on start day, the whole class was sweating profusely.
What makes Steve such a great teacher is that he leads by example- doing each exercise with us, pushing himself harder than the rest of us, and then by pure osmosis, showing us his natural, relaxed rhythm with which he approaches every exercise.

Vince Choo and his wife Kate had done an amazing job in having the days flow so smoothly- lunch was a ten step out the front door of the gym, where delicious Chinese food was the order of the day, every day, and the group of sweaty and smiling athletes happily replenished their energy levels. I do pity the other folk who were in the same restaurant who had to deal with our healthy aroma….!

The Leveller
The kettlebell has a leveling effect, as everyone naturally gets progressively more tired, regardless of whatever weight you are lifting. It was really about learning to pace yourself and work with the bell as a team mate, not as something that you chose to manipulate and try to enforce your will upon. Its a piece of metal, and as such it wants to do what it wants…regardless of your own intention to do otherwise.
Any attempts at muscling through the exercises on day one were quickly faced with the reality that our bodies grew more and more tired, and muscles started to fail. By the afternoon, arms, legs and hands were starting to show wear and tear. Five o’clock suddenly was around the corner and during the last long timed set of kettlebell cleans to get through, it was at this point that my left hand started gripping my 16 kg bell a little too tightly as the sweat pored off my body. Yet, I pumped out repetition after repetition. We made it to the last minute and with about fifteen seconds to go, I felt the skin on the palm of my left hand start to gradually give way with each rep. When the Gymboss interval timer finally beeped the end, I looked down to a rather large skin rip in my left hand about the size of a dollar coin, painfully welcoming me to the world of the Girevoy sport.IMG_7965
I felt a sense of mixed relief; happy that the days events had been survived, but mindful of the fact that there was always tomorrow, and the next day. Shrugging to myself, I just rested my mind in the moment’s little victory and enjoyed my little bliss: day one was over!

The first night, we all met for dinner, and the tired smiles and laughs reflected around me showed a sense of camaraderie that was starting to develop between us. Throughout this all, Steve remained 100% positive and encouraging, making time to give each member a little personal time and advice, acknowledging their progress so far and providing more solutions to any physical issues that had arisen.

Day Two: Soft and Hard
The morning of day two I started to hear that others were in a similar condition as myself- broken blisters, torn hands, body aches and pains, lack of flexibility..we really were in the same boat. But a resilience was starting to show through: we had made it through a series of increasingly longer timed sets which had made us gradually re-asses our own parameters. Although the end was not in sight, we could do it. Many gave encouraging words to each other as the second day began.
Qigong warmed us up each morning and afternoon, and then we went into the daily flexibility and mobility exercises which I now realize are so crucial to any kb’er, regardless of level of physical fitness. Confirmation of mobility is a must. Joints need to be warmed up and lubricated, tight areas to be stretched out properly and prepared for the heavy workloads expected at a course such as this. And did we work.
For all, it was not only a physical journey into consistent effort and exertion, it was also a journey into the heart and soul of yourself, pushing just a little bit longer, resting effectively and then reapplying yourself to the same efforts, over and over again until the final beep signaled a chance to break..in readiness of another exercise.

Finding me.
I definitely found myself on the second day. My left hand was in constant throbbing pain as each repetition moved through my grip, but thanks to a great bandage job by Vince and Ed Coughlin, I was able to endure, learning to relax my grip more and more and let the bell become the natural expression of gravitational forces, rather than the expression of my feeble attempts to muscle my way through.Time and time again I put my mind on my breath and just concentrated on breathing in and out, being with whatever was happening in that very moment, regardless of whether it was soaked in sweat or echoing the grunts of exertion as the group pushed itself further and further.
Yes, there was pain; yes, I was totally taxed, but I was doing it and taking each exercise one breath at a time. As were all the others around me.

The course ultimately became for me a form of meditation in action: IMG_8008 I learned to relax myself between each repetition, and conserve my energy until the next explosive burst of power was called for, then back into rest again. I went beyond my hand and aches and pains and into the now, where I stayed for the next four days.
We worked our way through all the core single kettlebell lifts, snatch, presses, push press, jerk. It was so hard that the other course members started to encourage each other, seeing the intensity in the faces of those around you not giving up, not giving in, and all searching for a physical expression of the best of the kettlebell sport.

Thursday afternoon we did our Level One test, with Steve having us do the exercise as he went round the dojo, checking everyone’s form and making final suggestions to fix any issues that had appeared, unmasked by the tiredness that was all around.
By that time everyone had given in to the natural movements: students stopped fighting against themselves and started to find the natural rhythm that is so important to long cycle and timed workouts. Steve was ever encouraging. The room was filled with grunts and sounds of exertion, all the members pushing themselves on further and further, finding a strength in the community of effort. IMG_8010

During the lower body work that day I suddenly discovered all the tight areas on my body- lower back, upper shoulders, hips that refused to open when squatting with a ‘bell overhead. Steve talked us all through it, giving me solutions to range of motion limitations which gradually improved over the course of each day. His ability to impart belief in oneself is one of his greatest attributes, all the while done with a smile.

And I passed, sweaty, exhausted, but glowing in mind and spirit, ready for two more days of work with CKT 2. 6569_112231667111_560052111_2950603_8268019_n

CKT2- Qigong and Fitness & movement dynamics- Letting Go.
Level two  was much more about teacher training and technique- how to spot physical limitations in a client, how to gradually improve their range of motion, and a whole bunch of other useful information on the responsibilities of being a teacher for the IKFF. That plus a whole host of double kettlebell drills and a further learning curve for me- gotta love it!
I really connected with the Qigong element of the classes- finding that this combines so well with the more aggressive physical expression of kettlebelling, and providing us with tools we can use to recharge ourselves, any day.
The most important factor was the exhaustion that I felt as we started the second course. My body was already tired and beat up, and the only way I knew I would get through was to integrate all that Steve had been saying about relaxation and technique, and surrender myself to the movements in their purest form. I started copying his rhythm, saving myself for the end of each timed set for a sprint to the finish beep, pacing myself so that I always had a little left to give if called for. IMG_8335
The camaraderie in both groups was awesome- everyone had a smile for their brothers and sisters, remaining open in mind and spirit.
The Qigong movements we learned in Level Two were detailed and superlative. Ed Coughlin has totally integrated the practice into his daily life and lives and breathes Qi. As a long time meditator, it is easy for me to accept the realities of the body’s electrical power and I can already feel that what I learned is the beginning of a new and incredible lifetime journey. Thanks Sifu Ed!

IMG_8040
Reflections
I walk away from the experience, probably like the other attendees, both humbled and uplifted at the same time; humbled in the sense that I now know for sure the limitations of my own body, and uplifted in the fact that I also now possess the techniques to gradually do something about it and bring a new balance to my physique.

One thing that really stands out in my mind is something that Steve said on the first day- that we were to view ourselves as teachers, not trainers, for as a teacher we take on the responsibility of the wellbeing of the student from that moment on, and that it was with that sense of responsibility that we were to always share our knowledge.6569_112369267111_560052111_2953625_6769410_n

Inspiring and humbling stuff.

For me, this was a mental/spiritual journey as well as a physical one, as I discovered, in the moments of it all, a deeper level of doggedness and persistence inside me, which I take away as the crowning jewel of the course.

Anyone who wants to take their kettlebell skills to their highest levels, do yourself a favor- go sign up for an IKFF CKT program today. And get ready to find yourself.

IMG_8333*me prostrating to the master 😉

Live life to the fullest.

Peace,
Markeu

IKFF Seminar with Steve Cotter, June 28th, 2009

IMG_8969

Inspiring.
One day and many laughs and smiles later, I am about to jump on a plane for kettlebell teacher certification in Malaysia. Once I catch my breath, I will give you all a more detailed feedback report.

But I can say this- I met a group of men and women that over the course of the day went way beyond what they thought was possible for themselves, and all found a new part of themselves which they can use from this day onwards.

Inner strength. Resilience. Encouragement. Sharing one’s journey with others. Persistence. Courage. Forbearance. Men and women alike pushing themselves to reach higher, go further.

The smiles in these pictures say it all. I have already asked the attendees to write down their own thoughts and experiences for me, and once I get a minute of free time -hah!- I will get them here.

As for Steve, what can I say? Steve is …Steve. Enough said!

Well, I better go pack my bags- enjoy the pictures!

The power of communication

No, this is not another kettlebell article. This is a small note about communication, something that all of us do every day and many of us take for granted. Each word we utter, each effort we make, casts ripples in this pond that we share called life. No action that we do is unimportant, for things that we may take for granted or don’t even see, can be a world of opportunity, both gained and lost, for someone else.

Communication has brought you here, looking either for answers or questions to ask yourself. How great we are that we can spend this life on a quest for knowledge! That quest brought me back a year ago to my own health and well being, and has introduced me to some of the preeminent personalities in the sporting world today. I feel very blessed and honored.

My advice to you all is- never stop asking questions, never take what someone else tells you for granted. Doing so can open you up to extending further ignorance and innaccuracy.

Life is experiential in the first person- that means you. You are your own test tube- what works for you, is for you.Try new things and see for yourself the veracity of their claims. When things dont work, just keep on searching till you find the answers that you are looking for. Success will come eventually.

The power of communication brings answers and solutions. It brings us friends and an ever extending horizon of opportunities, knowledge and wisdom. What an auspicious life we have.

As I sit here waiting for the arrival of Steve Cotter, on his first visit to Japan, I am reminded just how hard many of our teachers work to disseminate knowledge to the ever thirsty masses. When we say goodbye to a visit, they often keep going on an endless cycle.

Our teachers, be they school or professional coaches, are a precious resource. Treasure your time with them. To all of you, teachers, on the road for most part of the year, my hat is off to you.

Peace,
Markeu

KB on a hot tin roof

The fog has descended on Tokyo, bringing with it the sweltering heat/rainy season. With humidity levels at an average 80% plus, anyone living here just has to accept that for the next few months of their lives, most of it will be shared with a constant sweat. Exercising through it also is a challenge, and my hat is off to all those athletes out there living in tropical countries, because theirs is a touch road.

Had my first session today (Sunday) with Hiroyuki Owatari, a K1 fighter (K1= the name for the professional kickboxing circuit here in Japan) and full time salaryman/office worker, who has a fight coming up in a few months that he wants to be ready for. The kettlebells are going to help him get there in a big way. He had watched me working out with fellow k1’er Jan Kaszuba and his interest was peaked. He learned rather rapidly that with kb’s, watching and doing were two separate realities altogether!

(More about Hiro later- he’s a very interesting guy and will be interviewed here sometime soon)

It was hot while we trained, and raining that hot, tropical rain outside that comes in through open windows as a thick heavy moistness. I went through the basic kettlebell movements one by one, and Hiro emulated in kind, as we gradually worked through the layers of coordination necessary; posture, breath, relaxation, drive, flow. His face changed from intensity to smiles in the course of the afternoon.

Gradually the mindset of those around me here in Japan changes- what people initially look at with skepticism and judgement gradually becomes openness and discovery. Its been a few weeks now since I first turned up at the kick boxer gym with these funny looking cannonballs and six foot tall Jan wielded them about. Tentative attempts to pick a kb up were met with ” oh, so heavy!!” Yet, here was Hiro, a few weeks later, an hour or so on the very basics, making it look easy. And people took notice.

At the end of our session, as we went through a three exercise circuit, combining everything that he had learned during the afternoon, another fighter sat down and watched as Hiro worked. The constant, obvious level of energy he was expending, pneumatic expression of breath and showering stream of sweat was a pretty good indication that Hiro was totally in the zone. Our watcher was total concentration- taking in how Hiro kept going, yet was sucking in air like an automatic engine, creating a steadily expanding pool of sweat as he worked.

Fighters work hard. There is no other way to say it; when the sweat starts to flow, it flows like a fountain, and it doesn’t stop when the workout is finished.The kettlebells just add one further layer of intensity, power and coordination to any conditioning routine.

At the end of it all, with Hiro rehydrating after a challenging session, the watcher got up, and unasked, wiped up all of Hiro’s sweat off the floor, then bowed to him and left quietly, without even waiting for a thankyou. When the Japanese repsect something, it shows in their actions.

I got some tutoring on the fine arts of kicking, and suddenly we are out of there and into the damp, darkening sky. Where did the afternoon go? A quick stop at a nearby cafe and a quick deep discussion on finding the balance between work and sport (more on that in the interview).

I did a lot of boxing this weekend, but I find my body is bouncing back well after each session. Still got a long way to go, but that’s the fun of the journey, isn’t it?

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