Sunday, April 5, 2015

Shogun Speaks: On the Onnit Academy L1 Certification, Part 2

Greetings, seekers and walkers, Shogun back again. Alright, so in Part 1 of my Onnit Academy Certification experience, I talked a bit about my own backstory, at least as training relates to it, and of course I spoke a little bit about what it was that led me to the Onnit Academy. All well and good, but what actually happened that weekend so long ago (well, ok, like a month ago), what did I think of it, and what should you be aware of if you’re considering going through the certification? Well, some thoughts and a couple pieces of advice…

This is going to be a long post, so let’s just get right to the TL;DR:

    Obviously I had a positive experience or I wouldn’t be talking about it, so yeah, go do it. Even if you’re not interested in getting certified, you’ll learn quite a few new ideas that you can roll into pretty much whatever you’re doing, including basic open chain mobility (which we ALL need), some new ways to use old tools (I’ve been swinging kettlebells for almost 10 years and I learned all kinds of new things), and some new tools you probably haven’t spent much time with (Steel Mace FTFW). Overall, the seminar was both educational and entertaining, the content well presented, and worth your time and money.

    Cool, now for those of you who are still with me, let’s get to some details. As I mentioned, I didn’t really know too much about the Onnit approach going into the weekend, but I think that was good as it put me in a “tared” state right away. I’ve noticed this is something that’s served me well in my pursuits of physical training knowledge, that idea/ability to just let go of any experience I might think is relevant and just accept whatever is coming. I thank Systema for that, because they certainly do things a bit differently at the Onnit Academy, but in a good way.

    My first piece of advice, then, would be to approach the weekend with an open mind. Hopefully that’s why you’re there, right? To Learn! And learn you will, for example, I’ve been working with kettlebells for quite some time, and Coach Wolf at one point asked everyone, “So what do you do when you run into someone who can’t do swings?”, to which my response was “Well, I’ve never met anyone who couldn’t swing,” which is true, or so I thought, but after the seminar, I realized that I’m probably not assessing people correctly and underestimating the complexity of a swing, and not just a swing, but all the foundational movements that connect to a swing (which is a big part of the Onnit approach, and I’ll talk about that in a bit). I’ve used zercher sandbag good mornings as a teaching tool for swings in the past, but after what Coach showed us at the seminar, I’ll be doing something different going forward. Old dog, new tricks, confirmed.

    Speaking of Coach Wolf, let’s talk about him for a second. I won’t linger on this too long because I don’t want to seem like I’m blowing sunshine up anyone’s ass (and you guys who know me know I don’t do that anyway), but, the man was on point and set a pretty high bar for not just future Onnit seminars, but training seminars in general. Some of the best seminars I’ve been to were due largely to the fact that the presenters could keep an audience engaged for the duration, and Coach Wolf did that in spades. He knew the subject matter, presented it well, walked the talk (seriously, dude is jacked AF can clean and press The Beast, like, smoooov), and I tell you what, the man’s funny. All in all, he definitely gave me something to aspire to as a coach/instructor and presenter. If you’re reading this, John (well, even if you’re not), a personal (or as personal as a blog post can be) thanks, for making it a great experience, and I’m definitely looking forward to our next meeting.

    My second bit of advice should go without saying: Be in decent shape when you show up! Personally, prior to my certification weekend I took a week off of everything else just to work on things like mobility, basic strength and cardio, as well just to make sure that I wouldn’t show up totally gassed from my usual training week. As you can probably imagine, you will be doing work, learning new movements, and more importantly, new movement concepts. I mean, it wouldn’t be terribly beneficial to just watch someone else go through the motions, right? Who knows, there might be one or two surprise physical challenges as well (hint, hint).

    Being able to "feel all the movements", or as Arnold says, "...put your mind into the muscles," is the other reason you’ll want to show up fresh, relaxed, and ready to work, and here’s why. The thing I like most about the Onnit Approach could best be summed up by this thought from Coach John:

“Most people say to start with strength, but if you don’t have mobility, you can’t build strength. So start with mobility.”

    In retrospect, it makes perfect sense, and it probably goes without saying that not starting from mobility is why we all end up gimped out, banged up, and not concerned about mobility until it’s a huge issue. What this translates to in practice, at least in my interpretation, is learning the specifics of both performing and teaching the basic, foundational movements of which the more complex movements are comprised, and that's the key reason you need to be able to really feel the patterns. The more aware you can be, the more you’ll still be able to recognize those basic patterns as the movements get more complex, e.g feeling the proper tension in a hip hinge or a squat, so as you move up to, say, steel club cleans and steel mace flows, you'll recognize how those basic movement patterns fit into them and therefor always have a reference point for both performing and teaching those complex movements. A little sub-bit of advice here is go lighter with the implements than you think you might need. For the kettlebell section, even though I work in the 24-32kg range, I used a 12kg bell. Basically, find a weight that gives you enough control to progress through the movements with good form, but enough resistance that you're not fighting to keep the weight from "blowing in the wind". Remember, it's not a competition, it's an educational experience!

    To summarize, I’ve paid a lot of money to spend a lot of time in a lot of different seminars, and this one ranks up there with Martin Wheeler’s Systema Master Class. If you’ve been with me for a while, you know that's one of my favorite annual seminars that I pretty much earmark the dates for every year, so that’s saying quite a bit. If not, well...all I can do is reiterate the point I hope I’ve made several times throughout the course of this post, which is, even if you’re not looking for a certification and you’re just interested in adding some new tools to your toolbox, sign on. If education is your goal, you'll get that, and I guarantee you will learn at least one new thing (have I beat that horse into the ground yet?). For myself, the major takeaway was learning how simple movements like a hip hinge and squat actually apply to each other, how to progress into and through those movements, and how to apply those principles and practices to higher order movements, not just for people I'm working with, but for myself as well. This progression and understanding the connections is already improving my own work, and I’m excited to see how I can bring this to other folks. One of the things I say about Systema all the time is that Systema taught me how to walk. In a similar vein, I say that Onnit taught me how to stand, and what I mean by that is that both Systema and Onnit have given me very solid ways to consider and apply foundational ideas that extend to everything else I do, and I can't think of a more valuable takeaway than that.

    So what's next for me? Well, as far as gettin’ and bein’ Onnit (c’mon, you knew I was going to drop that in at some point), I’m looking forward to doing some work with Duane Ludwig later this month (not an official Onnit event), attending the L2 Durability and Steel Mace courses in September and November, and certainly rolling some of this stuff into my teaching opportunities. Just to fanboy a bit on the way out, I’m excited to be part of this org. This is the first of my planned certs for this year, and I think I chose...Wisely. If you have any specific questions about the certification process, please don’t hesitate to reach out, and I’ll respond as best I can. Once more, a big thanks to Coaches John Wolf and Travis Janeway, as well as the management and staff at Vigor Ground Fitness & Performance in Renton, WA (friends in the area, check it out if you're looking for a place to train), Let's Train Again Sometime.

So Cheers, friends, keep seeking, when you find it, start walking. And when life starts to push, push back, F**k Life, Go Train!

Shogun, Out.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Shogun Speaks: On the Onnit Academy L1 Certification, Part 1

    It’s been a week since I participated in the Onnit Academy L1 Certification weekend up in Renton, WA at Vigor Grounds, and I’ve been thinking about the process itself, what I learned, and what I want to do next it quite a bit. It’s a lot to talk about, but part “what I want to do next” is talking, or blogging, vlogging, basically just putting info and perspective out there, so let’s get started. I know, I know, I’ve been promising to training blog and vlog for a while now, trying to scale back time spent at the office so I have more time to pay attention to this sort of thing. It’s basically either work less or train less, and I think we all know what I think about the latter…

    Alright then, for some background, one of the goals (no, I’m totally not afraid to use that word) I had set for myself last year was to get some personal training certifications. Not to sound too head-in-the-clouds or anything like that, but one of the things I’ve been trying to do for the last couple years is be open to the universe, you know, go with my own energy, and I notice when I do that honestly, I always come back to physical training, whether it’s combatives/martial arts, powerlifting, or just general strength training. Truth be told, I’ve probably studied, read, planned, programmed, and of course, PRACTICED, as much as any CSCS or NCSA certified coach, well, RECENTLY certified, let’s say, so I figured it was probably time to get at least a little serious.

    As I’ve stated a few times previously, I didn’t really know much about Onnit other than seeing the occasional pop-up in my facebook feed and for some reason I didn’t really pay attention. Call me a snob, I think I just have an overdeveloped facebook ad filter. It’s weird, my curiosity was definitely picqued by seeing that they were working with the likes of Joe Rogan, Jason Ferruggia, and Joe DeFranco to name a few, but yeah, again, for some reason I didn’t really dig too deep. I have my good friend Brad, he of RiggingDojo fame, to thank for pushing me over the edge, as it was his sharing of the Onnit podcast with Kelly Starrett that was pretty much my gateway drug. Dr. Starrett, of course, dropped some great knowledge bombs; finding myself impressed by both the scope of the conversation and the presentation in general, I spent the rest of the day watching the Onnit Total Human Optimization Podcasts, which I definitely recommend if you’re into training at all.

    Pretty much everyone of the vidcasts is a gem in and of itself, but the one that really resonated with me was #44: Unconventional Training, Attitude, Mobility, and Your Questions Answered With John Wolf. Definitely watch the whole thing, but it was some of the comments he made at around 27:11 about mapping tension between the body and the psyche that really grabbed me. As you can probably guess, a little bell went off in my head and I thought “Wow, that’s Systema 101, ok, now you got me.” I think I’ve mentioned this a few times, but that’s really the most valuable thing I’ve taken from Systema, the tension awareness and management, so anytime I come across a system that addresses that idea, I’m immediately interested.

    So as I dug through the website, I naturally came across the Onnit Academy section and started reading a bit more about the certification. It seemed like a fairly low overhead approach, at least the L1, and I figured that since I had never done any sort of fitness/training certification courses, this might be an easy one to jump into (truth: it definitely wasn’t “easy”). I had planned on being up in Seattle the weekend they were offering the next L1 Certification, so…listen to the universe, right? Signed up, and off I went. In retrospect, it’s a little funny, I went from 0 to L1 Certified in the course of about a month, but you know, that’s cool. The river just sorta pulled me along, and there I was.

    I think I’ve rambled quite a bit, and I need to go swing some kettlebells before it gets too late, so I’m going to break this into two posts. Next week I’ll talk about the specifics of the weekend and some overall thoughts on being Onnit.

Stay Fast, Stay Strong, Stay Mobile, Stay Hungry, and remember, whenever you start questioning life, Fuck Life, Go Train.

Monday, January 19, 2015

On to week three

    You know it's funny, every year for the last few years I've said something to the effect of "I'm going to blog more this year," and some years I do, some years I don't. It's not that I don't feel like I have things to say, I just get demotivated for no reason. Well, that's not entirely true, and in fact makes me want to read more on the human psyche and the biochemistry behind emotions, I mean, there may actually be something to that whole "toxic people" thing, maybe you really are poisoning yourself the longer you spend around 'em. It's crazy how our minds are able to affect our mental states, both positively and negatively, isn't it? Anyway...

    Some interesting things happened going into this year with my training schedule, some changes I was anticipating didn't happen, and some changes I wasn't anticipating did happen (isn't that always how it goes?), so I'm having to rethink my training schedule for this year in order to hit all the points I've been setting up for the last few, and to be honest, I'm still moving things around, but hopefully things will start crystallizing by the end of the month. I'm getting closer to something workable, trying to stay flexible, but going forward, there are definitely some immutables.

    One of the big hard-fasts for this year is to get my SFG Kettlebell LI Certification, which some of you may recall I had slated for last November. Well, November came and went, and my snatch test time was hovering around 6m30s-ish. Given that the overall cost of the trip would've been around 3000 and the recommended standard going in is "plus two minutes", which either means seven minutes or three minutes, neither of which I was confident about (especially the latter), I didn't want to bet all that cash and a weekend on hoping I had a good day. That in mind, I'm planning my training around Brett Jones's SFG Kettlebell Certification Prep Guide. Simple, straightforward, and hopefully effective.

    Ironically (extra points for proper use), I'm not even sure what I'm going to do with my SFG Cert, but I think it'll be a good thing to have. I know quite a few folks who are interested in being high-performance, and I'm a firm believer that kettlebells are the way to get there, at least for the levels that most people are trying to achieve, so who knows? For now, I just want to live through the event.

..."get ready to face the floor"

    This puts me in a good place mentally by giving me some breathing room to do other training, because there was no way I was going to give up my mat time this year. Towards the end of last year, I was only doing Kajukenbo, and oddly enough, not training all my other styles really affected my Kaju negatively. Well, that's not true, I've always held that I don't train a specific style, I train my style, and if I only train one style, then my style suffers.

    I don't think combatives training is going to be an issue this year, it's funny, thanks to a seemingly innocuous post on one of my Facebook groups, 2015 started off at a dead sprint, but then, I didn't actually do anything for NYE, so being able to get up and train on Day One was a great opportunity and a really cool way to set the tone for what's coming. I'm going to go on record and say the best training decision I've made for this cycle is to just fuck everything and get to 10th Planet San Mateo as often as I can. Ditto Systema and Silat, I went back to Systema last week and you know, there's just nothing like that feeling of being free. THAT'S the thing my style has suffered from most, it's almost like for the last couple of months I've had this fear of movement, and for a time I'd forgotten how to breathe. And you know what happens when you stop breathing and stop moving...(hint: you're probably dead). It's cliche to say, but it's like being born again. After birth comes life, time to get to it.

    I'm going to finish by leaving this video here, I actually found it while writing this and the overall tone, well, the overall tone as I perceive it, is something I've been thinking about since sometime last year. But as I've already rambled, ranted, and raved enough for this post, we'll have to discuss it next time. That said, I'm going to go grill some sausages and finish eating. Eat food, lift weights, and MOVE YOUR ASS.

...maybe it's better to be the villian...