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.