Choosing a Kettlebell

1 Sep

Real quick, before I flee the country again. Here’s a decent article on how to choose your first Kettlebell. And here’s a link to Christian’s Fitness Factory’s website. They’re selling kettlebells at 25% off this weekend, and they were pretty cheap to start off with. The shipping may freak you out a bit, but you gotta compensate the delivery guy for their work out. Happy Labor Day! Now get out there and Work!


Experiment Part II

28 Aug

The Exercise Protocol

This program is designed to take no more than 30 minutes a day, 6 days a week. Most people take 30 minutes just to get to the gym. What I’ve put together is a 3 day repeating wave that you can do at home with a pull up bar and one Kettlebell. The first day is a low intensity, yoga/stretching day; the next day a moderate intensity strength day; followed by a high intensity interval circuit with the Kettlebell. This three day wave repeats for days 4,5, and 6. The 7th day is for resting and feasting.

Low Intensity Day
20 minutes of Yoga. Follow the 20 or so exercises I have outlined (to come), or attend a class if you do so already…

Moderate Intensity Day
For this day, you’ll start with a brief warm up, about 3 to 4 minutes. Then comes the body weight exercises. You’ll do these slowly, 5 seconds down, and 5 seconds back up, each exercise is done for only 5 reps. 5 reps X 10 seconds per rep = 50 seconds. Take the that 10 seconds to get ready for the next exercise. Do all four exercises, then rest and shake it out for 1 minute. Repeat three more times, and you’ve done your 20 minutes. Finish with a quick yoga cooldown.

High Intensity Day
Like the day before, warm up. On this day you’ll use the Kettlebell and follow the Tabata protocol: 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated 8 times. Rest for 1 minute, then it’s on to the next exercise. 4 exercises X 5 minutes each = 20 minutes total. Cooldown with the quick yoga from the day before.

With me so far?

Oh yeah; The Pull Up Bar. No specific program with the pull up bar, just put one up (screw in, or over the door frame), and every time you pass the bar, perform one pull up. If you can do one pull up, perform a negative pull up (jump up into the finished pull up position, and slowly lower yourself down). Do this six days a week.

I’ll have a PDF for download with the next day or so outlining the 28 days. Who wants to lose weight, gain muscle, do more pull ups than ever before? Sorry, I’ll cut the infomercial shit.

Who’s in?

Initiative; or Why Han Shot First.

27 Aug

WARNING: This piece includes many references to Star Wars: A New Hope. To those who have not seen the movie, I will not apologize. Leave your refrigerator box; buy, borrow, or rent it; if only to see what Harrison Ford did before Calista Flockhart.

With advent of the release of the “original” Star War Trilogy (as well as certain YouTube parodies), I realized that, not owning a copy of the pre-technologically updated version, I will never again see Han shoot first. At the time of my first viewing of Star Wars, I was much too young to appreciate that very important lesson taught in the Mos Eisley Cantina: Initiative.

This was a rather sobering conclusion, because the first Star Wars movie is an excellent example of all the different levels of initiative in combat. In Japanese, its known as Sen, and there are four levels: Tai no Sen, Machi no Sen, Sen no Sen, and Ki no Sen.

The base level is know as Tai no Sen, or Mutual Sen. The best example is Obi Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader’s duel upon the Death Star. Two fighters square off, on even footing, neither with , nor pressing , an advantage. This is how every boxing match, UFC fight, or old west showdown in the middle of the street starts.

The next level of Sen is Machi no Sen, or Waiting Sen. This initiative is personified by Gichin Funakoshi’s second tenant, that “there is no first strike in Karate.” The warrior utilizing Machi no Sen waits for their opponent to make the first move, or more accurately, mistake. When the bar patron makes the mistake of picking on the poor whining farm boy, Obi Wan gives them the opportunity to take it down a notch; but when the guns are drawn, the first strike is made, and Obi Wan cuts them down, ending the altercation. But he didn’t have to wait for them to shoot first…

So why in the Hell would you go back 20 years later and make Han Solo look like an ass ( and Greedo like the worst shot in the Galaxy) and wait for the first shot before returning fire?! In the original Star Wars, Han shot first, and it was the perfect example of the next level of Sen, Sen no Sen, or Intercepting Sen. Han is presented with a lethal situation: three feet from an assailant with a gun, table preventing him from closing the distance and attempting to disarm his attacker. What does he do? Distracts Greedo with the little wall flick, a cash prize, then shoots Greedo before he gets shot himself. In law enforcement, lethal force is authorized when an assailant has the means (blaster), motive (money, it’s almost always money), and opportunity to use lethal force (a dark corner of seedy little cantina where amputations do little to stem business) against the officer or civilians. I believe this meets all those criteria. Han simply intercepts Greedo’s attack as it takes shape in Greedo’s mind, before it gets to his trigger finger (and cut Harrison out of two more lucrative movies). George had it right the first time; I see very little moral high ground in getting shot at point blank range.

The highest level is that of Ki no Sen, and it is the mental and/or psychological initiative that the warrior uses to control the situation before it becomes a situation. Seeing the potential for escalating violence, and reducing or removing that potential is the hallmark of a true master. To the uninitiated, this is the Jedi Mind Trick; Hence “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for,” is an excellent example of Ki no Sen.

I’m not there yet. Until then, I’ll just walk softly and carry a big Wookie…

A Little Experiment….

27 Aug

I’d like to present to you a experiment; a test; a challenge. I’m looking for people to help me test a hypothesis that people can lose weight and gain muscle safely with a minimum time investment. I think that using different combinations of exercise and diet protocols can yield increased strength, increased endurance, and 20 lbs. of body composition change in 28 days. I know that sounds like complete infomercial bullshit, but I believe it can be done. I just need help proving that…
What does this whole experiment entail? Less than 30 minutes of your day, six days a week for 4 weeks; one or two pieces of exercise equipment; and a diet aimed at maximizing results.

First: The Diet. This tends to be the hardest part for people, where things go off track.
We all know by this point what foods are “good” and “bad” by this point. During this four week period, for 6 days a week, I’d like you to follow a few basic rules:

1- No Refined Carbohydrates. That’s right, no processed foods: No chips, cookies, breads, pastas, etc…
2- No Grains. Sorry, I don’t care how “whole” they are.
3- No Starches, with the exception of sweet potatoes.
4- No Deep Fried Anything.
5- No Dairy (except for butter if it’s from grass-fed cows)
6- No high-calorie beverages. Or low-calorie beverages for that matter. Stick to water, tea (unsweetened) or coffee (also unsweetened).

Before you properly freak out, let me outline what you can and should be eating:
1- Quality protein, from organic sources if possible. Beef, chicken, fish, eggs, and bacon, tasty tasty bacon. And you can forget about fat, cholesterol, and the other gremlins contained within…
2- Legumes (if soaked for 24 hours). I don’t love these, but I’d rather have them in your diet than processed wheat and corn products.
3- Nuts, in moderation
4- All the vegetables you want. Yeah!

You can, and I highly suggest supplementing all this good food you’re eating with:
1- Fish Oil, for its anti-inflammatory properties.
2- A Multi-Vitamin.
3- Lemon Juice before or during meals. I like a half of a lemon (maybe 3 tbs) squeezed into a pint glass and topped off with soda water.

But that’s only 6 days a week. On the 7th day, skip breakfast, then eat and drink whatever the hell you want. Hey, it’s only for four weeks.

Tomorrow, we get to the exercise part…

Training For Failure

4 Jun

I was watching a training video the other day from Catalyst Athletics on the proper way to perform Snatches and the Clean and Jerk. One of the more interesting things that struck me about the video was the time they took to address the proper training for failure.

I know that a lot of you are already tearing the sleeves off your Cobra Kai Gi and screaming “There is no room for Failure in this Dojo!” or “Failure is not an option!” but let’s look at this honestly. We don’t train in the martial arts for those times when it’s all unicorns and rainbows and care bears and large-breasted blondes with steins of Heineken. We train for when the shit hits the fan; when it’s all rabid zombies and knife-wielding psychopaths and flat-chested women with Coors Light. We train for the times when the easy option is no longer on the table. Some level of failure has already occurred.

We’ve all seen countless examples, even before the advent of YouTube. A Jiujitsu guy throws out an extended arm to break his fall and instead dislocated his shoulder. A guy at the gym tries to move two much weight and gets stuck under the bar. A guy on line at the range didn’t fully seat his magazine, and when he squeezes the trigger, his pistol makes the loudest sound ever: “click.”

But how many of us are training with an idealized image of what combat is, and ignoring the ugliness of the situation? How many of us actively train to fail?

Training for Failure is specifically putting yourself in a situation where you can not complete the given technique or task so that you can learn to recognize that failure, and adapt to the situation; to prevent that failure from becoming catastrophic. It is specifically preparing yourself for “Oh Shit!” moments so that you may be able to walk away from them.

In the case of the Clean and Jerk, it’s being prepared for the possibility that you put more weight on the bar than you could handle, and now you’re off-balance with 200 lbs of rubberized iron threatening to crush you. Now this doesn’t mean you put yourself under 200lbs in order to practice. Practicing pushing yourself out from under a loaded bar can be done safely with a broom handle or PVC pipe.

In some martial arts, it’s break falls; preparing yourself physically and mentally for hitting the ground hard, and then getting back up, ready to do it again. Again, we don’t start by taking nikkyo at full speed from Steven Seagal. It starts slowly with proper body mechanics: slapping out, redistribution of force, working from kneeling and standing rolls, to dive rolls and partner- assisted (read: pushed) rolls. The practice of these techniques leads to increased confidence that lessens the the psychological impact of hitting the ground.

In Gun Fu you have immediate action drills: clearing weapon malfunctions and getting back in the fight. This develops muscle memory which can save your ass when you squeeze the trigger and the gun goes “click” instead of “BOOM.” Another example would be practicing smooth transitions from primary to secondary weapon systems.

If you’re not prepared for that possibility, you risk severe injury. No plan survives contact with the enemy. Training for failure lays a foundation for situational flexibility, creating additional reference points that you can utilize for successful outcomes in any situation.

In short, training for failure prepares you for success…