Saturday, October 27, 2007


In Japanese, there is a proverb "初心忘れべからず" (shoshin wasurebekarazu) which means "One should not forget the beginner's mind." The phrase can be interpreted in many different ways, but I take it to mean:

1) Remain humble, no matter how far you have come, and...
2) Approach your craft with a curious and open mind

Since creating the Squat Rx videos, I've fielded a lot of criticisms - some of them coming from people with backgrounds in exercise physiology who quote studies claiming squats do not recruit the hamstrings... I wish people such as these would spend more time in the squat racks and less at their keyboards, but their comments have helped me take myself a little less seriously and tested my humility.

After cooling off a bit, I took time to contact Coach Mark Rippetoe, the author of Starting Strength, who was very generous with his time and knowledge. Speaking with an expert like Coach Rippetoe about coaching and lifting was a humbling experience, and I mean this in the best possible way - I realized that, even after spending the last 20 years squatting, studying, and coaching, there is so much more to learn, even with things as seemingly simple as coaching cues and drills.

The best in any field seem to know how to maintain their "beginner's mind" and my conversation with Coach Rippetoe was evidence of that. He asked me a number of questions about my experiences with swimming and kettlebells and it was clear that, here was a man, who loved his craft and never tired of asking questions and seeking answers. Coach was very happy to hear my feedback on a recent article he had done for the CrossFit Journal, and even sent me an NSCA article that he had published about strength training for fencers, asking for feedback.

I've been overwhelmed with the attention and opportunities that Squat Rx have given me and I look forward to continuing the series. The Japanese proverb, "One should not forget the beginner's mind" will be included as part of its mission statement.


Unknown said...

Boris, you were an outstanding student at the RKC, and you'll no doubt have plenty of people who admire your efforts as well as those who take potshots.

About 15 years ago when I started teaching martial arts on my own here in Los Angeles, my father told me, "Birds that fly high on their own always risk attracting the hunter's arrows."

So anytime you soar high enough to be a blip on the radar, someone will have something to say about it. And if it's any consolation, there are people who talk crap about Prof. Kano's Judo, Funakoshi Sensei's Shotokan karate-do, and Pavel's Russian Kettlebell Challenge. Consider it a compliment, my friend! Ganbatte!

Boris said...

Hey, thanks a lot Dr. Cheng! It was great meeting you at the cert. I hope that I have the chance to learn from you again sometime - I'd definately love to bring the family West sometime and maybe we can meet then.
doumo oseiwa ni narimashita. Arigatou gozaimashita. Korekara mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu.

Unknown said...

Boris, I'm hoping to head back east to see my parents in Delaware sometime in the near future. I may be helping teach a KB workshop during my trip there.

Where are you back east? I couldn't find your contact info on the RKC site. I look forward to seeing you again, my friend!

Boris said...

Actually, I'm in the midwest (Iowa). I have some relatives in CA though and hopefully me and the family can get that way, maybe this summer. It'd be great to stop by and meet your students and family.

I'm glad your shoulder is on the mend.


Unknown said...

It'd be a real pleasure to have you swing through Los Angeles. If you think you might be heading this way, please let me know so I can clear my schedule a bit and make sure you & the family are taken care of!

Stay warm!

Boris said...

Definately! Thanks Doc.

Anonymous said...

Boris, i've been perusing your blog for about a week now and have managed to find some really interesting topics. Its always great to see certain things being talked about besides lifting weight. My idea of the beginners mindset is to feel something that you forgot after performing a certain movement, routine for some time. For example, yesterday after going through a vigerous conditioning program, i began to sweat so much and was out of breath. For the first time in a while, i realized how much i enjoy the art of just sweating and a hard workout, something i forgot after going through the motions everyday at the gym. Afterwards, i embraced this moment and walked around the gym grinning from ear to ear, people probably thought something was wrong with me haha. Anyway, i anticipate buying a kettleball soon and seeing what all the rave is about. Enjoy the moment