Thursday, June 25, 2009


My father can be very social, but he's not exactly a let's-share-feelings kind of guy. He doesn't really 'open-up'. Occasionally however, nostalgia will grab him and he'll relate a story or two. One of them involves a barbell... no, let me rephrase that - the barbell that he bought from a company called Eleiko in the late 60s. Whenever he tells me that story his eyes get a faraway look and a faint smile spreads over his face. He tells me about how balanced it was; how smoothly the sleeves rotated on the bar. He tells me how much it cost. He tells me about how it eventually snapped from misuse at the local university gym.

And, he tells me about how his Eleiko olympic barbell came in a box... a wooden box - like Cuban cigars, or a fine wine.

In the story he retells, the packaging the barbell came in is given as much attention as the barbell itself. And with good reason - packaging and presentation are as important as the product itself. Think of this in terms of food: if an inmate with a cigarette hanging from his mouth ladles some swill into a paper bowl and tosses it at you, will it taste worse or better than if a soup is served to you by an attentive and good looking waiter or waitress in a gourmet restaurant accompanied by pleasant ambiance and company you enjoy?

Pork chops. Which would you rather eat?

Packaging, in terms of training and coaching, is framing - rebooting or rearranging background knowledge and schemata so that new lessons can be learned, new skills practiced, and new strengths developed. Proper packaging helps the trainee to see the value and purpose in a program, exercise, or tool. It is not marketing per se, because some degree of buy-in is assumed here. Rather, it is an integral part of the lesson - previewing and priming the main course yet to come.


The following short list has ideas for packaging a training lesson. Modality is not fixed and mixing things up from time to time is recommended - using bodyweight or bands or freeweights, for example, or using a white board, chalk, or Power Point. The techniques, depending on time, content, and audience, may be the frame through which a lesson is viewed, or the bulk of the lesson itself.

Pictures, Charts, Graphs, Visuals
Video of Athletes
Activation/Isolation Exercises
Mobility Drills & Stretches
Slow Motion
Reverse Engineering
Slogans/Sound Bytes
Success Stories
Statement of Purpose
Pose A Problem
Real-life Application

Coaches, how are you packaging what you are teaching? Are you ladling up swill? Or, are you sending an Eleiko olympic barbell in wooden box?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

I've probably posted this before, but I could post it everyday and never get tired of it...

Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Kettlebell Workshop In Tokyo

I'll be giving a kettlebell workshop in Tokyo on June 28th. RKC Taikei Matsushita is the host and it should be a great time. Main exercises to be covered will the Swing, the Turkish Get-Up, the Jerk, and the Snatch. In addition, we will also cover a lot of shoulder and hip mobility and activation drills, as well as many supplemental exercises as time permits.

I'm expecting a small and, relatively, well-practiced crowd - Taikei and I will be able to give a lot of personal attention. For three plus hours, it's a bargain if I do say so myself. I haven't talked to Taikei about it yet, but I'm hoping to do some Karaoke afterwards!!!

Details (in Japanese):
(in English):

Thursday, June 18, 2009


True story, Word of Honor:

Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer now dead, and I were at a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island.

I said, "Joe, how does it make you feel to know that our host only yesterday may have made more money than your novel 'Catch-22' has earned in its entire history?"

And Joe said, "I've got something he can never have."

And I said, "What on earth could that be, Joe?"

And Joe said, "The knowledge that I've got enough."

Not bad! Rest in peace!"

-Kurt Vonnegut
(from Bob Sutton, the author of "The No Asshole Rule")

The gym scene in Japan, overall, is terrible. Especially in rural settings, finding a gym with free weights is difficult. Even when you do, olympic barbells and squat racks are almost non-existent. Often gyms will require initiation fees; it's rare to find gyms with a reasonable daily fee.

Once again, I find myself in the land of the rising sun, trying to stay in shape. Space is a precious commodity here. Even in rural areas, you'd be hard pressed to come across unused floor space or ground.

Years ago now, I bought a 28kg kettlebell and I do the bulk of my training with it while I'm in Japan. My "gym" is right here (between the Nissan and the Toyota):

The view from my training space is, thankfully, not a neighbor's front window, but a small park:

I often do pull-ups off the slide in the park, and I can use the Jump Stretch bands I brought with me for a variety of exercises and mobility drills. Most of my workouts include jerks and snatches, pull-ups, push-ups, bodyweight Bulgarian split squats, or walking swings. I've done the following complex a few times now, and I find that it leaves me feeling good and limber:

1 one-arm kb clean to 1 kb jerk to 1 overhead squat (right)
1 one-arm kb clean to 1 kb jerk to 1 overhead squat (left)
2 one-arm kb cleans to 2 kb jerks to 2 overhead squats (right)
2 one-arm kb cleans to 2 kb jerks to 2 overhead squats (left)
3 one-arm kb cleans to 3 kb jerks to 3 overhead squats (right)
3 one-arm kb cleans to 3 kb jerks to 3 overhead squats (left) etc...

You don't put the bell down at all - any rest is going to be done in the rack and overhead positions. The record (for now) is finishing 5 reps w. a 28kg bell (that's all I have right now). Ten is probably a good goal. This complex is a variation of the clean and squat combo that Dan John introduced in the thread Kbell Dbl Clean to Dbl Front Squat.

I am forced to do, with less. But I find that it is "enough". More than enough actually. And with less distraction from the myriad of options I have at home, I find it easier to notice the small and simple pleasures surrounding my "gym"...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


In crucial moments, breathing involuntarily comes to a stop. The circus performer knows this, the athlete knows it, the potter throwing a bowl on the wheel knows it, and so does the cartographer, who unconciously holds his breath when he wants to draw a fine and accurate line. In the tea ceremony, in Noh acting, in judo, and in kendo, the tanden takes the lead in the movements of the body. We have already described how the artist or the calligrapher almost stops breathing when he draws a series of lines and gives new tension to the respiratory muscles every time he comes to an important point. He actually practices what we have called intermittent, or bamboo, exhalation. An elevated type of spiritual activity is manifested in this breathing.
Our contention, then, is that controlled respiration generates spiritual power, and that attention, which is actually spiritual power, can never be exercised without tension in the tanden.

- Katsuki Sekida

Of all the Squat Rx videos I've made, I thought this one, "Breathing & Set-Up" was particularly well done. Except for some notes, I don't script the videos out and it probably shows but, I think the information presented was very good. The idea of breath control in athletics is often overlooked and I was happy I included it in the series. For some people, this is all common sense. For others (like me), it's only after years of unnecessarily painful practice that you come to figure out the subtle nuances. I've had many people report PRs after seeing this video and that's always nice to hear.

Suggested further reading:
The Naked Warrior by Pavel Tsatsouline
Power To The People by Pavel Tsatsouline
Zen Training: Methods and Philosophy by Katsuki Sekida

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Maccha - The Secret Ingredient To The World's Best Protein Shake

Maccha (pronounced "MAH-CHAH") is green tea powder - the kind used for the tea ceremony in Japan. It is a very fine powder, mixed directly into hot water to make tea. It is amazing as a tea, but it is also great as a spice/flavoring. In Japan, it is used in a wide variety of foods from candy and chocolates to meat and rice dishes.

My all-time favorite protein shake is made in a blender with the following ingredients:
*vanilla flavored protein powder
*vanilla ice cream
*frozen fruit (optional)

Thursday, June 4, 2009



"Eliminate the old and useless so that the new can be seen. You must wait for the right moment to act, when the snake is ready to shed its skin and the sun is approaching the zenith. When the right moment arrives, act with confidence. You will be linked to the spirits and they will carry you through. This begins a whole new cycle of time. All your doubts and sorrows will be extinguished."

- I Ching