I went all the way to the RKC and all I got was this lousy T-Shirt
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I Went All the Way to the RKC and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt
How I survived the RKC but went home without becoming an RKC
By David Bradley
When I decided to become an RKC, it was because I found myself very passionate about these cannon balls with handles. My first exposure to Kettlebells was in the back of Pavel’s “Power to the People.” As a kid, I grew up a weakling. I believed I was weak. I was told I was weak. I was picked on and beat up because I was the little guy. I got stuck way out in right field, played right defender in soccer, I played bench for flag football and basketball. Actually, I did get to play a little basketball and football but only if we were winning… by a lot. So like most kids, seeing the Charles Atlas ads in the back of comic books, I wanted strength and the respect that came from that. I wanted to stop the bullying and the abuse. I started reading Bodybuilding Magazines thinking this was the key to becoming stronger.
I grew up into a sort of Renaissance man. I loved all things that happened before 1963. I wore a 50’s style haircut, watched old Bogart, Cagney and Brando movies and was always fascinated with the Old Time Strongman. I wanted to be tuff. I was already a Rebel, now I needed the muscle to go with. Eventually down the road, a buddy of mine told me about a magazine called Muscle Media 2000. I started reading it because it was way better than Flex and Muscle & Fitness. This one was straight talk and real. After a while there come these articles from some guy named Pavel with an intimidating last name. Now here’s something really different! I wind up buying a book called “Power to the People.” Somewhere very early on was the sounds of epiphany. The clouds opening up, the sun rays shining down, the Angels singing and the loud Russian voice in my head saying, “Comrade, this is what you’ve been looking for all along… Now get to work!”
I attacked this new routine. Finally, here’s a way to develop real strength. And not just a strong body, mind you, but a strong heart and mind. Here I was dead lifting weight I never thought possible and bench pressing some serious (for me) poundage. I got bigger and I got stronger.
Now in the back of this book from God (or Satan depending on how you look at things) was an ad for Russian Kettlebells. Hmmm…. I thought. I went Hmmm… until 2006 when “Enter The Kettlebell” entered my life. I remember being down at Venice Beach one day and there was a guy who had some. I asked him if I could check ‘em out and the moment I wrapped my hand around the handle and pulled it off the floor, I knew I had found something special. After I got home that day, I went online, ordered “Enter The Kettlebell” and a 16 kg. I put Power to the People on the shelf and dove in. I was hooked from my first swing and totally addicted shortly after performing a Turkish Get-Up. Then I saw a video on YouTube of the RKC Certification in Denmark. Talk about getting pumped! I wanted that experience. I never joined the military, so I had no boot camp. I never trained to be a boxer, but always loved watching Sly get ready for the next fight. Can I do that? Can I take and complete the Russian Kettlebell Challenge? Can I climb that mountain? Why? Because it’s there. Can I climb out of the holes of childhood playground abuse and constant taunting of foul words and accusations of being a sissy, wimp, girl, homo, and one particular part of the female anatomy? This was my chance to conquer some demons from the past. Mainly the voice that says “you can’t, you’re weak.”
Living in L.A., I jumped all over it when the RKC came to UCLA in 08. I trained hard. I hit my snatch numbers early, followed the protocol laid out by Brett Jones on training for the RKC.
In July of that year, my professional life came crumbling down around me. I had to switch jobs and positions. There was no way in my mind I could attend the RKC and continue to have a steady stream of income. I was really let down, but not deterred. I called Dennis Armstrong and he graciously moved me to San Jose.
However, the little voice in my head started acting up. Maybe this is a sign, it said. Maybe you’re just not up to it. Perhaps this just isn’t your bag, baby… My response was to compromise with the little voice in my head. Take note, because this was my first mistake. I said to myself, “I don’t know if I want to teach this yet, I don’t know if I want to make a career of being an RKC, but I do know I want to complete this physical challenge.” I was doing it for me. I’m in the car business, not really looking to make a career change, I want to progress in the car business. I like being a salesman. I enjoy helping people get what they want and need. I have goals and things to accomplish in the car business. So I stopped thinking about how I would communicate this valuable knowledge to others and focused on training my body to face the daunting task ahead.
I got the flu but bounced back very strong. I had my wife’s loving support with every swing, snatch, clean and step of the way. She understood my love and passion for Kettlebells and wanted to see me blast through this.
So… I survived the RKC! I was terrified at the Meet-n-Greet Thursday night. I made small talk for a while and put on a confident face but I was scared out of my wits. I was humbled being in the presence of such strength and power. I was humbled a lot that weekend. FYI, if you need a slice a humble pie, the RKC weekend is definitely for you. I forced myself to eat dinner Thursday night and tried real hard to sleep.
The next morning, adrenalin kicked in, I hit my snatch numbers in record time and I was off and running… uh, swinging actually. Speaking of swinging, as we were learning and working on the swing I was so impressed by how my Team Leader, Dr. Mike Hartle and his crew were so meticulous with the finer points of the swing. Chuck Halbakken tells me to bring my feet in a little closer. What’s that going do, I thought? Then I did it… Oh, that’s what! Less quad, more hip, hams locked and loaded, more power. Wow! Who would have thought such a small adjustment would have such a dynamic effect? Doc Hartle advises me to squeeze the glutes more and really let it rip. Bam! Bigger swing. I’m already looking forward to letting loose on my 2 pood when I get home. My form and function has dramatically improved and I thought it was pretty good already. The whole weekend was like this. Little satori’s popping like firecrackers. I spent Friday and Saturday trying to figure out how I can improve my form, my skills, my strength and my endurance. It wasn’t until Saturday night I realized, I’ve got to teach this to someone! I have to teach it well. I have to teach it with the same care as Doc Hartle, Chuck, Ken and Cody. Oh boy… I’ve never had to really teach anybody anything.
I had been selfish. Wasn’t one of the real reasons I was here to learn the art and science of Hard Style Kettlebells so I can pass on this knowledge? Isn’t it my responsibility to take this knowledge and pass it on to those who want it or need it? Saturday night before going to bed I stared at my instructor manual. Can I do this? Can I communicate this to someone else and keep them safe? I honestly didn’t know.
I reverted to my training and as a salesman; I tried to adapt my sales cycle to instructing Kettlebells. I think I got pretty close. But not close enough to allow my Team Leader to entrust me with the honor and privilege of passing on the knowledge. I was humbled and proud to have grown and developed over the weekend yet I will be studying, re-testing, and will become a certified RKC. I now understand that being an RKC is a very serious thing. Please understand, I always took it seriously but I took it serious for me. Teaching the RKC system and empowering others is a skill and as Riff put it Saturday night, “Mastery is a goal that comes from practice of a deep skill.”
When I got my Certificate of Attendance it came with a little card. It was a coupon. On the card were two check boxes. One box was for an Instructor Shirt and another box was for a free T-Shirt of my choosing. My card had the T-Shirt box checked. Keep in mind, it’s a great shirt, I will wear it with pride. This was however, the most humbling and motivating part of my weekend. The Instructor Polo shirt is a symbol. Not everyone gets that one. I survived every physical challenge, I didn’t complain, I dug deep into my soul and conquered demons from the past, but I’m not an RKC… at least, not yet. I have more work to do. My journey is just beginning.
So let’s debrief my RKC weekend in the hopes that it will help all of you aspiring RKC’s out there.
-Passing the Snatch Test: Took my weight, added 15 pounds, figured out that number in kilograms, divided by 5 and did that number, half per arm on the minute. For example: 165 + 15 = 180. 180/2.2046 = 81.647. Round that up to 82. 82/5 = 16.4. 16/2 = 8. So, 8 Left + 8 Right every minute on the minute for 5 minutes is 80 Snatches. Started with 1 and a half minutes rest per set and worked down to 30 seconds rest between sets, practiced this twice a week.
-Followed the Brett Jones training template for preparing for the RKC. This is a great protocol.
-Practiced the Grad Workout with heavier (24kg instead of 20kg) Bells every other week. This is a very intense workout and shouldn’t be done a lot. I started at 1 minute rest between Sea-Saw Presses and Swings for 100 yards and reduced the rest time by 5 seconds every time.
-Had Power breathing down going into it.
How could I have done better?
-Practiced the Kettlebell Squat more with heavier weight and strengthened my legs.
-Hip Flexors could have been looser.
-I should have looked at each lesson at the RKC from the point of view of “How am I going to teach this to someone else?”
-Probably should have watched “Kettlebell Basics for Strength Coaches and Personal Trainers” as many times as I’ve seen Star Wars… Ok, well that would be impossible, but definitely could have watched that a few more times.
-As the weekend progressed I realized I should have met with an RKC prior to coming, not just for the form check but to get a real taste of what teaching Kettlebells is all about.
What did I learn?
-While working with a victim, I need to be more aware of my surroundings to ensure the victim’s safety as well as my own.
-While working with a victim, I should not allow them to use the weight they felt they can handle. I, as the instructor, should select the weight for them until they demonstrate to me good form and the appropriate strength to use a heavier Bell.
-Be humble enough to keep instruction as simple and specific as it was shown to me. No need to re-invent the wheel here!
Final Thoughts: Take note, memorize and start living by the RKC Code of Conduct before attending. Reviewing these 6 simple principles and knowing it going in will only strengthen you as you struggle to enjoy the pain. The RKC code of conduct means so much more to me now than it did before.
What does it mean to be an RKC? It means you are part of an elite group of people who carry their strength with honor, respect and humility. An RKC is proud but never satisfied. An RKC is a professional.
I hope this helps all of you aspiring RKC’s out there. When you decide to accept the Russian Kettlebell Challenge, whether you pass of not (notice I didn’t say fail, no one fails the RKC, just being there and going through those three days makes you stronger than you ever thought possible) you will go home a better person for it.
A big thank you goes out to Pavel, Doc Hartle, Mr. DuCane, Mr. Armstrong, Riff, all the RKC’s that I encountered that weekend and every attendee that I grunted with and struggled with.
PS - A few months later in June after spending time working with Dr Mark Cheng, my dream came true... I became an RKC.
Have you ever faced a challenge like this?
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© 2009 David R Bradley
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