Sunday, August 28, 2011

My MovNat Experience on Venice Beach!!!

On August 7th, 2011 I had the privilege of taking my first ever MovNat workshop in Venice, California with founder Erwan Le Corre and one of his top instructors Clifton Harski. I have been following Erwan and his MovNat principles since I first discovered the MovNat webpage a couple of years ago. Clifton and I also have done some RKC style kettlebell work together in the past and he was also the first person to expose me to what a MovNat style training session even is. As a full time RKC Kettlebell Teacher and Kettlebell Studio owner, I have not been this excited about a new style of training in a long time.  The MovNat experience for me was life changing and further made me appreciate movement in some rather profound ways.

Below are some of the Key Principles and Methods that  I learned from this workshop.

  1. Moving well has more to do with intention, awareness and relaxation than I had previously thought. Erwan did an amazing job on emphasizing the importance of always being aware of gravity and where in your body you are "FEELING" the effects of gravity. For example, when standing upright the obvious place where we feel gravity is in the feet. When crawling on your hands and knees, you feel gravity's effect on your hands and on your knees. When hanging from a pull up bar with your elbows and forearms pressing down on the bar, that is where you feel gravity.  Moving well in nature or whatever environment you find yourself in an "INTERNAL" job. It is mindfullness taken to the extreme.  Rather than focusing on muscles or external things, your focus in constantly switching from contact point to contact point!
  2. Where you CONNECT TO THE EARTH is where you should focus. This is a natural extension of the first point I made.  Balance is maintained and efficiency in movement is enhanced when you focus on your contact point!!! The second you take your mind off of your contact point (or multiple contact points) is when you lose balance, go into excess tension and overwork.  This concept has roots in the work of Moshe Feldenkrais and again emphasizes the INTERNAL workings of thought, attention and focus rather than only be concerned with the external environment and conditions. I would argue that unless one is INTERNALLY focused one cannot be truly aware of the external conditions that are present in a meaningful and reliable way. 
  3. Adaptability is the GOAL!!Your ability to adapt to whatever environment you are in is the difference maker in moving well, training intelligently and SURVIVAL. Being able to immediately adapt from climbing a tree, to jumping from rock to rock and then diving into a river and swimming to safety is key.   How does one achieve this ability to harmoniously blend and weave together multiple bio-motor abilities such as Strength / Power / Endurance / Agility / Coordination / Mobility / Speed and Problem Solving? The answer is in exposing yourself to many different environments and performing many different type of movement challenges such as:

  • Climbing 
  • Jumping
  • Carrying Objects
  • Sprinting / Running
  • Crawling 
  • Swimming
  • Balance challenges
  • Diving into Water
  • Lifting objects from the ground
  • Dragging Objects
  • Throwing Objects
  • and many more .....

The myriad of movement challenges are endless and one only has to get creative and imaginative to improve.

4. Studying and watching animals in Nature is very eye opening into the concept of efficiency. Gorillas and Monkeys do not struggle in moving on land or from tree to tree. In fact, they make it look easy and graceful.  Humans on the other hand need to learn this graceful movement and thank God it is something that can be practiced and learned. Erwan made several funny jokes about how tense we were all getting trying to get ourselves up on top of the pull up bars and how trying harder actually worked against us.

5. RELAXATION and TENSION are co-dependent, but relaxation is what allows us to sustain graceful,SAFE and powerful movement. Not that tension doesn't have its' place, but usually excess tension prevents us from enduring movement challenges in potentially dangerous environments. 

This is where I see a great marriage between the RKC School of Strength Principles and the MovNat principles. At the RKC we teach and stand by the following five principles.

1st) View of Training as PRACTICE, not "WORKING OUT."

2nd) Yin/Yang focus on relaxation and tension

3rd) Use of Speed Endurance training for development of power, different types of endurance and promoting fat loss.

4th) "Safety is viewed as a part of, not the opposite of, performance."

5th) Reverse Engineering of what the strongest and most coordinated people do naturally

I especially want to highlight the 4th principle. Erwan did a wonderful job of teaching us about risk tolerance and just flat out stupidity and danger. It is safe and wise to challenge yourself in the beginning with environments that have little potential danger and risk. As you masters some of the basic challenges, your risk tolerance goes up as does your confidence to move into more difficult situations and environments. However, some risks are just not worth it because there is always a higher tree, a higher ledge or more dangerous obstacle to surmount in which the benefits are just not there (if you may not make it). I thought this concept of risk tolerance and reward was outstanding and one that needed to be addressed. All in all I know that people will be better suited and fit to handle difficult and potentially dangerous environments when one focuses on less dangerous challenges in the beginning. Because Erwan and Clifton emphasize the focus on movement PRINCIPLES, the environment is secondary to learning to move well. 

So, as we teach in the RKC and as MovNat teaches, SAFETY is viewed as PART OF, not the OPPOSITE OF, PERFORMANCE.

I also want to highlight the first RKC principle, a VIEW OF TRAINING as PRACTICE and not WORKING OUT. Erwan was very clear that there must be an element of PLAY and enjoyment in our MovNat sessions. Rather than just mindlessly focusing on sets and reps, focus on very specific motor skills and qualities that you want and need to improve.  Also, be free and open to exploring the possibilities of movements. Again, the focus in INTERNAL and not so much external. 

On a personal level, I found that by the end of the day I was more ALIVE (though exhausted), more FOCUSED and more AWARE of my body in a very new yet FRESH way. Movement was FUN and I had developed a new confidence in my body and it's potential to PERFORM and MOVE better.  Not only do I plan on continuing my MovNat PRACTICE but I plan on educating others how the RKC principles (and that includes the Functional Movement Screen Principles) and MovNat principles are really expressing similar truths about the human body and what we are capable of doing. 

Very excited to see where this goes and am very excited to get certified as a MovNat Coach as soon as soon as the certification is up and running. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

10 Things I Learned at the San Diego RKC last Weekend

Last Weekend marked my 8th year assisting or teaching at RKC certifications. This was my first as a Senior RKC as I must say it was perhaps my most fun and memorable RKC event to date.  The teaching, the students and my other RKC peers made it an incredible weekend. Those of  you that have taken the RKC understand what I am talking about. We truly do have an amazing community and a very unique group of committed and capable individuals that collectively make up a very lively and effective system that we all know as the RKC school of strength.

Dan John, one of the most gifted teachers I have ever met, gave a great talk on Saturday afternoon titled "WHAT IS THE RKC." Dan encouraged all RKC candidates  to write down the top 10 things they had learned that were profoundly important to them.  For that reason I am writing this blogpost in honor of Dan. What a great idea and what an essential habit to form after all workshops. The following are the top 10 things that I learned over the RKC weekend.

1) "Be a PERMANENT BEGINNER."  That's right, remain a permanent beginner as you start your kettlebell journey. Dan talked about how he considered himself a beginner with kettlebells because that way you are striving to get better each and every day. Their is no destination where you finally arrive at kettlebell mastery. Always stay humble in your learning and always seek out those better than you.

2) INTEGRITY is being the same person at all times. It is being consistent in behavior and conduct regardless of the group of people you are around. It is living a principled centered life and sticking to your values and morals at all times.  Pavel and Dan have this quality which makes this RKC community so much more special.

3) SWIM the kettelbell down in the snatch. This one is from Pavel. I have never heard that one before. Literally think of doing a front crawl and pull the SWIM the kettlebell down and back between the legs. That means your arm and torso come closer together. This was an A-ha moment for me!

4) Fail with integrity! This is from Master RKC David Whitley.It's ok to fail but fail with integrity. That means you give it your very best effort and commit to the lift. However, the outcome, regardless of what it is, doesn't matter. Do your best and have the right attitude and that is enough.

5) Connect with people at their level! This is one that I realized during the weekend. Try and meet people and see things through their perspective. Sometimes we try to conform others into what we think they should be. Meet people where they are at and respect their own personal process and journey. We are all different and thank God for that.

6) Focus on the INTERNAL. This is not necessarily anything new but it did get driven home after Pavel kept talking about the internal nature and focus of the RKC movements. We teach intention, position, posture, breath, and where to channel the force. This is fundamentally an internal focus, much like an eastern martial art.

7) BE PREPARED!!! Do your  homework before the RKC!!! People get really NERVOUS and RKC certifications!! Help them to channel that nervous energy into better performance and skill work. This is where the art of coaching comes in. Talk with your team, keep them focused but help them feel confident in their preparation and skill work. As we know, the best antidote to fear and nervous energy is preparation. Take the RKC seriously, prepare and show up ready to go!!!

8) Humbleness and Humility!! This should be obvious but often people have the opposite qualities. Those students that lack humility never pass the RKC!! Is talking back to an instructor about how you are right and we are wrong in not a smart idea!!!

9) The RKC community is SPECIAL and people sense the awesomeness of this community!!! Embrace this community, give back to it, and it will give back to you!!!

10) The DEADLIFT posture and position is KING!!! Never forget that SWINGS and GET UPS really do work if you focus on mastery!!! Watching people improve over a 3 day weekend is amazing and something I never tired of watching!!!

There it is!!!  If you are an RKC reading this, let me ask you, what did you learn????