Archive for January, 2010

Price Raise on HKC

January 30, 2010

The following is from the main Dragon Door site and written by John du Cane.

“This Friday, January 29, our website will be going live with a new price and an earlybird registration discount for the HKC workshops.

From this Friday, all HKC workshops scheduled from Saturday, March 13 on will have their tuition fee raised to $599.

There will be a $100.00 earlybird registration discount which will be programmed to expire exactly 21 days prior to the announced date of the relevant HKC workshop.

Example: the Melbourne HKC workshop being held on Saturday, March 20 will be $499 until midnight PST on Friday, February 26, after which it will go up to $599.”

For anyone interested in attending these courses now is the time to book! The discount will only last a few more weeks and spots are limited. The Saturday course is now almost full and the Sunday course is half full.

Dragon Door’s HKC (HardStyle Kettlebell Certified) Instructor Workshops- U.S. and Worlwide
Click here for Certification Course Information – Register now!


News from the Trenches

January 27, 2010

I just wrote a piece on my personal blog about my work with six time BJJ world champ Robert Drysdale. Its located here: Hopefully it will serve as a reminder to train smart and focus on what is the smartest and best path forward and not blindly following a program designed by an armchair trainer.

Like my work with Sophia McDermott that I spoke of here before it’s not complex. Just me using the FMS test to figure out what he needed and allowing that to dictate that nature of his training rather than trying to figure it out based on his appearance and sport. In his case he didn’t a complex training system. What should really make people sit up and take notice is that if the bet guy in the world doesn’t need anything complex then they should realise they don’t either!

In other news, with the HKCs only a few weeks away it is time to start thinking about your preparation. We are going to be running a series of HKC preparation classes starting February 20th. I know that previously I had written some dates down, but there has been some changes so here are the new dates:

  • Feb. 20 11am.
  • March 6 11am
  • March 13 11am.

The cost for attending these classes is $240. Each class runs for 2 hours and will cover the three moves taught at the HKC in detail. Remember that the HKC is an instructor certification, not a “how to” event. Dragon Dor run these workshops on the assumption that your level of skill with the movements is already quite high and you are there to add the final polish and learn how to breakdown, correct and teach these movements. The instructor certifications are about mastery of movement, not about trying to see how many lifts you can learn in a day.

At the RKC, for instance, it takes almost the entire first day to teach the Swing. So for anyone who thinks only doing three things in a day is slow, to those of us in the know it seems a little fast. And that’s why we are limiting numbers for the HKCs – we want to make sure that we are able to cover the material in depth and give everyone plenty of attenion. With two RKCs plus a Senior teaching the course there will be a one to five ratio of staff to students – essential to ensure the high quality that Dragon Door is known for world-wide is kept.

HKC Review

January 18, 2010

The following is a copy of a post made on the main Dragon Door forum regarding a recently held HKC.

BTW, Six out of the 13 candidates at this HKC failed. –JDC (John du Cane)

Junior Member

Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Los Alamos, NM
Posts: 23
Blog Entries: 5

My HKC Cert and what I think you should know.
First and foremost, I am a newly minted HKC Instructor and I freaking earned that damned t-shirt!

About myself, I am a 37 y/o software developer for a DoE contractor in Los Alamos. I am not a trainer, I don’t own a gym (or a gym membership for that matter!) . I have a man cave chock full of ‘bells and other implements of destruction. In other words, I am your average kettlebell fanatic (with an eye towards training folks in kettlebells.)

The cert was taught at Komrade Keira Newton’s (RKC II) facility in Santa Fe, NM. ( They even took down the barbwire and let the guards take the day off for this event! Keira rocks and is worth every shekel. If you live in NM and you want to learn hardstlye, she’s the go-to gal!

So to begin, the manual says that the HKC “requires no previous kettlebell experience…” I will say this: It would take an exceptionally fit individual who is VERY quick at learning new moves to pass this cert w/ no experience.

There was an individual in my class who is a trainer and admitted that with no formal hardstyle kettlebell instruction, he thought he would breeze through this cert. He had his eyes blown wide open with in the first hour. To his credit he dug deep and soaked up as much as he could in the time that he had. He did not pass the final, but he said that he got his money’s worth out of the training.

This is not a paper tiger certification. You are attempting to gain an INSTRUCTOR rating in three basic moves. Small technical errors that you get away with in your daily workouts or during a workshop will fail you in this class. How can you instruct others if your form is not ONE HUNDRED PERCENT PERFECT?

I don’t know the exact pass fail ratio for my class but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was 50%.
Now this is not the end of the world for those folks. They can visit their team leader or send a video to the Master/Senior RKC demonstrating that they corrected what was wrong. But you only have 60 days to do it.

A great quote from Andrea: “To pass this class I need to be able to trust you to teach my mother or someones grandmother.” She looked everyone of us in the eye as she said it. What a great way to make this personal. Damn straight I want someone who has perfect form and instructional ability to be teaching my mom!

Post HKC notes from myself and w/ Master RKC Andrea DuCane. (I conducted an impromptu interview w/ her after class. I did not think to bring a digital recorder to get her exact words, so I will synthesize what she told me and try to impart it to you.)

Greatest weakness each gender needs to work on prior to any cert:
Men: Not having explosive enough hip drive.Make that pelvis pop at the top of your swing!
Practice your 1H Swings, and Hand-to-hand swings. There was at least 1 student who admitted that he practiced mostly 2H swings. I totally understand why. For me 2h swings are easier. It won’t help you pass the final exam.
Use KB deadlifts to get a feel for how to recruit your hips & glutes.
Tip: do some “cross-country ski” stretches to loosen your hip flexors up before you practice your swings. She noted that a lot of times, the hip flexors throw the brakes on before the final pelvic pop.
General Conditioning: Men tend to do well on the strength related work, but do poorer when it comes to gut busting conditioning.

Women tend to be weaker in the squats. Get your core activating; fire the glutes. Practice!
Strength: Women tend to do well on the conditioning related work, but do poorer when it comes to the challenges related to strength.

Both: TGU. These were hard for all of us. It is a VERY technical drill. All I can say is visit and RKC before hand. There are at least a dozen minor tweaks to have a perfect TGU.

Why the Low Sweep TGU instead of the RKC style High-bridge TGU?
This mostly has to do with effectively teaching the TGU in a reasonable amount of time. There is also less of an issue with shoulder stability in the low sweep method versus the high-bridge position. Once you master the low sweep, learning the high bridge for your RKC will be easy.

My own thoughts about appearance.
I looked at this cert as a job interview. I mean, how often am I going to meet w/ a Master RKC? I wanted to be damn sure she remembered me. And to remember me as a professionally dressed kettlebell enthusiast who is serious about representing HKC and dragondoor style training.

I could have easily showed up in my utilikilt and a wife beater t-shirt and all my tats showing. Instead I went to Sams Club and bought a nice moisture wicking shirt and long shorts for $20 total. I do recommend the moisture wicking fabrics. I sweated like a pig. Although I’m not really sure pigs sweat. But if they do, they should buy some of these new shirts, the freaking rock. Nuff said.

I also chose long shorts over pants so that the instructors would be able to see if I was activating my hams and quads like they told us to do. I really wanted to learn this, hiding poor form behind dark or bulky clothing would serve no purpose in making me a better instructor. There is a reason people who carry concealed firearms like to wear loose dark clothing!

Finally for those with an eye towards the RKC, Andrea cautions you not to overtrain the week before the cert. She has seen too many people fail because the were burned out from an earlier training session.

With permission I am posting a list of what you need to succeed:

Men: 5 Pullups/Chinups
Women: 25 Sec flexed-arm hang (this may have changed to 15 sec but I was too focused on myself to notice what the Amazons were doing.)

A decent amount of conditioning. Why? Its an all day course and the test is at the very end.
Whats the first thing to go to hell when you are gassed? Yup, your form. Make sure you are ready to spend 8+ hours training/learning.

I am not 100% sure about this, but I believe you fail if you blow 2 or more bullet points in any one exercise.(some bullet points have more weight associated with them.)


* The back is flat
* The heels are planted and the knees track the toes.
* The working shoulder is packed.
* The working arm is straight in the bottom position
* The kettlebell handle stays above the knees during the back swing.
* There is no forward knee movement (increasing ankle flexion) on the up swing.
* The body forms a straight line on the top of the swing: the hips and knees extend fully, the spine is neutral.
* The kettlebell forms an extension of the straight arm at the top of the swing.
* The bio-mechanical breathing match.
* The abs and glutes visibly contract at the top of the swing.

Turkish Getup (Low sweep version)

* Use both hands to lift the kettlebell from the ground at the start of the exercise and to return it to the ground at the finish.
* The wrist on the kettlebell side is neutral.
* The elbow on the kettlebell side is locked.
* The shoulder on the kettlebell side is packed.
* The shoulder on the free arm does not shrug up
* The heel of the foot on the kettlebell side stays planted.
* The knee touches the deck silently when descending into the half-kneeling position.

Goblet Squat:

* The back is flat.
* The shoulders are pressed down (scapulae are depressed).
* The neck is neutral.
* The heels are planted.
* The big toes are planted.
* The knees track the toes
* The elbows push against the VM in the bottom position.
* The ascent is initiated with a grunt.
* The hips ascend at the same rate the shoulders.
* The Hips and knees extend fully on the top of the squat.”

For anyone who is coming who isn’t sure about their form, you should come attend the HKC preparation class. Dragon Door certifications are demanding both physically and technically. Without having the right amount of skill/ technique and conditioning there is little chance you will pass. Don’t waste the money you’ve spent on the course by having to redo it at a later date. Spend the time now to learn everything correctly from the ground up and make sure that you pass the course.

Training a World Champ

January 10, 2010

On the 8th of November, 2009, Sophia McDermott became the first Australian female to win a world championship in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. At thirty years of age she has spent most of her life training to compete in a variety of sports – first was five years of ballet and tap dancing, just like any little girl. Then came her first love of gymnastics. Competing for ten years, both Sophia and her twin sister Elizabeth were top national level gymnasts. However, a separated shoulder finished off her gymnastics career and that was when her life changed completely.

 She began training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Melbourne, Australia in 2000. Quickly becoming the top national level female she moved to the United States to train at Rigan Machado’s Academy before being the only girl ever invited to train full-time at the Rickson Gracie Academy. Now training at Robert Drysdale’s school In Las Vegas and as the reigning no Gi World Champ she has come a long way.

 As a brown belt she is often less experienced than the women she competes against and has sought to make the difference up with conditioning. I have known Sophia for over ten years and had the chance to meet up with her in the US in June 2009 after I completed the RKC. She had suffered another bad shoulder injury shortly before this at the World Championships.

 After speaking with her for a while it became quickly apparent that what she needed to do was find a method of strength training that wouldn’t tire her out much so she could continue her skills practice on the mat. With a standard week consisting of ten hours of BJJ plus another two hours of either wrestling or Judo this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Skills pay the bills and already having a skill deficit means that she needs to concentrate her efforts on BJJ training and not conditioning.

 As much as you’re all probably thinking that this is where I introduced her to the kettlebell and the rest just fell into place that would be wrong. In fact, I spent a lot of time giving her my reasons why she should stay away from any form of external resistance training.

 For starters, she competes right at the top of her weight class and has to diet very strictly to get under weight to compete. Adding weight to her frame would just make this harder. Secondly, with a history of shoulder problems I had a good idea that while she was very strong, she wasn’t using her body correctly. To me, there is little point in adding external resistance if the person isn’t even able to hold their body correctly. So the start of our training would need to focus on rehab for the AC joint as well as strength in preparation for the Worlds.

 In Hardstyle we are taught to pack the shoulders – to always work as if we are trying to stand with good posture, no matter the position we are in. This packing of the shoulders, or pulling the shoulder blades down and back creates space in the AC joint. With a history of shoulder impingement it was important that we work on ways to keep the shoulders healthy to withstand the stresses of daily training. This was going to be accomplished by creating better thoracic movement by integrating some Z drills into her warm ups plus getting her back to basics with her strength training.

 Taking direction from the Naked Warrior I taught her how to hold a push up position while keeping her posture tight with shoulders packed in. She was quite surprised at the difference in feel for how it should feel versus what she had been doing her whole life. Once she had mastered the static hold we added in movement just as described in Naked Warrior– action in both directions, pulling down to the bottom of the push up and then pushing the floor away on the way up while maintaining the packed shoulder position. At this point I could see light bulbs clicking on and off in her head as she came to realizations about the way she created movement. Not only that but with her posture held correctly she was able to work pain free!

Once she had come to terms with only being able to do a few push ups at a time we went to work on full body tension. She has now gotten so good at these push ups she is able to do one arm push ups!

Her full training plan actually follows a template set out by Kenneth Jay in
Viking Warrior Conditioning
. She performs three main exercises – one arm push ups, pistols and chin ups. She performs each of these twice per week over the course of three workouts. So workout one may be push ups and chins, workout two chins and pistols with the final workout being push ups and pistols. Sets and reps are kept low to minimize fatigue and muscle soreness. She performs three to five sets of 3-5 reps per exercise. The chin ups are performed explosively with a slow negative.

While I’m speaking of Viking Warrior Conditioning I’ll also add in that it’s my secret weapon that I’ve used this year with many BJJ competitors. However, not many of them are able to use kettlebells well enough, and with my time limited when I work with them, we have replaced snatches with either sprawl/burpees or squat thrusts. In Sophia’s case we used squat thrusts (and hill sprints on alternate workouts) as I didn’t trust her to be able to keep good shoulder placement during such a fast movement. We followed the same interval sequence as in phase one of VWC – 15:15 going for a maximum of 20 minutes. With tournament BJJ matches for brown/black belts only lasting ten minutes this would give her adequate conditioning.

She was amazed at the level of conditioning she was able to attain with such a limited training plan. None of her workouts exceeded thirty-five minutes, including the conditioning part, and she was able to fight through all her matches with plenty of gas in the tank. Her bodyweight stayed low while retaining the strength necessary to move her opponents around.

It may seem too simple to be effective, but then that’s the sort of comment I’ve come to expect from using Hardstyle methods with my clients. The funny thing is, that while others may question the training, few can argue with the results! There are plenty of people who claim they get remarkable results with their athletes and claim to train big names. But Sophia is Australia’s only ever BJJ world champ, and she trains chooses to train with the best – Dragon Door Australia. Don’t make the mistake of using someone inferior for your combat sport preparation.

Are you Ready for the HKC?

January 3, 2010

Dragon Door are very serious about their role as the leaders in kettlebell training. Their courses and products are the best out there. While this is great for you, the consumer, it can also be daunting for those attending an instructor course.

You see, our standard is very high. Unlike most groups in the fitness industry Dragon Door certifications don’t consist of turning up, being shown a bunch of stuff and then being handed a certificate regardless of whether or not you showed any proficiency during the course. In fact, at most courses there is roughly a 30% fail rate.

Now, for the first time ever Dragon Door are offering their courses here in Australia. Already, in just two weeks, the courses have proven to be very popular and are almost half sold out. I receive numerous emails daily from people all over the country wishing to attend and I give them the same advice – book early because spots are going fast. With only 30 spots total available they will sell out well before the March 20/21 dates.

With the courses only eleven weeks away now is the time to start getting ready for them. While there is a large amount of teaching offered at the HKC, and the course is aimed at beginners, there is also a large chance that if you cannot perform the skills to a high degree you will not pass. Not only that, but the real strength of Dragon Door certifications is the teaching cues and skill breakdown. If your mental space is full of trying to get the technique right then you will likely not have much left over to remember the teaching skills.

If you are thinking of attending the HKC in Melbourne I can advise a few things:

  • If you don’t already own
    Enter the Kettlebell
     you should. It is the Bible of the hardtsyle kettlebell system and is essential reading for anyone serious about their training.
  • Dragon Door Australia currently has numerous kettlebell classes running. For those wishing to attend the HKC the best choices are the Tuesday/ Thursday morning or evening sessions. Morning sessions are at 6am, evenings at 6pm. Located at 555 Victoria Street, Abbotsford they are close to the city. With showers available there should be no problem getting into work after training.
  • The final solution I can offer is to attend our HKC Preparation Class. Starting February 20th it will over three Saturdays. The dates are Feb. 20 and 27th with the final session being on March 13th to ensure that everything is squared away before the HKC the following weekend. Each session will last two hours and cover vital technical aspects that will allow you to concentrate on the teaching elements of the course rather than trying to pick up technique and get tested immediately.

The cost will be $240 for the three session comprising a total of 6 hours of training. Anyone interested can contact me at

For those who haven’t booked yet I urge you to do so quickly. I don’t believe that spots will last even till the end of this month. Here’s the link again, don’t wait: Dragon Door’s HKC Instructor Workshops- Enter the lucrative world of the certified kettlebell trainer—and attract more clients for a better income. How to master the essentials of kettlebell lifting—and dramatically boost your power.Click here for Course Information or Register Now!.
How to master the essentials of kettlebell lifting—and dramatically boost your power and effectiveness as a personal trainer or coach Pavel and Dragon Door’s one-day, entry-level kettlebell instructor certification workshop .