HKC Melbourne, March 20, 2010

So much has happened this past weekend I don’t know where to start.

For starters I got to spend three whole days with Senior RKC Shaun Cairns. As one of Pavel’s elite Senior RKC’s Shaun has such a wealth of knowledge that I feel safe to say that the jumps I have made in my own understanding and in my own training have leapt me forward at least six months compared to what i could have done on my own. I was lucky enough to get to know Shaun slightly at my RKC where he acted as my Team Leader But getting to spend time with him one on one for three days was simply amazing!

But enough about me. He came to conduct the HKC…

Melbourne HKC Group Photo

Saturday morning started with a bang. The RKC runs with military precision and when I turned up at Shaun’s hotel he was already coming down the stairs with a beaming smile on his face – clearly as excited as I was! With a bag full of manuals we jumped into my van and went to the venue. We had organised for people to start arriving at 8.30am but the first prospects turned up at 8.15am – clearly as excited as we were! The first two people through the door I’m happy to say were clients of mine – Yaron Mehr and Shannon Scullin. Yaron (Ron) was actually the first person I ever started training that I exclusively used kettlebells with. He has gone from not being able to press a 12kg for multiple reps to doing ladders with a 24kg and is now thinking about becoming an RKC. Watching his progress over time has been amazing. He has literally doubled in strength in that time. It’s hard to get an adult to gain that much strength but Ron has done a tremendous job despite some injuries that a lesser man would have hidden behind. Shannon has only been training since the start of the year. But as a PT she has ability and fitness that have helped her adapt to training quickly. Just like Ron she has doubled her strength too and is training with me five days per week.

Shoe Get Ups

Teaching the deadlift

Shaun and I were joined by another local RKC, Warrick Hanby. I was delighted to have Warrick along for two reasons – one, having another pair of eyes is always good, but two, because more significantly to me he was the guy who started me on the road to the RKC in the first place! When I met him he was such a good advertisement for the RKC methodologies and its way of practice that I was immediately hooked. Not to mention that his tales of what he endured at the RKC made me want some of the same! So the event was great for me – on one hand I had my Team Leader and on the other the guy who started me on the path – seemed very fitting!

For anyone who has attended a Dragon Door event you know that the expectation is set high. Dragon Door don’t run “how to” workshops, instead they run instructor workshops. The difference is that “how to” workshops are what we, as instructors, run while teaching the general public how to lift kettlebells safely. In Australia there seems to be a massive misconception that these “how to” workshops somehow constitute instructor training. What this has led to is widespread poor teaching of kettlebell technique along with a bunch of instructors who know less than most of my clients!

While obviously nervous the mood in the room was set at ease by Shaun’s easy manner and clear understanding of the drills that were used. while I’m sure everyone in attendance thought they knew how to swing a kettlebell I’m even more sure that by 10am most realised they knew almost nothing! We spent over three hours dissecting the swing into component exercises and how to correct each part. The students then drilled each component until correct technique was established. Unlike most types of exercise Pavel’s Hardtsyle system is composed of very technical postures that a lot of people struggle to get into. If you don’t sit at a desk for work then you probably won’t struggle to hold correct posture under load or while moving at various joint angles. But if you’re like many you sit at a desk all day long and you can barely stand upright. If that’s the case then you’re really going to struggle with many of the positions. Add in to that many people suffer from years of bad habits learnt in the gym training their bodies in isolation and what you get is a lot of people who really aren’t yet ready to undergo kettlebell instructor training!

Shaun demonstrating the pendulum swing

The day starts with the swing of course as that is the centre of the kettlebell universe. Master RKC Mark Riefkind says that “90% of people should spend 90% of their training time on the swing”. As someone who has seen many people benefit from a diet of steady swings I wholeheartedly agree. We took about three hours to teach the swing in its component parts. It’s amazing to watch people go from poor posture to good posture to good swings over the course of just a few hours. The swing drills comprise some of the fastest ways I’ve yet seen to teach the swing. In fact, I’ve now changed the way I teach it as I feel that the progressions are faster than what I was using before. Not only that but the feedback offered from some of them as well as the quick results lead to benefits all round for both me as a trainer and the clients.

We then had a quick break for lunch. When I say quick I mean quick – we barely had time to shuffle down to the nearby food court and grab some sushi before heading back to get into the get up!

Swing practice

By this stage everyone had performed around 200 swings and we weren’t done yet. A constant theme throughout the day was swings as “punishment”. Punishment for coming back from lunch late, punishment for poor safety protocols, etc. Before lunch everyone had to crank out 80 swings and because two people were late coming back from lunch they got another 90 for good measure! Once the punishment was done we got onto teaching the get up.

Many will be familiar with the “shoe get up”. In a  normal class situation when people are learning the get up we usually just laugh when the shoes start hitting the ground when people come out of vertical alignment. However, for potential instructors when the shoes hit the ground they get swings! For anyone who has never experienced this its areal treat – for every safety infraction, whether it’s a kettlebell behind someone’s feet, poor lifting technique or a shoe dropping, the group gets 10 swings. By the end of the get uo section we had marked down over 300 swings! However, people recognise that the real reason for these swings is not true punishment, rather it is to groove technique. The more swings you perform the better your technique becomes. For many, who started the day with really tight posture and various technical problems this is a fast way to get them doing things well.

Once the get up had been taught we ran through the goblet squat. I find squatting to be a pretty easy action. Despite many injuries I can still squat full depth without a warm up manage to keep my back neutral. Too bad I can’t say the same for the others… Many people with overly tight hip flexors and poor posture struggle to hold a goblet squat position. When you add in that by the end of the day everyone had undergone hours of swings and correctional drills there was starting to be some pretty stiff and sore people! Despite that everyone seemed to mostly get the hang od the squat.

And then onto the testing…

The HKC comprises of two main tests (plus a chin up strength test to begin). The first part is a teaching test. This is kind of wierd because unlike the RKC where they bring in randoms at the HKC you train people who you have been training all day long. Everyone is familiar with the drills, everyone is familiar with the corrections. So its kind of strange as by this point everyone is doing it fairly well and there aren’t any “clients” that are total newbs. It was interesting watching various methods of communication though – some people are just natural-born teachers while others don’t really have the personality for it. The second test, the technique tes, is really the backbone of the course and is pass/fail for the three lifts. Here are the standards for the lifts:

Swing –

Yaron Mehr, HKC, demonstrating the Swing

Swing a kettlebell back between the legs and then in front up to chest level for 10 repetitions, switch hands and do another 10.

  • Back must be flat
  • Heels planted and the knees track toes
  • Working shoulder packed
  • Working arm is straight in bottom position
  • Kettlebell handle stays above the knees during the backswing
  • No forward knee movement on upswing
  • Body forms a straight line on the top of the swing: the hips and knees extend fully, neck neutral
  • Biomechanical breathing match
  • Abs and glutes visibly contract tat the top of the swing

Get Up –

Ben Cook, HKC and Shannon Scullin, HKC, practicing the Get Up

Lie on your back, pick up the kettlebell with both hands and press it with one. Slowly stand up while keeping your loaded arm straight and vertical. Assist yourself by pushing into the ground with the free arm. Slowly reverse the movement.

  • 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
  • Wrist on the kettlebell side is neutral/straight
  • Elbow on the kettlebell side is locked
  • Shoulder on the kettlebell side is packed
  • Shoulder of the free arm does not shrug up
  • Heel of the front foot on the kettlebell side stays planted
  • Knee touches the deck silently when descending into the half-kneeling position

Goblet Squat –

Pick up the kettlebell by its horns and hold it next to your chest. Squat below parallel, rest your elbows inside your knees pushing the latter out, pause, stand up. Repeat 5 times.

  • Back is flat
  • Shoulders are pressed down (scapulae depressed)
  • Neck neutral
  • Heels planted
  • Big toes planted
  • Knees track the toes
  • Elbows push out against the VM in bottom position
  • Ascent initiated with a grunt
  • Hips ascend at the same arte as the shoulders
  • Hips and knees extend fully at the top of the squat

The scoring for these is simple. A student essentially gets 2 “misses”. Say you were looking at the Swing; a student could For instance not pack their shoulder and have forward knee movement yet still pass the swing. However, if they had an unpacked shoulder, forward knee movement and didn’t extend their hips and knees fully they would fail. The system actually works pretty well as most of the common flaws – such as not extending hips and knees into a straight line – are usually caused by another problem having a knock on effect. It would be very hard to have your two “misses” and still pass. The Swing was undeniably the thing that most people failed on. There were one or two who struggled with the Get Up and the Squat but overall the thing people failed because of was the Swing. Like I said at the start – many people think it is a basic exercise but few do it correctly. I have seen many different styles of swings in Australia – from downright dangerous to safe but not really effective – and by and large it comes down to one thing, poor teaching.

Heath Bowman, HKC, Goblet Squat

Now, with a brand new batch of six qualified HKCs to go out and start teaching the right way to do things there will be a new batch of kettlebell users who can benefit from training with bells and not risk injury while getting a true Hardstyle workout. Many groups here proclaim to teach Hardstyle. All I’m going to say on that subject is that Hardtsyle was invented by Pavel Tsatsouline and if you haven’t trained with him, or one of his Seniors, then you haven’t learnt Hardtsyle. Instead you’ve learnt someones interpretation of it that they learnt from a book. While that may be close it will never be the same thing as learning from the source.

A big congratulations to the 6 who passed –

  • Heath Bowman
  • Maurice Burrows
  • Ben Cook
  • Yaron Mehr
  • Albert Owens
  • Shannon Scullin
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One Response to “HKC Melbourne, March 20, 2010”

  1. Red Dawn in Brisbane « Dragon Door Australia Says:

    […] Hardstyle Kettlebell Certification has been run in Melbourne. You can see my write up of the event here and you can find participant praise here. Get […]

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