RKC St. Paul April 15-17

There’s something special about the RKC. People from all walks of life come together to learn and improve themselves. As the RKC grows, and more people begin to understand the benefits of Hardstyle training, I am guessing that this will happen more and more. As evidence of this growth the most recent RKC in St. Paul was the biggest ever with originally 120 people signed up it ended up being just over 100 over the weekend.

And guess who was there to see it all unfold?

As the first Australian to ever be invited to assist at an RKC I was eagerly anticipating this trip.

But all this changed a little in the week leading up to it when Pavel sent out the teaching assignments for the week. I was on the phone to a friend when the email came through detailing what my roles for the weekend were and the end result was that I started gasping like a fresh caught fish flopping on the deck as I tried to put everything into perspective.

Pavel had clearly lost his mind. Instead of me only assisting Senior RKC Jon Engum, I was also going to teach the Clean and run the final workout for day two. With 100 students and Pavel in the room this was certainly going to be a trial by fire for me.

I will admit that the thought of presenting at an RKC to a roomful of highly skilled trainers, Pavel and a team of RKC instructors made me more than a little uneasy. However, opportunities like this are not often handed out – as evidenced by the fact that no one else from here has ever been asked to do it!

Andrew Read RKCII, Jon Engum Senior RKC, Val Hedlund RKC. The backbone of Team Engum.

The weekend starts pretty quickly. Val Hedlund and I met with Jon Engum on the Thursday and quickly went through the snatch test and Level 1 skills test. This is compulsory for all assistants to maintain high standards. Val is an absolute machine. I had thought my time of 3.50 in the snatch test was pretty fast, especially since I felt like I was cruising, but she beat my by eight seconds! She also went on to tell me she is only four inches away from being able to complete the Iron Maiden challenge! Jon went through his expectations of us for the weekend and we spent a little time getting to know one another before the hard work for the weekend started.

What makes these events special now is that I have many close friends within the ranks of the RKC. So as much as I come to learn and help I was also happy to have the opportunity to spend time with my growing band of friends. Having had a great time with Neghar Fonooni at RKCII last year I was delighted to hear she would be assisting also and we got to hang out a lot for the weekend. Neghar is crazy strong and more fun than a barrel full of monkeys to spend time with. Along with Neghar I also got to meet Josh Hillis for the first time and can easily understand why he is so well followed as a fitness professional. Add in my new friends the Beast Tamer Dustin Miller, Alise Frye and Val plus another RKCII friend Fawn Friday, who is a local, and we had a great group of people to socialise with. The Friday night all you can eat meat dinner at Foga de Chao was easily one of the funniest nights of my life and seemed to continue throughout the whole weekend.

With Josh Hillis, fitness celebrity.

With 100 students at this RKC the teams had a lot cut out for them. With 14 people per team there were many to help all day long. Our team was a great group with a lot of variety and all eager to learn. As everyone knows the RKC starts with the snatch test. The rules are simple – 100 reps in 5 minutes with a 24kg for guys or a 16kg for most girls (12kg if under 56kg/ 123lbs). I could probably recite the rules in my sleep right now as one of my responsibilities for the weekend was to explain the rules to the group. This was great as it got me over my nerves of speaking to a large group instantly. I am guessing it also gave Pavel a chance to make sure I could actually speak to large groups and if it had gone badly I would have been removed from teaching the Clean the following day.

Team Engum had a lot of problems with the Snatch Test. I had to fail 3 of the 4 people I tested simply for too many “no counts”. You get three “no counts” which can be accumulated for various infractions such as having your non-working hand on your leg, pressing the bell out or shouldering the bell on the downward movement. These “no counts” really represent safety issues that indicate to us that either you haven’t done your homework, or you need to put the bell down before you hurt yourself. To be honest, given this test is so well known I find it hard to understand how people turn up when they can’t hit their number. It’s not like the test is hard to find details of, or training plans for. Not only that but it is the entry requirement. In other words, it is what you need to be able to do as soon as you walk in the door. The purpose of the test is to make sure you have adequate strength and fitness to safely undergo the weekend. You would think people would take it more seriously.

The RKC is a constantly evolving animal and it was an eye opening experience to hear Pavel share his reasons for swapping some things around and to watch how it affected the weekend and people’s technique. In particular it was amazing to watch the transformation of our students from the start of Friday to the end of Saturday. The teaching team at an RKC are a very select bunch, especially the Team Leaders and Seniors or Masters. I was very lucky to be on Jon Engum’s team. As a 7th dan in Taekwondo as well as having been at more RKCs than any other person other than Brett Jones or Andrea du Cane (and Pavel, obviously) he has a great wealth of knowledge and experience. Not only that but his patience and communication skills really set him apart as a great trainer.

My great friends Neghar Fonooni and Doc Michael Hartle.

Being allowed to teach the Clean was a great privilege. Usually the teaching of an exercise is reserved for the Team Leaders and Senior/ Master Instructors. I had spent a lot of time reading the manual and thinking about what I was going to say and how to fill in the gaps from just the progressions in the manual. To have the undivided attention of the entire room was a great experience. I was put at ease very quickly when Pavel, Jeff O’Conner and John du Cane all said to me early on that I was doing great and from there I really got into my groove and got a good result with everyone. I’ve had numerous emails and comments on Face Book from people all saying the links I gave from fighting to the Clean really gave them an “a-ha moment”. It’s always rewarding to be told that you’ve done something well so this was obviously a highlight of the trip. (Although I am here for the next RKC too so am keen to see what is in store for that).

Our team did a great job all weekend and vastly improved and one girl in particular, Emily Blaudow really made big steps. With the final workout looming I asked her to help me out to pace everyone else for a fairly hard swing workout. What transpired was one of the all time coolest things I have ever been part of in my working career. I managed to get a roomful of 100 people all swinging at exactly the same time. I know Dragon Door TV got a lot of great footage from it all and I can’t wait to see how it looks. I won’t go into exact details about the workout but I will say that I think I got a compliment from nearly every single person there about it from both a technical and aesthetic point of view. I was surrounded on all sides by a massive semi-circle of people all working to the beat of one drum. The sight was so powerful that I allowed myself to stop coaching just for a second and appreciate the beauty of it. Not lying for even a second when I say that I got goose bumps. To be in the eye of the storm, surrounded by my community, all working in exact unison was amazing. Thanks everyone for putting in the final hard effort for the day and making me look good!

Sunday at the RKC is a little gentler than the other two days for the simple reason that everyone is smoked. There is still lots for the teams to do with practice, testing, a marketing lecture put on by John (always amazing to hear him speak) and then the Grad Workout. The Grad Workout changes at each RKC and this one was an absolute terror. Jon Engum ran a massive workout based on his RKC Deep Six single bell complex and it really showcased who had prepared and who hadn’t. I can remember training for my RKC by going and doing a double Grad Workout at a local park to build up my stamina and mental toughness. Watching how people faltered all over the field it may be a good idea that people work on that as well as their snatch test prior to the RKC too.

George Samuelson at his finest.

The weekend was simply awesome. Between watching Pavel and his band of instructors teach so I could increase my own skills, the opportunity to teach and help instruct a new breed of RKCs and the social aspect of catching up with my great friends and colleagues. The band of crazy clowns that were assisting – Val Hedlund, Josh Hillis, Dustin Miller, George Samuleson, Alise Frye and my great friend Neghar were all icing on the cake. I would attend the RKC just to fetch water for Pavel if it meant I could sit and take notes. To be an integral part of it, to be the first from my country to do so, to get to hang out with my friends… Why on earth wouldn’t everyone want to be part of this?


10 Responses to “RKC St. Paul April 15-17”

  1. mrsghp Says:

    Great post Andrew! Pavel wouldn’t have asked you to teach unless he had faith in your skills. Quite a compliment actually. I love the RKC for the system, plus THE PEOPLE!!

  2. Cole Summers RKC Says:


  3. Franz Snideman Says:

    Great review of the RKC Andrew!!!!!

    • relentlesspt Says:

      Thanks everyone! It was a great weekend. Assisting, teaching, the RKC and hanging out with all my friends. I’m already excited for the next one in two weeks!

  4. Melody Says:

    Awesome post!! Very bummed I wasn’t there. You no doubt kicked some serious boo tay.

    • relentlesspt Says:

      Melody, actually Pavel seems to have a new thing that involves me getting punched and/ or kicked as often as possible during the certification. It’s actually pretty funny to hear people gasp when you get hit behind a pad, as it doesn’t hurt at all. But it certainly gets people’s attention!

  5. Brady Jones Says:

    The entire experience was incredible Andrew. Thank you for the elite instruction. It feels like my training has just begun.

    • relentlesspt Says:

      Brady, you did a great job all weekend. You were a rockstar for our team and attended to any technical details quickly and earnestly. Thanks for being so coachable and working so hard. Everyone on our team did such a great job and never slacked off once for the whole weekend. Very proud of everyone. And welcome to the family 🙂

  6. Jenni Hanson Says:

    Thank you so much for all you taught us last weekend, Andrew! You have such an amazing amount of knowledge and comfortable way of teaching. I am so thankful to have been put on your team! I look forward to seeing you again at another RKC workshop!

    Thanks again!
    Jenni Hanson, RKC

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