RKC St. Paul April 29- May 1

Three weeks ago I wrote about my incredible experiences at the first RKC for the year. I was able to catch up with friends I don’t get to see more than once a year, absorb more of the RKC wisdom and even got a chance to teach a section and run a workout! Now, two weeks later I have just returned home from the second RKC of the year where I again got to catch up with some of my best friends, assist teaching again and make a whole new batch of friends and colleagues in the process!

Team Toomey after testing.

This time I was to be on Mark Toomey’s team. Mark is somewhat of an RKC legend. Along with his role as Team Leader he is also the Operations manager for Dragon Door and brings with him considerable business and military experience. I have had a few instances in the past to get to know him and was eagerly anticipating working alongside him. Along with Mark I was also going to get to spend time with Jay Armstrong, RKC Team leader and 6th Dan in Taekwondo, who I met at Level 2 last year and got along like a house on fire. Jay is a great guy, old school and to the point and I really love spending time with him. Also in attendance were my two best kettlebell friends Andrea Chang and Zar Horton. I consider these two among my very best friends anywhere in the world and it is always such a great joy to be able to spend time with them, shoot the breeze and just hang out. When you add an RKC event into the mix it just makes the whole thing that much better. Also at the event were Dustin Rippetoe, Jason Marshall and Master RKC Jeff O’Connor. One of the things that inspires me so much about this community is that the leaders are all such great people to be around. Happy, generous, kind, smart and funny. You’d be hard pressed to find a better group to hang out with for a weekend.

Mark Toomey RKC TL, Andrew Read RKCII.

One of the things that set this weekend apart from the previous one was a massive change in format. The RKC is a constantly evolving beast and Pavel is a very smart guy who is always looking to improve on the previous version. In particular one of the things that really set this event apart from the previous one was the timing of the snatch test. But I’ll start at the beginning…

Let’s get this straight – I love the RKC. When people say things to me like “You must like the RKC because you travel so far” they have no idea. None. If you cut me I will bleed RKC red. Nothing on this planet fills me with as much joy, passion and emotion as the RKC. To have the opportunity to help out at not just one event, but two in quick succession was a dream start to the year for me. To become part of such a great, amazing group of people is something that nearly defies explanation. The collective worth of the RKC is so much more than the individuals that make up its parts. With Pavel, who is quite simply about the most amazing person I have ever met, setting such a strong example of how to act all the senior ranks lead by his example and the organisation takes on the air of something very special indeed. I think many of the candidates are a little surprised by how the RKC team works and it is interesting to see how people react in the early hours of the course.

I was in St. Paul a little early this time and organised with the Dragon Door staff to be there early to help set up. This involves unpacking crates of kettlebells, assembling the TAPS units for the Strength Tests, organising manuals for the instructors and general moving stuff around. Mostly this was done with Tim Spencer, all round great guy. Tim has been to many RKC events and is a blast to hang out with. He’s funny and smart which is always a bonus as well super nice – another perfect example of how everyone in the community should be. Always in the background is Dennis Armstrong and Tammy Drury – these two are the backbone of the RKC and anything that needs doing will be directed by them. It’s great to get to know them better as I have frequent email interaction with them. They’re just like the rest of the crew – happy, passionate, funny and  a blast to be around. Everyone should take the time at an RKC to go and thank these guys because without them the event would likely not be as good.

Everyone starts to assemble at the Thursday night meet and greet. I somehow managed to herd most of our team into a small group in the corner so Mark could weave his magic and settle their nerves. I was super excited to have four Australians attending this time, with one of them being a client of mine Sam Johnson. Sam came to us about a year ago. He’s a great young man and destined for big things in the training world. In a year he has attended and passed the HKC, helped out at two more HKCs and now passed the RKC! He’ll hate me for saying this, but when he came to us he could barely manage an hour long workout with a 16kg bell. Now he can kill three days with 24s! (And people wonder why they should come train with us…)

Friday is always a hectic start, although this time a decision had been made to swap the scheduling of the Snatch Test to the last day. I had some very big reservations about this quietly but reasoned that any direction I could argue it from had already been thought of by Pavel and all the Masters, Seniors and Team Leaders. In other words, if they believed it to be a smart choice it probably was going to be and so I waited to see what the outcome would be. Chief among the benefits was going to be additional time grooving the Swing and fine tuning Snatch technique so that the test would be easier and not rip people’s hands to shreds, which makes the rest of the weekend hard. The change meant that we were into Swing progressions early on the Friday morning.

At the previous RKC I have to be honest and say that I thought the Victim Teaching was poor. I think this was largely due to not enough time being spent on the Swing in the Friday which in turn meant that not enough time was spent trouble shooting the Swing for people and giving them corrective drills to do. One of the things that makes the RKC unique is the use of repetition as a teacher. Traditional martial artists will understand the benefit of this, as will people such as swimmers. Eventually, you find the optimal position for your body to make the most power, but it takes a few reps to get there. Because we started so early on Swings on Friday we got a lot of reps in, and a lot of opportunities for people to see how to fix the Swing. Ultimately this improved people’s Victim Teaching enormously overall and the general standard I saw in our team was much higher than the previous weekend. Given that the RKC is all about making people the best instructors they can be that’s fairly important and I am glad that we are constantly evolving to help get people the best result we can for the weekend.

Team Toomey

As is normal in any group situation we had many different levels of ability and attitude. One of the things about the RKC is that it attracts strong individuals. I’m not speaking about physical strength here, but strength of character and resolve. While this means that we attract the very best, it also sometimes means that people need to readjust their attitude so we can help them. By the end of Friday it had become clear that a few of our team, while physically powerful and strong, were just not letting us help them. They were just holding onto their own beliefs too strongly and not letting us show them what the RKC expects. And this is where a strong, experienced Team leader like Mark Toomey comes in.

Electing to give up a few minutes of team practice on Saturday morning he instead chose to speak about how students are graded on professionalism, not just their ability to heave a couple of kettlebells. And this is a massive difference between our organisation and most other fitness groups. We genuinely care about our community being filled with good, decent people and will work to seed out the undesirables early. I won’t lie and say that Toomey was all hugs and smiles. He basically told people that if they wanted to leave with the RKC letters after their names that they needed to empty their cups, so to speak, so we could fill it with our way. After all, why go to the RKC if you aren’t keen to learn all things about the RKC and adopt our methods?

This speech was so amazing that it saw three members of our team come and apologise to the instructors in the minutes after and one girl burst into tears when they realised how they had been acting. But the change in everyone’s demeanour was instant. Where we had been struggling with some to get them to listen, now you could see them fervently trying to follow our suggestions. One of the things that strikes me most about the leaders of our community is their great communication skills and after the two RKC events I have realised I have much to work on and will strive to match the amazing calm that both Jon Engum and mark Toomey possess.

The final day at this event started with Technique Testing and then the Snatch Test. I had been speaking with Pavel the night before about how much I thought this weekend’s format was an improvement over the previous one’s and was keen to see the result turn up in the teaching and technique testing. I have to say that I was holding my breath somewhat as we started the Snatch Test. The Snatch Test isn’t fun the first couple of times you do it, but once it’s been done a few times the fear factor should subside. The bottom line is that it’s only 100 reps and everyone knows what they are getting themselves into before they come as the standard is widely known. The result of the test being Sunday and not Friday was probably about the same, but with some definite benefits –

  • No torn hands to cope with all weekend. Let’s face it, despite the RKC being an instructor event people turn up without having spent enough time learning technique first. It’s pretty simple to pass the tests and the course if you have spent some time with an RKC prior. They should get your technique dialled in, ensure that you are strong and fit enough and give you a strategy to carry through the weekend.
  • Better technique during the test. At the previous RKC I had to fail three people during the test for breaches of the rules. The rules are set out in such a way as to make the test as safe as possible for people. At this RKC I only had one person “no count” out. There were people who could not perform the 100 reps in the time limit, however that is not a technical deficiency, rather a conditioning deficiency.

So overall we had less hand trauma, better technique and about the same pass percentage as before, which when you factor in fatigue is an amazing result! Another example of forward thinking by Pavel in his perpetual quest to make the RKC as good as possible.

Team Toomey gets ready for battle.

The weekend, as always at RKC events, was better than you could reasonably hope to expect. I have been to seven RKC events in the last two years and hosted four HKCs. Every single one is better than the last. I get to spend time with my great friends, learn form some of the smartest men in the world in terms of strength and conditioning, make new friends and then I get to come home and share it with everyone! Who could ask for anything more? This weekend though was more than just a little satisfying as it saw three new Australian RKCs. Massive congratulations to Sam Johnson, who ended the weekend by finishing fourth in the Grad Workout! Also to Dragon Door Australia customer Frances Bridger – great to finally put a name to the face. She was one of only four on Team Armstrong to pass on the day and was even nominated to assist at  laster date, which is quite a rare honour. Also to James McConnell who I have done some work with prior. One of the things that strikes me most about this is that since we started Dragon Door Australia just over a year ago we have now seen a 50% increase in the number of RKCs in the country with all of them coming from my home town. Coincidence…? Not to mention that I know there are a few more going later this year who have all gone through the HKC previously. The HKC continues to be the best way to prepare for the RKC with the pass rate for those attending the HKC very high.

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

I am already looking forward to our next HKC in Melbourne, There are a few surprises in store for people at both the event and the workshops the next day. I will just say that we are about to enter a new era in Australia of professional kettlebell instruction and anyone wishing to get in on the ground floor and dominate in this area needs to be thinking about coming and seeing us for training advice, attending the HKC and workshops in July and then working towards the RKC.
Congratulations to Team Toomey for a great weekend and to Donovan Hellkamp, Sharon Nelson and Cory Jirak on a job well done with our candidates. You guys were the icing on the cake for the weekend and I hope to get to see you all agin soon. Special thanks to Mark Toomey who was an inspirational leader and spent a lot of time with me discussing the ins and out ofs leading a team as well as, always, to Jeff O’Connor and Pavel who never cease to amaze and inspire me.
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5 Responses to “RKC St. Paul April 29- May 1”

  1. Cole Summers Says:

    Fantastic article Andrew. Great description,heartfelt. You some up the RKC beautifully. Thank you.

  2. Cole Summers Says:

    oops.. “sum up”

  3. Steve MKanna Says:

    Andrew, What a great write up! I agree wholeheartedly with your evaluation of the wekend. For me at 56 it was a powerful experience and I was genuinely impressed with the quality of the people that I met, both victims and instrutors. I had the pleasure of flying to Chicago with Mark Toomey and I sat in the airport with Andrea and Zar and the learning continued. I enjoyed our conversations at dinner and breakfast and wish you and DD all the best in the future. If you ever make it to New England please let me know. Steve McKanna RKC

  4. Tim McPhee Says:

    A great article Andrew. I was given the opportunity to assist because others had conflicts. The minute Dennis contacted me, I knew I wanted to be there. I’m so very happy I was. It is indeed a wonderful thing to behold: Pavel’s constant quest to make the RKC the best cert by improving it, not cutting the other’s down; the Master’s and Team Leader’s following in his example; and the RKC candidates getting so much more value than they bargained for. So, just to remind you; when you come back to MN look me up. Tim.

    • relentlesspt Says:

      Tim – thanks very much! I am back in November for CICS although how much spare time I have is up in the air right now. Thanks for the review too.

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