Archive for the ‘Pavel Tsatsouline’ Category

RKC St. Paul April 29- May 1

May 4, 2011

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.

Good Instructors Wanted

December 12, 2010

I get emails and calls daily from people saying “swing hurt their back”. My answer is always the same – swings don’t hurt your back. How you swing, or were taught to swing, hurts your back.

Having seen instructors from various other organisations attend the HKC and fail it is no surprise to me that people are getting hurt. I am yet to see an instructor from any other fitness organisation who is able to pass an RKC standard technique test. I’m sure there are some out there, I just haven’t seen them yet. So it’s no surprise that if their own concept of good form is so poor that they are unable to convey to their clients what good and safe form should really be.

Given most certifications spend about three hours on six different lifts how deep are they really teaching technique? Not only that but with no technical testing or entry requirement how good are their instructors really going to be? All they really are is three hours more experienced than their customers. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t go see a doctor who had only three hours more medical experience than me! I want the guy who has been in the trenches and has had to sweat for his piece of paper. The guy who not only knows it but can do it himself.

Let’s compare a three hour “instructor workshop” to the HKC:


3 hour course




Length of course All day All Day
Number of Lifts Learnt



Course run by

Master or Senior RKC


Who taught them

Pavel Tstatsouline


What you get
  • A deep understanding of the true benefits of kettlebell training—for both yourself and your clients
  • A solid knowledge of vital kettlebell training safety procedures
  • A workmanlike grasp of the fundamentals of biomechanics—to ensure your clients move with perfect form and avoid injury
  • A grasp of the key HardStyle skills and principles of strength
  • The ability to competently perform the three foundational kettlebell exercises (the Swing, the Get-Up, and the Goblet Squat)
  • The confidence you can now correctly teach the three essential kettlebell exercises—and troubleshoot common technique problems
  • The unique HKC template for designing an unlimited number of effective kettlebell workouts.


  • A comprehensive manual with pictures and detailed descriptions of the exercises you learnt, plus kettlebell training programs
  • Wholesale prices on all our equipment if you are a personal trainer
  • A listing on our website, which gets over 30,000 unique hits per month, as a Level 1 Kettlebell Instructor if you are a personal trainer
  • A copy of an instructional DVD
  • Access to a website with a further 42 exercises.
  • Ongoing support – you can contact us at any stage with questions about kettlebell training
  • Access to a private forum to discuss kettlebell training with other workshop attendees and workshop instructors
  • A pair of sweat bands to protect your wrists when training with kettlebells


See how one group worries about giving you sweat bands and the other worries about giving you the best in-depth tuition you can receive? Which one makes more sense? And is it better to have a book showing you another 42 exercises you don’t know how to teach or implement or really, truly understanding three that form the basis for all human movement?

Not only do we want to be the best at teaching movement we want to perform each lift a particular way to maximise the benefit of Pavel’s world famous RKC system. The kettlebell is a tool we use to make your body function better. If your goal is just to lift it up and down then why use a kettlebell? You may as well just use a bar or a dumbbell. Because of our aim we have a list of very specific standards. How do you know you are doing it right if you have nothing concrete to compare your form with? Here is our list:

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 –

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

With the next HKC fast approaching in Melbourne on March 19, 2011 we are agin looking for smart, dedicated trainers to join our ranks. We want the best. If you think that is you then sign up here!
HKC Certification

Also, if you are keen to become involved with Dragon Door as a certified instructor then you will benefit greatly from attending one of our workshops. With a 100% success rate for those attending it is well worth your while to come and learn from the local expert resource for all things Hardstyle! For more information on why you should train with Dragon Door Australia go here and here. To be the best, train with the best! Don’t leave it to chance.

Sydney HKC Wrap Up

November 16, 2010

Sydney HKC Group photo

Wow. That pretty much sums up the most recent HKC held in Sydney, Australia. Let’s look at some of the amazing things that happened to create such a great day:

For the first time we had a Master RKC come to run the HKC. Usually people are blown away by the level of knowledge that an RKC has when it comes to training, correcting movement and maximising their efforts. Then, they meet a Senior and are again blown away. Then they meet a Master…and… well, you see how it goes. There is a very good reason why Dave Whitley is regarded as one of the top six RKC instructors in the world in Pavel’s RKC system. His breakdown of the Swing and Get Up were great and he ran an incredible day of training.

We had the start of a teaching community here. At RKC events overseas people come together to help out, assist teaching and continue learning themselves. Previously, with so few instructors here this was not really possible. Now, with a growing legion of instructors we were able to have 6 assistant teachers on the day. With a Master at the front of the room an RKCII/ CK FMS, Australia’s first female RKC and 4 HKCs we had 7 instructors on hand! This ensured us a good result with everyone and we were able to help more than 50% of the people pass on the day, which is quite a high number.

The day started with the strength/ pull up test which everyone passed easily, and rightly so. Then onto breaking down the Swing and the variety of correctives and exercises we use to build it from the bottom up. This is a vital aspect of Dragon Door certifications – we teach you using the progressions you will use with your own customers to build them from no experience to safe and effective quickly. No other course in the world can offer as much depth in terms of understanding and breaking down the movements.

After a few hours of Swings we started with the Get Up. It always strikes me as funny when people ay things like “I’ve got the Get Up, it’s easy”. While they may be able to hold something overhead and stand up, there’s a fair chance they are not competent in our eyes as far as the safety of their technique. Small details such as bent wrists lead to a fail and bent arms indicate a lack of either thoracic extension or rotator cuff strength – all easily spotted by trained RKC eyes and all with corrective drills to fix them.

The next part of the day really caught me off guard – I was asked by Dave to teach the Goblet Squat! Now, as a lowly RKCII it was out of the ordinary to be asked to do so. I have to admit to being a little nervous at first but within a minute or so was in my groove and moving forward with the progressions and breakdown. The only hiccup here was my demonstration model splitting her pants during a squat!

Dave’s HKC was a little unusual compared to previous ones I have attended as he had a round of individual practice. This is normal practice at RKC events and personally I find it very useful for honing my own technique. It also gave the instructors a lot of time to work with people on their biggest issues and fine tune their technique before the testing.

The teaching test was among the best group I had seen. With quite a few experienced trainers we witnessed a group not intimidated at all by teaching and largely using the methods set out to build technique with their victims. I believe the teaching aspect of the course to be a strong point and know that no other group in fitness in Australia takes it as seriously as we do. In fact, one of the students who was border line pass/ fail was ultimately failed over what he showed during his teaching test when it was decided that a little more time spent on personal practice would help his teaching too.

After a long and tiring day it is unpleasant for people to hear that they haven’t passed for whatever reason, however I believe that every single person who didn’t pass on the day will become a better instructor for being asked to go and do more work on their individual technique. Unlike other groups we will not just hand over a certificate and we will also not pass you if we feel you are dangerous. As Master RKC Andrea du Cane says “If I don’t feel comfortable letting them teach my mother, I am not comfortable with them passing”. I hope that every single person who attended goes on to pass eventually after fulfilling their retest requirements, whatever they may be. The group this weekend was great and we were quite lucky as everyone came with the right attitude and were keen to learn from a Master RKC.

Dave also ran a couple of outstanding workshops the next day. I am not going to go into them too much except to say that it was the best presentation of the Kalos Sthenos Get Up and variations into the Bent Press that I have yet seen. It was easily a highlight of what has been an outstanding year for me personally. When you consider that I have attended CK FMS, RKCII and RKCIII workshops this year and seen Gray Cook, Brett Jones, Pavel et al present that should tell you how great I think it was. Simply outstanding and cemented the reason why Dave is so highly thought of. Not only that but he is a great guy to work with.

Congratulations to all our new HKCs – Becky Bell, Claude Castro, Ryan Walsh, Rachel Godfrey, Fiona Coutts, Steve Parris, Jab and John Legg. Great work guys, I hope to see you all at RKC soon!

The wrap up wouldn’t be complete without special thanks to the teaching team who came from all over. Shannon Scullin did an amazing job as my 2IC for the day and held things together a few times when it all looked like going pear shaped. Not only that but she is becoming a great teacher and represents the RKC with pride and skill as out first female. The Brisbane boys – Alan Salvo and Tim Uljarevic – also did a great job. Without Tim’s assistance at the previous HKC Sydney might not have happened and Alan is well on the way to becoming an RKC next year in April. The amazing Sigrun Bishop took the time to come from Rockhampton and help out and has grown again in understanding since the Brisbane HKC where she was a stand out. And finally to my student Sam Johnson, thanks very much. While the youngest assistant on the day he showed great maturity and ability in helping people learn and improve during the day. Guys – couldn’t have done it without you!

The teaching team - the best of Australia and Master RKC Dave Whitley.

This was a landmark event for our country. An elite instructor, a group of the best talent in Australia assisting and the continued growth of the world’s best strength system down under. Our next event is planned for melbourne, March 19. If you’re on the fence you’d be silly to miss out on such a great opportunity.

Martial Power Workshops

October 31, 2010

Owning a dumb body is like owning outdated software. Close to useless. Only worse, cos with your own body you’re talking serious or TERMINAL hurt.

And in competition or in conflict, a dumb body spells danger for you and danger for your buddies. You’re a walking liability.

Well, what if there was such a thing as a “Smart Body?”

smart body—programmed with state-of-the-art neuro-software guaranteed to rocket your power, strength and speed far beyond its original capability?

And what if you could get hold of these neuro-software secrets yourself and:


Can you imagine? The same day you learn them—secrets that make you immediately 30% stronger and faster.

For the first time in Australia I will be running workshops specifically for martial artists, combining Pavel’s world famous hard-hitting combat secrets from the Russian Spec Ops with his gold standard Russian Kettlebell system.


  • Why the mastery of progressive calisthenics is the secret to raw strength and power through the forgotten art of bodyweight training.
  • Discover how a simple push up can double your punching power when done correctly.
  • The futility of gym machines and the charade of high rep low weight bodybuilding training when it comes to power and speed.
  • Unlock the 6 rules for power packed push ups and the hidden benefits of this lost exercise.
  • 15 secrets to impeccable squatting and how the bodyweight squat will do more for your kicking than barbell squats.
  • Discover the magic of GTG – Grease the Groove – to develop crushing power using the RKC principles of strength.

Combine this with the RKC system for kettlebell training to learn:

  • Understand why mastery of the kettlebell swing will give you stamina and resilience.
  • Learn how to recruit the powerful lat as a core muscle, to protect your spine and add power to your punching and kicking.
  • The concept of rooting and how to use it to increase your striking power.
  • The two hundred year history of the Get Up and its uses for combat sports.
  • Develop simultaneous mobility and stability to develop awesome power.

These two workshops are being run for the first time ever in Australia in Brisbane and Melbourne on December 18 and 19. Due to the amount of information contained these are five hour workshops running from 10am to 3pm. For more details see the website, for Brisbane click here and for Melbourne click here.

What you need to do to pass the HKC

February 18, 2010

If you’re a trainer successfully completing a Dragon Door course will put you miles ahead of your competition. Full stop. The skills and techniques learnt at the HKC will open your eyes to so many new training ideas that your clients’ progress will skyrocket. People take note of those things and sooner or later you’ll have a whole new group of people wanting your services as a  trainer.

But, the standard is high. We don’t let just anyone into our club. The HKC is not a beginner kettlebell seminar like the locally offered courses. It is a one day instructor certification modelled on the world famous Russian Kettlebell Certification, the gold standard for kettlebell instruction world wide. In other words, there is an assumption that you already have the skills down to a high level of proficiency before attending the course.

Once there we will teach you how to break those skills down, troubleshoot your clients’ technical flaws and instantly correct them with a tool box of fail safe drills. No local course can do that.

But what if you want to come but your knowledge of kettlebells is limited? Given the timing I can say that you have a few options. The first, is to buy Pavel’s bible of kettlebell training Enter the Kettlebell. There is a reason this book is cited as THE reference source for kettlebell training – because its jam packed with 100% awesomeness!

Here’s the scoop – Pavel is the guy who made kettlebells popular in the West. He’s a world renowned strength and conditioning guru. The majority of kettlebell courses all proclaim to teach “Hardstyle”. Hardstyle is Pavel’s creation based on his extreme knowledge of force production, power training and physical culture.

So why go somewhere else when you can learn from the source? Enter the Kettlebell is the number one kettlebell instruction book in the world written by the market creator. I can’t even count the number of times I have read my own copy in getting ready for the RKC and then in further refining my technique.

If it has a drawback, it is that some people learn better with moving images, such as from a DVD. If that is the case then the Enter the Kettlebell DVD is a good idea.

Personally I find the combination of the two to be the best. Originally I bought the DVD, but sensed there was something missing from the explanations. Once I bought the book I found a wealth of extra information and program design. The programs contained inside ETK form the basis of everything you need to become strong enough to pass the RKC while the technical tips are what will allow you to quickly learn correct form for the HKC in just a few weeks.

Another option is to attend our HKC preparation class which starts this weekend. Taught by Pavel’s top instructor in Australia, at the HQ for all things Dragon Door in Australia, this is the best way to get ready for the HKC. The cost is $240 for 6 hours of instruction aimed solely at making sure you pass the HKC. This weekend starts at 11am, and the other two days are March 6 and 13. For more information call Andrew Read on 0412 658 434.

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 .

Merry Kettlebells!!

December 27, 2009

I hope everyone has had a nice Christmas.

I got the opportunity to have a sleep in – a rare treat for any trainer – plus play with my brother’s kids for the afternoon. There’s something magical about kids on Christmas that makes the whole thing worthwhile. And while they got piles of presents from us all I can’t help but feel that I got the best present of all…


Dragon Door Kettlebells in Australia!

200 authentic Dragon Door kettlebells

You see, on Wednesday the 23rd I received the first shipment of Dragon Door Kettlebells from overseas. It may have been 38 degrees. We may have had to haul 1500kg pallets 150m down the street to get them to our car park and we may have had to carry 4500kg of kettlebells upstairs, but it was all worth it!

We now have in stock everything from 8kg up to 44kg. In fact, we have 200 kettlebells now in stock.

Unfortunately, with every good news has to come a little bad. The bad news is that shipping hasn’t been finalised yet so customers outside of Victoria can’t get them immediately. But anyone living in Melbourne will be able to come by and pick up whatever they want.

Anyone really serious about strength and kettlebell training needs look no further than Dragon Door Australia – with kettlebells, Pavel’s books and DVDs and now with the HKC – we are the number one supplier of authentic hardtsyle products and training in Australia.

I hope you all have a safe and happy new year and I look forward to meeting you, training with you and supplying you with all your hardstyle needs for 2010.

The Russians Are Coming!

December 18, 2009

I am so excited about this next piece of news I can barely contain myself. Not only has Dragon Door Australia finally gone live with our website and training facility, but now I can say that we are about to offer true Hardstyle kettlebell training Down Under for the first time ever!

This is not some made up local workshop presented by someone who learnt kettlebells from a book. Nor is this workshop about Girevoy Sport like other locally run courses. This is the real deal. A fully sanctioned 100% Dragon Door operated event that will see one of the world’s most knowledgeable kettlebell experts come to our shores.

Senior RKC Shaun Cairns – the first man to complete the Beast Challenge – is coming to Melbourne to run two HKC’s. Having had the enormous privilege of being in Shaun’s team during my RKC I am delighted to have him run this first event for Dragon Door Australia. He understands kettlebells inside out and as one of Pavel’s select Senior RKC’s is amongst the top dozen instructors in the world.

The HKC is a one day course featuring three lifts. We are going to run two, back to back, on the weekend of march 20 and 21, 2010. For more details on the HKC, and to sign up, follow this link:
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 .

Currently there are no authentic Dragon Door kettlebell instructor’s courses being held in Australia nor are there courses offered that have CECs. I am already in talks with both Fitness Australia and Kinnect to have points accredited to these events.

Spaces are limited at these events – we are only taking 15 people for each day! With two RKC’s and one Senior present this will give a student to instructor ratio of 5:1. This will ensure that everyone gets the absolute most they can from the day.

I can’t explain how excited I am about this all going ahead. To have the opportunity in Australia to learn from one of the world’s best is a chance that is too good to be ignored. If you’re serious about your training or are a personal trainer who uses kettlebells, you need to attend this course.

Dragon Door are the world leaders in kettlebell training. Don’t delay, don’t miss this opportunity. With only thirty spots up for grabs it will be first in best dressed.

The First Step

December 14, 2009

Confucius said that “Even a journey of a thousand steps begins with the smallest step”.

In the world of training most people skip the first step and try to go directly to something fancy, fun and impressive looking.

So much of our training life is spent trying to gain strength and fitness, but is it what we really need? Most people could really benefit from gaining some extra movement skill, joint mobility and flexibility first. What good is loading up a squat if you can only squat half depth with poor form?

And so the continuum of training should be: mobility, stability, strength and then finally conditioning. If I could liken it to a car imagine having a car with bald tires, wheels out of line, no brakes and dodgy suspension. Then we drop a new engine in the car and take it to the track. It’s great going in a straight line but what happens when you arrive at turn 1 faster than you’ve ever been before with no brakes, wheels wobbling all over the place and a car that won’t steer?

If that is your body you wind up hurt.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to put new tires on your car, get the wheels balanced, new suspension and a full service before dropping a new engine in?

In the realm of training, learning how to stabilise a load is pretty much the first thing that is expected of a client. As soon as anyone, whether they are in shape or not, enters a gym they are expected to lift weights. But if someone isn’t able to stand with good posture, or walk with the body held in good alignment then how can they be expected to keep proper alignment when lifting an external load?

Andrew Lock, physiotherapist to the stars has said that bodyweight training is like the primary school of physical training. Without developing these essential skills that we can use for the rest of our lives everything else we do is compromised. As Grey Cook says “there is no point stacking fitness on dysfunction”.

If bodyweight is essential skills and similar to primary school then barbells and dumbbells are like high school. A big step forward. But again, if you can’t achieve a full controlled movement, pain-free with just bodyweight what point is there in adding load? So while resistance training is a great tool it is a further step up the chain.

The final step is university level movement skills. And this is where kettlebells come in. By having to be balanced in an extra plane they create a much bigger demand on postural awareness and dynamic balance. Where barbells and dumbbells only have to be lifted against gravity which only works straight up and down, the kettlebells has to be balanced in a forward and backward manner because of its pendulous nature.

So the very first thing people should do is to take a look at well thought out bodyweight training programs. One of the best known bodyweight training books in the world is Pavel Tsatsouline’s Naked Warrior. This has been the number two best seller on’s fitness books list! It’s available now through Dragon Door Australia. Don’t waste another second on performing training that your body is ill prepared for. Learn the secrets of full body tension, muscle irradiation and how to protect your spine and shoulders during dynamic movement.

Contact us now or visit the website for more details.