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Rings of Power by Mike Gillette Cool new book from Mike Gillette about Ring Training for all fitness levels. Being on this shoot with Mike was like working with a real live action hero! (And I got to put a cinderblock on him too!) Mike knows his stuff and shares everything you need to know for his versatile go-anywhere ring training.  Full progressions of every exercise, workout plans, and all the know-how to take the training as far as you wish. Good stuff, and yes, that's me on the left side of the cover  :)

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Tempo Changes, Throwing Stars, Strength, Skills, Systema

Tempo Changes and Throwing Stars

Flashing back to that time when I was out at Master RKC Phil Ross's gym and martial arts studio in Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ. He had graciously invited me to participate in coaching/demonstrating with the kettlebell and bodyweight class that was scheduled for the afternoon. Though I was no stranger to Phil's TOUGH workouts (seriously...) I didn't know what he had in store for the end of the workout... real tempo change. If you haven't tried this already, please do--it's a nice personal challenge, and if you lead a small group or other group fitness class it'll really get their attention. Fair warning: they might hate you for it, even if it is ultimately good for them.

Basically, Phil had us all do push-ups (he did them too up at the front of the class, where he invited me to do the same) but counting (his count) down to 10 on the way down, and then counting to 10 on the way back up. Ooof! And we weren't going to just do one of these, even though it was at the end of the workout. I think the goal was five total, after about two of these I became keenly aware of the class in various states of collapse... as they watched to see how long I--this visiting instructor--would hold out. Short answer: not much longer. Pride and reputation on the line, I gritted it out, knowing that I'd definitely be feeling it the next day if not that night.  Good times.

BTW, you can also do this slow tempo with pretty much any non-ballistic bodyweight exercise, push-ups obviously, squats (and many squat variations), leg raises on the floor, hanging leg or knee raises if you want to be really mean, bodyweight rows, and for the very strong, give it a try with pullups. If someone wants to know exactly where their weak spots are in a given movement, this ABSOLUTELY will find it.  Similarly, if you're somewhere without a kettlebell, or if you find youself in a hotel gym with the tiniest kettlebells imaginable, you can really humble yourself with a super super super slow get-up using this type of counting approach. Similarly, small groups do well with light kettlebell or no kettlebell (I call it "invisibell") get-ups that are "narrated" over time Simon-says style and everyone has to match the pace.

All of this brings me to last night. At NC Systema, regardless of which instructor is leading the class on a given night, there will be an often grueling bodyweight conditioning warmup that lasts for a good 30 minutes. Sometimes this is an amazingly long 30 minutes as the rep ranges for some of the exercises approach the nearly unbelieveable for short session.  As someone who's not prone to high rep anything beyond that which is required for various tests, this is actually a nice challenge and excuse for variety. As mentioned in an earlier post, I've modified my strength training on non-Systema class days to accomodate some of the crazy amounts of knuckle pushups we do. Occasionally my knuckles get a little scuffed up from that, but no worries, that just seems to inspire politeness in others! LOL but true.

So tonight, after some breathing exercises while warming up, Glenn instructed us to get into our pushup position, and proceed to try and do a pushup for a count of 40 going to the ground, and then 40 coming back up. Glenn sure counts slow... apparently he's known for this. At some point, around count 22 or so, reality shifted and numbers were not making as much sense as I'd like them to. While in my usual training, the goal is to spend as much time under tension as possible to stimulate an increase in strength and muscle mass.  In Systema we are trying to only use what we must in order to be in a given part of the push-up. It's an extra level of difficulty for me, since I have such a burned in habit of push-up form. MOST of the time this is an advantage, but not always (like tonight). Thankfully, no one did a full on faceplant, though there were some dicey moments. After some rest and relaxation techniques we repeated the drill but mercifully with a count down to 30, then back up to 30--which oddly was much much less difficult. Then we repeated this with squats and leg raises from the floor. Interesting noises were made by all.

Speaking of challenges, I've recently added another hobby to the long list of weird little things to practice. I'd wanted to do this for a few years, but without a backyard or private area outdoors, it was impossible. Thankfully, and in spite of Marie Kondo's advice in The Joy of Tiding up, I'd kept the five throwing knives that had lived in the top drawer of my desk for the past several years. Much like Systema, I'd wanted to practice knife throwing for quite a while. Since moving here, I've been able to do both - with Systema there's a cluster of wonderful instructors and students, and now with access to a backyard, I can safely chuck knives in the general direction of a target. With a little practice here and there between all the rainstorms, I've managed to get a little better. Most of my life I've been terrible at throwing things, now I'm starting to believe I was just trying to throw the wrong things before now. After throwing the knives I had on hand in an underhand style, I saw some really cool looking heavy duty throwing stars on the Cold Steel website - and given that NC is a state where they are not banned, decided to order some so that I could use them to help build confidence with overhand throwing.

I must warn you, they're super fun to throw and frankly a bit addictive. Here's the unboxing video and some of my very first throws. The throws start at 6:20 if you want to skip all the babbling and giggling in delight at unboxing these lethal looking things. So, I've been spending a lot of time in the backyard flipping tires, swinging kettlebells, doing pullups, and now throwing shuriken into a simple homemade wooden target between bouts of giggling. And then there's a few folks who have been training with me out here too. No, neighbors, it's not some kind of Rocky III thing going on, but we could make a very fun training montage at some point... hmmm.

Oddly enough, much like practicing freestanding handstands, and to some degree Systema, I tend to have the most success after being somewhate fatigued. So I've been throwing them more on active rest days and after a workouts--just like I do with freestanding handstand practice. It also helps that one of my training clients has been working on her freestanding handstands as well, so we've been egging each other on after her workout as well. It's definitely rekindled my motivation to work on handbalancing a little more seriously.

More about this very soon, but Master RKC, Michael Krivka and I are "getting the band back together" again for the third round of awesome workshops at his great location in Gaithersburg, Maryland (DC area) in February 2018. While it's a ways off, it's not a bad idea to go ahead and register now for all or part of the SCC/HKC combo certification weekend (you can register for either event separately as well). If you want to really take your career as a personal trainer to the next level, this weekend is incredibly valuable. The SCC and HKC workshops are also of interest to those outside fitness careers as they're accessible 1-day workshops (each) and can serve to really accellerate the progress of the serious recreational athlete or exercise enthusiast. If kettlebells and calisthenics are your passion, and you have not yet experienced these workshops, please check them out asap!  We'd love to see you in Gaithersburg, it's always an excellent time for learning, fun, and networking.

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