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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bay Area Open/OKC Instructors Cert.: Kettlebell Lifting with a Smile

Saturday, August 17th in Berkeley, CA. The event took place in a slice of John McNeil's Studio. I wish I'd thought to take "before and after" readings on the heat and vibrational frequency. My guess is the air above the platforms gained 15 degrees, and the vibration went from "friendly and helpful" to "best ever, bottle some of this for a rainy day."

GS lifters from US and Canada had their Kettle Game on that morning and into the early evening. Guests looked on in awe, who could blame them?

Represented were Strong Ladies of Canadia (if these are your women, I'd like to meet your men, eh?), Women of Underground Athlete from D.C. and Virginia (again, the guys?), from Dallas, TX, Full Throttle sent a co-ed team, Team Colorado (myself and three others!), KBNic's party from Grit City, Tacoma, WA, brought formidable force, gireviks from all around California representing Orange Kettlebell Club and Juno Fitness flocked in, and from KETAcademy (Kettlebell Endurance Training), Head Judge, Coach and World Class lifter Denis Vesilev.

As someone who first noticed the OKC team in 2011, the small herd of lifters in the trademark "snatchman" t-shirt revolving around a Great Big Guy and tiny Japanese photographer lady, I've come to deeply admire this incredible team. At the 1st Annual Bay Area Competition I learned that the leadership of this group includes epitome of "gentle giant," CEO John Wild Buckley, impeccably graceful Head Coach Nazo, impressionist/coach/co-founder Jason Dolby, and owner/coach/asskicker at Juno Fitness, Juliet Lederle. For this second annual meet the four of them took the event by the horns, knowing there would be at least twice (make that three-times) the turn out as last year. Maybe it's the unconditional love and genuine friendship constantly offered, maybe it's something in the Berkeley water, but every single person in an OKC or Juno t-shirt took the needs and comfort of visiting lifters and guests as his/her personal responsibility.

At this event OKC rolled-out the new KETAcademy Universal International Ranking Tables. Head Judge Denis Vesilev verified the specific requirements of a "good" lift vs. "no count" or "warning" calls at the pre-flight judges meeting, demonstrated how to use the snazzy electronic timer/rep counters, and kept a close watch on all the flights up until his own lifting events.

Timer/rep counters as seen from three of four platforms.
Considering this was a small regional meet, the event equipment and judging standard easily exceeded my experience of National level competitions minus the tension and seriousness. Almost everyone had a competitor in his/her weight class, but in the spirit of sporting fun people outright admired each others great lifting and shear grit. Though I was the only representative of IKSFA, many lifters at last Saturday's event have at some point learned directly from IKSFA President, Coach Sergey Rudnev, and complimented his influence on my technique.

It was mentioned at the awards ceremony that Personal Records were set by the dozens, and first-time event attempts were a main theme of the day, including myself and all my Colorado GS Team mates! One Master of Sport was awarded (earned by Juliet Lederle), a handful of CMS,  and well-earned Ranks 1, 2 and 3 given to individual 10-Minute sets and Biathlon lifters. 5-Minute events with multiple hand switches were run for PRs.
(As a side note, the KETAcademy ranking tables award up to Master of Sport International Class for Men and Women 5-Minute events (with one hand switch where applicable), 30- and 60-Minute Marathons, and 5 - and 7-person Team Relays.)

Denis demonstrates the under squat.
Which leads me to the OKC Instructor Certification event hosted at Juno Fitness the two days following. As with any certification course, you just had to be there. Learning how to teach foundational technique is as much of an obsession as achieving personal goals for many of us. Guest Instructor Denis added his years of experience to the OKC teachers enthusiasm making this a once-in-a-lifetime event.

Once we had all completed the written exam, the highlight for most participants at last weekend's event was the practical test. The official requirement is for each candidate to perform a Rank 3 set with either LongCycle or Snatch. Because many of us had achieved Rank 3 or above at the competition, and had the skin trauma to show for it, John and Jason took a great idea to the platform and conducted Men and Women 7-person Jerk Relays for a combined score of Rank 3. It was the first time most of us had done this event and took a moment to explain.

In a relay all the team members use the same kettlebell(s) for the duration. From lightest to heaviest bodyweight class, each team member has 3 minutes to perform as many correct repetitions as possible for the team. The total time for this event is 21 minutes. For the Team Jerk Relay last weekend the Men lifted two 16kg kettlebells for a total of 341 reps and the Women used one 12kg kettlebell for 501 reps!

As you can see by the scores, the most recent OKC Instructor class blew the Rank 3 practical test out of the water. By the table, Men's requirement is 300, Women's requirement is 370.
At the end of the seminar there was not a single person left un-inspired. Yes, we were all completely toasted after the competition, but whether by new technique, a feeling of new friendship and support, or a sense of the bigger picture we all represent, everyone had an enriching experience at the 2nd Annual Bay Area Kettlebell Competition and OKC Instructors Certification course last weekend.


*Thanks again to Tricia Dong for the top three photos.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

GS Practice with Oboe

It's getting to be time, yep, time to go compete again. I know this because it's Stage 4, the only part of my training where I show up at the gym on Sunday. I happens once in an entire training cycle, and last Sunday was that day.

Perhaps because I was there earlier than usual, because I have sworn off "Saturday Night" until after the meet, I was the only person in the gym. As is my habit, after joint mobility and basic core warm-up I take my kettlebell and the entire chalk bin outside to prepare the handle and lo, an oboe player in a nearby apartment is doing the musician's parallel of my warm-up routine, scales. Somehow there was a feeling of shared artistry in this moment.

Those who appreciate the benefits of chalk sympathize with the following sequence:

I put a base layer on the "Work Set" bell, then go inside to begin the progressive warm-up with weights. Starting with a drop weight, basic movements in sets of 5 each side.
Put down, shoulder mobility, pick up and complete 5 reps each side with focus on recent technique corrections.
Next weight, 2kg up. This time including basic movements with the full lift, 5 rep sets on each side, special attention to the most recent corrections. Put down.

Go look at the "Work Set" bell. It's still there with a base coat of chalk. As I apply myself to covering the holes in this first coat, I notice Oboe Player has gotten into a different set of scales. Some of it has a resemblance to familiar classical music, but just as I start to pick out the tune the scale resumes.

With the second layer of chalk secured, I go back in to continue my weighted warm-up.
More shoulder mobility before hefting the next weight up. This time straight to the lift, suddenly aware that this kettlebell is not chalked. I space out one rep thinking about potential hand damage, so add one to be certain I'm still able to incorporate that new material. Second side, put down.
Then it gets serious. I happen to have doubles of each weight, so am now onto warming-up with the Work Set weight, the one that is not under a protective coat of magnesium.

My general rule: chalk the bell if doing more than 5 reps each side, chalk the hands if less.

So off to the chalk bin.

Outside, Oboe Player has gotten the reed warm and is doing an improvisational set of scales which allows for pitch errors. When a note is played off, the scale shifts to that different key for a few notes, then returns to the original scale. I've never heard a musician do this before, but haven't spent any time in a symphony. It's an incredible feat of training and intuition happening in my ears, my "practice partner" is doing exactly what I'm doing, using the warm-up as a practice. Just to hear the next measure I finish chalking my handle, thus re-coating my hands for the final warm-up set.

Me, the bell, the chalk bin, my sand paper and shop towel all come in this time.
A short set of arm circles, then grab the extra bell. After rep 3 I feel the new technique feature doing it's work: the drop down results in a straight line from the top of my shoulder through the center of the kettlebell. The last two reps confirm that I have enough energy to complete the set given with this weight. Switch hands and repeat.

At this point I might do something like take a picture of the chalked kettlebell with my phone to procrastinate. But today I am the only person in the gym, have the best spot in the house, no music blaring at me and an oboe accompaniment. The GymBoss starts and paces me for the Work Set. I can maintain the minimum rep per minute count on side 1, no flesh tear, change hands. It works just as well on side 2, new technique keeps me in the set, finally GymBoss tells me "Put Down!" and I'm sweating like I just finished a Bikram Yoga class.

There is a short rest between this and the assist set for the training session, so I take my kettlebell outside to remove the chalk and perhaps hear the piece my practice partner is working on. But alas, apparently the piece was the same length as my set, there is no more music outside! Well, no excuse to extend the rest segment, either. Like a Tibetan sand painting, it takes 5 seconds to undo what took 25 minutes to accomplish on the handle of my working weight. Back to work, the 10-minute glove set.

A different day -  the chalk that remained just had to be documented!
Okay, it's not such a glamorous sport. We spend more time preparing for the Big Event than actually competing. But just as my musician partner demonstrated, it's the time given to refining the art that makes a performance so amazing.

Now that I know the weight I plan to compete with will not take all the flesh off my palm in the first three minutes (God willing!), the last training sessions of this cycle don't feel so ominous. I'm looking forward to the Second Annual Bay Area Kettlebell Competition!

Hope to see you there!