On Sunday I held my first ever Strong First Kettlebell workshop roughly 6 months after completing my instructor’s course. Better late than never I suppose. It was aimed at beginners and covered the hard style swing and the Turkish Get up (TGU). I had been meaning to put something on for a while but life and work got in the way, but anyway I am really glad I did and will be doing a lot more!
As most of you know i teach Krav Maga classes which has a fighting element to it. A fighter has to have the strength and power to attack effectively, the speed to move, defend and counter attack and the conditioning to go the distance in a fight. This is all good in a sporting situation with timed rounds but it becomes even more important in a street fight where there is no one to referee the fight, no time limit and no one to throw in the towel when things get a bit rough. In Shield Krav Maga classes we test how people will react to these situations by using pressure testing or simulation drills where we ramp up the pace and have students in different scenarios including 2, 3 or even 4 attackers at once. These attacks are usually only 1 to3 minutes long but they are very fast paced and taxing on the cardiovascular system not to mention raising adrenaline levels dramatically. I see a lot of students drop the pace quite quickly or even just stop due to what we like to call ‘blowing out their arse’. This is ok in a class environment but could have devastating consequences in a street fight.
‘Stronger people are harder to kill’ I’ve seen that statement floating about recently and to be fair from a health perspective it’s probably true but a sharpened blade will cut through a strong body just as well as a not so strong body. Where a stronger person will have an edge will be the ability to end a confrontation or attack quickly and effectively, they will have the endurance necessary to deal with the explosive nature of an attack or make a very quick retreat.
I have trained with kettlebells now for 4 years, some of that was spent not really knowing what I was doing. I took a seminar with an RKC qualified coach and that cleared a lot of things up for me. I then started to look into the technique side of things a lot more. I really started to realize the benefit of kettlebell training and its crossover to Krav Maga through guys like Tommy Blom, James Breeze and Amnon Darsa, all strong well-conditioned guys who trained with kettlebells alongside their Krav Maga training. I then took the plunge, quit the commercial gym I was going to (the snap back caps and skinny jean wearing crew was getting ridiculous) bought a good few kettlebells and started training at home..
The kettlebell is an excellent piece of equipment when you know how to use it properly. It requires very little room to train with and builds great strength and conditioning. At my seminar I had 6 Krav Maga practitioners, a Thai boxer and a karate practitioner with some cross fitters and regular fitness enthusiasts there too. I chose to teach the hard style swing as it is the centre of the kettlebell universe and is the basis for a lot of kettlebell exercises.
The swing has a multitude of benefits especially relating to fighting and contact sports. It is a ballistic movement meaning that it involves a high velocity musculoskeletal movement. This type of ballistic movement also incorporates punching and striking. The swing helps to build great core strength which in turn helps to keep the back healthy. It also helps to activate the hamstrings and glutes which in turn aids in a healthy back. The swing should only come to around chest level where the power is mainly projected forward, this also helps to increase a fighters punching power. This extremely explosive movement teaches you to brace your abs which directly relates back to punching power. A strong braced abdomen can help to absorb the force of a blow or an attack, this is where it definitely pays to be stronger. Hard style swings coupled with the correct breathing (or ‘kime’ for the traditional martial artists amongst you) where you take a sharp breath in on the back swing and a forceful breath out on the way up (‘breathing into the groin’) mirrors how a punch is thrown and landed to create great tension and power upon impact. Just like the Kettlebell swing a punch has to be explosive and strong or else why bother throwing it in the first place? In terms of self-defence it could be the deciding factor between going home safe and not going home at all. Ultimately ‘strength matters’
I also chose to teach the Turkish Get Up at the workshop. Although a very technical exercise and movement pattern it’s a great way to build a solid foundation of overall body strength. A highly underrated movement pattern that has masses of benefits to anyone willing to put in the practice including increased coordination, greater shoulder stability and mobility, greater hip mobility, great core activation and increased body strength. The TGU can also be a great rehab exercise requiring the whole body to work together to maintain a weight overhead all through the movement. It can have a positive effect on all other overhead lifts. The benefits of the TGU are hard to ignore especially if you are a fighter or training in self-defence. Done properly with practice this exercise will give you a great natural armour by building a solid core, will help strengthen a lot of stabilising muscles that a lot of other lifts don’t and will give greater movement and flexibility for the ring, the cage or the street.
The TGU does take a while to become proficient at but don’t be put off by this because it will be time well spent. Grind the movement out slowly and get it right, you will soon be lifting heavier weights as a result. TGU can be a mobility exercise, prehab, rehab, warm up or the main lift in a workout.
I really enjoyed teaching my first Kettlebell workshop and I was humbled by the way everyone seemed to absorb the information I was giving them. This was amplified by the great feedback I received. I am used to teaching Krav Maga to large groups of people but teaching these exercises was still somewhat alien to me. Doing the StrongFirst kettlebell certification was one of the best things I have done so far as it has given me the confidence and the tools to effectively teach these valuable skills. I am looking forward to teaching a lot more and spreading the StrongFirst system.