Combining Ancient Practice and Modern Sports Science

by Florian Kiendl on March 18, 2015

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RKC Team Leader Florian Kiendl KB Split

Because I come from a classical, non-contact school of Tae Kwon Do, the RKC has caused huge a paradigm shift in the way I approach my training. Many classical martial arts have a Zen like approach—just do the movements and see what they will teach you over time.

A fellow taekwondo friend, Valentino Solinas from Italy, recently posted a quote that sums up this idea:

“You may begin the study of martial arts and you may quit the study of martial arts, but you can never complete the study of martial arts…”

Training with this mindset can eliminate potential frustration if results are not coming easily or quickly. This mindset also reduces competitiveness among students which can sometimes otherwise lead to hubris and all its related problems.

Even if progress seems stifled, training with this mindset can be very rewarding over many years—regardless of one’s physical condition at the beginning. I have witnessed my former teacher’s mother start practicing Tae Kwon Do several times a week even though she is well over 70 years old and has a medical history that could fill a book. She once told me if she had known how good this training would make her feel, she would have started much earlier and that it might have prevented many of her health concerns. There’s no way she would ever learn to kick to head level or do a controlled spin kick, but it did not matter. She trained with beginners and black belts—and I think she taught everyone a lesson for life. Her last training session was one day before she died.

My RKC Epiphany

When I was introduced to RKC kettlebell training in 2009, I had the martial arts mindset. It struck me from the beginning when many concepts I had intuitively grasped over many years of training were explained to me in mere minutes in plain and simple words. How much easier could I make it for my students if I used the RKC teaching concepts? With a deep understanding of human movement, training progress can be planned and obstacles avoided before they even show their ugly faces. To me this was an epiphany and it immediately changed my views on training. I started learning and experimenting with it and continue to today.

In recent years, I learned how to integrate both systems to fill gaps or avoid roadblocks for my students and I. I want to give two examples—one I use in my own training sessions and one I use to teach my students how to perform better kicks.

Integrating Taekwondo Forms in Kettlebell Sessions

One example of combining my martial arts practice with my kettlebell training is to use Tae Kwon Do Hyongs as a warm up or in between my strength sets as physical and mental resets.

Florian Kiendl Hyong

Hyongs are predefined sets of movements that simulate combat against several attackers. The higher the form, the more difficult and complex it is—some forms have more than 100 movements. Hyongs present a martial arts movement flow that allows a student who has mastered the general flow of the form to immerse himself in the movements. The student will also learn to understand the movements in the context of a fight. There is a massive difference between performing a single strike, blow or block in practice and performing the same movement in context of a series of attacks and parries. In the time before protective gear was available, these forms presented the only option for practicing combat situations with full force without risking injury to oneself or a sparring partner.

By integrating Hyongs into my kettlebell sessions I gain big benefits:

  • Most of the movements are performed over a full range of motion, and work as a complete reset of all major joints.
  • All movements are executed with full force, but without any external resistance or long isometric contractions. Every muscle is activated without getting fatigued.
  • The quick movements ensure that I don’t get tight or stiff.
  • I get to practice my Hyongs more often ;-)
  • The average Hyong takes 30 or more seconds to perform and is non-taxing aerobic activity between sets.
  • Most forms are complex enough to require enough concentration that an advanced practitioner will enter an almost meditative state of mind. This works as an effective mental reset, if the last set did not go well and my mind is distracted, the forms will help me avoid a downward spiral.

Using Tension Techniques to Teach Better Kicks

From all martial arts I know, Tae Kwon Do has the highest physical demand. Bringing your leg to head level with force and accuracy takes extreme mobility, crazy-strong hips and superb coordination. All these perquisites don’t come easy, especially if you start past your twenties.

Florian Kiendl SLDL

For years I watched new students explore these new movements with varying success—some are naturals who walk in the Dojang and start training as if they never did anything else, and they are a pleasure to teach. On the other hand, some train for years and years with dedication and simply do not progress past a very basic level. When I started holding Tae Kwon Do lessons in my first teacher’s school, I assumed that it was something genetic, a Tae Kwon Do gene that made the difference!

After learning and understanding the concept of tension, I made an effort to integrate the drills and techniques we use in the RKC for teaching a good swing, snatch or military press in my Tae Kwon Do lessons to facilitate good kicking mechanics.

The fundamental concept is the same for kettlebell swing and high kicks—the tighter we stay while only moving the necessary joints to accomplish the task, the more force we can generate.

By adding the RKC tension techniques to my Tae Kwon Do sessions, I managed to create “aha”-moments for my students so the would know how it feels when the technique is executed correctly.

Here’s how:

  • I demonstrate a drill or technique and have my students practice it for a while.
  • As soon as they have the general idea, I let them practice on their own or with a partner and observe which problems occur.
  • Usually I find a pattern that could be improved and I try to figure out which drills could help.
  • I stop the practice and have them do the drill that I assume will help the most.
  • Immediately afterwards we return to the original exercise and see if it worked.
  • Sometimes it takes several attempts to find the drill that will work best or we may use more than one to address the different issues.

Using this approach, black belts have come to me after the session saying things like, “I finally understand how to execute this technique!”

Conclusion

Don’t see the RKC System as a closed environment, or the drills we use as special and exclusive to the kettlebell. Experiment with different combinations and observe the results. The RKC System is designed to improve any athletic endeavor. Be creative and learn the best ways to improve your game.

Have Fun.

***
RKC Team Leader Florian Kiendl is a second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and runs a Martial Arts Gym in a small town close to Munich (Germany). He made it his mission to help his students to improve their movement and overall health. In his search for ways to overcome the movement restrictions of his students (and his own) he found the RKC and now works together with Master RKC Robert Rimoczi and others to help as many people as possible to gain back their Strength and Agility.

He writes a regular Blog at blog.kettlebellgermany.de and offers workshops all over Germany teaching the RKC Kettlebell exercises: KettlebellGermany.de.
If you have questions or comments on the article feel free to email him at florian@kettlebellgermany.de

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Getting the Most Out of Your Turkish Get-Up

by Sebastian Müller on March 11, 2015

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Sebastian Muller Kettlebell get up

The Turkish get-up… beginners hate it and experienced kettlebellers praise it. The TGU is one of the most fundamental movements because it progresses from lying to standing with a kettlebell. Along with the Hardstyle kettlebell swing, the TGU is one of the basic exercises which will prepare you well for all of the other exercises of the RKC training system.

My earlier post about the get-up was more philosophical and discussed the five things the get-up teaches you about life. Today’s post focuses more on the practical aspects of this movement pattern and how you can implement it in your training to get the most out of it.

Coach Gini performs a kettlebell get upYour body learns to work as a whole unit when performing a Turkish get-up.

This exercise integrates every muscle in your body. If there’s a weak spot somewhere, you will find it very quickly—this is also one of the reasons why beginners especially have a hard time with the TGU. The same goes for athletes who are used to training isolated muscles. I have seen many trained 100 kg guys struggling to do their get-ups with a 12 kg kettlebell.

But, this is also what experienced kettlebellers love about the TGU: when you take the time to learn this movement pattern and can flawlessly perform get-ups with a 24 kg kettlebell, many good changes have already happened within your body. The TGU creates flexibility and mobility in the joints along with the basic strength you need to playfully get up from the ground with weight.

Over 200 years ago, Turkish wrestlers already knew that the TGU could prepare them for many things in life. Back then, wrestlers were required to get up while holding half of their body weight in one hand before they could even consider participating in training specific to wrestling. This is also why the get-up is often called the Turkish get-up.

The TGU Consists of 9 Positions, Making It a Complex Exercise.

Take a look at this video of Gini, one of our coaches, doing a 32kg (50% of her body weight) TGU:

What will you gain from frequently practicing and performing Turkish get-ups?

  • Improved shoulder stability and flexibility
  • The ability to train the whole body as one unit
  • A strengthened mid-section improving the reflexive stability of the core, and providing improved injury prevention
  • Improved interaction of the muscular chains, intramuscular coordination, and improved interaction between the brain and muscles
  • Improved fat burning capacity as large muscle groups are activated causing high calorie demands

Gray Cook, physical therapist and co-founder of Functional Movement Systems refers to the Turkish get-up as “Loaded Yoga”.

There are Tons of Possibilities for Using Turkish Get-Ups in Your Training.

Performing the TGU without weight or with a light weight is a perfect warm-up exercise, or as a component of active recovery/regeneration days. Performed under heavy load, the TGU is one of the best full body strengthening exercises on the planet. For men, a goal of 50% body weight and for women 33% of body weight are absolutely realistic. But as you saw in the video above, these guidelines are relative and can be exceeded!

Another thing that I really like about the get up is how it allows you to lift a weight overhead that you might not be able to press yet. Here is a get-up variation that can help you prepare for heavy presses: choose a weight you can’t (yet) press and bring it over your head by performing a Turkish get-up. Now go take a walk with the weight overhead. By doing this, your body gets used to the weight being in lock-out position overhead and will automatically learn how to stabilize it.

There are tons of get-up variations which provide different focuses on many training aspects. Another variation is performing a bottom-up Turkish get-up to challenge and improve your grip. Hold the kettlebell in a pistol grip (the bottom of the kettlebell will be pointing at the ceiling) and get up from the ground. This is also a great variation for using kettlebells which would ordinarily be too light for your training.

Finally, I have a variation perfect for everyone who has just learned the TGU. This variation will help to “grind” the single positions—it is called the Pyramid. You’ll only need a light kettlebell for it, because you will perform each position repeatedly. Also, be sure to always move into each single position perfectly, and always work in a very controlled manner.

Generally, the Turkish get-up is About Working Slowly and Controlled, Eventually Under a Great Load.

Maybe the get-up is simultaneously so loved and hated is because it can help you get a great deal better, stronger and healthier while rigorously pointing out issues that still need work. Together with the Hardstyle kettlebell swing, it can help you to constantly get constantly stronger, more flexible and even improve your overall endurance.

Hopefully my examples have shown you what an incredibly versatile exercise the TGU is, and that it’s always a good thing to continue improving your get-up.

***

Sebastian Müller, RKC Team Leader, PCC Instructor, FMS, and Primal Move Instructor, trains and instructs at the KRABA location in Wiemar, Germany. He can be contacted by email at: info@kraba-erfurt.de and his website: http://www.kraba-erfurt.de. His Blog is Vereinfachedeintraining.com

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Five Things The Turkish Get-Up Teaches You About Life

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Try to imagine an exercise that could make your life easier—a “magical” exercise that improves your response to everyday challenges and can make you into a better human being? Would you include it in your training? That exercise exists, it’s the kettlebell Turkish get-up. For more than four years, I’ve been doing heavy Turkish get-ups […]

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