I’ve Been Slacking, And You Should Be Too

It’s been a bit since I’ve written a blog post…(Feb. 21st according to the “recently published” section to the left of where I’m writing this)

And I have several planned for the near future, and I’m not posting the first one I have drafted up(somewhere on my phone) because I thought you, kind reader, should know why it is I’ve been so, well, absent(minded) as to not post something for your (slight) entertainment and possibly(I hope) education on fitness/martial arts related things.

I can’t multitask.

In fact, none of us can.

I can’t seem to focus on more than 2 or 3 things at a time, and this(unfortunately) is my downfall as a human being that seems to be shared by so many others… even more unfortunately, I seem to be somewhat of a perfectionist when it comes to things that are important to me, so I like to focus more than most do on a task which sometimes means other stuff(blog posts) fall by the wayside.

I’m not saying I completely stop focusing on them, when an idea hits me, I pull out my phone, tell the Google device thing to take some notes, and save it for a later post. Some ideas make it, some don’t, but that’s not what I wanted to tell you about this fine day.

See, I have been busy with some other goals that have taken up much focus and time, some personal, some professional, but goals are goals nonetheless…

So when I start in on something I work on it, almost to a fault sometimes, with everything I have. This is something I need to work on as well as sometimes I don’t leave any in the reserve tank as my girlfriend constantly points out to me.

However, I’ve figured out in my short time as an adult that if I’m going to do something I need to do it all the way and not let anything derail me, if I get sidetracked I know the project won’t get finished.

I have not been doing much competing these days since I broke my face(literally) at the last TaeKwonDo tournament I attended before my knee gave out and had to stop the match(I literally couldn’t stand up… stupid arthritis). But one thing has been in my sights – the Tactical Strength Challenge put on by none other than StrongFirst(the finest group of professional kettlebell peeps I know) and I’m determined to get over 100 snatches this time in addition to not pulling any abdominal muscles on my deadlift. I could care less about the pull-ups, I just want to break 100 snatches.


I know if I focus on my deadlift for a while, I can do over 400 no problem(maybe October) and too many pull-ups hurt my poor achy elbows, and I way exceeded what I thought I could do last time around anyway… but the snatches are the bane of my existence.

I want to get to the point where I can do 100 snatches with a 24kg bell any day of the week without having to train for months on end to do so.

As you might remember, I didn’t pass my snatch test at my Level 1 certification, and had to re-test(I chose the TSC to do this) not too long after, and this too barely happened. I literally did my last snatch with 1 second left, probably one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life.

If I can make that seem easy, I KNOW I’ve gotten stronger as a whole person.

This takes lots of recovery, time to train, and, oh yeah… more time to recover.

In addition to this, part of my training has had to be skipped because about 2(ish) weeks ago whilst squatting, I got into the bottom position and couldn’t get up, my knee was starting to give out. So, I’ve had to modify my squat day to an accessory deadlift day, meaning, more time for recovery…. yay…

Anyway, this in addition to some other personal things that I don’t want to mention here, and the fact that my girlfriend and I have been working like fiends to get a house down the street from us, I’ve not had a lot of time.

The point to all of this is that sometimes life gets crazy, some of it is self-inflicted(TSC training/house/etc…) and sometimes “stuff” just happens that makes the day seem overwhelming.

Priorities come into play here, and I’ve decided to choose just a few things that I really need to focus on and get them done right so I have my ducks in a row for other things that are coming down the pipeline.

When trying to find balance in your life, this is no easy task, you really have to take a step back and look at what you really need to get done, put your time into that, and let the other “important” stuff wait for another day, after all, if it was really that important you would have made it your top 3 anyway.

A little quick piece of advice before I finish this very rambley post, check out Dan John’s ideas on this idea of qualifying your situation by using the traffic light as a gauge for where you are in life. He uses the areas of Work, Rest Play, Pray and I think it seems like a good structure for gauging where you are in life… I decided to do more rest recently since I don’t like teaching classes feeling like a zombie, and my students don’t enjoy this either(yay for naps!).

At minimum, try not to feel like you need to get everything done yesterday… if you feel like you’re running a marathon at a full out sprint pace… well… you might just be overdoing it.

Stay Strong My Friends.


Assumption Might Be The Death Of You

Assumption Might Be The Death Of You

I’m not being figurative here.

We all know the old saying, when you “Assume” you make an a$$ out of you and me.

But I’m afraid this is a best case scenario at times…

See, when you start getting into “The Arts” as I have (oh, I’m not talking about paintings and pottery, I’m talking about the “Martial Arts”), you start to notice things… like “Assumptions” that people make while training or even developing a system.

A lot of times if you only work with one or two people this is fine, that is if your goal is to only ever have to defend yourself against that particular human being.

But when you get out into the real world and flexing those “gym muscles” doesn’t do the trick anymore, you’re going to be faced with some hard realities.

A real fight is disorganized, chaotic, has no rules, and no time limit, oh yeah… no referee to stop the action. You shouldn’t try to “predict” anything, and you should assume nothing. We are constantly coming up with new scenarios for “things” and always seem to find new ways someone might attack you in a real fight.

You never actually know what someone else is going to do

Training a technique and assuming that person is going to react a certain way could literally be a death sentence.

I’ve been brushing up lately on my escrima training, and what I’ve noticed with some of the good ol tried & true taining systems is they’ve gotten used to people basically doing what they’re coached to and have taken all of their natural reactions away so they can “attack the right way”.

Honestly, when are you going to get the opportunity to say “Mr. Attacker, could you please punch/grab/grope me this way, oh no, you were supposed to bend forward when I hit you in the stomach…” and so on with such nonsensical thinking.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place to train specifics but it has to be part of a larger picture. I think of it like this…

We teach (basically) 4 major joint locks at my school(yes, there’s variations…), and off of those 4 locks, there are hundreds of possible techniques that we learn, and those are just the ones that we train… I’m not saying there isn’t more, because I can guarantee there is.

So, when we train and someone says “you’re attacking me wrong” that’s simply not true, there is no “wrong way” to attack someone.

You can see where assuming can get dangerous.

If you’re more focused on the fact that the pre-packaged “one size fits all” defense you had set up for that particular attack, you won’t be able to defend yourself when “something” is off (their hand is turned the wrong way or their feet are backwards or they punched you in the wrong spot, you know “that” type of thinking). YOU WILL FREEZE and whatever “thing” you had planned simply won’t happen.

It’s easy to get caught in traditions and the “this is how we’ve always done it” type of thinking that seems to be in most martial arts schools where their instructor is a master of only their ‘dojo’ but nothing else.

This is why I train outside my comfort zone on a regular basis, get my ass handed to me by some people and learn a thing or three(if I’m lucky). Because I know I won’t be able to learn/teach everything, and I pick up more from my beginner students(especially the kids who have absolutely zero inhibitions) because they haven’t been caught in the stigma of “do it my way” type of training.

Let me finish with this, there isn’t a whole lot of bad techniques out there, if executed properly you can make almost anything work, depending on body type of you and the other person. If your defense is kicking them in the groin, well, you probably didn’t need those 6 years of Brazilian JiuJitsu training and the purple belt that came with it, stay off the floor and run the hell away!

A few things to bear in mind…

1. If it wouldn’t work on someone a) Bigger, b) Stronger, c) Faster, d) Meaner, e) Smellier than you, don’t use it. If you’re not sure, have a 6 year old try it on you, if they can’t pull it off, don’t use it.
2. Never Assume The Person’s Reaction to a situation. I’ve seen people do all kind of crazy things, almost none of them react the same, have a backup plan. To quote Bobby Maximus – “If Plan A doesn’t work, there are 25 more letters in the alphabet”. Use them!
3. Train to hit. Too many people don’t want to risk hittin their partner, but both people are working on the drill, you’re training to hit them, they’re training to defend a legitimate threat… not a punch that misses them by 6”.
4. Anything you do with partners should be thought of an “If Then” type of training. If they grab _____ then I do _______ and try to find different ways to fill in the blanks.

I could probably go on, but you wouldn’t read more of my rants, in fact, my students get sick of hearing this stuff I’m sure, but I’m kinda preachy about things that are, well, important.

If you want some more “good advice” outside of my meager little writings, I suggest you find an instructor, like myself, who adopts these and other sensible training philosophies. Also, if one is not available in your area, I’d look to guys like Rory Miller, Iian Abernathy, and Tony Blauer for some half-sane advice…

And don’t forget to use your common sense! If something seems fishy, it probably is… (because I told you to is not a good reason for performing a technique, just sayin)

Have a Strong Day!


The Strength Principle

The Strength Principle

Over the past weekend of training with my Hapkido Instructor (Master Dan Piller) we had a chance to explore what makes us, well, us….
(at 9,000 ft above sea level!)



In other words, we explored what makes us stand apart from the crowd of martial artists all claiming there’s is the best…

This, of course, was meant to apply to Hapkido and particularly how Master Piller(and I agree with his stance on this) likes to see things done. In short, the idea behind the art(and the main principle) is that anything you do should be able to work on a non-cooperative(typically stronger/meaner) opponent – i.e. train for reality.

I found an inextricable link between what I do as a martial artist and what I do as a fitness professional.

The idea behind the training.

I’m a firm believer in one thing, no matter what you train or do, have some damn principles – and you need to stick to them.

In martial arts, I mentioned it above, in fitness, it’s almost identical. Train For Reality.

Here’s my “Principles” behind what I do:

Hapkido: The Way Of Coordinated Energy(the literal meaning of the art) is based on the principles of Yu(The Theory Of Flowing Water), Won(The Theory Of The Circle), Wha(The Theory Of Harmony).

The reason these aspects are so important to our art is simple – anyone can do a “technique”, however, the technique done without all 3 of these principles applied to it is much more likely to fail than if they were applied(especially against a larger/stronger opponent or attacker, remember, reality).

“It is better to practice a single technique 1,000 times than practice 1.000 techniques only once” is a great quote from my Hapkido instructors manual. And if you read between the lines, you should find a simple fact that is not so obvious to most people…. each repetition should be better than the last in some way, striving for perfection one step at a time.

I like to think of this as “Mindful Repetition”, keeping in mind the idea that “Practice Makes Permanent”(or “Perfect Practice Makes Perfect”).

I could honestly go on quite a bit more than most of you would care to read…. so let’s move on to the next set of principles…

Fitness: **Important Reminder** Fitness(as defined by Dan John) is the ability to perform a task. It is NOT an indicator of health or any such nonsense, in fact, some of the most “Fit” individuals are the least healthy(look at NFL players after they retire if you’re still missing the point).

From this point we should determine some simple things – throwers are fit for the task of throwing(not swimming), just as swimmers are fit for the task of swimming(not throwing), well, you get the point. Keep this in mind no matter what you’re “training” for. Oh, and if you think you’re going to be able to “Train For Anything”, I refer back to Dan John who reminds us that if you’re going to prepare for anything, you might want to prepare for building a spaceship out of dental floss, or fighting off a great white shark with a plastic knife.(I’ve paraphrased this of course, if you want the actual quote, check out Dan’s book “Intervention” or check out any of his blog posts on various, well known & respected, fitness web sites)

With that out of the way, the first, and in my opinion, most important, thing you need to establish is what do you want to be “fit” for…

In other words, you need to find something that fits with your overall vision/goal.(this applies to martial arts too…)

Once you have that established, create a plan and stick with it… please, no “prepare for anything” nonsense… I think we covered the reasons why already…

If you don’t know what to do – Here’s what I suggest: TRAIN TO GET STRONGER.

This involves much more than you think… First, you learn HOW to move, THEN move with heavier weights, progressively, and eventually work up to more complicated versions of the movement(or more difficult bodyweight movements).

Also, sometimes you need to be resourceful… I hear things like this all the time from friends/aquaintences who like to opt out of improving themselves physically when they really need it(even though in reality they don’t want to put in the work…. you know who you are)

“But I don’t have access to weights…”

To which my response is:

You can apply this ‘principle’ to training without weights as well with bodyweight training. It’s a great way to get stronger, it’s easier on your joints, and it teaches you how to create tension once you start progressing to the difficult versions of the movements.

In fact, I hear this type of thing from people all the time when it comes to conversations about fitness and mind bogglingly(at least to me) self-defense. They’re called excuses, and they won’t lose those 5 pound, tone your muscles, or protect you in any way, in fact they accomplish nothing – they especially prevent you from having a set of principles to live/train by, so let’s dispense with them already, okay?

Sometimes, you just need to start where you are to get where you’re going(so please, don’t tell me you need to lose weight before you start working out…)

Back to the idea of Mindful Repetition

Keeping in mind “Practice Makes Permanent”.

If you want to continue to train, become stronger, faster, whatever – you need to focus on technique…. there is no exception to this rule, and it’s why professional athletes are professional and amateurs are, well, amateurs.

The person who spends their time on how they do things is always going to be a better(i.e. more fit for the task) than someone who is JUST DOING THINGS. Talent without skill is useless, yet skill without talent is invaluable to your goals. Talent will always take a backseat to skill(again, mindful repetitions).

Before I go off on another tangent, I’ll wrap up with this….

No matter WHAT you do, the principles you apply need to focus on pursuing perfection.(AGAIN – mindful repetitions. If you aren’t progressing, you’re moving backward.)

This “principle” thing is also a great way to figure out if something is actually worth doing.(or at least if the people helping you are aligned with your overall vision/goal)

-Starting a Martial Art? What’s the instructor/organization’s mindset for the long haul?(do they stop training you at black belt? It’s sad, but it happens all the time)
-Switching career? Is there room to advance within the company?
-Looking for a “personal trainer”? What’s their ability to help you progress after you’ve met your initial goals? Can they make suggestions? Can they help you plan/execute?(you’d be surprised how many can’t even accomplish their own goals, or have none…)

These are the type of questions to ask yourself before starting in on something significant, which, in my mind, is anything you do with your time. We only have so much to dedicate to doing things outside of just making a living, it’s hard to find balance(a constant struggle of mine).

After all, why would you want to take up your precious time doing something that doesn’t directly improve you? Remember, anything worth doing, is worth doing well. And if you keep that mindset, the sky’s the limit my friend.

Stay Strong!


The Best Defense

The Best Defense

“The Best Defense Is A Good Offense”

Or so they say…Self-Defense

Applied to self-defense this is true, to a point. But it should be taken a little different than the “just attack them before they attack you” that is implied.

A good offense in this case means preparation, not being offensive. So please, don’t be that guy in the “Tapout” or “Affliction” shirt(purchased from Wal-Mart) that talks about how he “trains UFC”(whatever that means).

It’s having the right mindset – practicing the moves(techniques) you will have to be able to execute when the time comes. None of that Karate Kid garbage or anything you might see in the movies or on TV.

I’ve been training for 14 years at this point and I’ve only had to use my “skills” one time… well, my physical skills, the rest are in use on a daily basis(conscious and uncontentious)

When I did have to use my “skills”, what came out was the right technique for the situation (nothing I had even practiced mind you), all with good control and awareness in the moment… I felt like a freaking Jedi Master, everything was there, everything was flawless(kinda).

9423087237_34565da84c_bI’ll talk more about that later but the most important bit I want you to gain from this is this – Failing to Prepare is Preparing to Fail. (if you care to read my “story” it’s at the bottom of the post)

Look around you.

How prepared are you for an emergency at this very moment?

If you can’t think of at least 5 things that could go wrong right this second, you’re most likely not prepared. One or two? You’re on the right path.

“Nothing ever happens to you until it does” -Thomas Sippin

Nobody plans to get in a car accident, but we have Air Bags, Seat Belts, Crumple Zones on the vehicles to ensure decreased risk of death or serious injury in the case of a collision form any conceivable angle.

Why should you treat personal protection any different?

Shouldn’t you have a fire extinguisher in your house?
Smoke detectors?
Seat belt cutter and glass breaker in your car?
A “spare battery”(or on the go charger) for your phone?

Are you physically prepared? i.e. are you in good enough shape to be able to withstand 30-60 seconds of high intensity activity(such as punching, kicking, and various strikes) and sprint afterward?

Do you know what to do after an attack? Or how to avoid walking into one?

These are important questions you should be asking yourself on a daily basis. Constantly evaluate “what ifs” (what if that car swerved into my lane, what if that guy tried abducting me, what if someone tried taking my child, etc…)

Look to use your surroundings to your advantage instead of someone else’s, watch for verbal and physical cues of intent(agitated tone, shifty, looks uneasy).

These are things you know and are told, but how often do they cross your mind – Never? Here and there? Daily? Hourly? Constantly?

The better you get at these “thought exercises”, the more second nature it will become, making you even more prepared in case a “what if” were to happen.(So you can be a Jedi too!)

It’s not always a brawl.(My Story)MMA Training Center Kickboxing

I have avoided more situations than I could probably count(deescalating situations before they arise and avoiding them altogether), so the fact that I’ve only had one “encounter” out of all my years of training is something I could be proud of, but also, could have been avoided(if I were paying a little closer attention)

The Scene – My baby sister’s 21st birthday party.

We were out at a few local “watering holes” right here in ol Hartford, WI. And we decided to go to one last place before calling it a night.

A few of the guests of the party decided to sit at the bar and strike up a conversation with two other patrons who had already had their fill of booze for the night(and then some).

Unfortunately, one of these guys wasn’t what you’d call the friendly sort…. After about 20 minutes this guy(let’s call him Red – the color of his shirt) was playing pool and seemingly out of nowhere starts screaming across the bar about how “every time I go out in Hartford someone is trying to start sh*t with me” and so on(clearly this reoccurring problem seems to be him, even though he hasn’t realized it yet…)

We get the member of our group out of the bar to try and deescalate the situation but Red wasn’t having it. He followed us out.

There was about 7 guys between him and the person he had the “issue” with(we still don’t know what it was…) yet Red still insisted on not leaving screaming “I’m gonna f*cking kill you” at 1am about a ½ block from the police station(clearly, not a bright man).

All of a sudden, he takes off running out into the street and straight toward the group(1 on 7, good odds, no?)… But he didn’t make it… I(the skinniest guy out of the group as someone pointed out) took a straight forearm to his chest, redirected him back toward his “friend” who then told me to get my hands off his friend… and that was the end of it.

Not graceful or cool like the movies. But it worked.

I think the reason I was the only one who reacted was due to the fact I noticed signs of aggression Red was putting forth and decided to act on it before someone wound up in the hospital(it would’ve been him)

Moral of the story, don’t go out to bars… and alert the police before they get there too late, 911 is a quick dial away, and this man(I was told afterward) was a known trouble maker who probably should have something to show on his record(personal opinion). As to why they allow him back into the bar… still a mystery…

To wrap things up, it’s always better to prepare for a situation that you might not encounter than to be caught with your pants down… it may wind up with more than just an embarrassing story, it could cost you dearly(jail time, hospital, or the morgue)

There’s no superhero to come save you in real life, so be your own hero, and save yourself by preparing for the worst, and hoping for the best. But mostly, stay away from the “problem” situations before they happen.

If you want to learn more about self-defense training, check out our Hapkido training program or contact me directly: justin @ post35.net for more info on upcoming courses(or to schedule a private course)

Stay Strong My Friends