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!)

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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!

~Justin

Hipsters & Crossfit

Hipsters & Crossfit

How to Use Seemingly Useless “Trends” To Your Advantage

Two Things I Despise, Yet… Somehow Have Uses For… (Hipsters & Crossfit that is).

Even though the hipster trend has made previously inexpensive and cool things I enjoy – like PBR, my beard, and cool old school hairstyles, into bastardizations(and incredibly expensive in some cases)… It has brought about a few good things – like quality beard oils, home made manly smelling soaps, and more places carrying my beloved PBR(not that I drink beer these days…)

So, although hipsters can be annoying, arrogant, and just plain silly – there seems to be a use for their seemingly useless trend.(Look at the lessons we learned from 80’s trends… more is not always better)

A similar lesson can be found with the cult…. um, I mean, trend of Crossfit…

All joking aside, there is some good to come out of this sometimes seemingly masochistic workout culture.

Crossfit, for those of you who don’t know of it’s existence, is basically Lightweight Olympic Lifts to Infinity(as described by BroScienceLife) combined with lots of cool(and previously useful) body weight and weighted exercises, but with a touch of danger(guaranteed injury) to make them even cooler…

But in all honesty, these athletes put up some amazing weight(at a competition level) and are some of the most “versatile trained” athletes out there…. so to speak.

Now, there are bad Crossfit “Boxes”(i.e. Gyms) out there, with bad coaching which has a strong tendency toward not giving a shit about their clients safety(again, see BroScienceLife “What Is Crossfit” video, he’s pretty close on this).

Unfortunately, there is a few of these locally, but I’ve met plenty of good ones too(the dude at Crossfit Sussex is a cool dude… and cares about his people). Let’s not let a few bad apples ruin the whole bunch, they’re not all bad.

But, I can’t resist at least sharing this….

Okay, done ranting now, so I’ll get back on point.

Part of doing “Crossfit” is being super mobile(and strong) to prevent injury from the high rep, repetitive lifting – usually done for time. In other words, fast, without caring about technique(in most cases)

What’s The Plus Side To This?

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Simply? More tools available to make you move better! More mobility drills, more free coaching(most of it good) on how to do olympic lifts – to name a few. And most of these guys are legit Olympic Lifting Coaches(certifications and all), so it’s safe to say they know their stuff.(Do your homework first!!)

There’s also a lot of free content out there(and research backing it) on recovery. Whether it’s from sore muscles, sore joints, or even mild injuries(sprains and the like) and even how to safely train while injured, and when you should cool your jets for a few days…

Again, be careful where you get advice… a local “Box” by me is in the habit of beating the living tar out of their clients, as even visible publicly on the comment section of their own Facebook page!

One of my mentors I’m going to be working with in the new year is HUGE into Crossfit, and claims it gets a bad rap from a lot of sources… I mostly agree with him.

The culture of the movement leaned more toward “Hardcore Athletes” at the beginning(X football players, Ex-Military, Wannabe Military/Athletes…) and has shifted to accommodate the general population as the years have went on…

This is where some good has come in.

But be warned. If you’re thinking Crossfit is starting to sound pretty great, you may be in for a shock…

With a mere Crossfit Level 1 Certification and $4k a year, you can open up your own “Box”….

And then things like this happen –

A Crossfit Level 1 Cert is the equivalent of asking your average 1st year med school student to perform a quadruple bypass surgery on you – they might understand the concepts, but have no real understanding or experience to perform the procedure with a high chance of success.

In fact, most states the powers that be(and insurance companies) do not even recognize a Level 1 Crossfit “Coach” as an actual trainer anymore… so be careful where you enter.

I am bias toward the Kettlebell training, it’s my thing…

I follow the work of Pavel Tsatsouline, Dan John, Gray Cook and the like myself. Mainly because injury resistance and a healthy distance from trainers(coaches, whatever) jacked up on too much pre-workout, BCAA, Protein Shakes, and God knows what else.

The proven track record of Kettlebell training’s results and injury resistance for over 700 years(older in other countries) is good enough for me to not switch to a 10 year old fad for my main training style. But, I’ll take any good things that come as a result of it – even if it’s just learning what not to do…

In whatever you do, be smart, don’t take just anyone’s advice, and for Pete’s sake, don’t flail around whilst exercising! An instructor of mine once said “Speed is a great way to hide bad technique”. It applies to martial arts, and fitness just the same.

Until Next Time – Stay Strong My Friends!

~Justin Green

I Suck, Therefore I Succeed

Being the best is overrated…

  “My main goal in life is to help people to, um, how should I put this – not suck. Or, maybe I should say – be better at being them.”

Often people who are the most talented, have the most potential, or are “genetically gifted” often struggel just as much(if not more) to accomplish their goals. There are exceptions to this, of course, but for the most part it has more to do with a concept that Steve Jobs(co-founder & former CEO of Apple, R.I.P.) stated back in the early days of Apple.

WAIT!! What does Apple have to do with anything? I mean they do computer stuff, and Steve Jobs was some kind of genius!

Hold your horses… it’s really not about the computers, it’s about the IDEA behind how he viewed life and succeeding…

Here it is(it’s a long one…)

“…When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is, and your life is just to live your life inside the world, try not to bash into the walls too much, try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money….

That’s a very limited life, life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is that everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you…

…and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use…

And the minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, if you push in something will pop out the other side, you can change it, you can mold it… that’s maybe the most important thing…

To shake off this, erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just going to live it. Versus embrace a change, improve it, make your mark on it…”

…”Once you learn that you will never be the same again”….

Here’s a link to the video(with a few other good bits of advice)

So, yes, not so fitnessy or sexy(like my gooder english…), but it definitely applies to life as we know it. Not to be fit into a box predefined by yourself or someone else… (although, we often put the biggest limitations on ourselves.)

My biggest limitations I’ve ever faced I put on myself…

When I started my martial arts training, let’s be honest – I sucked. I would literally fall over practicing kicks and footwork drills because my balance and coordination was so terrible. I got discouraged, frustrated, angry, and even considered quitting a few times. Probably the biggest turning point in my training is when, frustrated as I was, my then instructor, (now friend) Michael Olds, told me while doing some bag sparring “Man, I can tell you’re going to be really good at this”. He doesn’t remember telling me this out loud of course… but he says he always knew soon as he started working with me I had it in me to be very good at this TaeKwonDo thing.

I had honestly at that point never thought of myself as good at anything(and I still suffer from this), so I started training as if I was going to be as great as he told me I was capable of. My physical skills dramatically increased, my attitude changed, I started practicing more at home. And really, out of all the people I’ve trained over the years, I see what he saw then, that we all have the ability to be great if we put our minds to it and really give it everything we’ve got!

So, did this high school aged assistant instructor magically give me this ability and found some way to physically improve me, or did my mental image and beliefs of what I was capable of accomplishing change? I would hope you agree with me that it was the later…(although Master Olds is damn good!)

And, to paraphrase what Mr. Jobs said, once you realize you can poke life and something actually comes out the other side your life will never be the same. And that’s what happened with my training, I poked, pushed, prodded, and got the results I deserved for the work I put in.

Am I now the best? Well, no, not really… not even close(I’m no Bruce Lee or Chuck Norris) Am I better than I would’ve been if Master Olds had not had that 1 second pep talk with me? Hells yeah! Oh, by the way, he is a whopping 1 year older than I am, so really the age of the “coach” or  “role model” makes no difference. His confidence and experience in his field that gave me reassurance what he was saying was true.(He used to be one of the top ranked TKD fighters in the country and has a knack for teaching the art too, a rare combination)

To contrast, another student who started at the same time as me and was quite talented(doing backflips and crazy kicks most of the black belts wouldn’t dare attempt for fear of failing) used to be quite discouraging to me… partly because of his “natural talent”, but mostly, it made me want to quit because I didn’t believe it was possible to be at his level. But after my little pep talk, I started pushing myself to go beyond him. (By the way, he no longer trains and never really improved from day 1…)

I could go on about other areas in my life that this same story has played out and I unnecessarily banged my head against the wall, but I think you get the point… It’s all a matter of perception, take the bad and find an opportunity in it.

This all boils down to my main point…

My main goal in life is to help people to, um, how should I put this – not suck. Or, maybe I should say – be better at being them. And I hope that, even if you never step foot in PostFit or train with me ever, you can take something away from this and change your life.

So, why should your life be any different? (I mean, after all, I told you how I was when I started out…) Find a way to make things work for yourself through hard work, discipline, and constantly pushing yourself to try things that scare the hell out of you (as long as they don’t literally kill you – be smart!).

Just try one thing this week you’ve always been afraid to try, just one(ask out that girl – or guy, try working out, join the adult soccer league, jump out a plane – my personal favorite, please use a parachute), and you’ll be amazed at the feeling you get just in the trying of the thing…(succeed or fail, you’re still breathing). Just keep the mindset that you will succeed no matter what!

Your Life Will Never Be The Same – Live Your Dreams

~Justin