It’s time for another rant.
I’ve Always Thought This Should Be Obvious….
As a student (of martial arts and strength) I have always surrounded myself with people who, at some level, push me to do a little more than I can myself – by way of them doing “the thing” I’m going to them for of course.
So, when I first got into the “fitness industry” I was, well, appalled at the fact that so many trainers out there not only can’t do what they ask of their clients, sometimes they literally won’t even try.
I’ve always been a “skinny guy”, however, skinny doesn’t mean healthy. I wasn’t as strong as I should have been, and definitely had room for improvement in other areas(flexibility and whatnot). In fact one of my favorite quotes is:
Skinny Girls Look Good In Jeans, Fit Girls Look Good Naked.
I know, kinda riske, but it gets the point across.
I think to better illustrate the point I should really start at the start…
How I Got My Start.
My first martial arts instructor was a national level competitor. Like, top 5, not an “I showed up and got a participation award” type competitor. He walked away with several awards within the top 3 back at a time when the TaeKwonDo circuit wasn’t turned into a “sport”. In fact, they barely count a punch as a point anymore(ironic considering TaeKwonDo literally means foot, fist, way…)
So, when I say that I’ve learned from some of the best, I’m not kidding. Unfortunately, being a good competitor didn’t make him a great instructor… But I still picked up more than a few things from him by way of just being around him and “learning by example” of how he did what he did.
And It Didn’t Stop There.
In recent years I’ve still surrounded myself with some amazing people.
Currently, my Hapkido instructor, Master Dan Piller, is not only a high ranking (6th Degree Black Belt) Hapkido Practitioner and Secretary General for the World Hapkido Association. He has also competed(and done well in) Judo and TaeKwonDo. In fact, he still does compete in Judo and, surprise surprise, still does well. Mainly because of the attitude he has toward constantly learning and evolving in his training. He passes that on and requires it of all of his students(myself included) so we can constantly be leaning and improving ourselves, and the people under us. He also runs a great little company (Strategic Defense Options or SDO) and has helped empower more people than I could ever count through self-defense trainings all over the world.
My kettlebell instructor Ryan Toshner, is (and he will probably argue this) one of the best in there is. Ryan is very humble, but also very strong and equally as knowledgable. He’s achieved 3 certifications through the Strong First Group as well as other kettlebell certifications over the years. He’s currently a Team Leader, Level 2 Kettlebell Instructor, and has Barbell and Bodyweight certifications through Strong First.
I’ve trained with other great instructors at one time or another over 14 years, as well as some other instructors who were… well, I think they shouldn’t have been teaching people, but I guess I’m just a bit picky. But I’ve gained some valuable insight from every single one of them. (Even though the time may have been short…)
On top of the people who train me, there’s the people I train with.
My good friend in Michigan Jonathan Shellnut is an accomplished wrestler, catch wrestler, kickboxing coach(under Eric Paulsen), talented hapkido practitioner, and world renown joke teller… well, as my girlfriend would say, he’s got a lot of “dad jokes”. But they make training fun.
The other students under my Hapkido instructor are just as surprisingly talented as the next. We have ex-military members, current military members(Master Sargent in fact), moms(who you shouldn’t mess with), and people from all walks of life. The crazy thing is this – they all train in AT LEAST one other martial art(and they’re no slouches if I do say so myself)
Closer to me yet, my long time friends and former co-workers Ian Jensen and Shannon Meade. Honestly, without them I don’t know if I would’ve stuck with martial arts training. They sucked me back in to it and are the reason I even know any of the people I’ve mentioned so far.
This, on top of the fact that Ian is a world class stick fighter(along with Shannon), he also holds a 4th degree black belt in TaeKwonDo, a 1st degree black belt in Hapkido, a blue belt in Brazilian JiuJitsu under Eric “Red” Schaefer, and is way under-ranked in escrima(sticks). He’s also a helluva cook!
So – Why All This Rambling About My Training?
Because ALL OF THIS MATTERS.
Talk to the people who “train” individuals on a daily basis. When you do talk to them, find out who they surround themselves with. What’s their experiences in training/competing. The more you talk to most of them you will find a good majority have a few traits that you don’t want in a trainer:
1. To them, this is just a “job”. In fact, it’s often advertised by personal training certifications that being a personal trainer is one of the top careers right now, because of how much money you can make… do you really want someone doing a “run out the clock” type job when they’re supposed to be helping you?
2. They’ve never done/attempted/thought of doing/would ever consider doing anything listed above, much less most of the things they ask you to do. Every single person I’ve worked with has competed in some type of physically and mentally grueling event of some sort. In fact, I personally won’t train under someone who hasn’t done a higher level of experience than I do myself. And most of them have accomplished things I probably never will, but I’ll sure try!
So What? You Say. Why Is This Important?
Because if they haven’t had these experiences or suffered through the blood, sweat, and tears – they are literally at a disadvantage when it comes to helping you.
I’ve been involved in tournaments where I’ve literally fought with a broken face(I didn’t know it at the time…) and I would go back and do it again. Not because I’m crazy, but because I’m passionate about it, and I learned something from the experience. Okay, well, maybe a bit crazy…
Even on the fitness side, as I’m typing this my hands hurt like a mother…. because I’m working toward my Level 1 Strong First Kettlebell Instructor Certification. Doesn’t sound like much, but it’s 3 days of what I’m told is grueling work that tests you physically, intellectually, and emotionally.
I’ve done this sort of thing before for virtually every black belt test I’ve done (there’s been 7 of them so far, number 8 will be in October, and 9 sometime next summer), so I know what I’m in for, and I know it won’t be easy. So why do I do it? Because the experience I will gain is going to help everyone I currently work with achieve new levels of success. IT’S NOT ABOUT ME. If it were up to me, I’d do more of the things I like and not spend 5 days a week(mostly my weekends) training for what is basically a piece of paper and some letters to put behind my name. Because when it comes down to it, most people won’t know, or care, what it took to get that paper and letters…
Yes, I do have a certification I got online, but that was after 10 years of training to master ONE martial art and getting started on integrating it into the next art that I spend my time on.
If you ever stop improving, you’re going backward. And I can’t in good conscience ask anyone I work with to do something I haven’t at least attempted on my own, I just won’t. And the thought of someone going out and training others without the same mindset does make me a bit sick if I’m honest. After all, it’s the only way I’ve ever known, and it’s the only way that gets lasting results for most people.
On another note, for your own success – if you surround yourself with top level people long enough, some things start to rub off. Like how to transfer knowledge and application of your craft to others. This isn’t a secret by any means, in fact I’m sure we’ve all heard it in a business sense before(you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time around.)
Once you start surrounding yourself with highly successful people in their fields, you become immune to the B.S. everyone else is trying to shove down your throat all day and you start to get results – and keep them.
So, is who your trainer works with important? It depends…. do you want to be taught by someone who’s learned from books and hasn’t “done” before? Or, do you want to learn from someone with hands on experience who has other real people to reach out to for training and furthering their own development?