17 Jul A Look Back at RKC Level II…
I recently just completed a truly amazing experience in my own continued quest for mastery in kettlebell training.
First, let me say this.
Now that I have successfully completed the RKC Level II certification, my journey is, literally, still in it’s infancy. Yes, I’ve completed the HKC (Hardstyle Kettlebell Certification), the RKC (Russian Kettlebell Challenge), the CK-FMS (Certified Kettlebell Functional Movement Specialist), and now the RKC Level II.
I am definitely proud of that for sure, but this is Kaizen. Kaizen is Japanese for continuous and never ending improvement and I firmly believe that this type of training is a continuous road to seeking mastery.
With that said, here’s a look back at my most recent 3 day kettlebell training immersion, the prestigious RKC Level II certification.
Here’s my candid thoughts and daily notes about my most recent experience.
DAY ONE RECAP (Friday): Strength Test Day/RKC I Review/Advanced Techniques
It’s the first day and I’m up early. Feeling very relaxed, but I admit I was a bit “anxious.” Ready to go with the strength tests (1/2 body weight strict kettlebell military press and a pull up with a 24 kg weight hanging on my foot) and, of course, the “snatch test” (100 reps in 5 minutes or less with 24 kg kettlebell). No pressure here, right? Well, I was fully prepared for these tests, otherwise I would not have made the trip.
It was a beautiful morning up in St. Paul. After breakfast, there was nothing left to do, but GET STARTED. Anxiously awaiting. The key word here is anxious.
Once I arrived at the training center and after weigh in, we started off with the press. Great. This was the one test I had a shade of concern about. Why? Because for whatever reason, I had struggled with it a little for the last 2 weeks, event though I was able to perform this strength test several weeks out from the RKC II. If there was anything that was going to give me a problem, this was going to be it.
Unfortunately, I did NOT get it today with my 2 attempts (one each arm). Looking back, my mindset was the limiting factor. As I just mentioned, there was a bit of doubt and as I result, it was a no go. I shook the dust off, regrouped mentally, and got ready to do the next strength test, the weighted pull up. I completed this, as I always had for the last several months, without a glitch. Ok, check that test off.
On to the next test, the snatch test. Now, no matter how many times you do this, it’s never an “easy” test. It does get easier as you get more conditioned, but it’s never an “easy” test. I banged out 100 reps with the 24 kg kettlebell and passed, not even sure what the time was and honestly, it didn’t matter. Check that off as ‘pass.’
All that mattered this morning was that I passed my strength tests. After that, I now could focus in on the day’s learning and training experience, even though I still had a monkey on my back, to pass the strict military press. I put it out of my mind and focused on the learning. But, was I going to re-attempt it later today or re-group and try for tomorrow? I opted for the 2nd option.
What really impressed me at day one at the RKC level II was the people. The attendees, my RKC colleagues, the intructors, the assistant instructors, everyone. Just some of the most dedicated, passionate, smart, and strong (physically and mentally) people I have ever met. I felt honored to be there and surrounded by such “awesomeness.”
In the morning, we reviewed the RKC level I skills, which was lead by Doug Nepodal. It was fantastic. Remember what I said about Kaizen? Even your level I skills can always be improved and enhanced, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been doing it. Afer this, we worked on some very advanced body weight strengthening and performance skills (pull up variations, leg raise techniques, and the pistol), which was extremely educational and challenging. These sessions were led by Pavel, with the exception of Thomas Phillips, who instructed on the pistol.
The weather was great today, but very hot. I continued to learn more about human movement and improving human performance in the first day of RKC level II. It was an outstanding day, as expected, with the exception of my own set back in the press. I wasn’t extremely worried. I knew I could do it because I had done it for the last several weeks. I just needed to do it now and get it done. I thought to myself, “tomorrow is a new day.”
As the day came to a close, I thought how impressed I was by the level of knowledge and integrity of the RKC community and felt very proud to be a part of it.
DAY TWO RECAP (Saturday): RKC II Skills Deep Dive
This would be the day we would cover the RKC II level skills in great detail. But, for me, the day would begin with another attempt at the press and the challenge to pass the strength requirements for the RKC II standard. I woke up feeling confident and envisioned pressing the weight as I had always done in my weeks and months of preparation.
I came into the training center and did a few “prep” sets of pressing, like I had always done at home in my pre-training. After a few sets, my team lead instructor came over and asked if I was ready. I was.
I picked up the bell with my left hand (my non dominant side), cleaned the kettlebell into the “rack” position, took a deep breath, and proceeded to press it up. It was a slow grind, and I almost hit the “dreaded” sticking point, but the bell kept going up and I pushed past the sticking point to a complete lock out overhead. I did it! The monkey was off my back, but we still had a long way to go. This was no time to celebrate just yet, but another hurdle was overcome. Ok, check off the military press.
Now I could really focus on my learning and the entire day was spent on the RKC II level skills, leading off with learning the correct mechanics of the Viking Push Press (VPP) taught by Brad Nelson. After we learned the exercise, we followed with a V02 training protocol doing the VPP. It was a grueling workout, but we all handled it well and experienced the power of this particular exercise and a new way to use this awesome training protocol.
Next up was a lecture session and instruction on the Clean and Jerk. The lecture consisted of supporting rationale for why this particular exercise is so powerful and also how to earn the right to perform it. I was blown away about how really powerful and effective this exercise really is. This was a major “a-ha” moment for me.
Following the great lecture by strength coach legend, Dan John, we then went on to implement and practice this exercise performing 2 different types of workouts. Both workouts, especially the 2nd Clean and Jerk Long Cycle program were incredibly effective and helped me personally to “motor program” or effectively learn how to perform this exercise correctly. Although, I realized that I still needed continued practice on this one.
Long cycle clean and jerks were very tough using two 24kg kettlebells and this really finished me off for the morning. A good program of kettlebell clean and jerks are so powerful, it proved to me that this is all you need for a great total body workout. Simple, but NOT easy.
After lunch, we went into the kettlebell windmill instructed by Phil Scarito. The windmill is an outstanding flexibilty and stability strengthening and conditioning exercise. We learned, as we had all morning, excellent progressions and drills leading up to the exercise, with sufficient practice time. The instruction was outstanding. The one thing with the RKC system is that you learn so much. The instructors are the highest level “movement” experts.
The late afternoon was concluded with the infamous Bent Press as taught by Master RKC Dave Whitley. This session was extremely comprehesive, since this is one of the tougher, more complex exercises perform and there is quite a bit of variation in how it’s performed.
Let me say this again, the level of instruction was absolutely stellar here. Like I already mentioned, all of the instructors were absolutely brilliant and this weekend was an honor to learn from some of the greatest minds in the world of kettlebells and strength training.
Alright, back to the Bent Press. This exercise was literally dissected and broken down into many parts. Many, many drills were performed this afternoon and when we completed the drills, many people had new PR’s (personal records) in their Bent Press performances. There were even a few women that were able to perform a 32 kg Bent Press, which was absolutely amazing!!
The drills were the key and I know I will continue to revisit them to help improve my own Bent Press performance. I was tired and fatigued at the end of this day. It was a long day and the morning workouts were challenging, but it was an awesome day.
The evening concluded with a great dinner in downtown St. Paul and I was continuously impressed with the people in the RKC community. As I said, the people here are incredibly driven, passionate, smart, and come from many different backgrounds to come together with a common passion and to experience the most dynamic training method there is on the planet. Yes, this is true. This is truly the pinnacle of physical excellence.
DAY THREE RECAP (Sunday): RKC II Skills Assessment & Course Pass/Fail
While the last day was the least physically demanding day, it was still no day to rest and take things lightly. There was still work to be done and this was no time to coast and assume I had earned my level II certification. Far from it.
This was the day that we were assessed on our level II skills, meaning we had to demonstrate correct, safe, and proficient skills for the exercises we had learned.
Next, we learned about “freestyle” training, a great way fo train and integrate everything we learned. We also witnessed 2 absolutley grueling workouts by 2 “volunteers.” I was sweating just watching these guys, but the 2 RKC’s that went through the freestyle training program performed exceptionally well and I congratulate them for their efforts and success. It was awesome to watch, but truth be told, I was glad it wasn’t me.
We then had a short time to practice and implement our own freestyle training with our partners. It was innovative and challenging. I really like the idea of freestyle training programs.
Next, after lunch, we went on to our own testing of the RKC II level skills. I admit, I had a little bit of “nerves” during the testing. I was a little concerned about my performance of the Clean and Jerk, since this was a newly learned movement pattern for me. Surprisingly, I hit that well for the test, but I felt a little “off” in my Viking Push Press, however, I was able to perform the exercise sufficiently to pass.
There were just a few little variations in the technique of the VPP, which threw me off just a bit. But now I know exactly how to perform the exercise correctly and efficiently. As with anything else, practice makes improvement, so lots more practice will follow this exercise, as with all of the new RKC II level skills.
A lesson I learned is to be clear on exactly what the lead instructor is looking for, prior to beginning your exercise assessment. That way you can be sure to perform the skill demonstrating what they are specifically looking for.
So, at the end, I passed the RKC level II weekend! I was a challenge and it certainly wasn’t easy, but I made it through to earn the level II certification. What an accomplishment for those that passed and for those that didn’t there were just some minor things to clean up over the next 90 day time period to earn the credential. The entire class of people I met at RKC II this summer was just exceptional!
In summary, the RKC Level II was an outstanding experience. Everything was incredible from the training, the instructors, and the awesome RKC community. In my own kettlebell journey, this may have been the most rewarding and beneficial experience I’ve had so far. While not as physically demanding at level I, the skill and precision of strength training was taken to new levels.
Without a doubt, I was so glad to make the decision to come to RKC II for my own learning and to better serve the people I teach.
If you are already an RKC, I would highly recommend this for taking your skills to new levels and also for refining your current skills. If you’re new to kettlebells, maybe this will help in your understanding of how this is so very different from literally every other type of physical training. For complete information about the RKC training workshops, you can go to DragonDoor.com.
For me, the learning does NOT stop here. This is the best training method out there, period. I wouldn’t have invested so much in myself if I didn’t truly believe this. This journey will truly help me to better serve others and help them discover what I have. There are so many benefits to training with kettlebells, which I’ve already written quite extensively about. My job now, more than ever, is to help others discover this for themselves and I look forward to that challenge.
For now, I’ve completed all the kettlebell certifications there are in the RKC system. But, remember what I said. This journey never ends. This is Kaizen…