Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Agatsu Level 2

My Introduction to Agatsu

Two years ago, I did my first course with Agatsu, the Level 1 Kettlebell Instructor Certification. I had just started as a trainer and was looking to learn as much as possible.

From the first course, Shawn & Sara-Clare helped me sharpen my technique and learn how to teach others of various skill levels. It's one thing to know how to do a move. It's a completely different thing to know how to teach a move, with meaningful progressions and regressions.

I remember ending the course with the grueling "Chrissy" workout with the 16 kg. I heard about the Level 2 kettlebell cert, but could not imagine hitting the Level 2 benchmarks. I was already having a tough time getting 5-10 snatches at 24 kg, let alone 50/arm (without dropping).

Level 2 started off as a goal, and slowly ... morphed into a wistful dream.

Post "Chrissy" with Sara-Clare & Shawn
Agatsu Kettlebell Level 1 (March 2015)

Agatsu Level 2 Transforming Back into a Goal

Over the next couple years, I spent time learning from different teachers, including Shawn and Sara. I would explore various disciplines, including kickboxing, weightlifting, powerlifting, CrossFit, gymnastics, etc. 

After what seemed like years of no real progress in anything, I decided to focus on one thing at a time. For example, last year I did a powerlifting program through Markham Powerlifting. Through that program, I made significant gains in strength.

Where there was focus, there were results.

After Masters of Movement Bali & the Agatsu Level 2 Movement & Mobility course, I decided enough was enough. No more procrastination. It was time to get this.

I asked about the next Level 2 course, and started working backwards to see what I would need to get there.

For reference, the Agatsu Kettlebell Level 2 standards are:
Kettlebell Level 2 Requirements that will be tested are:
- Pistols  (10 unbroken reps on each leg is 100%)
- 5 Minute Snatch Test (100 snatches total is 100%, only one hand change, women 16kg, men 24kg)
- Jerk Test (35 unbroken double jerks is 100%) (women 16kgs, men 24kgs, no time limit)
- Pull Up Test (strict -no kipping, unbroken chest to bar, 10 reps is 100% for women, 15 reps is 100% for men)
- Bridge Test (3 minutes is 100%)
- Toe to Bar (10 unbroken strict no kipping is 100%, performed on stall bars)
- Ring Push Ups (unbroken in external rotation, approx 1 foot from floor, 10 reps for women, 15 reps for men is 100%)
**** Participants must score a 75% overall to successfully pass. Grades are cumulative.*****
As you can see, passing this course is not easy! Some people are super flexible and need to work on strength and stability (not me!), while others are strong & stiff and need work on the mobility (me, minus the "strong").

Always a Student

This past weekend, I took the Level 2 Kettlebell course alongside four other students. 

And yes, I passed :) 

Yes, I worked hard. And yes, I'm extremely proud.

But as I learned, it was never about passing. It's about what I learned through the preparation. And who I become.

And as you can see from the images below, I'm still a student. 

I didn't hit perfect scores in all the tests. For the ones I did, my technique had some big areas to improve in (e.g. bent legs in the toes to bar, knees caved in a bit during pistols, etc.). 

And in the event I hit all the benchmarks with perfect form, there's still a whole universe behind each of these movements.

Two years later...
... + a few other Agatsu courses & MoM's
For the record, here are my scores (June 10-11, 2017):
Pistol (reps): 10/10
Snatch (reps in 5:00): 80/100
Jerk (reps): 29/35
Pull-up (reps): 14/15
Bridge (sec): 90/180
Toes to bar (reps): 10/10
Ring push-up (reps): 15/15
I plan to will hit the rest of these standards by the end of this summer.

The journey continues.


While I definitely worked hard for this certification, I could not have done this alone. My sincere & heartfelt thanks go out to the following awesome people:

Shawn & Sara: Thank you for being awesome teachers, friends, and mentors. I've learned so much from both of you, and look forward to more fun adventures (minus the nut shots) and making you both proud. 

Chris Wise: Yes, I signed up and was going to do this no matter what. But had you not decided to do this, there is a very high chance I would have missed the mark this past weekend. Thanks for being an awesome training partner and pushing me to become a better student, trainer, husband and friend.

Sabrina Nizamuddin: My Agatsu Level 1 buddy! I still remember when we first started doing these early morning training sessions, with morning coffee, and our random antics. Thanks for starting the fire and teaching me how to learn & teach. Looking forward to our next training jam session! btw supercool website!

Joseph Hsiung (Joe Fight): Thanks for giving me a shot in the fitness industry and being the catalyst for the Level 2. 

Patrick Burkhard: Agatsu HQ Head Trainer. Level 2 Classmate. Kettlebell Beast! Thank you for sharing your journey and for your helpful tips along the way. Despite being super strong, you're also transparent & vulnerable in your own journey. You are super inspiring and look forward to following your journey. btw this article was super helpful in getting my mind in the right place. Looking forward to your next post!

Agatsu L2 Graduates, including Dave Anderaka, Andrew Dube, Tyson LaRone, ... I have been inspired by your practice and appreciate the advice you have given along the journey.

Brittany van Schravendijk ("KBFitBritt"). I have been following you from afar, and was incredibly grateful when you reached out and helped guide my kettlebell practice. From my brief interactions with you and from following your journey, it's clear you care about your students, and pursue excellence in both your sport and coaching practice. 

Joseph Trambulo: I felt like I let you down :( After all that work, I only showed up with a "measly" 1:30 bridge. Granted, by that time, I was pretty taxed from the rest of stuff we did, and didn't feel nearly as loose as I did after my sessions with you. You've truly partnered with me to help me achieve my goals, and understand the "why". I've set a deadline for end of this summer to hit my 3:00 bridge, but I'd really like to get it by August 13, 2017, which is the next time I'll see Shawn & Sara. I look forward to continue working with you.

Lee-Ann Chiu: Thank you for working with me and helping me undo the damage of sitting. Your sessions are painfully effective and educational. Looking forward to our next "torture" session :)

Carmelina: Last but definitely not least, my beloved wife and love of my life. Thank you for your support in training and in life. Love you to pieces :)

Two Key Takeaways

This post is already turning into a novel!

Here are two main things I took away from the weekend:

1. It's not just about how you train, but also about how you think about how you train.

2. Progress over perfection.

There's a whole universe behind each of these statements, so I'll just leave it there.

Agatsu Level 2 Curse?

I'm not sure if this is a "thing", but I definitely got mentally (and physically) psyched out the week leading up to the Level 2 test.

In addition to a lower back and shoulder injury, the 24 kg bell felt like the 32 kg bell!

One week out from Level 2
24 kg feeling SUPER HEAVY

And ... my bridge seemed to get worse in the last two weeks. Yes, I know the photos look like my bridge is improving. But notice the dates are in reverse!

June 6, 2017

June 4, 2017

June 2, 2017

May 25, 2017

May 21, 2017

"I spent most of my energy on the bridge, and even got help on the bridge!" This is the negative talk that can happen inside me if I'm short-sighted.

"I spent a lot of time on the bridge and made a lot of progress. There's going to be up's and down's, but I'm committed to the process. Let's do this." This is the positive talk that is happening since I'm focused on the long-term.

As Shawn & Sara shared, flexibility is freedom. Attaining that flexibility is a process and a battle against the sedentary lifestyle.

And the battle is not just in the therapy sessions or amazing mobility / stretch sessions in the gym, but also in the day-to-day. 

Hamstring stretch

Hip flexor stretch

If you read this far (or scanned to the bottom), I appreciate your time.

If you have a few moments, I'd love to hear from you (e.g. in the comments below, on Instagram, etc.).

What's one goal you want to hit this summer? 

Mine is to hold a bridge for 3 min.

Bonus: What's your plan of attack? 

For me, I will:
- Do daily mobility work (at least 5 min of focused practice)
- Stretch throughout the workday
- Endurance work 1x/week (e.g. elevated bridge holds)
- Continue to work with my therapists

Make your goal a reality (not a dream). 

Post up and let's get there together!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Agatsu Level 2 This Weekend!

This weekend, I will be doing the Agatsu Level 2 Kettlebell Certification. This course teaches advanced training methods and includes a physical test.

It's the physical test that I'm a bit worried about.

The test includes the following:

- Pistols (10 unbroken reps on each leg is 100%)
- 5 Minute Snatch Test (100 snatches total is 100%, only one hand change, women 16kg, men 24kg)
- Jerk Test (35 unbroken double jerks is 100%) (women 16kgs, men 24kgs, no time limit)
- Pull Up Test (strict -no kipping, unbroken chest to bar, 10 reps is 100% for women, 15 reps is 100% for men)
- Bridge Test (3 minutes is 100%)
- Toe to Bar (10 unbroken strict no kipping is 100%, performed on stall bars)
- Ring Push Ups (unbroken in external rotation, approx 1 foot from floor, 10 reps for women, 15 reps for men is 100%)

To pass, I need to score 75% overall.

I'm part nervous and part excited.

The nervous part of me says ...

- Your bridge mobility is not bad, but your endurance is not there
- Your lower back pain will limit you
- Your grip will fail in your snatch test
- You haven't practiced enough ... especially with the 24 kg

- Your mobility may not be good enough to even hit ONE toes to bar on stall bars
- 15 Chest to bar pull-ups?! 5 for sure, maybe 10 if your life was on the line. But 15?? Give me a break!
- ...

In other words, I'm scared. Scared to fail. Scared to get injured. Scared to disappoint.

The excited part of me says ...

- I can't wait to see Shawn & Sara again :)
- I can't wait to visit Montreal!
- I'm excited to learn new things and grow as a student and as a teacher
- Less than a week? Let's do this! I'll hyper-focus on what's essential. Recovery first. Nutrition a close second. And just what I need for training. No random bro sessions this week :)
- Injuries? You've been here before. You know what to do. It isn't sexy. In fact, it's quite boring and monotonous. But it works. And you know you just need to do it. 

In other words, I also believe in the power of positive thinking and focused energy. And most importantly, it's about progress not perfection.

The Agatsu Level 2 course is a big milestone in my journey, but at the end of the day, it's still part of the journey.

Am I still scared, especially after all this positive self talk? You bet I am!

But I'm also excited and embracing fear as a tool to find my flow.

24 kg kettlebell
Is it just me or does the 24 kg always get heavier one week away from Agatsu Level 2?

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Cutting (back) caffeine - A 7-day experiment

Coffee is delicious.

I absolutely love the warmth, the taste, and the energy I get from a freshly brewed cup of coffee.

But too much coffee can be dangerous. As can too much of anything.

I came across an article on the Art of Manliness about how to quit caffeine, or at least cut back.

Not everyone needs or wants to cut back. For me, I know I need to cut back. Here are some reasons I want to cut back:

- Drinking coffee is like using a credit card on my energy. I borrow energy from the future, and usually end up paying it back with interest.

- Too much coffee makes it more difficult for me to breathe normally.

- I heard that caffeine can cause skin issues with some people. Not sure if this is the case for me, but I don't mind awesome looking skin :)

- I find it harder to stay hydrated on too much coffee. And when I'm hydrated, my skin feels better :) along with everything else in life.

- Caffeine can increase anger and aggression in some people. I'm not totally sure, but I know I'm a bit more irritable when I'm over-caffeinated. And being a victim to the waves of my emotions is not as cool as ruling my spirit.

These are some of my main reasons. Like many things, this is very individual. However, I often learn what works for me when I learn what works for others.

Does this mean I'm quitting caffeine?


But I want to be more mindful of my caffeine consumption, and limit myself to 1 cup of coffee / day. For those that know me, this is a big step.

And for reference, 1 cup = 8 oz = Starbucks Short = Tim Hortons XS = 3/4 McDonald's Small = etc. Not one gargantuan cup of coffee per day :)

There is no limit on caffeine, as that will take care of itself. My focus will be to nourish my body with awesome food, water / tea, regular exercise, and quality sleep.

Am I going to do this forever? Nope.

I'm going to start with 1 week, ending right before my Agatsu Level 2 Certification in Montreal :) I know. Convenient, right?

If I want to go back to drinking copious amounts of coffee, I will.

If I want to try something new or keep doing what I'm doing, I will.

This is a mini-experiment after all. Let's see how it goes!

With that, it's time to dump the rest of my coffee I made this morning.

Source: Art of Manliness article, How to Quit Caffeine