Becoming StrongFirst: a philosophy, a practice

Bruce lee

There is this awesome line in the movie Karate Kid when Jackie Chan says, “Kung Fu lives in everything we do. It lives in how we put on a jacket, and how we take off a jacket. It lives in how we treat people. Everything is Kung Fu.” I wonder if those who’ve dedicated their whole life to Kung Fu agree with this movie quote, or if it’s simply another Hollywood oneliner.

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I’ve been training with kettlebells for five years. My first coach was exceptional in his approach. He was Agatsu trained but sincerely appreciated and used many of the core values taught through StrongFirst; primarily quality over quantity, safe first, and never train to failure.

After he moved away, I found a new coach in Denise Harty who had a StrongFirst Girya Level II certification, and began my training with her. Her professional knowledge and quiet, keen eye in combination with the StrongFirst principles created an ethusiast out of me and took my strength and conditioning to the next level – multiple times over. I continued to grow, push myself, learn and practice and over time, became a StrongFirst follower.

This weekend I had the privilege to travel all the way to Chicago to be a student of strength. I trained specifically towards the goal for about three months, working on all of my tools, especially the key six test moves – the one arm swing, double cleans, the Turkish Get Up, the Military Press, the front squat and the snatch. I was extremely nervous – travelling alone, putting myself in front of incredible athletes whose discipline has been strength in movement all while living the StrongFirst code.

The training and education, movements and form, coaching and cueing begins immediately with experienced – Master SFGs – leading the Team Leaders, who work with assistants who are eyes and ears and hands and enforcers of the school of strength. They are professional, quiet, and VERY proficient at what they do.

kbIt was humbling. And challenging. And completely different than I expected. All in good ways. My goal was to be coachable, learn tons, be willing to work remain injury free and obtain my instructor’s certificate. I did all of it, and still missed by a hair. I earned a certificate of completion, but not my instructor’s certificate (yet). I have a little bit more work to doon my front squat to make it legit, and I plan to in the next two weeks.

That said, I did really well on the rest of it – I passed 5 out of 6 skills including the one I was most nervous about – the snatch test (throwing 35.2 pounds of iron above my head 100 times in less than five minutes. I finished in 4:45 and I was FATIGUED by that point.)

I was extremely disappointed to not reach my goal. It felt like ‘not making the team’ – or being not quite good enough … yet.

One month ago, I wasn’t entirely sure I was going to be able to attend at all.
Three months ago, I was sitting at a desk 7 hours a day.
Three months ago, I could barely press 16kg above my head ONCE, and this weekend, I did it – many times. Including the five times required meeting the standards per arm.
Three years ago, I was casually throwing around a kettlebell now and then in a school gymnasium with a group other middle age women.
Five years ago, I was 42 and 25 pounds heavier than I am now, less flexible, and less strong than I am today.

What do I love about my practice? My brain works well. My body cooperates. I am injury free. I have amazing posture and excellent muscle mass. I can lead and encourage and teach others how to live well and be strong as they age. And yes, I love the StrongFirst philosophies of SAFEfirst, quality over quantity, never train to failure, and strength is a skill.

I’d be so proud to wear an StrongFirst instructor’s shirt. But, I’m also really proud of the ‘beach ball size lady nuts’ (to quote Negan) that it took for me to lean into this journey and work that hard.

I have NEVER shown up to anything physical, nor professional, with that much fortitude, courage, focus, discipline and perseverence. I did really solid work. I am proud of who I was in the Rosemont Dome of Strength. I did my family proud. I did my coaches proud. I am proud of the work and learning I did. There is room to build on and I’ve got a fantastic foundation.

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I realize that for the ones who live the StrongFirst philosophies, they are as dedicated to it as those who live Kung Fu. It’s a way of being. It’s humility and respect. It’s skill and quiet determination. It’s safety and power and strength and professionalism. It’s the way they show up to serve and teach. It’s just the way they do everything.

I am a student of strength. I am #strongfirst

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