This past Saturday (April 28th, 2012), I attended a Hardstyle Kettlebell Certification (hereafter referred to by its much shorter, well-known, and easier to type acronym, HKC) hosted by Mike and Amanda Perry at Skill of Strength in Chelmsford, MA.
I realized, somewhat belatedly, that this was the first time I had ever attended a "fitness" certification course. Every training seminar I've been to has been aimed at combat athletes or martial artists. Even the "fitness" based seminars, like some of Coach Kearn's classes at Sityodtong, were focused on combat athletes. This course was different. I was one of only two guys in the room who did any kind of regular combative training; everyone else there was a personal trainer, physical therapist, athletic coach, or something similar.
The course was run by Doug Nepodal, a Senior RKC who ran the class through a series of drills and exercises with an interesting combination of serious professionalism and off-beat humor. He was assisted by his wife, Laura, and the aforementioned Mike and Amanda (there seems to be some sort of "get your significant other to teach kettlebells requirement" in this group), all whom offered wonderful personal feedback and critiques during the skill practice sessions.
After the fitness test (the scariest five pullups of my life...), Doug took us through a series of exercises designed to help teach the kettlebell swing, the first of three movements covered in the HKC. I don't know much about the fitness industry, but I know a lot about good coaching, and Doug's coaching was excellent. My own performance in the swing dramatically improved over the course of the day, and many of the other participants made similar comments.
Working the swing, and its attendant exercises, took most of the morning. We broke for lunch, came back, and started on the Turkish get-up, my favorite exercise to hate (I'm comforted that Doug hates swings. I figure I get can pretty far with kettlebells and keep hating the get-up). I can't say I hate it much less after this, but I can say I'm BETTER at it, and have a much better idea of how to teach it. Similarly, my squat (the Goblet squat is the final exercise in this course) probably improved a bit, but my ability to teach it definitely improved dramatically.
After some time to review with a partner, we wrapped up with the skills test--a basic check to make sure no one was screwing up the lifts to terribly. The course leaders did a really nice job of taking everyone through the test, and coaching us as we prepped. I discovered a weird hitch in the start of my swing, and fixed a bunch of other stuff as well.
As I said, I've never attended a fitness certification course before, so I had no basis either for expectation or comparison. The benchmark by which I judge all courses is Tony Blauer's Personal Defense Readiness Fundamentals course. In that light, the HKC held up very well. While the PDR is, by design, longer and more comprehensive, the HKC has a similar style of professional, thoughtful delivery and material mixed with just a little bit of a humorous edge.
On the whole, the vibe I got from everyone involved was an excellent one. Very supportive, encouraging, and professional. I've been curious about this group for a long time, and my only regret now is that I didn't get in sooner. An RKC (and some day, RKC II) are now firmly on my list of future goals.
Should be a wild ride.
(Also -- big shout out to Amber Lee, HKC, PDR Fundamentals Coach, and future RKC for helping me get ready for this. I would have been worse off without you!)
(Also, also -- I will be offering kettlebell training for folks in the Boston area soon. Stay tuned.)