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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Identity Crisis (for Maija)

This is a follow up to this post. If you need some context. It may not matter much.
Yes, I'm channeling my inner geek. And my outer geek. Deal.

A bunch of background.

I've been doing martial arts a long time. Twenty or twenty-three years, depending on where you count from. For much of that time I was, like most dumb martial artists, not interested in anything resembling strength and conditioning.

Then I got fat. I was teaching a lot, training not quite as much as I had, and slowly, the weight crept on. I didn't realize how fat I had gotten until I got some pictures from an event with the family, and realized that the lard-ass standing next to my sister in an over sized suit was me. It was not a pleasant moment.

So, I went back down to Sityodtong and began soliciting advice. Got some on nutrition, some on training. Bought a book, joined a gym ( a commercial one), cleaned up my diet a bit, and started cracking. The weight came off. In the process, I discovered that I actually liked so S&C work. I just hadn't known it.

As the years passed, I found myself more and more interested in physical culture/fitness. I got more books. Tried different programs. Some had good results, some not so much. It was fun. I was learning. Grabbing material from Crossfit, Ross Enamait, Dan John, Pavel, and anyone else that sparked my interest. I discovered that I like bells (bar, dumb, and kettle), that running is a tool of the devil and only to be used in the pursuit of food, and that anything that requires extensive use of a stability ball does not hold my interest for long.

My troubles began when I decided that I wanted to try to make Strength and Conditioning part of my career, not just a hobby.

See, it turns out that the S&C world is full of tribes. It's not unlike the martial arts community in that way, except that instead of arguing about who would win in a street fight, they argue about...well, kind of the same thing. Who's training is "most effective"? Who's authentic? Who isn't? Take any stupid tribal bullshit argument that you've heard in the martial arts, swap a few words around (maybe), and you've got the same stuff.

In April, on the advice of a friend I decided to take an HKC; I like kettlebells, and the whole RKC process had fascinated me for a while. Dan John apparently had a hand in creating the HKC, and I really like his writing and work, so I figured I'd give it a shot. It was fun. Enough fun that I started contemplating doing an RKC. And an RKC II. And on, and on, and on.

I got sucked in. Completely.

And then I went down to Vienna, Virginia for PDR 34 and the BTS Combatives Camp. And I got to talk to a bunch of other coaches and athletes. Some really top-notch Crossfit guys. Some martial artists. Some ex-RKC folks. I found that something wasn't resonating in my brain. I, and couldn't describe why. I got home, read an interview with Dan John, and he said something that resonated.

 3. If you could have a superhero power, what would it be?
I already have several, but mine would be the ability to remain the same person no matter the circumstances.

The part that struck a chord was this.

One of the things that I prided myself on for a long time was not being a particular type of fitness enthusiast. I said over and over again that I would work out with anyone, any time, if they had something to show me (with one or two exceptions for people who I find truly unethical). And I stuck to that. But recently, I was finding myself avoiding certain workouts, drills, or whatever because I didn't know if it fit into the HKC/RKC identity or continuum.

The various conversations I had in Virginia made me realize that I didn't like what I was becoming. I was getting tribal; I was making decisions about how to exercise based on my self-imposed identification with a group, not based on either my knowledge, needs, or experience.

The best results I ever had overall were from following the programs of Ross Enamait, a man with no certifications, degrees, or fancy letters after his name. He has no organization, no certification program, no nothing. Just knowledge that he has collected and now shares for the good of all. That was a model I liked and could really get behind. Frankly, I could stand to get back to it, and have been reintroducing some of his ideas into my training.

I got drawn into the RKC world not through Pavel (though I like some of the man's work), but through Dan John, another coach who gives a lot of himself and seems to ask little in return.

Interestingly, in another moment of serendipity, big news broke in the RKC world while I was contemplating what to write here. Pavel, the big cheese himself, is leaving the RKC. The whole organization is in a state of flux. More tribal stuff.

It seems that even the RKC doesn't know what the future of the RKC holds. Which leaves me with absolutely no idea what my own future holds in that regard. After giving it a great deal of thought, I realized that I did like the idea and challenge of completing an RKC. That opportunity may never come now, so I'll reserve judgment. If it comes, I may try it.

Until then--right now, I don't want to be part of a fitness tribe. I just want to learn, teach, and grow. To explore, and help bring people along with me. I will still be coaching people, because I can, want to, and it helps me learn. If I find a tribe I really resonate with, great. If not, I will continue following my own path.

I am my own man again, and I feel good about that.


Maija said...

Excellent :-D
This could be a very interesting, and probably long, conversation .... There would have to be caffeinated beverages, definitely snacks and perhaps whiskey ....
As a teacher it's hard to be 'outside' - students often start a new pastime to feel part a new tribe, and if you ain't offering an identity, your pool of potential clients may diminish.
It's also hard to be 'unidentified' amongst your peers. You may not get the respect you should, and you will always feel an outsider.
Nothing wrong with that, but the path is a lonelier one for sure.
There's more community now because of the internet which is nice, and I reckon the VPPG model is a good sounding board/reality check for the 'unaffiliated'.
So basically, I'm with you, but let's not start a club, eh? We may start identifying with being tribeless together ... and before you know it there'll be T-shirts and secret handshakes and ... aaaarrgghh ;-)

Jake said...

Conversation over caffeine and whiskey would be awesome. Too bad you're on the wrong coast (or I am, I guess).

It is tough to be outside. I'm definitely not completely there (PDR Coach, Sityodtong Coach), but adding more weight to that isn't necessarily what I want. It's not even about avoiding training with folks, but just about keeping my own head clear.

I think the internet may make those kinds of independent operations a little easier. Online VPPG's, if you will.

I've got some t-shirt designs in mind...;-)