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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Product Review: Dan John and Chip Conrad Arcata DVD

Dan John and Chip Conrad Arcata DVD 

I picked this set up mostly because of Dan John, whose work has been influencing a lot of my thinking lately. It turns out that Chip Conrad might start influencing my thinking too. It's hard to ignore a guy who references the Underpants Gnomes, after all.

The Basics

Despite the title, this is actually two DVDs, one with Dan's lecture, one with Chip's. Dan's lecture runs about two hours, and Chip's runs about an hour and a half. Included on each DVD are a variety of extras, including PDF notes, audio files, and some other goodies. I have no delved into those in any great detail, but it's very nice that they are there.

The footage was shot at a live event, so this is presenters talking to an audience, not to a camera.

The two lectures are focused almost entirely on conceptual questions: how do you structure a training program? Why are we doing this? What are the principles that underpin your training system?

The Thing Itself

It's two DVDs. In a plastic case. It's a nice case, to be sure, but I'm not really sure what else to say about it.

The lectures are also available as digital downloads, if that's your preference. I don't have those, so I can't comment on them, but I assume the content is the same.

The quality of the filming is excellent. The sound quality is great, something which is sometimes an issue with live seminar DVDs. Most of the footage is just the presenters talking, but occasionally there will be notes, web addresses, or other references that pop up on the screen. This is a nice little feature that let's you figure out where to find more info on specific topics, though obviously, you'll either have to stop the lecture or make some notes to follow up on later.

What's Inside

The DVDs are divided by presenter: Dan's lecture runs about two hours. Chip's runs about an hour and a half. From what I can tell, these lectures were not presented in the order you view them in, but were pieced together from various stages of the day. The only reason that this is even noticeable is that Dan and Chip occasionally refer to things the other one said; the editing itself on the video is seamless enough to make each lecture seem like it was delivered in it's entirety.

While the lectures integrate well, there isn't necessarily any particular overlap in content. At least, not precisely. Dan and Chip are each talking about their own personal coaching philosophies. Dan talks about things like fundamental human movements, etching vs. reaction, and the idea of "keeping the goal the goal" (among others). Chip talks about stuff like the tribe, physical vs. metaphysical goals, and the importance of ritual and tradition.

Just about everything in these lectures is a conceptual tool. With the exception of Chip's breakdown of the mechanics of a pushup, there's not a lot of physical movement presented here. Instead, what you have in these two lectures is a collection of ideas about how to build a philosophy of training. If you actually took the ideas on these DVDs and seriously implemented them, you'd build a complete training program, from big picture ideas to specific physical movements. You'd have to go out and learn more, of course, but you could really build an entire training program around this stuff.

Of course, the philosophical nature of these lectures means they are not "plug and play" kind of material. With the exception of Chip's pushup info, this isn't material that you'll start using the second you shut off your DVD player. You'll need to put some skull sweat into this material to derive value from it.

But the effort will likely be worth it.

Who Should Get This

Anyone who coaches athletes. While the material is oriented towards strength coaches, the concepts are general enough that they could be adapted to martial arts or other physical disciplines with very little change. The principles will keep holding.

If you don't coach anyone (or rather, only coach yourself) this may not be quite as useful. If you're the sort of person who enjoys thinking deeply about your training and how you're organizing it, this set will help guide you towards clarity. If you want a new workout routine, this set won't help.

For The Martial Artist

As I noted above, if you coach martial arts, you should get this. The principles outlined by Dan and Chip are completely adaptable to martial arts coaching. Chip's ideas about the "why" are especially worth considering, as his entire "underpants gnomes" analogy. No, I won't explain it--go buy the DVDs.

If you are a martial arts practitioner, again, the set is still potentially useful, as it might help give you some clairty about how to organize or approach your training.

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