This was an article that I wrote for the Tae Kwon Do Times May 2009 issue. I think it was the first full article on kettlebells in a martial arts magazine. Yes, that's me with long hair and less muscle.
Kettlebells, also known as girya (in Russia), KB’s and K-bells, are the ultimate training tool for the martial artist because they will help you build real world strength, speed, conditioning, endurance and work capacity. As martial artist whether you are a traditional martial artist, in quest of a UFC title, winning gold in the Olympics, defending yourself in the streets, perfecting your forms, kicking higher, faster and stronger or just staying injury free kettlebells are your perfect companion. Kettlebells are the perfect workout for the martial artist regardless of style, age or gender. They will help you build speed, power, cardiovascular fitness and flexibility to make you a better and stronger martial artist. Kettlebells are growing in popularity with athletes and the Hollywood elite. You might have seen them in scenes from the movies “Rocky Balboa” and “Never Back Down” or possibly in pre-fight clips of UFC fighters training.
My fascination with kettlebells began over 5 years ago. Being a former competitive bodybuilder I believe that martial arts and fitness are one. I’m always looking for a great workout. As a kid my two loves were bodybuilding and martial arts. I first heard about kettlebells in the early 70’s yet not until over 30 years later did I finally see a kettlebell again. As a kid and teenager I would read all the muscle and karate magazines available in the 70’s. The muscle magazines of the early 70’s all sold barbell, dumbbell sets with kettlebell handles. I would also see the vintage photos of the turn of the last century strongmen lifting kettlebells. In 2003 a friend of mine from Clearwater called me to assist her in a Women’s self defense seminar for a fitness conference in Miami. While at the conference I participated in a kettlebell workshop and was hooked. Yet, not until 2004 I was able to train with kettlebells. That year the first kettlebell instructor training in the state of Florida was held at my school by Kettlebell Concepts making me a kettlebell pioneer in South Florida. At that time I started the first group kettlebell class and kettlebell website www.MiamiKettlebell.com in Miami.
What makes kettlebells unique and a power tool for the martial artist is that they are usually not meant to be lifted like weights but swung. Life in general is full of movements, KB’s mimic life movements unlike working out at a gym or health club. They incorporate a humans six natural movements which are squat, push, lunge, pull, bend and twist. KB’s are unlike the two dimensional, chrome plated, weight machine workout that is popular in today’s modern gyms which work a specific muscle group at a time as oppose to the kettlebell that works most muscles at a time. In movements in real life such as in carrying groceries, getting out of bed, slamming on the breaks when a car cuts in front of you in traffic and in the martial arts you do not isolate muscles. In life’s everyday movements you utilize numerous muscles at the same time. You need balance, flexibility, explosiveness and ballistic power and speed. So, why workout specific muscles separately, controlled and slow when our bodies don’t function in that way.
Kettlebells are great for martial arts specific training. KB’s moves such as swings, snatches, power clean and presses, etc. are explosive and ballistic just like when you kick, punch, block, throw your opponent, or take him down. They work the body in a wide range of angles. It involves the entire body through core stabilization, flexion, extension and rotation in numerous planes. Kettlebells strengthen and condition the martial artist grip and core. Strength, flexibility and athletic ability originate in the core of the human body. Great athletes’ posse great strength, power, and flexibility in the core, kettlebell training can take you to the next level and help you achieve your full potential as a martial artist. Kettlebell training will also enhance shoulder rotation, stability, strength, and flexibility to enhance and prolong a martial artist career.
Kettlebells are the perfect training tool for the martial artist regardless of style, age or gender. I’m 51 years old and getting stronger training with kettlebells. KB’s are compact taking very little space. With approximately 8x8 ft of space and two kettlebells you can get a full workout in a short amount of time. You can do a full beginner kettlebell workout in 20 or 30 minutes. Workouts are shorter than weight training. They also give you an aerobic and anaerobic workout in this short period of time. This will give you more time for your martial arts training as oppose to going to the gym and then doing cardio. You can train with kettlebells as your sole workout since it works strength, muscle tone, cardio and flexibility or you can add kettlebells to you existing workout.
What’s old is new again and there is nothing new under the sun. The gym of the future will look more like the gyms of the turn of the last century and kettlebells are back. So now you have no excuses to get in the best shape of your life with this quick and efficient total body workout. So get ready to change your body and become a better martial artist with kettlebells.
Kettlebells have a rich international history. Kettlebell training as we know it today stems from Russia. They can be traced back to Russia over 300 years ago. KB's have been utilized for athletic and warrior training throughout the world. There is speculation that kettlebells were used by Greek athletes and gladiators thousands of years ago. There is now evidence that legendary fighting monks of the famed Shaolin Temple used granite padlocks as a training tool to enhance their kung fu fighting skills. Padlocks are rectangular looking kettlebells also known as Chinese Kettlebells. Could they have been the forefather of today’s kettlebells?
Kettlebells were the training tool of choice for the early 1900's strongmen. The early bodybuilding and muscle building manuals and weight sets all had kettlebells. In the mid nineteen hundreds handles to transform dumbbells to kettlebells came with all weight lifting sets. That's how Bruce Lee began using them. Bruce Lee was ahead of his times training with kettlebells over 30 years ago. The handles came with the barbell set that he ordered. As per the book “Bruce Lee, The Art of Expressing the Human Body” Lee trained his back muscles with the KB attachments. John Saxon co-star of “Enter the Dragon” and martial artist Dan Inosantos where introduced to kettlebells by Bruce Lee. Today they continue their kettlebell training.
In the early 1900's musclemen, bodybuilders and strong men of Europe, Canada and America like Arthur Saxon, Sig Klein, Louis Cyr and Eugen Sandow, to name a few all trained with kettlebells just like the Russian strongmen and athletes. Yet, while KB's disappeared in the West they began to flourish in the former Soviet Union. Everyone from common people, to the military, to Olympic athletes trained with kettlebells. Kettlebells were known to be the USSR secrete weapon in their athletic dominance. In 1948 the first kettlebell competition took place in Russia. Later it became Russia's National sport. Thanks to Pavel Tsatsouline a Russian Kettlebell trainer kettlebells were reintroduced to the US.
A military study was done in Russian which compared Kettlebell training against specific forms of physical training. The study divided the participants into two groups. One group only practiced the testing protocol of push ups, pull ups, a run, a sprint, etc. The other group only lifted Kettlebells. In spite of no rehearsal of the testing protocol, the Kettlebell group actually posted better scores in all of these events! That goes to prove that kettlebells truly enhance athletic performance. It’s a whole new level of training.
A kettlebell set should consist of 5 to 20 repetitions. When learning and perfecting a move stay at 5 reps, since with higher reps fatigue hits and you’ll sacrifice form. A kettlebell workout can be classified by 3 types of drills: Ballistic, Grinds and Hand to Hand. Ballistic moves are what make kettlebells unique. They are dynamic and explosive. They help build strength, cardio and endurance. Grinds are the slower pressing moves and moves similar to barbell and dumbbell training, even though they are more explosive. Hand to Hand moves are similar to juggling. You pass the kettlebell from one hand to the other. This is great for eye hand coordination, grip training and weapons training.
Kettlebells are growing in popularity in the US. Some are calling it the latest fitness fad. Yet, kettlebell training is not the latest fitness or infomercial fad. They have been around for over 300 years and will surely be around for the next few hundred years. To see me perform these moves on video log on to www.MiamiKetlebell.com.