a kettlebell training log, and
a launch pad for aberrant missives

Monday, April 14, 2008

Freedom Torch (Swing) Relay

om mani padme hum

I dedicate my yoga and kettlebell practice today to the people of Tibet. As human beings existing in a dualistic universe, we are at once the oppressor and the oppressed. We can be truly enlightened, but so can we be the self-righteous, moralistic, holier-than-thou evangelist for whatever pet causes the ego happens to latch upon. I truly believe that to change the world we have to change ourselves first, and it's a blessing to even know what needs changing. Yoga helps to bring about that meditative awareness that is the essential first step to transformation. Yoga is spiritual discipline. I don't do it as a workout to burn calories, to sweat, or even to stretch. Yoga is the gift of quietude, the stilling of the mind so that breath and suffering and joy can come to the fore, and so remind us of our aliveness, and our humanity.

The Olympic Torch has come and gone, mobilizing thousands in this protest capital of the world, San Francisco. I stand in solidarity with the human rights activists who descended upon London, Paris, and my home city to make it plenty clear to the Beijing government that we will not stand for China's many objectionable policies with respect to Tibet, Darfur, the environment, food safety, etc. I say this as a Chinese-American, knowing full well that many like-minded individuals have been vehemently condemned as "traitors" in recent weeks by pro-Beijing elements in our community. Try as I might, I cannot with good conscience support a government that labels the Dalai Lama as "anti-human rights," shamelessly suppresses freedom of the press, and puts up a joke of a website about the Olympic Torch relay. My allegiance is to my own (fallible) sense of right and wrong, and I believe that the only way to change the hearts and minds of the Chinese people is for them to come to their own conclusions, based on objective information not manipulated by their government. One of my goals in writing this post is to reach the foreigners living and working in China. I think they can be a powerful force in bringing awareness, through their day-to-day interactions with the Chinese people, of the egregious human rights violations that Beijing commits in the name of law and order, and how such heavy-handed tactics only serve to sabotage its international image no matter how fancy or spectacular the Beijing Olympics turns out to be. Change can only come from within, so I call upon the expatriates participating in China's unbridled economic growth to insist on not only spreading Western technological and management know-how, but also the values that we hold dear - freedom of expression, and the right to self-determination. These values are neither Eastern nor Western - they are universal, the foundation of civilization's collective rights and responsibilities. I believe in the power of intention - whether it's my yoga practice, or a protester's non-violent demonstration against injustice, or a journalist's struggle to supplant propaganda with truth, the intent is not to prove that we're right, but to realize that we are all in this together.

April 13, 2008

I first got the idea of staging my own Freedom Torch workout after reading about torch swings on Rif's blog. He did them with clubbells and he made a how-to video for me. Since I don't have clubbells, I did bottoms-up snatches (first time!) - the two exercises are similar in terms of ROM and mechanics.

I used a lighter kettlebell - it was not particularly strenuous, but my forearms were sore for three days! Some pointers: (i) use chalk, (ii) keep your eyes on the ball, and (iii) stay really tight through the lats.

Sun Salutations
108 rounds

Bottoms-Up Snatches (8 kg)
9 x (12 + 12), 2-minute rounds = 108 snatches per arm

MP Ladders (8 kg + 2.5 lb. plate = 20.5 lb.)
5 x (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Stop The Spray!!!

If ever we needed to deploy surface-to-air missiles, this is the time. The San Francisco Bay Area is bracing for an unprecedented urban assault via aerial spraying of biochemical agents, ostensibly to contain the Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM), a reckless experiment of questionable efficacy and benefit (except to Big Ag) and unquestionable harm - to human and animal health, ecological balance, property values, and our implied right to homeland security. The spraying, slated to begin August 1, 2008, is cause for alarm because it will impact not only local farms that supply our organic produce, but in fact will blanket our homes, playgrounds, schools - and yes, our heads, if we happen to be outdoors when the choppers fly by. The pesticide is designed to linger in the environment for quite some time, so we cannot entirely escape even if we managed to skip town for a few days. In the wake of a first round of spraying in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties in 2007, residents reported hundreds of cases of respiratory, dermatological, and endocrine-related afflictions. This foolhardy approach to eradicating LBAM is akin to invading a country to look for non-existent WMDs. There will be unintended consequences, beyond what our government is capable of fixing. At the end of the day, I don't want poison dumped upon my head, or yours. I call for the right to bear arms, metaphorically (or not), in order to shoot 'em down, metaphorically (or not); in any case, be up in arms about this!


* This post will be updated in the near future with original content, as I plan to conduct some personal interviews and report back to my readers. Stay tuned!

William ShakySphere

So uttered the original Dane of Pain, "Frailty, thy name is woman!" Poor, poor Prince of Denmark, Dane of bread, dejected, despondent, deficient in testosterone.

O that this too too sullied flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew,
Or that the Everlasting had not fixed
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter.

Methinks he needed to ingest some protein and slaughter a cannonball for a fix. Willie wielded his pen with ease, but how would he fare under a pood of tragedy?

Frailty, that which is my mind - a mind that fails to grasp the voluminous drama atop my bathroom scale. William Shakespeare: The Complete Works, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1986 - 3.8 kg.

Tuesday, April 7, 2008

MP Ladders (8 kg + 2.5 lb. plate = 20.5 lb.)
5 x (1, 2, 3, 4)

Wednesday, April 8, 2008

1-Arm Swings (16 kg)
12 x (11 + 11) on the minute = 264 swings

Clean & Jerks (12 kg)
1 x (
5L, 5R), 2 x (4L, 4R), 3 x (3L, 3R)

Jerks (12 kg)
2 x (4L, 4R), 1 x (5L, 5R)

Bottoms-Up C&Ps (8 kg)
5L, 5R, 4L, 4R, 3L, 3R, 2L, 2R, 1L, 1R

Front Squats (12 kg)
5L, 5R

Double Windmills (12 kg above, 16 kg below)
8L, 8R

Sunday, April 6, 2008


Genuflect. Let us genuflect. If you follow the ETK Program Minimum, chances are you're already doing it. You just may not have a poetic way to describe it.

I first encountered this word in the RKC instructor manual, which I received this February in San Jose, on my birthday, no less. It's a big word, I assure you, for the simple reason that I didn't know it, I who knew all my SAT words and kicked everyone's asses in the scoring department. Ah, but that was two decades ago. Now, I see this word "genuflect" next to a picture of the great Dr. Mark Cheng manipulating a kettlebell. What the heck?! My ignorance had been exposed. But there's a way out of this. I rationalized thus: Why say scapula when you can say shoulder blades? Do my clients really need to know that coccyx = tailbone? I concluded thus: Lay people don't need to genuflect. If they want to see a vision of the Virgin Mary, they can just do one hundred Turkish Get-ups.

But I was tormented. I needed a precise definition for the word. My intellectual life was hanging in the balance. Comrades, please nail it down for me.

What is genuflection? Pick one.

a) Reflection of sunlight away from abdominal blubber via nano-tech fabric.
b) A position for oral sex as described in the Kama Sutra.
c) An outpouring of subconscious thoughts following an overdose of Russian truth serum, a.k.a. vodka.
d) A position commonly assumed when presenting expensive rocks, as in a marriage proposal, or when placating a spouse after a crater-sized kettlebell mishap.
e) Forward bends conducted in a weightless condition such as aboard the ISS or on the moon.

It took me more than six weeks, but my wounded pride finally got the better of me, and I looked it up. According to the Marriam-Webster Online Dictionary, genuflect means:

a) To bend the knee; to touch the knee to the floor or ground especially in worship.
b) To be servilely obedient or respectful.
(etymology: from Latin genu knee + flectere to bend)

So there you have it. The word is most often used in the context of Christian worship and Catholic rites, so no wonder I didn't know it. Even my mother is convinced I am headed straight to hell. But I do protest! I genuflect prayerfully, lest disaster befalls my head, every time I get to Step 8 of the Turkish Get-up. As Dr. Cheng demonstrates, this is where you have one knee on the ground, readying to stand. So next time when you're at Step 8, take a moment to contemplate and connect with that spiritual force of your life, whether it's the Holy Virgin or the other, almost-like-a-virgin, Madonna (& Malawi Child). When you're suffering under 32 kg of martyrdom in genuflection, meditate upon the Holy Grail of kettlebell lifting. You just have to know what it is - 100 virgins, or 50,000 snatches ... Okay, let's not go

Comrades, crack the Code.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Snatches (12 kg)
(20 + 20) = 40 snatches

Snatches (8 kg)
(25 + 25 + 15 + 15 + 5 + 5 + 5 + 5) = 100 snatches

MP Ladders (8 kg + 2.5 lb. plate = 20.5 lb.)
5 x (1, 2, 3, 4)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Snatches (12 kg)
{10 + 10 + 9 + 9 + 8 + 8 +7 +7 + 6 + 6
+ 4 x (5 + 5) + 4 x (4 + 4)
+ 4 x (3 + 3) + 6 x (2 + 2)} = 200 snatches, ~ 11 minutes

I guess that's the USSS Snatch Test. I dropped the kettlebell during the 3 + 3 sequence while switching hands, so I did an extra 3 + 3 to make up for it. So, for real, I did 206 snatches. It was hard but not as exhausting as I had expected. I was so energized after taiko class on Monday night that I wanted to do it again, but it was pretty late and I figured I should eat my dinner before midnight ... Oh well, another day.

Thursday, April 3, 2008


I don't exercise to music, but I like to do free-form stretching and allow the spontaneous flow of movement when I'm by myself - free from the tyranny of rules and structure. Too often our approach to working out is completely utilitarian - we want to lose weight, we want to improve our athletic performance, we want to be in control. Dance is deliverance in motion. The soul needs no justification to express itself. Everybody can dance, everybody can be fearlessly beautiful.

Here's what I'm listening to: Jay Chou's Fearless, from the movie of the same title (starring Jet Li).

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

1-Arm Swings (16 kg)
12 x (10 + 10) on the minute = 240 swings

2-Arm Swings (24 kg)
4 x 15 = 60 swings

Clean & Jerks (12 kg)
5L, 5R, 4L, 4R, 3L, 3R, 2L, 2R, 1L, 1R

Bottoms-Up Presses (8 kg)
3 x (3L, 3R), 3 x (2L, 2R), 3 x (1L, 1R)

Windmills (16 kg - bottom arm)
8L, 8R

Sumo Deadlifts (32 kg)
10 Xs

Good Mornings (32 kg)
10 Xs

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Ultimate Pinup

Finishing work at 8 pm, I found myself at the crossroads of a momentous decision. Do I go to Whole Paycheck and get a pint of organic Straus ice-cream, or do I go home and swing my kettlebell? Overweight vs. Flyweight - a ridiculous modern dilemma. The unbearable lightness of being taunts and beckons, throws a fake, fakes a throw - I swung.

Order a free 'Vegetarian Starter Kit' at GoVeg.com!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

1-Arm Swings (12 kg)
(30 + 30 + 25 + 25 + 20 + 20 + 15 + 15 + 10 + 10 + 5 + 5)
= 210 swings at T = 0 minute

(25 + 25 + 20 + 20 + 15 + 15 + 10 + 10 + 5 + 5)
= 150 swings at T = 10 minutes

(20 + 20 + 15 + 15 + 10 + 10 + 5 + 5)
= 100 swings at T = 18 minutes

(15 + 15 + 10 + 10 + 5 + 5) = 60 swings at T = 24 minutes
(10 + 10 + 5 + 5) = 30 swings at T = 28 minutes
(5 + 5) = 10 swings at T = 30 minutes
Total: 560 swings

MP Ladders (8 kg + 2.5 lb. plate = 20.5 lb.)
5 x (1, 2, 3, 4)

TGU's (12 kg + 2.5 lb. plate = 28.5 lb.)
6 Xs, alternating right & left

With the swings, could I have done a few more longer sets towards the end? Sure, absolutely. But I find patterns in the mathematical universe beautiful. As written, the workout displays symmetry and order. Why create Chaos?