K3 Weekend Review
Back in August or September, I got a text inviting me out to LA for a workshop. I was given a date, and that was pretty much it. Of course, I committed to it immediately even without knowing any more. Technically, I did know that Dr. Mark Cheng and Dr. Jimmy Yuan were going to test their presentation of some new, super-secret project they had been attacking together. I was excited because this was going to be the first workshop I would attend, and not teach at, since 2016 when I went through the StrongFirst Level 1 course testing the 28kg bell for guys over 220lbs.
I’ll be perfectly transparent, as soon as I saw the name of their project, I was a bit intimidated. K3 Combat Movement Systems. Knowing that Dr. Cheng has lived, trained, practiced, and taught several different styles of martial arts across the globe and understanding that he pretty much is all four Ninja Turtles rolled into one, but with Fabioesque hair, gave me pause. The question, was I being invited as the token non-marital arts, big, tall, hillbilly, non-asian guy that would serve as the Russian volunteer to be the throwing dummy for all the all-stars in the room did cross my mind. Then I recalled Jimmy would be there so, and while he is a ninja in his own way, the Yuan and the Cheng balanced out much like the Yen and the Yang. While I didn’t know exactly what it was I did know I was going to be there.
Fast forward to December 1 when I arrive in LA. One of the first attendees I meet? Master John Nottingham, who happens to be a 7th Degree blackbelt, and his wife Elizabeth who is also a black belt. At this point, I am convinced I’ve been pigeonholed as the token throwing/striking dummy – not looking good for me.
So I wasn’t the only one invited to this event that didn’t have a martial arts background. I felt like I was a little faster than some of the other non-martial art practitioners which eased my mind because I could outrun some of them if the need for a throwing dummy came up. First, the free swag from Onnit (protein bites, Alpha brain, ShroomTech), Lululemon, Under Armor, Caveman Coffee, and Bunalbrand sticks was amazing. Then we see the padded sticks that are going to be our tools to learn with over the next 2 days.
My concern with the name K3 Combat Movement Systems is that others that don’t know Dr. Yuan and Dr. Cheng will immediately disregard this system because of the term combat. I will be completely blunt here – if you do that, you are making a BIG mistake. Every warrior/combat culture in the history of man balanced out the fighting with a restorative side that promoted longevity. That balance is what leads to sustainability. This is a portion of the didactic portion of the course that for many will be eye-opening. Do not disregard this because of what you perceive the word “combat” to entail.
Early on in Day 1 Dr. Cheng and one of his students did a demonstration with the sticks that left everyone’s jaws on the ground. Then Dr. Yuan announced, “by the end of today, you ALL will be able to do that.” I was concerned that this was overselling what we were going to do, but I still wasn’t 100% convinced that I would be able to perform what I saw. Needless to say, I was wrong. How they broke down the techniques into absorbable drills was very impressive. Probably the best part of the weekend was the repetitions. This wasn’t a weekend where we got to watch them do impressive feats, try it once, and then move on. We drilled everything over and over in a manner that maximized the learning and retention of the material. My biggest concern at the end of the day was that I would forget all the ideas I had of how to integrate this into our rehab practice and training my son’s basketball and football teams. I took 8 pages of notes on just the first day.
An added benefit to the weekend was the equipment Hyperice provided. My lunch hour both days was spent trying out the different products they provided – the Hypervolt, the Hypersphere, and the Hyper 2.0. In their own way, each was a little better than the other, but each was better suited for certain tasks – the Hypersphere literally touched my soul through my Lat while the Hypervolt touched my soul through my soleus.
The warm up on the second day was just a Capoeira-Angola partner drill where if we messed up we would either get kicked, fall down, or kick our partner. No big deal, but we all had about 2 minutes in Capoeira-Angola training. Once again, the Drs found a way to get a room of Noobs to pull this off with no problems. After just 10 minutes, everyone in the room was thoroughly warmed up and ready. This was followed up with a day full of even more reps of the stick drills we learned on day 1 that were all the same, but completely different. Even more examples and explanation of the restorative component of this system were given over the course of the day to solidify the importance of this system.
There were several things that stood out to me about this workshop:
- Even though to the observer, it looked like the emphasis was on the fighting side of combat since we were attempting to strike our partners with the sticks, it was delivered in a manner where the actual emphasis was on the restorative aspect of combat.
- Everyone laughed a lot, and not just at Dr. Yuan’s jokes.
- This workshop was the epitome of Einstein’s saying “if you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it completely.” The Drs presented some very complex drills and very complex content in a very simple, digestible manner.
- I was able to not just take away 1 or 2 drills to do on Monday, like happens at most workshops; I had a laundry list of ways I want to incorporate everything they taught into our orthopedic rehab program, training team sports, formal class work for my grad students in our Masters Program at MSU, and finally in my own training.
- I was amazed that I was able to go through everything this weekend with no pain – in January I’m having shoulder surgery to fix some “things” and not one drill or activity caused any pain.
- The volume of actually doing the drills was a lot, but it accomplished the task of allowing everyone to progress through the 4 stages of learning.
Other than dancing, there is no training/rehab system out there that is so dependent upon your training partner. The K3 drills were less of a drill and more of a movement conversation with your partner where you had to create force, absorb force, redirect force, anticipate their next move, and produce your next move – all on the spot and in real time.
While this weekend was a beta test and they do have some small details to work out, this was the best workshop I’ve attended since I attended Dr. Ed Thomas’s DragonDoor Indian Club Certification course in 2010. The didactic learning and the skill acquisition was above and beyond any other course, workshop, or symposium I’ve attended in the past 8 years, and that is a pretty long list. Once they roll this out and open it to the public, do what I did – commit to it on the spot! If you are hesitant because of the term ‘combat”, investigate the warrior cultures and how the balance of aggression and restoration was maintained. When you go, you will be challenged in a way that you never have been, regardless of what your background is.
Monday Follow up
So, I took the red-eye flight from sunny SoCal to frigid southwest MO. I’d been up 36 hours and it was time to play dad and go pick my 8-year old up from school and get him to basketball practice. Before I left for the weekend he told me he didn’t want me to say anything when I picked him up until we were at practice. So, I pick him up from school and we have to walk about 100 yards to my truck. In the fog of my tired mind, I see this as a perfect time to connect with him without words, so I apply the Road Rage Drill (a walking relaxation drill derived from Systema on how to absorb and move with outside forces without being distracted). So as we are walking, I begin bumping into him. No instructions. Initially, he was confused and a little upset. But then as he reacted to me he began to smile and started bumping back into me trying to throw me off. Without any instructions, we were doing the drill back and forth just like we had been instructed at the workshop. The application of the skills you learn will rely on and only be limited by you.