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Why I Bleed Orange

August 5, 2013

OKC CertLast weekend I attended the Orange Kettlebell Club (OKC) Instructor Certification course in Boston (I guess technically West Newton). It was held in a great little gem of a gym actually called Gymnasium. I drove 9 hours from Toronto to Boston for this course. Although this course is about acquiring more knowledge to coach and instruct others in kettlebell sport, this weekend was about so much more. I will admit that initially I did not want to take this certification. I did not feel I was ready. There is so much more I want to learn and experience as a student of Girevoy Sport, technique I need to continue to develop, and train. I’m definitely in a spongy state of mind as I absorb as much as I can from the experts around me, and I’m enjoying every second of it. I kinda felt like being selfish and hoarding this information to myself for a little while longer. I was also worried about the impact the travel and intense practice and instruction would have on my body so close to competition. At the beginning of the weekend my interest in the cert was as a student of Jason’s. I would be learning from my great teacher, and I would also be able to sneak in face to face training time with him. In the end,  these seemed like excellent reasons to attend (in addition to the crazzzzzy low price!).

By the end of the weekend my true calling was biting at me. I’m a teacher. I really enjoy sharing information and disseminating information and breaking things down to others. I love to get others ramped up and excited about things I’m also passionate about. I like connecting people to something that they thought was completely unlikely they would connect to, and then watching them fall in love with it. It’s also why I love to watch other teachers, especially ones who are passionate about what they teach because I pick up little gems that help me communicate and explain things even better. John and Jason of the OKC are brilliant for this and I’ve learned a lot from them that I will carry over into my teaching practice. Attending this cert has me super fired up about passing on this sport to others. A big reason for that excitement is because of the club I have the privilege of representing when I do. When I lift in competition I wear the Orange Snatchman. It means something, it says something – I bleed orange. This post is my attempt at explaining why.

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LOYALTY – staying true to your values, family, and friends. This means you don’t deliberately hurt someone’s feelings or gain success by cheating.

When you attend an OKC event you are taken on a journey without even realizing it…in fact…when you are a member of the OKC you are automatically signing up for the journey….and only those who truly accept that mission stick around, and truly flourish. Let’s start with the heart of the OKC because this is one thing that you will notice right away – the love between these two brothers (see photo above). Not brothers in actual blood relation, but really you’d think they were. Their business is a direct reflection of their relationship to each other and I believe that’s what will provide longevity and success to the club. They back each other 100% and will make the tough decisions even if it initially comes at their expense. They care that deeply for their people, for each other. There was a moment when during the set from the photo above when Buck turned to Jason and yelled at him to get going. Buck was reppin’ out his snatches at an insane 27rpm pace and he still found the energy to muster encouragement for his friend on the platform. They are incredible people.

I’m a creature of habit. I like familiarity. When I find something that works for me I give it my all and I love it to death. Like my favourite tshirt or hoodie that has been with me forever and only improves with age. Or the San Jose Sharks who continue to be my favourite NHL team (because of my love and loyalty to Joe Thornton) despite letting me down in the playoffs so many years in a row. When there is loyalty it means you really believe in what you are doing, and who you are doing it with. When there is loyalty you can suspend your doubt and disbelief because you know that that person would never knowingly or willingly hurt you and truly wants what’s best for you. These characteristics just ooze off of everyone I have met within the OKC. I have trust issues for sure, due to other adversity I have experienced in my life, and I had no choice with kettlebell sport because it is so new to me. I put my trust 100% in Jason and John and I have found every single decision they have made turned out to be true, or the right decision. Not to say that they are perfect because no one is perfect, but they proved to me that their expertise was extraordinary, and that they are willing to share it and ask for very little in return. That integrity means something to me and makes me super proud whenever I sport the snatchman on my chest.

Annas 1st Set

TRUST –  confidence in relying on the integrity, strength, and ability, of someone.

This trait is something that I really admire most about the OKC family. Never have I felt more supported in my life. When you lift kettle (or any sport really) if you’re committed you lay it all on the line. People see you at your best, and they definitely see you at your worst. In my mind trust is also feeling secure in letting people see you at your worst. Having enough courage to go to that uncomfortable place and push past your limits never looks pretty. When people have your back, and you feel safe to let go, amazing things are accomplished.

The OKC also have trust in their product and its delivery. All of us students reflect their teachings and keep the wheel moving. The head coaches trust their students and often trust more than the students sometimes trust themselves.  They are so in tune with their students – even ones they don’t directly coach that they are often ready to push their comfort zone even before we knew we were ready for the challenge. I love this. The OKC is always willing to support and highlight the unique gifts each one of us brings to the club and create opportunities for us to do so. Sometimes taking a risk is scary, but when one of the Head OKC coaches asks me to do something, I feel a great sense of honor because I know they would not have placed that responsibility on me if they didn’t believe I was ready. I’m the person always wanting that next challenge but not always ready to believe I’m ready for it. It is nice to know that when you are having those insecure moments, there is someone close to you who can remind you and push you when it’s time.

There were definitely moments like this for all of us in Boston. Learning kettlebell sport technique was new to many of the candidates. We all had different levels of exposure to the sport. The atmosphere that John and Jason are able to create is powerful, you could feel and see people drop their guard, trust, and grow. A powerful example of this came from Anna Couture (see photo above). Although she had a relative in the sport who had introduced it to her, much of the weekend was new and in much greater detail. She felt nervous and overwhelmed to the point of not wanting to participate in the practical test. John and Jason are cool, they are not about to force people into doing things they don’t want to do. But they trusted in what they had taught Anna over two days, and they trusted her ability to understand and execute the movements.

Taking the time to get to know Anna, they knew one thing well – if she returned home having not at least tried, they knew it would eat at her. Again, they were patient and loving as they always are and Anna decided to try. She blew us away. For her first time ever she completed the full 10 minutes of long cycle and made the number of reps she needed!!! The energy in the room was incredible. I went hoarse from cheering her on. It was nothing short of heroic, as were many of the lifts I witnessed.  It was also heroic how groups of students and coaches would rally around each lifter on the platform. That trust and connection is not something that comes easily to everyone, and I’ve met and seen many other teachers who cannot not imitate or emulate this. I’m smart enough to recognize this precious gift when I see it and experience it and make sure I appreciate it every day!!!

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RESPECT – esteem for, or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person’s quality or ability.

The end of the cert arrives. We are not the same people who met 2 days prior. We’re gireviks now. We have been immersed in knowledge and technique, tasted the platform, laid out our blood, sweat and tears and supported each other throughout the process. The OKC took us on amazing journey and shared so much with us. They are one of us – they do not hide their insecurity or uncertainty behind professional distance.  They were not afraid to step on the platform during the practical test and demonstrate that they also hold themselves to the same standard with which they are holding us. Their demeanor so approachable, and really the most attentive listeners in addition to being dynamic speakers.  It is hard to describe in words but truly great teachers don’t just cram knowledge down your throat and assume that if they have barked information at you, you should automatically understand it. Instead, they respect the individual athlete’s ability to learn and teach the tools in a way that anyone willing to practice can understand and improve. They then facilitate you to experiment with those tools and make them your own. Being able to break a skill down to its component parts, and teach them to someone who has little to no experience, and actually create awareness to a functional level, is a profound and powerful skill that not all teachers have, but the OKC has it.

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And then there is me and my coach. I was initially worried about the impact this weekend (travel included) would have on my training for the August competition and now I don’t even care. The experience was just so amazing it is hard to imagine anything but the positives that came from this certification. I have a better understanding of the sport and the teaching progressions to use when teaching the sport. I made an amazing connection with a special group of people, I got to know John Buckley much more than I ever had before and have nothing but the deepest respect and admiration for him.

The August competition is 2 weeks away. We call this “stage 4”, and I’ve noticed that during this time my coach has always seemed a little distant. He’s there for me, but definitely not as much hand holding as in the previous stages. Initially I wondered why. I could feel my panic and anxiety kick in, the nerves and fears about letting others and myself down…will I make my numbers? Will I make my time? I’m kinda looking to my coach to calm down the crazy self-doubt going on in my head and he doesn’t. In fact, it seems the more neurotic and crazy I get, the calmer, but more distant he gets. Before I bled orange, I didn’t get it, I thought I was being abandoned. Now I do get it, it is all so clear. He trusts me. He respects me.

At the end of the day he knows that I will lay my heart and soul out on that platform. There is nothing more he can say or teach, for now. I have to do it myself. And although it scares the shit out of me I am actually relieved because I know that the distance means he believes in me and believes I am capable. I know whatever I do in Oakland, whether I make rank or not, it is going to be epic for me because it will be something I have never done before, and I’m doing it with a group of people I really care about. That is why I will be forever loyal to the OKC brand,  and that is why, I bleed orange.

PHOTO CREDIT: THANK YOU MARLON VIOLETTE for your incredible photos and spirit! It was an honor lifting with you!

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2 Comments
  1. Cynthia, Great post! You were inspiration to us all at the cert. Boom!

  2. Awesome words on the kettlebell life and OKC crew! Congratulations on the Boston cert and looking forward to hearing about your success in Oakland Cyn!

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