Always be smarter than the kettlebell.

I wrote “The Martial Arts / Kettlebell Connection” back in 2010 for Black Belt Magazine. When I signed copies for people I always wrote something I had been telling my students for a while, “Always be smarter than the kettlebell!” I found this a funny way for me to get across to people the importance of staying present and rational during training.

Training is a good and necessary thing. But all good things can be taken to an unhealthy extreme. Water is the single most important element to our daily survival. We can last without food for weeks but two days without water in the right (wrong) conditions and you’re dead. Water is truly essential, but you can drink too much. It’s called hyponatremia and is no joke. The condition is rare, but my point is clear: There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

In training, the desire is often to beat ourselves to a pulp in order to rebuild stronger. There’s nothing wrong with a good work ethic. In fact, I think it’s one of the few things we can’t really teach someone. It’s either there or it’s not. But like all things it can be taken too far. I had a student who used a lacrosse ball to such an extreme he actually bruised himself. Clearly this is not the goal of a recovery tool. I had another student, actually more than one, who if the session for the day called for running through traffic, they would do it with no hesitation. This is a problem. This is when someone becomes their own worst enemy.

So, yes, please work hard. Training shouldn’t be easy, but it also shouldn’t be stupid. If you find yourself frequently injured or sick, take a step back and make sure you’re being smarter than the kettlebell. Our minds separate us from animals that behave on instinct alone. I strongly suggest you use it.

Stay strong, my friends!

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