Tuesday, September 3, 2013

My Kettlebell Family.

I agonized for more than a week about how I would describe my experience at the 2013 2nd Annual Bay Area Open Kettlebell Sport Lifting Championships.  I really wasn’t procrastinating, but mulling over what angle I would take when I put thought and emotions into words. Not only were there a multitude of talented athletes at the competition and certification, but many of these colleagues, comrades, and friends of mine were also skilled writers.  Sure enough, within days, some amazing posts went up and did a great justice to this event.  I pondered. “Great organization and execution? Triumph of the human spirit? Technical blah-blah that only fellow lifters would understand and appreciate? Facing personal demons and digging deep?  Dammit, I don’t know what to write about!”

I already have two blog posts describing my experiences at other events.  Most of the above-mentioned topics are detailed there, to some degree. So I really didn’t want to repeat history, when you can read those other blogs here if you like:

So I sat on it. And waited.  And thought.  And last Sunday, as I rode to Squamish on a slow, soul-cleansing journey on my GSXR600, it became clear to me what this particular kettlebell competition meant to me.

Riding motorcycles can be an adrenaline-fueled, white-knuckled joyride of excitement and healthy fear that will have you screaming WHOOO-HOO in your helmet at speeds better described as flying instead of riding. Your mind is racing with technical riding knowledge bombs waiting to explode into reality as you choose the perfect line, it’s nailing the apex in a corner, and seeing well in advance and executing every move with laser-like focus.  If you do this on the street, you may also get, ahem, an excessive speeding ticket and your bike towed, then impounded, receive points on your driver’s licence, mucho dinero drained from your wallet, and become the Devil incarnate to law-abiding citizens, not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…

Then there are those rides where you just take the time to see, feel, hear, and just experience the scenery, chill and relaxed, savouring every curve, corner, and straightaway… still riding with awareness, but allowing your mind to really connect with your spirit, instead of working overtime and buzzing with nervous energy.  

It was on THIS kind of ride that I got to relive the moments of the Cali Open KB Comp and Certification.  It was HERE, on the Sea to Sky Highway, that I felt the connection.  And in THAT moment in time I knew the weekend in California, for me at least, was not at all about the humble kettlebell. 

It was about Family.  

I have always struggled to fit in.  Not because I was the new kid, or fat, or had some kind of disability (shush, save the cocky comments for later… ;-). I just never felt that I could be categorized into a neat set of standards that were common growing up.  Even as I child, instead of socializing, I would often be found with my face stuck in a book, oblivious to my friends that were playing with my toys.  As I became more independent in thought, I was viewed by my family as a “feminist”, and I did not understand why there was such gender disparity between boys and girls in roles and expectations in my family.  High school never saw me fixated in one particular “clique”, to which I am thankful, as I did manage to get along with all the different groups – the preppies, jocks, rockers, punkers, geeks, you name it, I mixed with them all… but never fit in to one close circle of friends.

Fast forward to adulthood, and I bounced through careers, big ones, small ones, still not finding a strong enough foothold where I felt accepted and embraced. Policing, journalism, media & communications, firefighting, first aid… sometimes I knew the career wasn’t for me, other times it was made known in no uncertain terms that I was not welcome to be a part of that Brotherhood.  So I did my own thing, and Code 5 Fitness was born. For 10 years, I have run my own small business the way I want to, and with my loyal clients, we have made our own family.  Fivers.  That’s what we are.  But as the matriarch of this small family, there is an imbalance where I am perceived to have authority over them, even when I am not coaching them. And sometimes the kiddies fly the coop, to make their own lives and careers once I have helped them achieve their goals. Sometimes they don’t stay in touch, sometimes they do… I guess I am more like a foster mom to my Fivers because for most of them, I/ Code 5 (one and the same) are a temporary pitstop in their life’s journey.  And I’m okay with that, because, well: Reason, Season, Lifetime (click reference link). 

At last year's Tough Mudder... we are a "special" family at Code 5 Fitness, what can I say?  
Then, kettlebells.

The kettlebell community, at a local and global scale, is still like a small town where we all know each other.  We bicker amongst clans, there are strong rivalries between organizations, and politics often get in the way of a good time.  It is what it is, no matter what side of the globe you are from. But this post isn’t about that stuff. Since 2005, I have been truly blessed to have had such a remarkable journey into the world of kettlebells, both as a Hardstyle fitness instructor, and as a competitive GS athlete.  My kettlebell certifications read like alphabet soup: RKC, SFG, ATSCI, IKSFA, OKC.  Really, though, who cares? They’re just pieces of paper. For me, it’s not about collecting certificates or medals.  It’s about relishing every opportunity to learn from, experience, be with, reunite with, grow and share with mi familia… my `ohana…

My family.

The OKC Cali Open was about this.  So many reasons I had to not go: I was not physically prepared, having lost 4 of 6 months training due to injury… I had a new coach, and we were still settling in on our groove… I had 2 months to train for a brand-new-to-me event (jerk-only), AND my weight class was lowered… it would be an expensive trip to make and compete when I knew I would not be at my prime.  I was actually at my fattest, weakest, and in the most insecure headspace possible. I had many excuses to not go, but I said to myself, screw it, because the one reason I could come up with to go smashed all the BS excuses I made as to why I shouldn’t.

I wanted to be with my kettlebell family.

The Orange Kettlebell Club is much more than a growing kettlebell organization.  Sure, those guys and girls work hard to put on a good event… I can go on for days about the work ethic and passion John, Jason, Nazo, and Juliet have for making everything outstanding for their participants/ the athletes/ honoured coaches… their houseguests.  Because if you go to an OKC event, as a wide-eyed first-timer or seasoned Snatchman Junkie, you are indeed, welcomed into the hearts and souls of every one of us who bleed Orange. Welcome to the Home of the Kettlebell Chu-Tang Clan.  If you don’t understand these insider references, well, come to an event. Mingle with us. See what OKC is all about. Discover Chu-Hi… and Boom!


At every OKC event, it’s a reunion of old and new friends who happen to be coaches, athletes, or kettlebell enthusiasts. But what’s awaiting you in spades regardless of your interests are a lot of hugs of love and happiness, tears of joy and frustration, celebrations of triumph and victory, and special moments, either fleeting or remembered for eternity. Conversations among us are both profound and ridiculous, business and party-time.  Where else will you be discussing world record performances with technical and scientific analysis, and the next moment arguing over which is better, LA Cronuts or Canadian Tim Horton’s honey cruellers, in the Stage 5 debauchery debates?

Very few places welcome with open arms the plethora of people we see at OKC.  One studio will house champion lifters and platform newbies. One flight will see a professional athlete fighting for MS rank, beside someone who has never competed at ANYTHING their entire lives, struggling to make the full 10 minutes with the lightest bell. Both lifters will give everything they have and leave it all on the platform, spent, when the buzzer rings. Both are equally deserving of honours.  And I am proud to call all of these people my brothers and sisters. 

We have a very strong passion for a very unique sport that very few people can truly understand.  Even if GS becomes an Olympic Sport, as is the hope for many of us, it will still be a fringe sport that the majority of folks will pass over in favour of the flashy, exciting, and “pretty” sports like gymnastics or track and field. 

But we don’t do it for shit or approval from the masses. 

Many a solo training session looked this way.
On the platform... Estella Hom photo.

We do it because getting on the platform tells us everything we need to know about ourselves.  Our training. Our diet. Our pain and suffering, frustrations and joys from each training session we had leading up to the competition. Each injury that has plagued us humbly reminds us we can still be broken. The torture of loving food, and having to say no to favourite treats to cut weight because the scale says you are 64kg instead of 63kg for your bodyweight class… but we do it because it teaches us discipline.  And for many of us, all of this hard works goes unnoticed, because we train alone.   No cheering squad.  No one to count reps or tell us to keep going when we want to put the bell down.  No teammates lift our spirits.  Thankfully, we have social media, so that we can film and photograph those solitary moments and share them with other kettlebell athletes.  Share them with these kindred spirits.  Share them with others who are going through the exact same thing.

When you give it all, this is what you're left with.  Nazo Foto.
Share them with our family.

Thank you, my fellow Chu-Hus, my kettlebell friends, colleagues, coaches, and athletes.  With you, I feel at home, wherever we are in this big world.  We are truly one family.

Newly-minted Chu-Hus at the OKC Cetification in Berkley, CA

1 comment:

Dolby said...

Thank you for your kind words and beautiful story told through your eyes, the eyes of our family really.

Thank you Tricia!