Tom Kechter 12/29/64 – 5/21/15

A year ago today, my brother, Tom Kechter, passed away – way too early – at the age of Fifty. It’s taken me most of the last year to wrap my head around his passing. Grieving. Assessing. Accepting, as best I can.

I miss him every day. For great parts of every day. For all of our lives we (at least) spoke nearly every day, usually later in the night when most everyone else had gone to bed. We’d talk about the day, about physics, comparative religion, comic books, the state of the world, magic (he was a close up magician), stand-up and filmed comedy (he was a stand up comic for most of his adult life), about writing (we both wrote and were published). We’d talk about family, about his daughter Molly, or my wife and daughter. Usually the talks – a lot of them lasting for hours – degenerated into peals of laughter – sometimes to the point of a giggle-fit, as one or the other of us said something that would spark the other.

Now, on the anniversary of his death, I am finally ready to say: “I miss you, Bub. More than you would probably believe. If there is life after death, I hope you’re in a good place, having fun, and at peace. I wish we could meet for tea, like we used to do, and talk about superhero movies and Bill Hicks… Really, about all of the things.”

Tom is survived by his mother Anna, his daughter Molly, me and my family, along with hundreds of friends, extended family, and anyone who saw him perform live for them.

RIP, Brother. I Love You.

Tom

Top of the Fourth

Back in the saddle once again. This will be my fourth time writing/posting a blog. I originally started this blog/website back in 2005-2006. I built up a fairly reasonable readership of approx. 8-10,000 hits a month. Not a lot by some blog standards, but it was a good start for me.

My second attempt began when I moved from writing my own website html to going to TypePad as my platform, and my readership dropped.

My third attempt was moving from TypePad to WordPress and my readership dropped by another two thirds…  And I hated it. I hated the blog, what it had become. The loss of contact. The loss of affiliate sales. And especially the content.

Hated it.

Hated it and was completely bored by it…

If I was so, I’m sure you were too…

So, for the last few months I’ve been retooling it – simplifying it, getting rid of unwieldy themes, lack-luster affiliate sales programs, turning it back into something that I’ll enjoy. Because, if there’s one thing I’ve learned building my reputation as a trainer, it is, if you don’t like what you’re doing, if you don’t know what, how, or why you’re doing it, no one will pay attention. No one will want to work with you.

If you know me personally, you know that one of the things that differentiates me from a most others, is that I’m a polymath-in-training. I am “into” a lot of different things and wear a lot of different hats. Art, writing, training, martial art, anthropology, physics, psychology, nutrition, endocrinology, comparative religion, mythology, meditation, yoga, pop culture, commodities trading, comics, etc… And back when I actually had a readership, this blog reflected that…

So, in the future, we’re going to move back in that direction. You’re going to see more artwork, more written content, more links to things that interest me (and hopefully you as well). Just… More.

It’s time to get back to the things I love.

And share them.

Pitcher’s on the mound, winding up…

Next…

Testing… Testing… Is this thing still on?

I hope so… It is time, once more, to play, and talk, and share…

I hope someone still remains to see…

We’ll all see I suppose…

Sorting and Ruminating

Life and Family

This time of year, especially around the Thanksgiving holiday (as well as my birthday) are an especially reminiscent time for me. A time to take stock. To “see” if I am where I think I should be.

This past year (2013) – has been an odd year of ups and downs. On the upside, my relationship with my family is strong, and gets stronger and deeper every day. I have never had more fun, been loved as much, challenged as much and grown as much than since I have been a part of their lives. And greedy SOB that I am, I just want more.

On the downside, I lost a couple of dear friends during the summer. One to pancreatic cancer and one to a surprise heart attack. Along the way, we’ve also been nearly flooded out – during the historic floods in Colorado – our house only escaping damage by about 60ft. And my mother-in-law had a pretty serious health scare, as did my brother (still dealing with the after effects of a stroke he got a case of pneumonia that nearly killed him), and in a low-key way, so did I.

For myself, I had a physical done a couple of weeks after my birthday in July, and my blood work came back wonky. My thyroid was way off (hypothyrodic), my total cholesterol was high, as were my triglicerides, testosterone (low), Vitamin D-3 levels, and other hormones. I did a carotid exam which told me I had no identifiable plaque in my arteries (yay!) but due to inflammation my veinous age was 74yrs old! (Compare that to a series of training tests to measure things like my Vo2 Max, flexibility, strength, etc., which gave me a training age of 22! My body seems to be really confused!). I had gone gluten free due to an intolerance back in 2008 (I get pretty severe flu-like symptoms if I eat them – digestive distress, joint swelling and aches, fever, headaches, etc. – that will last for days after ingestion) and had been low-carbing it (ish) since the middle of 2012. I added some carbs (mainly rice – which I can eat without problem) and sugars back into my diet, took extra Vitamin-D3 and some ethyl esters fish oil for inflammation and in October redid my numbers which came back back within normal ranges. I will do a followup carotid test next February to see how all that (and my training) affect my veinous age.

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Work

I love working as a trainer, building relationships with clients, learning how to help them meet their goals, watching them move, trying to figure out the puzzle of their physicality – their strengths and those areas that need shoring and polishing. Figuring out what and how to motivate them towards movement and health. It hits something in me akin to volunteer service. And there is something sublime and powerful in those relationships.

The downside though, is it doesn’t really pay the bills very well… At least working within the big-box system like I currently am. The gym takes the lion’s share – which I don’t begrudge – they have to pay rent and equipment fees, and pay staff, etc. The job also can be very taxing, both physically as well as psychologically. For every five clients I have, that I enjoy working with, that follow directions to get to a healthier place in their lives, there are two or three that do the exact opposite. That can’t (or won’t) make changes to their lifestyles, their movement, their approach (which hasn’t worked well for them so far – or they wouldn’t need someone like me). And that can be frustrating and exhausting. That will be an area of my job that I address in the near future. I am going to start cutting those that can’t (or won’t) meet me half way in their quest for better health, movement and (hopefully) longevity.

Before I forget it, another upside (or is that flip-side?) of the job: for the first time, I got to teach a handful of seminars this year. Seminars on women’s self-defense, kettlebell play, unconventional training, mobility, and yoga. I am planning on doing more of these in the future, as I enjoyed them very much, made money, and learned a lot doing them!

I dig teaching classes. Outside of the seminars, I teach three bootcamps per week, three MMA classes per week, and yoga once per week. I have been teaching yoga at least once per week (I used to teach two classes and a bunch of privates. Now I teach one class and a bunch of privates 😉 ) for over three years now, and doing the bootcamps for almost four.

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Training

I met all the training goals that I set for myself earlier this year – by September. The last couple of months have been used for exploration, play and teaching (seminars, boot camps, yoga, MMA).

I have already set up three goals for the next year, starting with this cycle (which begins on Dec. 1st, and will take me into March of 2014).

A few weeks ago I was teaching a youth MMA class at Seraphim MMA, working with a 210lb 15yr old. I allowed him to get an Americana on me, taught him the set up, get position, and I tell him to go slow and finish it, so he can feel the submission. Instead of slow he slammed it on (not maliciously) and strained (maybe slightly tore) my biceps tendon in my shoulder. I’ve spent the last 6 weeks rehabbing it. My unloaded mobility is spot on – with no issues, but I have a significant disparity in my strength levels between my shoulders, as well as some pain in the anterior soft tissues of the left when under load. So, goal 1. is to completely rebuild my shoulder back to 100%. 2. To get a one-arm handstand (which means I have to work through ALL the progressions). And 3. to lose 4% BF for Mexico in March (15th).

Practice

I have two areas I want to focus on here in 2014. The first is to deepen my standup, clinch, and ground games along with weapon-based skills.

The second is to continue to deepen my Yoga/Flow/Balance Work Practice.

These last two areas are for fun/education and to support my Jiu-Jitsu/MMA habit – as well as in my continuing evolutionary quest for self-mastery – which can only aid and expand into all other aspects of my life.

Competition

Any competition done this year will only be with my trusted coaches and teammates during drilling, sparring, rolling and FoF.

Financial Security

For Personal Training: Now that I’ve got my feet wet doing some seminars, this coming year is going to be all about developing my own practice – setting up my own “shop,” working more seminars, teaching more classes. In doing the math I can make what I make at Gold’s just training two people a day… My goal is four (or five) clients per day – upping the ante…

-Secondarily: I would like to increase exposure to my macro-nutrition seminar. I did one a couple of years ago that was both fun and lucrative…

For commodities trading: be mindful of the trade – i.e. plan my work and then work the plan. I’ve spent a good portion of the last year paper trading commodities – trying to learn/relearn robust and as anti fragile trading strategies and tactics as I can find. My monetary goals are modest, as it has been several years since I’ve done any active trading and will be conservative (at least) at first. Getting “back in the water” while not losing my shirt 😉 is the only goal…

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Personal Development
Continuing to read and write (for learning and expression), along with (more) consistent meditation.

Creative Development
More writing – My goal is 500 words per day (M-F). Along with that, I am going to devote time to visual arts (drawing, painting, digital art).

So, that being said… Onwards and upwards!

Mobility is King

Catching up

The last six weeks or so have been both calmer and yet… Weird. Weird because of the after effect(s) of the flood last month. In the large: the devastation to the front range of Colorado is immense, and almost beyond any words I could write. 17000 houses damaged or destroyed, untold property damage from several rivers breaking their banks. Several people died. Years of rebuilding. A humbling and daunting time.

Along with a handful of photos I posted on my FB page, there are also a bazillion more all over the Colorado based news channels, if you’re inclined to look…

Closer to home, we got our basement squared away, carpet cleaned where water came in through a window well from the rain. And we thank “the powers that be” that we got off lucky. So very, very lucky…

Crews of workers (I’m not sure if they’re from the city or county) have been working on the torn up river bed next to our house. Replacing cracked and broken sewer pipes, storm water pipes and the riverbed itself. Removing debris. They work six days a week from seven am to sometimes one am the next morning. They are making amazingly fast progress.

Beyond that, with the exception of some work stress (more for my wife than for me – though I have a bit as well) things are finally calming down. No more relatives in the hospital, no more friends passing away unexpectedly. Hopefully it will stay that way for a long, long time!

I am even, slowly, getting some writing done! Who hoo!

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Recently, I was in a conversation with a client I work with about my own training. With the exception of a few times over the years where I’ve posted my training online, I don’t talk about specifics much.

I have a methodology I use. One that involves assessment, correctives (if needed), and then specific tools and exercises – depending on goals – either mine or a client’s – to meet set goals (and play, lots and lots of play). A system that I’ve been learning and working on for a long, long time. Distilling forty-one years (this year) of education, athletics, and competition.

The “base” of the system I use is the idea of movement over muscles. Now, today, a lot of trainers use verbiage like this. I am not the first to think it, or use it, though I have been thinking it and using it for a long time. I am just not very vocal about it on the inter webs. Self promotion has never been my thing. Ask around…

Movement over Muscles

When most people were young (at least in the West), they had a relatively large movement palette. They rolled on the ground, ran, climbed trees, wrestled, rode bikes, swam, played chase games, threw balls (and objects), jumped off roofs, and more. Then somewhere around late grade school or early junior high (middle school) they get hooked into organized sports: soccer, football, basketball, baseball, tennis, track and field events, etc. And their movement palette shrinks to the confines of the sport they chose. If they are “lucky,” they’ll participate in that sport till the end of high school or college. After college, jobs, career (not always the same thing), starting a family start taking precedence. Maybe they go to the gym and lift some weights and do some form of “cardio.” Once in a while they go camping in the mountains and do some hiking or fishing. Run a marathon, do a triathalon. A few “adventurous” types might even do a little hunting. And that’s the bulk of their movement for the next forty-fifty years. And that’s if they stay at it. By the time they are in their sixties or seventies they are moving less and less, till one day they find they are sitting or lying down more than they are moving. And then it’s over.

I don’t want to be that person. I have never wanted to be that person – even when I couldn’t have put the idea into words. I want to stay mobile and strong till my last day on this beautiful spinning insane asylum. I want to challenge myself (safely of course) to new and more complex movements and patterns to keep my musculoskeletal system, neurological system, and brain plastic, sharp and strong.

Now for me, beyond nutrition, sleep and recovery – which are related overlapping domains – mobility is king. Strength is queen. Others like to reverse those attributes, and that’s fine, as long as they are addressed. I have mobility as my first place attribute because I feel that it is the most important of the attributes. As the saying goes: strength without mobility is like firing a cannon from a canoe. Mobility without strength is like trying to spear a lion with a rope.

You need both.

The question then becomes: how much strength and mobility do you need? And therein lies the rub.

The answer of course is: it depends.

It depends on what your goals as an athlete are. What are the “fitness requirements” of the things you like or want to do?

For example, I love no-gi submission grappling. To be good at it, you need a strong technical base, excellent “cardio” (heart and lungs), above average mobility and be as strong as you can be without dedicating your life to the iron (weights). Strong is relative. Strong in submission grappling would make a powerlifter giggle.

At 196lbs my training squat max is (right now) about 425lbs. My best ever was 560lbs. I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t even qualify as “good” weights within powerlifting circles.

So definition of goals is a must. You also want to decide whether you want to specialize on an athletic endeavor or be more of a generalist. For me, I decided a long time ago to be more of a generalist.

Now a specialist, like a powerlifter, might say that because I am a generalist, and don’t spend the majority of my time building up my bench, squat and deadlift, that I am weak, and probably a pussy. And on the platform, they would be right. But outside of that one narrow place of performance I am going to take that powerlifter’s lunch money.

I have done it many times on the mat (with witnesses 😉 ).

Anyway…

A while back, movement coach Ido Portal said on FB, that fitness is a part of movement, not the other way around, and I agree. A person can increase their fitness on just about anything. Do a handstand, awesome! Cool party trick. Do two and you’ve increased your fitness – but only to do handstands. Do a hundred (within a specified time period), you rock at handstands! But can you squat? Deadlift? Olympic lift? Do a front lever? How is your locomotion, and so on… Fitness is “activity” specific.

After defining your goals, how do you go about setting up your training program? Start with basic movement patterns and then systematically build on and sophisticate them.

Set a new goal and repeat the process. Maintain what you don’t want to lose. Sounds easy doesn’t it?

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Because I’ve been asked about them many time before, here are my training maxes. Please note that these are my best ever, not necessarily where I am today.

Squat: 560lbs

Deadlift: 430lbs

Bench: 400lbs

Overhead Press: 210lbs

Power Clean: 285lbs

Jerk: 230lbs

Snatch: 200lbs

For balance I feel I should add that I can also do the splits in either direction, touch my forehead to my shins, relax in a flatfoot squat for 30+ minutes and outside of occasional training “owies” have full range of motion in all my joints. I love (and practice) martial arts (boxing, muay Thai, Judo, no-gi submission grappling, FMA, “gun-fu”), gymnastics, yoga, Olympic weightlifting, strength training, Ginastica Natural, Parkour, and more.

My goals involve the continuing exploration, refinement and development of my body and movement palette.

Onwards and Upwards!