Road to the RKC By Jon Bullock

The Institute of Krav Maga UK’s new RKC Kettlebell Instructors

It’s been a while since I have written a blog; I know you all have been having sleepless nights wondering when the next one is coming, so here it is. In fact, it’s more of short story!

This blog is about a recent course I attended, but more importantly it is about goal setting, achieving those goals and ultimately the concept of constant and never ending improvement.  For some of you this may be a little ‘deep’, and you may simply not want to read passed the first line, which is fine…for others, it may help you to focus on your own personal goals and achieving them, which I sincerely hope that it does.

Let me begin first by being quite clear in the fact that I believe we are all on a journey.  YOU dictate the destination of YOUR journey, and it is quite possible that YOUR planned destination may change over the course of the journey, but a journey it is and it must be enjoyed ever step of the way.

Along the journey we all go down many roads, some with good results and some with bad, whether that be in the area of work, finances, relationships, interests, friendships and so on.

To give the journey some focus, we need to set goals, these goals must be SMART GOALS (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely).

In other words they must be detailed goals, you must be able to gauge what you did well and what you could improve on.

They must be achievable meaning you wouldn’t set a goal to turn the world flat (Yes Joe, the world is round!)

They must be realistic (meaning you could not say you want to run the 100 metres in the same time as Usain Bolt by next week) and they must be timely, meaning you say when you will achieve them by,

Each year I set goals in various area of my life – work related goals (each year I try to involve myself in a new business interest), physical goals (I complete a course, passing a grading etc.) and education goals (I learn something that may improve me academically).

The reason I set goals is because I hate to drift, I hate to live without purpose and I shudder at the thought of leaving this spinning planet saying ‘I wish I had done this and wish I had done that’

This blog is about the latest physical goal that I achieved which was passing the coveted Russian Kettlebell Challenge (RKC)….so here is an account of my Road to the RKC…it is a long blog, it is all about what happened both physically and emotionally to achieve the goal.  All I ask you is that if you choose to continue reading, then you read until then end.

Road to the RKC – By Jon Bullock

The RKC is a globally recognised School of Strength and community of likeminded individuals who train hard and educate themselves in the use of the KettleBell as a functional fitness tool.  The RKC course is 3 days of Kettlebell training and education. Their catch phrase is ‘Enjoy the Pain!’ with the ultimate aim of passing the 3rd day of the course, which is a series of tests in technique, teaching skills, strength and determination.

The RKC is the brainchild of Pavel Tsatouline assisted by a US based publishing company called Dragons Door founded by John Du Cane. RKC has taken the fitness world by storm and the link between the RKC and Krav Maga Global (KMG) is founded by Krav Maga Expert Level Instructors Tommy Blom and Peter Lakatos.  Both Tommy and Peter are exceptional examples of what can be achieved in the world of strength and conditioning, they are both an inspiration to people who want to create good habits and get rid of the bad ones, in relation to fitness, diet, health and physical improvement.

I will be the first to admit that when I heard about Kettlebells and the link with Krav Maga, I was quick to dismiss it as another training fad….boy was I wrong!  When I met Tommy and Peter it was quite clear that Kettelbells get you strong and resilient, they make you quicker, fitter and the functional movements when using the Kettlebell are in line with those movements required of a fighter….so I had to know more.

I found out that neither Tommy or Peter had been to the UK to teach Kettlebells before, so I took it upon myself to organise the Dragons Door one-day introduction course to Kettlebells known as the Hardstyle Kettlebell Certification (HKC) with Peter as the instructor.  I invited a few close friends and Krav Maga instructors to attend.

Through organising the course I found out that Institute UK Club Member, James Breese (then a Graduate One trainee) had just been appointed as the Dragons Door Representative for the UK, so we embarked on running the course together which was a great success.  The HKC was a long and interesting day and I am sure every one gained a newfound respect for their hamstrings by the end of it, and a few sports massage sessions were booked the following day!

The aim of the HKC is to get you interested in attending the RKC.   Now, to attend the RKC you need to attend READY meaning – you have trained specifically with Kettlebells for a period of time and are capable of passing the ‘Snatch Test’…more about this later.

Fast forward one year and James Breese continues to excel in Krav Maga and is sponsored by the Institute UK to attend the KMG Instructors Course.  James passed the course with exceptional results, and at that time had set up Kettlebell Fever, a new on-line shop and training provider for Kettlebell enthusiasts around the UK – the relationship between the Institute UK and Kettlebell Fever was born!

Now, I knew I wanted to do the RKC and I had mentioned this to James (at that time already an RKC himself) but if I am honest, I had heard rumors how intensive the course was, and there was a part of me that wondered if I could complete it.  In my life I have attended many physically testing courses both in and out of the Military (including the Military Police Close Protection Course and 2 Krav Maga Expert Tests) but there was something about this course that questioned my capabilities, but I needed to face the fear.

Earlier this year I moved into a new house, I remember sitting in bed (well, a mattress on the floor as I had yet to get a new bed) surfing the internet and looking at James’s website KettlebellFever which had a link through to the Dragons Door website and the booking form for the first RKC in the UK being held in October 2012. I cannot explain why, but I suddenly found myself typing my credit card details into the Dragons Door website and clicking the BOOK NOW button for the course!….As soon as I saw the transaction had processed I immediately thought ‘WHAT HAVE I DONE!’.

At this point, I reached for my mobile and text James Breese saying:

“I have just booked the RKC”

To which he replied,

“Ha Ha Ha Ha, I got you – Enjoy the Pain”

So from that moment the Road to the RKC had officially begun, the goal was set.

If I am brutally honest, I had planned to write Road to the RKC as a training blog to keep me accountable on my progress however, I bottled it! This course had me emotionally and the thought of making it public that was attending and explaining what I was doing day by day to prepare petrified me…why…because the thought of failing and not making it was paralyzing!

Failure is something I do not take well to.  I have failed in business before, failed in relationships and each time it has been a very tough pill to swallow! Failure at a physical goal is something inconceivable and scares the hell out of me!

James instructed me to buy 2 Kettlebells 1 x 24kg and 1 x 32kg.  (Bought from KettleBellFever of course, he highly recommends them!!)

I then started to work with James, he set me a series of training programs that largely involved training smart, not hard, in the fundamentals of the Kettlebell!  I must admit, in the first few weeks the movements seemed too simple and if anything, a little boring, but as they say – simplicity is genius!

I soon realised what James was doing, he was building a base! Throwing cold iron around the gym in all sorts of directions are movements needs to be done safely, or injuries occur…and safety came first.  The initial workouts were about ‘practicing’ with the Kettlebells, not working out with them, which was a concept; I was struggling to understand, as I was all about training hard rather than smart!!! (I am not very smart at the best of times!!!)

I spent the next few weeks visiting my local gym Unique Results in Chelmsford, owned by my good friend James St Pierre.  He kindly let me keep the Kettlebells at the gym and each morning I made the long walk (well, 3 minutes around the corner) to the gym to work with Kettlebells.

James B’s aim was to get me strong with the Kettlebell and get me confident to perform the 4 main techniques and also to be able to pass the Snatch Test.

So what is the Snatch Test…being able to Snatch a 24 kg Kettlebell above your head 100 times in 5 minutes (YouTube the Snatch technique for reference). There are specific rules to the test which you can find on the Dragons Door website. Women take the same test however, they use a lighter weight.

When I first picked up a 24kg, I thought to myself there is NO WAY I will be able to snatch that above my head 100 times by October!…Thinking in this way, I had already created myself a mental barrier to achieving the goal which was not a good start!

I persevered, I worked on the programs James was setting me, and we met up from time to time for him to correct my technique.  As soon as I managed a certain level of reps in a certain amount of time, James adapted the programs.  I felt myself getting stronger, I started attempting the Snatch and as time went on, being able to achieve the goal became more and more of a reality!

One thing I will say is that I focused only on Kettlebells, I did no other fitness training (except Krav Maga), I kept doing the thing I was working towards and not looking for a short cut or easier ways to reach the goal…as James said to me, “You want to improve your Kettlebell swing….do more swings, SIMPLE!!!” This is the SAID training principle, which is worth reading about!

Throughout the months of training I struggled and I lost motivation. Krav Maga demands a lot of my time and I found myself making excuses on some days when I had not trained with Kettlebells…..and they were excuses…not reasons….I was avoiding training as it was getting hard, sometimes boring…but that’s what it is about…to go through those barriers, to take the rough with the smooth and push forwards to achieve what you really want…remember, failure wasn’t an option but procrastination became a regular occurrence!

I got back on track with the training; James varied the programs, which now saw me snatching the 24kg regularly.  I was amazed how I was now able to now carry out this technique, but I had still yet to attempt a practice run of the snatch test.

The best advice James gave to me was that the snatch test is like a marathon, you don’t need to run the full distance, as adrenalin, determination and drive will carry you through the final few miles.  But something was stopping me attempting it…and that thing was the fear of failure…even though I couldn’t fail because I was now only practicing in my back garden! Emotions are strange things!

Then, one day, my brother came to visit me; it was late in the evening and something inside my said I needed to try it.  So, fired up, I gave my brother my IPAD and set the Kettlebell timer app to 3 minutes and said to him I was going to try 70 snatches in 3 minutes.  It was pitch black outside, I picked up the Kettlebell, and with my 2 dogs looking at me with bemused, I went outside and got on with it…3 minutes later…I had completed the 70!.…the goal was in-sight and becoming real! Although I do think my brother was about to call an ambulance once I had finished!

I immediately called James Breese to tell him I had managed it but in true James style it went to his annoying voicemail (he works more than me!) and I left an in-auditable message on answer phone as I was still catching my breath.

So…training continued, the programs got more focused and before I knew it the weekend of 26 – 28 October 2012 had arrived and it was time to go to Guildford for the RKC.

Institute Instructor Spencer Duffy was also attending the course.  Spencer is an extremely experienced individual, having served in the Police in different units and having been involved in various martial arts for many years.  Attending the RKC was also a challenge for him but Spencer had not been exposed as much to what the RKC actually entailed, so he was attending with very little knowledge of how intense the course is…whether that is good or bad I am not sure, however,  Spencer came with the ‘What’s the worst that can happen’ attitude and gets my full respect for that!

James Breese did a fantastic job organising the RKC in the UK. The weekend attracted a variety of participants from the Fitness and Martial Arts Industry, with myself and Spencer flying the Krav Maga flag!

The days were long (8am – 6pm) and consisted of learning the techniques, understanding the teaching methods along with ‘working out’ with the Kettlebells mixed in when the Instructors thought we might be ‘slacking’ a little. Everyone who attended respected the course from day 1 and in the words of Master RKC Peter Lakatos, the RKC Qualification is earned, not given!

Krav Maga Instructor Kettlebell Squat

Everyone on the course enjoyed each day and left the training hall tired but having learnt a lot.  The primary focus of everyone was to ‘keep there hands intact’.  Training with Kettlebells can take its toll on your hands, and if the callouses on your hands rip before the final day of testing then you are in for a painful time, with the use of tape to cover the hands only being allowed if you have an open wound.   Although everyone trained hard, there was always the feeling of self preservation, with everyone knowing what was expected of them on day 3 so not burning yourself out was always at the back of your mind.

As well as the Master RKC Instructors, we were also taught by some assistants on the course who had already completed the RKC (some the RKC Level 2), in previous years and were there gaining more experience.  Spencer and I were fortunate enough to have Paul Fallows (RKC Level 2) as one of our assistants.  It is was quite clear from the start that Paul knew his stuff, he is an exceptional instructor knowing how to give effective feedback and work on your weaknesses and Spencer and I were very grateful for all his advice.  If you are living in the London area and fancy training with Kettlebells, I whole heartedly recommend contacting Paul through his website KettlebellUnion and booking some sessions, you will not be disappointed and will get nothing but 100%!

By the end of the second day, Spencer and I were still standing, we had the usual joint fatigue and the hamstrings and lower back areas were certainly ‘alive’, our hands were surviving and we looked forward to the third and final day.

I am a firm believer in visualising your results, taking your mind through the mental process of failing right through to ultimate success. What will it feel like if you fail? How will it affect you? How would you cope? Right through to the feeling of passing, being told you made it and receiving your certificate!  So the final night I spent time in my room going through this process, reviewing the instructors manual, ‘dry’ practicing the techniques and making sure I was mentally prepared as well as physically.

We had been working in teams all week so after a morning presentation by John Du Cane, we broke into our teams and went straight into a quick review before getting on with the testing phase.

The first section was the technique test; we had to demonstrate each of the techniques, in correct form a number of times.  I was confident with this part of the day, probably too confident as my first attempt at the ‘Turkish Get Up’ was truly shocking as I lost a balance a little, and the irony is that this was my best technique all weekend!!! Luckily we had 3 attempts to show it and the 2nd attempt was much better! (There is a lesson there somewhere!)

Soon enough it was time for the Snatch Test, we have seen the other group do it and one guy had reached 99 reps, and the timer hit 5 minutes – a heartbreaking thing to watch when the guy just busted his arse for 5 minutes to lose it on 1 rep – Brutal! But that’s the RKC, you have to make the grade!

When it came to my turn I was confident in the rep vs rest pattern I would use (you can place the Kettlebell down to re-chalk your hands whenever you like, just be aware of the time!!!!).  The timer began and I went for it…the first 3 minutes were a blur and the final 2 minutes saw me digging deep…I finished it in under 5 minutes (the exact time, I have no idea!)…I was pleased that I had finished it but I knew my technique on the last 20 reps had deteriorated and this might go against me! Luckily, I had performed well in the technique test for the snatch and my overall performance saw me get the result I wanted – PASS!!

At this point it is where I now say something that will all make you think I am more weird that you already do!…I was not happy with the PASS, I wanted to PASS better!….I wanted my technique in my Snatch Test to have been better – MADNESS! I had the result, I had made the grade but I wanted to have achieved more.  I can’t really explain this, it is a emotion I went through and I guess I always strive to be exceptional and I didn’t think I was on the day!

After the Snatch Test, we then went on to a teaching test where willing volunteers (known in the RKC world as ‘victims’) came down to train so we could show your teaching skills. I have been teaching people since I can’t remember so this area was not an issue for me and it was great to teach someone the new skills I had learnt.

Krav Maga Instructor Teaching Kettlebells

The day came to a close with something that is known as the ‘Graduate Workout’.  A final chance for the Instructors to help us ‘Enjoy The Pain’ before we left as fully qualified RKC’s.  For 22 minutes, Peter Lakatos put us through our paces but by this point it was like seeing the finish line so we all just cracked on sweating but smiling.

We received our certificates and I had achieved my goal, I had come to the end of the Road to the RKC.

So…what’s my point here..(yes, it’s nearly over…wake up!)

I know this blog is long…but that is the point…the road was long and I wanted to make it clear how long this particular goal was in the making, the process I had gone through to set the goal, the people I needed to meet and be involved with to achieve the goal…it was not easy, it took time, dedication and some focus which confirms what we all know – there is no short cut to success and getting what you want.  I also asked myself could I have done better, the answer is always YES!

Along each road to your various goals you will meet many people. Some will support you, some will hinder you, some will join you and some will just see you pass by and not really understand.

So with that in mind I would like to end this blog with some sincere thanks…

To Peter Lakatos and Tommy Blom for introducing me to Kettlebells and what they can achieve.

To James Breese for the training programs, encouragement and constant belief.

To Joe Ambrosino for laughing at me when I said I was doing it, it made me even more determined!

To James St Pierre for letting Unique Results – Chelmsford be my Kettlebell training ground!

To Amie for putting up with my constant whining and watching me throw Kettlebells around my garden. She put up with a lot!

To Paul Fallows for his assistance in making us as good we could be throughout the course.

To Spencer Duffy for sharing the experience with me.

For what its worth, my advice is to set goals in life.  Decide what you want to do, what you want to achieve and go be it, do it, find it or become it….after all, you’ll never be remembered for what you didn’t do!!

See you all at MasterClass 4 in December

Jon Bullock

Pictures by

Krav Maga Instructor Kettlebell Snatch Test

Jon Bullock, James Breese, Peter Lakatos, Spencer Duffy – RKC


















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