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Kettlebell talk with Shawn Mozen

Kettlebells are everywhere nowadays it seems. Everyone, starting from the hardcore trainee to a grandmother seems to be training with kettlebells. So to help you better use kettlebells we have kb expert Shawn Mozen here to help you. Shawn is a top kb instructor based in Canada. He is the founder of Agatsu Inc. and was the first Canadian instructor to make kb information products and also start a certification program in Canada. He has appeared in many TV shows and been featured in various magazines. In short your go to man when it concerns kettlebells.

Arnav Sarkar (AS): Could you explain what does Agatsu mean and how does it relate to your training business?

Shawn Mozen (SM): Agatsu is a Japanese term meaning "beginners mind" or "self mastery." It comes from something the founder of Aikido (O'Sensei) said, Masakatsu Agatsu which means "true victory is victory over oneself" or "true mastery is self mastery." It is a very meaningful expression and concept for me as it describes quite simply and beautifully my approach to fitness, martial arts and life. I am not just teaching "fitness" for fitness sake. What I teach is self mastery through movement. To me, that is what Agatsu is all about. Ask yourself "do you train with focus and intent or are you simply moving the body and making it sweat? Do you live with focus and intent? Everything begins with exploring our own bodies and potential. Once we have control over our movement then we can tackle resistance. Sometimes that resistance takes the form of a Kettlebell, a barbell or an obstacle we may face in our daily life. We learn to conquer them all by training to conquer ourselves.

AS: Shawn could you tell the readers how you began both in terms of your own training and your training business? Also could you tell us what kind of coaching services do you currently offer?

SM: I began studying martial arts when I was seven. I have spent time training in judo, traditional Karate, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Russian Martial Arts and others. As both a student and teacher I have always been looking at different forms of conditioning that would help my students and myself become better at what we did. It was through this search that I found Kettlebell training. I was one of the first Canadians to take the RKC and bring this training to Canada. I created the first Canadian Kettlebell instructional DVDs, Workbook and instructor certification course.

I currently travel around the world giving Kettlebell Instructor Certifications as well as sharing my approach to joint mobility and body weight training.

AS: Shawn you have a very impressive history of martial arts practice. What lessons did you learn from martial arts that you use in your strength and fitness training for clients?

SM: There are so many things I have learned from my study of martial arts. The two biggest lessons I can share with the readers of this interview are "connectivity" and the discipline of "will." As a martial artist we learn to control our bodies. We learn that the body is one unit not a collection of parts as it is often approached in fitness. To move with power, grace and confidence we must be able to control and command the body to move as one. Through years of training we develop this connectivity in punching for example. Before you are trained how to punch you simply hit with your arm and shoulder. Through training you learn to generate your power from the ground up so that the power from a punch comes from the feet and out through your hands. This connectivity is also important in physical training and is demonstrated in the photo of me lifting the woman overhead. That model weighs as much as I do yet I can hold her in the palm of my hand. The reason I can support that load is connectivity. I am not holding her with the power of my shoulder but rather the strength of my entire body.

Part of training to learn to use your entire body with maximal efficiency is learning that the mind controls the body not the other way around. How many people start and stop training routines? How many people never realize their goals and dreams because they quit when things got to challenging?  Hard regular training creates not only a strong body but also builds a strong mind. I try to motivate my students to share this with their clients rather than merely training for aesthetics. For me, I don't care how you look. I care about how you feel, how you perform and how you live. We train to improve our health, performance and to remind ourselves daily through this practice that we are strong in of body and spirit and we don't quit. When your training cultivates mental strength all of the physical benefits naturally follow including a better beach body.

AS: What drew you towards Kettlebells and who have influenced you the most in your kettlebell training journey?

SM: Originally I was interested in Kettlebells because of the idea of training strength and endurance simultaneously while also maintaining or improving mobility. Kettlebells seemed to be the perfect supplement to my martial arts training and something that would help my students.

There have been many influences in training both from the Kettlebell world and outside it. My students are the biggest influence on me. Their questions push me to be a better trainer, to work even harder, learning more so that I can help them and share what I have learned.

AS: Considering that kettlebells have been around for centuries, yet it has become a mainstream training tool only in the last decade or so. What do you think has caused this rapid growth in the last decade, is it just better marketing or have the training methods been modified in the last few years to make them more beneficial for the majority of the trainees?

SM: Thats a great question. As you said, Kettlebells are not a new fitness fad. Kettlebells have been around for a very long time but are now enjoying never before seen popularity. In part this is due to an overall change in the interests of the general public regarding fitness. People are more and more interested in functional fitness, athletic training rather than only bodybuilding. This interest has brought back a lot of old school training methods and Kettlebells are one of them.

The hard style as it is practiced in North America also played a large role in getting people excited about Kettlebell training. Unlike its sport counterpart the basics of Hard Style closely mirror the basics that trainers use in other training modalities. In short, this approach to Kettlebell training was easy for trainers to integrate into their personal training and what they were sharing with their clients.

Kettlebell gunslinger

AS: Do you structure and make kettlebell workouts separate for men and women?

SM: I make workouts for people.  Training has to be tailored to the individual but for me its not really gender based. We look at what their personal goals are and develop workouts that will move them towards those goals.

AS: What are the biggest mistakes you see people make in their kb training?

SM: Some of the biggest mistakes I see are coming from so called fitness professionals who watch a Youtube video on Kettlebell training and three minutes later they are teaching the same move to a client. You may be great at a wide variety of things but that doesn't make you an expert in everything. People should seek out a qualified trainer to show them the basics. If that trainer hasn't bothered to learn how to properly and safely use a training tool then they have no business taking your money for training. When you are being taught ask your trainer questions. Find out if they know "why" they are telling you to move the way they are? Putting them on the spot will give you some great feedback as to how full of it they really are.

For people trying to learn on their own my recommendation is to get the best instructional material you can and work basics, basics and then more basics. Don't think about working out but rather think of your training time as practice. The workouts will come later.

AS: What size kettlebells do you think one should start with when they begin training with kb’s?

SM: You need to select the "appropriate" weight. That doesn't mean heavy but it does mean a weight that helps teach your body the proper form. If you begin with a weight that is too light you will hinder your progress learning the basics. Kettlebell training is made up of compound movements. Multiple muscle groups working together to over come the resistance of the weight. By doing these movements we learn to use the body as a whole unit to conquer resistance and we get the physical benefits of such demanding full body work.
If you use too light a Kettlebell you will not be forced to move correctly and in a well coordinated fashion. Take the Two Hand Swing for example. With a very light load you can lift any way you want and in many cases this will mean pulling with the shoulders and arms first rather than learning to generate power from the ground up.

AS: Could you give us an example how a bodybuilder can incorporate kettlebells in both his mass gaining and cutting up cycles? I know for sure that Jay Cutler uses them in his training?

SM: A Kettlebell is a weight. It has unique properties but in terms of going heavy and using them to build mass you can rely on similar programming to what you may do with dumbbells in terms of rep and rest schemes. When it comes to using them in cutting up cycles that’s where you can have some real fun. Several fitness competitors that have studied with me use Kettlebell circuits as their "cardio" training and the love it. They get the results they are looking for without having to spend all that boring time on a treadmill. Doing circuits like the ones on my Second Wind DVD are perfect for this.

AS: Nowadays it seems kettlebell training and MMA strength and conditioning go hand in hand. Could you guide us as to how an MMA fighter should incorporate kb’s in his training, is it better to lift heavy kb’s or lighter ones for high reps for such purposes?

SM: Fighters will benefit from Kettlebell training because of the nature of the movements. Exercises like the snatch and clean and jerk will develop explosive power that they can use in the ring. They can make use of heavy or lighter bells depending on what they are working, however their main focus should be building killer endurance with Kettlebell circuits. 

AS: What about kb’s for other athletes outside MMA and bodybuilding? I know that athletes from various sports have very different needs, but could you share some general tips that athletes should follow when using kettlebells for their training?

SM: For any athlete Kettlebells should be used to supplement and support their training goals. Training, practice of your sport comes first and foremost. Following that any work you do with the kettlebell will only serve to make you a stronger and more athletic person. For those who really train with Kettlebells using compound movements, full body training rather than isolation they will see a benefit in their sport regardless of what it is. If you are a chess player I can make you a better one with Kettlebells by making your body and mind function at an optimal level.

AS: Let’s talk a bit about kettlebell training for regular folks who have 2-3 hours a week to train. Could you share a sample routine that they can do for mass and size building using kb’s?

SM: No. I think that regular people looking to improve their health and the quality of their life shouldn't spend too much time adding extra bulk that they have to carry around. As one of my martial arts coaches was fond of saying, lean and mean is better for survival. If you have two or three days a week to train you should work on full body exercises. Train circuits and work at a high intensity allowing you to train hard and smart but not long. This is far more sustainable than trying to work out for two hours three times a week. A typical training session might involve some joint mobility work, rowing or skipping to warm up. Technical practice with the Kettlebells working on your form in the jerk, clean and swings followed by four or five Kettlebell circuits lasting anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes each with 1 minute rest.

AS: And what about kb for fat loss for regular folks. Could you share a sample program for such purposes?

SM: Work as I described in the previous question along with a Paleo diet and you will see the weight come off in no time. Don't think about the result, concentrate on the practice and training. While you are acquiring new skills the side effect will be weight loss.

AS: Shawn I have to ask you this one. Often we have seen kettlebell trainees who look so lean that in clothes they seem as if they don’t even train. Yet they are so strong that they make even the 56 kilo kb’s look like light weights. This to me seems something very unique to kb trainees. How does one train like these guys to get strong yet look if I may say “skinny”?

SM: Well first we have to get past the myth that a large muscle is a strong muscle. Walking around with a lot of bulk isn't an indication of the amount of force your body can generate. One only has to look at some of my female students who barely weigh over 100lbs and yet they can manipulate quite heavy weights. The key is not the size of the body but how efficiently it is used.

AS: Shawn lets talk a bit about Girevoy, the kettlebell sport. Do you see it becoming big in the future and what benefits do you think it can offer to those who do not wish to participate in it but would like to do it at home/gym only?

SM: GS is growing along with the general interest in Kettlebell training. It’s an amazing thing to see these athletes working with heavy loads non stop for ten minutes. The numbers they can put up is amazing. With all that being said I do not think that Kettlebell sport will become very big in the future. Olympic weightlifting, a sport in which athletes lift incredible maximal loads receives very little attention world wide when compared to other more main stream sports. I believe that quite similarly Kettlebell Sport will grow to have a nice following and spread however I don't believe it has a mass appeal.

I think everyone can benefit from the GS training style. Muscular endurance, strength and overall improvement in your general fitness are all results of Kettlebell Sport training. For those interested in the training without the competition they will find dedicated practice to the form to be challenging and rewarding. Find a Kettlebell sport expert to show you the form and it is something you can train on your own at home with no excuses to get in some great training any time.

AS: Could you share some feats involving kettlebells that you have witnessed which have really amazed you?

SM: You know I have seen some people do some shocking things. Watching guys my size drop into the splits and press an 88lbs Kettlebell overhead. Watching a woman barely 100lbs snatching 54lbs for repetitions so relaxed that she was able to talk while she did it. All of these stunts are fun to watch but the most amazing things I have ever seen are the simple benefits people get that are truly awe inspiring. I trained a 63 year old woman who had been going to physiotherapy for three years because of severe neck pain. Nothing was working for her and then her doctor asked me to come train her. I trained her with Kettlebells and her neck pain vanished as she became stronger and fitter. That to me was an incredible thing to see and be a part of. To help someone improve the quality of their life is more amazing than any stunt I have ever done or seen.

AS: Ok so if someone wants to use your information products to help him learn kbs, what book/DVD would you suggest?

SM: I have a new DVD out now called Second Wind. It’s loaded with beginner, intermediate and advanced Kettlebell circuits. There are bonus workouts and two PDFs on the disc including a Kettlebell Exercise Manual. It’s a great place for someone to find workouts and get started with their training. I am shooting the follow up DVD next month that will feature double Kettlebell circuits and will test the fitness of anyone brave enough to try those workouts. 

AS: Thank you Shawn so much for your time and finally where can the readers contact you to avail your services and where can they read more about you?

SM: I'd like to thank you for the interview and opportunity to share my training philosophy. The readers can visit my site for information on courses and products as well I can be found on Facebook along with the Agatsu Kettlebell Training group there.  You can also find me on Twitter and we have an outstanding online magazine Agatsu Kettlebell Magazine. Links to both can be found on the Agatsu site.

Important note- since doing this interview Shawn has  travelled to Russia to train with the IKSFA and he along with one of his students Kim Gonzales are the first Canadians to receive their Kettlebell Sport Certifications from the IKSFA in Russia. They have been asked to create a Canadian Sport Federation which they have done and named it The Canadian Kettlebell Sport Federation of which Shawn is the president and Kim Gonzales the Vice President. They will shortly be organizing a Canadian Kettlebell Competition Team which will be coached by Sergey Rudnev. In the next couple weeks they will launch in the hopes of working to spread awareness, education, competition opportunities for this sport.

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