I had always worked part time in the fitness industry even when teaching school. I decided that I liked working in the gym more, so I resigned my teaching position to go into the fitness business full time. At the end of the 70s, I did a stint in the military because I wanted the ‘ military experience.’ After getting out of the service, I worked as a trainer and fitness director at several gyms in the Philadelphia area. I opened up my own gym, Maxercise in 1990. It was rated by Philadelphia magazine as the number one place to get your ass kicked! I worked out many celebrities and pro athletes at this time. I was Brad Pitts trainer when he was in town shooting the movie, “12 Monkeys”. I also trained Royce Gracie for his first three UFCs. Several of the NFL Philadelphia Eagles and MLB Philly baseball players trained with me during my Maxercise days.
I had been searching for something to take the place of wrestling in my life. During the 1980s, I participated and learned boxing, karate and Kung Fu. I didn’t particularly like any of these activities. I found that I wasn’t particularly talented in any of the striking arts. It was in 1989 that I attended the first Gracie Jiujitsu seminar on the east coast. That was it! I realized that was what I had been looking for. I went and studied with the Gracie Jiujitsu family in California. I graduated from the Gracie Instructor Training Program. I later opened the first sanctioned Gracie Jiujitsu school on the eastern seaboard and was the first American to be certified to teach Gracie Jiujitsu.
I have had the opportunity to train some of the worlds best BJJ, MMA and submission wrestling fighters. I trained the Ribeiro brothers extensively. I was Saulos conditioning coach the year he won the ADCC in Sao Paulo. I was Xande’s conditioning coach when he took the ADCC title in Barcelona. I have worked with and trained various World and Pan Am champions; Fredson Alves, Regis Lebré, Saulo and Xande Ribeiro, Royce Gracie, Royler Gracie, Kron Gracie, BJ Penn, Diego Sanchez, Mario Yamasaki, Jen Patrina , Kyra Gracie, Carol Vidal, Maggie Bertinelli, Tim Sylvester and Zak Maxwell.
In 1998 I discovered Kettlebells. I had a pair made by one of my BJJ students who worked in a metal shop.The next year, Pavel Tsatsouline and I met at the Arnold Fitness Show. We sat down to dinner and came up with the RKC. I was a guest instructor at the first RKC in St. Paul Minnesota. Meantime I was the first person to teach group kettlebell exercise and had the first kettlebell oriented gym. I became the first senior RKC. I sold my gym and BJJ school in 2005.
After seven years with the RKC, I went my own way and started my own certification and seminar business. I worked briefly in a corporate gym setting as a consultant and came up with the penultimate formula for teaching beginners how to lift Kettlebells. I used it as a laboratory of sorts to test my theories and ideas about how best to take folks with poor fitness levels and teach them how to safely and effectively lose weight and increase fitness with Kettlebells.
2-What conditioning techniques have you discarded over the years?
I pretty much discarded machine training except for rehabilitation purposes. Most of the things that I personally discarded is because I travel full time and do not have access to a gym. I don’t like being dependent on a gym. I enjoy the freedom that my body weight exercise system gives me to train virtually anytime and anywhere.
3-What techniques or equipment do you feel to be heading conditioning in the right direction?
It’s not about the equipment, but how one uses it. The best equipment is your own body. Until one can master their own body weight, they have no business trying to lift heavy barbells and such. Things like Kettlebells, rope climbing and club swinging have proven themselves over the centuries as the best way to condition the body for combat sports and martial arts.
4-Myself and many of our readers are keen BJJ enthusiasts could you give as a a low down on what you feel to be the best bjj conditioning techniques for competition
Nothing beats live sparring for BJJ conditioning. No amount of supplemental training can duplicate the exact conditioning requirements that live sparring provides.
The single, number one technique for BJJ conditioning is live sparring from the feet. Stand up throws and take downs are neglected a lot in BJJ. In modern BJJ, the ability to take down and throw has become more important. At the world class level, many matches are won and lost off of the feet. Working from the feet also teaches the very important skill of transitioning from the feet to the ground. So even if you like to fight from the guard, you need to learn the timing and precision needed to pull guard effectively.
Working live matches from the feet is very demanding and can be exhausting. The problem is that the injury levels go way up when doing a lot of training from the feet. I would recommend only going hard at full speed the last six weeks before a major tournament.
One of the best conditioning drills ever is called “first points”. The class is lined up against the wall and several players stand out in the middle of the mat. The first couple of guys in line go out and match up with the guys in the middle. Who ever scores first stays. The loser goes baxk in line. The line feeds right left. No one is allowed to sit down. The winner stays in the middle until he loses, then he goes into the line. It’s a very demanding conditioning drill used by the worlds best.
Another great conditioning drill is the ‘ shark bait drill.’ One fighter remains in the middle for a specified time. Every two minutes, a fresh fighter is sent in to live spar. Anywhere from three to five partners may be alternated in. This is very taxing.
5-In your opinion who do you feel are the best school of kettlebell instructors in the world today?
That’s easy, the Maxwell Method of Kettlebell training. I’ve put a lot of time into developing the kettle Bell conditioning techniques that I use. I got a big head start over most because I was the first.
6-What more do you think could be done to improve the general health and fitness of our society today?
It’s simple; one only needs to improve their inner self to see a corresponding improvement in the physical self. The other way around is the long way.