Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Interesting find

I have recently found this website by John McCrone. It seems promising although I am currently too busy to read it, but I will.


This site is large. There are several books worth of material here. It also mixes the scholarly and the popular. This FAQ will help you decide whether the site has anything to offer you.

Q: What is the main purpose of Dichotomistic?
A: It is about logic. Organic logic. A logic is a model of how the world might work. With a logic, you can predict things. Perhaps even know things. Ordinary cause and effect logic serves us well for everyday chores. But it fails at the limits of science, such as when it comes to explaining minds or universes or the quantum realm. Or when we indeed ask that truly ultimate question: “Why anything?”. As Wittgenstein famously said, the mystery is not how or what the world is, but that it is. Why the existence of a something when a nothing would be so much simpler? Well, organic logic gives us a new way of thinking about such ultimate questions.

Q: Are you for real?
A: There are enough cranks on the net. But this is a serious work that follows in an established metaphysical tradition. Ancient Greeks like Anaximander and Aristotle were organicists. So were early Hindu and Buddhist thinkers. Hegel got quite close with his dialectics. CS Peirce got very close with his semiotics. In the 20th Century, there were many moves in the direction taken here, such as holism, systems science, structuralism, cybernetics, ecology, complexity theory, hierarchy theory. That is one reason the site has ended up so large. It brings together a great many scattered threads of thought.

Q: So where do dichotomies fit in?
A: The dichotomy is the process, the way things happen. A dichotomy is a splitting into two. But more than this, it is a splitting that is logically complete as everything left must become either one kind of thing or the other. And it is a separation that is asymmetric. The two limit state outcomes are logically as different as they can be.

Q: Now that sounds like mumbo jumbo.
A: Sorry. it is easy to get carried away. So for the moment just consider how these familiar examples of dichotomies seem to capture something true about the world. Think of figure~ground for instance (the little connecting squiggle is the mark of an asymmetric dichotomy). For there to be a mark like a dot on a sheet of paper, there must also be a context, the sheet of paper. Each is a separation from the other in some sense.

Or what about local~global, substance~form, chance~necessity, matter~mind, atom~void, discrete~continuous, construction~constraint, particular~universal, quantity~quality? The list goes on. Why does the world always break so easily into complementary alternatives, each side defined by being everything the other is not? Mind for example is defined by the absence of matter. And matter by the absence of mind. Something must cause this kind of convenient breaking. It is so orderly that it must harbour a logic of some kind.

Q: You mention vagueness and hierarchies. How do they fit in?
A: The simple way of putting it is that they are the start and end points. For the organic philosopher, when something happens (like a world coming into existence) it begins as a vagueness, a formless chora or potential. This vagueness then gets dichotomised – divided in opposing directions. And out of the division comes the result, a hierarchically organised world. The two opposing tendencies mix across all scales to create a complex system.  So vagueness => dichotomy => hierarchy forms our fundamental causal trajectory. The dichotomy is the process that links the beginning to the end. And so it is the bit on which we need to focus in formalising an organic logic.

Q: Are you preaching revolution here?
A: Organicism in its many historic guises, such as naturphilosophie, or Marxian dialectics, or holism, or Peircean semiotics, is often presented as revolutionary. And as far as science is concerned, it has equally often been deemed a failure. I think there have been two reasons for this.

First, the organic alternative has not been mathematically formalised. There has not been a logic of the rigour where you could say “now let’s compute”. And second, organic logic has usually been presented as the truth, not a complementary approach. It was a case of organicism right, mechanicalism wrong. Here I hope to show that the two are in fact quite formally reflections of each other. In fact, two halves of a dichotomy - mechanical~organic. Which would certainly be a “logical” idea for anyone who actually believes in the logic of dichotomies.

Q: So is this site just all about logic?
A: In fact there is a ton of stuff about human evolution, neuroscience and cosmology. I have written four books and hundreds of articles about the brain and the evolution of the human mind. I also used to run a website called the Neuronaut’s Guide to the Science of Consciousness. Much of the earlier material is here plus a lot of new stuff. You can read about feral children, dreaming, the evolution of language, Vygotskian psychology, brain development, IQ research, neural codes and animal minds. Then there is the new stuff about the Big Bang, relativity, strings, quantum mechanics.

Q: Why so much else?
A: I started off in psychology and neuroscience. Over about 15 years that led via chaos theory and hierarchy theory to organic logic. Then I found the right logic for talking about the mind also turned out to have new things to say about the realm of matter. So dichotomies now form the front end to this site. Then having introduced the general causal model, I branch off to consider its application to mind and matter - the two extremes of scientific understanding.

Q: Who are the critical thinkers in this story?
A: Anaximander and Aristotle, Hegel and Spinoza, Peirce and Whitehead, Bergson and Lloyd Morgan, Wundt and Engels, Alexander and Broad, Ashby and Maturana, von Bertalanffy and Santayana, Bogdanov and Kohler, Cannon and McCullough, Hebb and MacKay, Bateson and Schrödinger, Prigogine and Sperry, Spencer Brown and Polanyi, Koestler and Weiss, Eigen and Thom, Haken and Kauffman, Pattee and Capra, Grossberg and Rosen, Kelso and Salthe. Most of these guys were organicists, holists, systems thinkers or hierarchy theorists of some stripe.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Interview with Mike Tuchscherer

I must admit that ideas by Mike Tuchscherer have impacted my training philosophy in many ways. Good ways of course. His book Reactive Training manual explained me the difference between Volume loading and Intensity loading, along with providing easy-to-use RPE system for auto-regulating training loads. He is very successful powerlifter himself and I believe he deserves more attention than he got. This is why I decided to pick his brain on some interesting topics. 

Well, here is the email interview I did with Mike. I really enjoyed his answers and I hope we will continue this conversation in near future and expand more on some topics mentioned. 

MJ: I am really glad to have you here Mike. Can you please share some basic info  on yourself with the readers? Who are you and what do you do?

MT: My name is Mike Tuchscherer.  I’m a competitive Powerlifter.  I have competed in raw and single ply competitions.  My best lifts are (Squat) 765/903, (Bench) 475/644, (Deadlift) 826.  In 2009, I won a gold medal at World Games in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan.  I am the owner Reactive Training Systems, the leader in Iron Sport training development.

MJ: I have really enjoyed your Reactive Training Manual. And that book actually made me write my article series on planning the strength training. In my opinion, that is the single most practical book that goes into using subjective indicators in powerlifting. Can you please give us a short overview of that approach in powerlifting training and why it is better than traditional, percent based training?

MT: All that your body knows is what happens inside the muscle, bone, and connective tissues.  It has no idea how much weight is on the bar – only what it perceives is on the bar.  The only thing a percent based program tries to do is get you to load a certain weight on the bar to provoke a desired physiological reaction.  My system cuts to the chase by allowing you to select a weight based on a rep and RPE pairing (RPE is Rate of Percieved Exertion, or basically how hard the set feels).  That way on any given day, you get the appropriate weight on the bar to develop your strength regardless of how the rest of life affects you.  We all know that we have good days and bad days.  This system takes that into account and allows your training to be at its best even when you aren’t.

MJ: How would you modify usage of RPE for different levels of athletes? For example beginners, intermediates, advanced? What were the biggest obstacles in implementing RPE with your clients and how did you solved the issues?

MT: I think both intermediate and advanced athletes can use the same RPE scale.  The more experienced athlete will probably be better at judging their RPE, but they can both use it effectively.  A beginner may not have enough experience to be able to judge their RPE effectively and to be honest, I haven’t solved that problem without special equipment yet.
The biggest problem is honestly people using them properly.  It’s easy to overshoot your RPE.  Say you were supposed to go up to @9, a lot of guys will overshoot and go to @9.5 or @10 on accident.  The training effect is different, so discipline is important.

MJ: How did you come across RPE in the first place and what made you put some effort into it and build your own system?

MT: I first learned about the concept of RPE from reading Supertraining .  At the same time, people around the Iron Sports community were preaching “listen to your body,” but apparently, it takes people 10 years to learn how to do that.  So I sought to make the process faster by systematizing it.  By having a system to use that auto-regulates your loads, volumes, etc based on observable indicators, it saves you the ten years of trial and error.

MJ: Did anything changed in terms of athlete intrinsic motivation, consistency and fun level when you implemented auto-regulatory training principles and allowed your athletes to be partly in charge of their own training?

MT: The guys I coached before RTS were a pretty good group, so I don’t know that motivations changed, but gains sure did.  And since then, I’ve noticed that people are more involved in their training process, which is CRUCIAL to success.

MJ: What do you think about Westside and did it and how influenced your work? What do you think about it pros and cons?

MT: I was heavily influenced by Westside early on.  At the time and in my position in life, they were the only ones printing at least quasi-scientific stuff about training.  Since then, I have continued my education beyond the need to rely on just one system.  I can see the system for its pros and cons, learn from it, and apply the lessons to training real people.  For example, Westside (as it’s written in the articles) is not that good at developing sport form.  Also, rotating exercises also won’t have that much of a restorative effect on the CNS.  But it does teach us some important things, one being that the body can handle heavy weight more than just once in two months or something.  I do like bands and chains when they are applied to specific problems (not necessarily a blanket prescription).  Speed work is good in theory, but for many don’t need it at all and of those that do, they probably need it to be heavier than recommended.
I’m not saying Westside is a bad way to train, but in my professional opinion, there are things that could happen to make it more optimal.

MJ: What is work capacity and how do you train it for powerlifting? Is pushing the sleds enough?

MT: Work capacity is your ability to do work and recover from it.  Developing it is MUCH more than just pushing a sled around, though a sled can be part of an overall strategy.  Making sure you have enough aerobic development is a big part of it.  So is recovery / restoration work.  Getting appropriate volumes to condition your body to handle greater volumes without “shutting down” is also part of it.  Developing work capacity can be a complex problem, especially with a more advanced lifter in the context of meet preparation – as there is almost always a meet to prepare for!

MJ: What is your opinion on 'peaking' or sport form development in powerlifting? Are you using high intensity training (not HIT) all the time or there is a time and place for de-loads, anatomic  adaptation phases and how do you implement them?

MT: What I’m doing right now for Powerlifters is something I’ve termed Force Curve Shaping.  I watch videos of lifters and based on the way the barbell moves, I can determine the lifter’s force curve.  Then, once I see the force curve, I address the deficient areas with respect to the overall shape of the curve.  I overlay a block approach on top of this idea.  In the early stages, I address anatomical / morphological needs for that particular force curve deficiency.  Later, it becomes more neurologically focused.  During the Realization or Sport Form blocks, I typically use very high intensities to ensure the maximum amount of carryover to the contest.  We do employ deloads as well, but these are almost always done on-the-fly as needed by the athlete.

MJ: You have just developed TRAC system. Can you please expand what it is and how do you use it?

MT: TRAC stands Training Recovery Assessment Computer.  It’s a group of three tests that you take every morning when you wake up.  These tests are sensitive enough to detect subtle changes in the body and can give you feedback on the functioning of your Central Nervous System, how much stress your body is under as a whole, and the current state of adaptive reserves in the body.  This is incredibly valuable information from a training standpoint as you can see exactly how certain stimuli affect you.  TRAC even gives you day to day recommendations on how you should adjust your training parameters based on your test results.  This allows for an unprecedented level of reactivity in your training.  You can actually hear what your body is saying, even when it just speaks in whispers.  There is a ton left to say about TRAC, but for more information, check out this page.

MJ: You are really good powerlifter yourself. Where do you compete, what are your PBs and what are your plans for the future? Where do you plan to be in the next 5 years?

MT: I have competed in the IPF and in some raw events as well.  My best competition lifts are:  Squat (903 single ply / 765 raw), Bench (644 single ply / 475 raw), Deadlift (826 raw).  The only definite plan I have for the future is to continue to train and get stronger.  I will continue to compete, but I’m not sure of the format.  Powerlifting plays second to several things in my life and the way I compete will be driven based off of those things, so as things change so do my plans for Powerlifting.  One thing is for sure, though.  I enjoy training and getting stronger.  I also enjoy competing and displaying what I have gained.

MJ: How would you modify your system for team sport athletes, and in your opinion what is the importance of strength training in this case? Can you give us some 'number' of strength levels?

MT: I’m not sure the system needs modification for team sports.  It’s already intended to be an overlay onto another program, so if you have a program for training athletes, RTS just makes it better.  I often use the analogy of a scope on a rifle.  The “rifle” is your base system and the “scope” is RTS.  The scope doesn’t make the rifle any more powerful, but it just allows you to employ it better.  So if you’re training team sport athletes, just make sure your “rifle” is designed for that job.  RTS will still help make it more effective.
The importance of strength depends on the requirements of the sport.  Some sports (shot put) require higher levels of maximum strength, while other sports (golf) do not.  Most will fall somewhere in between and the exact needs of each sport will have to be determined by the coach.  Since they vary so much, it’s really impossible to give concrete recommendations for all team sports with any sense of accuracy.

MJ: Can you give us some good reads? What are the book you consider a must read and which one you consult on weekly basis?

MT: The two best books I’ve found are “Science and Practice of Strength Training” by Zatsiorsky and “Fitness and Strength Training for All Sports” by Hartmann and Tunemann.  I refer to those a lot.  Honestly, if you dig into those and really study and understand them, you’ll have a pretty great knowledge base to build off of.

MJ: Thank you for this great interview Mike. You shared a lot of insights and food for thought.

MT: Thank you!  It was my pleasure, as always!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Stability~Variability in Warm-up

Without going into the goal and the structure of  warm-up in details (for some interesting insights I suggest checking the following  articles by Carl Valle and Derek Hansen), I wanted to draw attention to interplay between stability and variability in it (although this discussion could be expanded to whole workout, training day, microcycle, mesocycle, season plan and longer depending on the time frame under which we are analysing this phenomena).

In short, the main purpose of the warm-up is to prepare the athletes for the main part of the workout. As late Charlie Francis used to say „Do whatever you need to warm-up“, which basically means don't follow the dogmatic hypes and limit your options by saying negative or absolute claims, like „No to static stretching“. Derek Hansen wrote excellent article on this subject which is available here. I am re posting some of my old thought from a thread at Charlie Francis forum regarding static stretching and warm-up:

1. Research is usually poorly designed... too much stretches (couple of times for 30sec or longer) and with great intensity, without 'dynamic transition': Stretch then jump

2. Warm-up routine that elites used for years is hard to change drastically and abruptly: stretching in warm up have psychological reasons as well due habits... kicking stretching out you may gain 2% in power, but lose 20% in motivation

3. Sometimes teams have poor warm-up, like jogging, stretching on the floor for 15mins and then starting with high intensity.

4. Everybody is different, also in team settings. Not that everybody need different warm-up, but they need their own time to work on the areas they feel the need to do

5. Stretching in the warm-up is more a TEST to see if everything is ok, rather than a mean to warm-up, prevent injury or increase ROM. If you feel stiff, you will make it worse with stretching. Do easy, gentle dynamic warm-up, then test the ROM and looseness with easy stretch and if ok proceed if not do more warm-up for the area.

6. "Do whatever you need to do" --- C.F.: why would you limit yourself with bunch of rules, like NO STRETCHING? I was used to be like that, but I now try to teach my athletes PRINCIPLES of good warm-up, how they need to feel and should they progress.

7. Having said this, I guess INTERMITTENT stretching is the best solution. Athlete have their own time in the team warm-up, they can test if they are loose. So basically, you do progressive dynamic warm-up with periods of easy statical stretching used to test the looseness and keep your athletes happy

Having said this I can progress to the actual topic of this article. As we have pointed out, the main purpose of the warm-up is to prepare the athletes for the main part of the workout. Someone can visualise this process as the preparation of the Formula One racing car for the race or practice. Certain check-ups need to be made and certain routine should be followed.

This is why having developed sound warm-up routines (for different types of workouts, again context dependent) which both athlete and coach trust is really important. Sometimes, having a routine is more psychological than physiological, but doesn't change it's importance since warm-up is both psychological preparation as it is physiological one, and we usually forget that.

In my opinion and with my experience working with some of  elite athletes, it is important to allow athletes to develop their own routines, whose emergent should be guided by sound principles of warm-up.  This is to say that we would not allow anything and everything in the warm-up for the sake of developing routine, but there should be certain compromises from what coach wants and what athlete like to do. This compromise is especially important in working with already developed and experience athletes, but not so important with younger and inexperienced athletes that need to learn good principles and warm up routines. One solution is to guide the athletes through certain exercises and warm-up principles and allow them to develop their own routine and teach them how to modify them based on their own needs, not what coach likes.

Anyway, coach will never know what bothers certain athlete and what part of his body needs further warming up. This will say that having preset warm-up routines will not allow for this individualization. This is especially evident in the team settings where athletes follow the one size fit all warm-up protocols.

Since having a certain routine both coach and athlete trust is an example of Stability, the question is how to provide Variability in the warm-up to allow for individualization and to avoid boredom.

One example is having a flexible routine, which in contrast with rigid one allows certain changes at the spot. One of the example that could be used is to allow some time for individual needs every now and then between stable warm-up routine. Take a following structure of team warm-up for example:

General Part of the warm-up
1. Jogging and joint circles (directed by coach)
2. 2 mins time allowed for individual needs (athlete choose for themselves, work more on problematic and sore areas)
3. Stretching and activation (directed by coach)
4. 2 mins time allowed for individual needs

Specific Part of the warm-up
1. Sport-specific and progressively (directed by coach)
2. 2mins time allowed for individual needs, more stretching, dynamic stretching, activation, whatever
3. Progressively entering to main part of the workout

Another example of Variability in the warm-up is to slightly change the organization of it while basically still doing the same thing. This may include the organizational solutions, like doing things in circle, lines, standing, jogging, etc.  

The importance of Variability might also be seen in doing warm-up in uncontrolled environment, like warming-up outside in the rain, mud or snow compared to stable environment of the indoor facility.

Hopefully I have succeeded to draw attention to the interplay of both Stability (routines) and Variability (individualization, boredom prevention, adaptability to environmental constraints) in the warm up.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hilarious Bas

I really love Bas. He is hilarious. The second video makes my day every single morning. But to understand it you need to see the first video first. Enjoy!

In da liver

Break... Snap... Crush with the foot

What can you do with this?

Deliberate Practice for Coaches

I just finished Talent is Overrated and just starting the Bounce as recommended by Professor Keith Davids in this interview.

All those books (can't say exactly about the Bounce since I just started it) goes into the nature~nurture debate and shows how innate talent is not enough and the importance of something called deliberate practice (for a short review on what is deliberate practice check this article by Lyle McDonald), along with specific opportunities/support (as outlined in Outliers). My own model of Expert Performance is depicted below and consists of three groups of constraints that influence the final outcome. I am not going into a further explanation in this article. Maybe some other time.

Mladen's Expert Performance Model

All of the mentioned info goes into how someone develops expertise and we usually refer to the athletes in this case. But what is with the coaches? There are less expert coaches than there are expert athletes, so this may tell us something about how harder it is.

What is takes to become an expert coach? In my opinion, there is no single coaching ability or skill, but rather a certain amount of factors and their structure and relative importance depending on the sport involved and selection involved.

First off, how do we judge who is expert coach? I proposed couple of indicators in What the heck is Periodization article. Second, how do we develop it and how do these constraints influence it?

Without going into further analysis of mentioned three constraints from my "Expert Performance Model" and their complex inter-relation, I would love to ask what is a Deliberate Practice for coaches and how can we implement it with the aim of improving specific coaching skill?

Since coaching compromise of different types of specific skill sets, some of which include:

  1. Knowledge about the sport and knowledge in the sport
  2. Leadership, team building and communication skills
  3. Planning and programming skills
  4. Selection skills
  5. Exercise demonstration and motor skill learning skills
  6. Perceptual skills
  7. Etc, Etc
my opinion is that we can devise different Deliberate Practices for coaches with the aim of improving cerrtain targeted skills. I am not saying that there is one Deliberate Practice for coaches, but there are rather many of them aimed at improving certain aspects of coaching. Continual learning is also one of the factors. 

Today a 'case study' approach crossed my mind as a deliberate practice for planning and programming skills. Even if we are spending our time blogging, posting on forums we can still improve this aspect.  Putting our selves in the position of the coach and trying to solve a certain 'case' can represent deliberate practice. The thing we need to have is a feedback of real coach or real expert coach on the same issue. 

What I am proposing is that: (a) instead of asking for money for the advices when someone asks us for a help we should spend some time and put some effort into trying to understand specific situation and find a way in which we can solve it and reflect on it later, and (b) we can help each other by posting specific case studies and comparing the responses of the coaches to the solution someone else did. It takes time and it is not fun at all, but thats what deliberate practice is.

So, I was thinking about posting some 'case studies' and collecting the responses over the email so we can compare them. Anyone interested about providing some input on this is welcome to email me at coach.mladen.jovanovic@gmail.com for posting real-life 'case studies'  so we can collect possible solutions and discuss them.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Random Thoughts

1. Political Viewpoints

This morning I was thinking about my political viewpoints and I couldn't name/label them, thus I searched for the online test with my friend  Cem Kantarci and I found this interesting and easy test that put you into a certain political viewpoint group based on your answers. Please note that this is only for fun, and it is really hard to answer on some questions with 'agree/disagree'. Actually, I would say I both agree and disagree (agree~disagree) with further description of the questions. Anyway, give it try.

It is not quite surprising  that me and Cem have very close results. Here are mine:

You are a

Social Liberal
(65% permissive)
 and an...
Economic Liberal
(18% permissive)

You are best described as a:


The description of the test results is really complementary, basically stating that each position has pros and cons and that there is no right answer. Again, context dependent

For example, on the economic axis, a highly permissive system, like the American system of the early 1900s, might mean things like low taxes and increased scientific innovation. It might also result, as it did back then, in unrestricted child labor and millions of poor people with black lung.

At the other end of the economic spectrum, a 
highly regulated system might conserve the environment, establish national health care, and eliminate poverty. But as we've learned from the Soviet system, extreme regulation can also lead to stagnation, sameness, and unhappiness. 

All of this made me think more about things I truly believe into and how the context modifies/changes your beliefs.  I would again said "...it depends!" I guess it is not either/or, and I guess it should be both/and. It should not be conservative or liberal, it should be both/and conservative~liberal based on the certain context (social/economical question) in mind. Rigid~flexible.
I am wondering are there any Truths that are not context dependent. This reminds me about the 'fight' between Socrates and Sophists. Universalism~Relativism. That's why I am saying that there is nothing new under the Sun that was not discussed by ancient Greeks. Except maybe I-Pad. So, I guess we should spend more time reading history, and history of sport training, along with philosophy. At least I openly admit it.  Currently, I am looking for more info about philosophy of politics and economics. Anyway, this is interesting test, so give it a shot. 

2. Complementarity song

Another nice find  by Cem (who could be considered a historian of YouTube and internet in general and a master of sales and free stuff) is the following complementary song. Pay attention to the complementary lyrics.

3. New book by Ultimate Athlete Concepts

There is never too much books on sport psychology, since in my opinion coaches don't get too much practical info on this topic, which is really important along with developing sound coaching philosophy and understanding team culture. Although, still unavailable, I hope this book will bring some food for thought.

4. Lyle McDonald

I basically read and love everything Lyle writes. Ok, I admit it. I have some man love for this guy. I think he is brilliant and his books and articles are brilliant too. You won't hear me say this to anyone, but I truly trust this guy since he thinks complementary (and uses "..It depends!" a lot) and tries to teach people how to fish instead of trying to sell you some dogmatic info or gimmick. 
Here are some good reads by Lyle about over-training and depression from personal experience. Good read for the weekend.  

One should probably ask the following questions after reading this 'case study':
1. Can the over-training be considered a form of 'protective mechanism' that puts you into a hole so you are unable to induce more harm to yourself by training? Is body that smart?
2. Is over-training causing depression  or vice versa? We need to acquire more knowledge on fatigue/strain/over-training effects on conscious volitional-emotional-motivational aspects, as I have pointed out at the end of this short article

Enjoy your weekend! 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Interview with “Creative Monkey” Rodney King

I am very proud to present you the interview with “Creative Monkey” Rodney King, father of Crazy Monkey Defense from Johannesburg, South Africa. Watching Rodney coach and being a member of his personal blog – Inside the Monkey – I noticed that Rodney has a lot to offer, not only to martial arts students, but also coaches from other sports. His unique coaching style is a real life example of constraints-led approach to skill acquisition, along with ecological and positive psychology.

Although very busy with his schedule traveling around the globe, Rodney found some time to do this email interview.  Enjoy!

MJ: I am really glad to do this interview for the blog with you Rodney. Before I pick your brain with the questions, can you please introduce yourself to the readers? Who are you and what do you do?

RK: In a sentence, I am a life performance coach that uses modern martial arts as a vehicle to enable my clients to become champions not only on the mat, but most importantly in life.
Educationally I come from a somatic movement and mental game background, so these two disciplines in particular inform my approach.
A movement adventurer would be the two words that best describes me :)

MJ: You are the creator of Crazy Monkey. Can you please expand more on what is Crazy Monkey and what made you to create it and what paths you needed to travel in order to do so?

RK: Crazy Monkey is a modern martial arts program. Originally developed during my doormen years outside of some of Johannesburg’s roughest nightclubs. What started as a ‘street’ art has evolved into a program that now focuses on martial arts as a life performance tool.
 While I work actively with military, law enforcement, several world-class competitive athletes and the like, this is only because Crazy Monkey is a martial art that can be easily learnt and applied. What draws people to Crazy Monkey today is firstly anyone can get something out of it, and you don’t need to be the stereotypical meathead, or ego driven male, high on grandiosity and infantile rage to be apart of it.
Simply Crazy Monkey is for the everyday guy and woman!

MJ: I have read your book  “The Martial Arts Game“. In this book you present new model of teaching/coaching martial arts and running a martial arts business. Can you please give a short overview of your unique approach and how it fits with Crazy Monkey idea?

RK: The focus is on the individual, on the client. I focus on building peoples strengths and not working from their weaknesses. I am a big believer that people will fare far better on the mat or in life if they are able to identify their strengths and work from them. Sure we have weak areas, but rather than an incessant focus on what we can’t do RIGHT, that leads to little or no real improvement, I encourage my clients to rather manage around them.
Added to this, my clients dictate the form their training takes and I act merely as a mentor. While I steer them to parts of training they need to in order to achieve their goals, I also allow them to explore any aspect of martial art that may interest them. This is very different to the typical master and student relationships so prevalent in the martial art world. This is why some of my clients come to me for either life/executive coaching, wellness, self-preservation or mental game.

More than anything my approach is about offering the most positive, life affirming experience of martial arts possible. We are big on social consciousness, and how the training in the gym impacts our clients not only personally, but also how that extends into the world, their relationships and society at large. I care what they do with what we train. While most people teaching modern forms of martial arts care little about the client once they off the mat and have paid their fees, I care- so much (& Learnt from past personal mistakes) that I will not allow anyone on my mat who feels it is okay to physically dominate another human being, just because the nature of the game i.e., martial arts they can get away with it.

MJ: You are proponent of Positive Psychology. Can you please explain what is it and how are you using it in your own coaching?

RK: I am….but more so strength based psychology.
From the ‘positive’ perspective my coaching is focused on encouraging eudemonic experiences with my clients. I believe many people come to martial arts to get in shape and be healthy. Well-being in this day and age is important to most people. Extending out of this, as a coach if I am able to help my clients with this aspect of their lives, then in theory their happiness levels about themselves will increase, and therefore training with me will directly impact the rest of their life outside the gym in a positive way. That’s my job.
While I coach people how to defend them selves, I also help prepare them for full contact living :)

MJ: I am pretty sure you are familiar with Complex Systems, especially the concept of emergent self-organizing behaviors under constraints. How are you modifying the constraints in Crazy Monkey to teach basic boxing concepts (balance, distance, timing), skills (basic punches, defenses), strategies (runner, counter-attacker, etc) and mental game? Is the sparring and sparring-like-drills the only way to do it, or traditional drills have a role too, especially in technique mastery?

RK: When you say, “technique mastery” what does that mean?
There is clearly a gap in martial arts between ‘perfection’ of movement and the ‘functional’ expression of it. There are many people who train a particular style of martial movement, that rather than been based in reality are codified within the constraints of that particular system they train within. Just because you seek perfection in a specific martial movement pattern, does not mean that by default that this movement pattern is applicable where it matters most- when someone is trying to seriously hurt you.

So if you want to train for ‘mastery’ or rather ‘expressive functionality’ then you need to train within the system it is intended to be used in. Sparring is a good example of this. When you spar, when you work against a resisting opponent, someone who fights back, not just merely stands there and allows you to pull off your technique, you quickly learn that when dealing with a chaotic, complex system, you have to move away from perfection, and rather play functionally. This means things don’t have to be perfect, as in what ‘mastery’ implies, but rather they need to work.
Isn’t that chaos anyway? Seems like it should not come together and work, but it does. Anyone who has spent time in Bangkok knows this to be true.

Russian Systema

MJ: Are you familiar with Russian Systema? They really utilize Complex Systems ideas (originally by Bernstain) in their skill acquisition. They go so far that they don't identify any technique at all, only basic principles. They put the learner into a certain context and demand of him to solve the situation (relying on couple of principles of combat). The task is simplified by starting with slow motion which also allows more relaxation. What is your opinion on this? You believe in gross movements under stress, but is there really no need for technique learning at all?

RK: This is a good idea. I would go further and suggest that many people know principles of a subject, but don’t necessarily know how to apply them over time. Training in the way you mentioned is hit and miss. While it is a good start, what is required is consistency and the only way to have that is to have a game plan.
While I too want my clients to find the answers on their own (I even have a teaching model for this entitled the CHAOS Teaching Model) I also want them to have a game plan. A game plan includes the mind, the emotions, the body and even spirit.
What is the basic game plan in all 4 of these spheres when someone is close to me or further away?

How does my mental game change when there is distance to the opponent, compared to when I am moving in?

This is something that a pure emersion in a complex systemic approach may not necessarily be able to solve.

So just like we can say there are certain principles, there are also patterns. The patterns to me represent the game plan. It’s not fixed, its definitely not rigid, it is flexible enough to change in the moments, but combined with the ‘principles’ you now know where to go…. If you don't know where you're going, chances are you will end up somewhere else as the famous Baseball legend Yogi Berra was quoted as saying.

MJ: First time I saw you were in one DVD produced by Straight Blast Gym. I really love the teachings of Matt Thornton and his Aliveness principle. What exactly differs you from Matt's approach? How did you evolve the Aliveness principle?

RK: You cannot evolve a principle that is common sense.
Training ‘alive’ by default means working against a resisting, uncooperative opponent is nothing new.

It’s just that so many martial art styles and their proponents forgot that this is a crucial part of performance. My issues with the concept of ‘aliveness’ is that it took on a darker meaning, implying that unless you were going balls to the wall, unless you were sparring full out, then you were not being ‘alive’. A Tortoise does not have to move faster to be ‘alive’.
I prefer the term progressive intelligent performance.

All modern day martial artists seek to enhance their performance. Everyone wants to get better at actually playing the game, and for most this means sparring. Sparring for performance does not imply throwing someone in as fresh meat to the Alpha Dogs, and if he survives then he learns something. In fact if anything that kind of thinking is counterproductive and downright destructive to the psyche.

The idea of improving performance is a simple one. Start at a place that someone can actually handle the stress you are sending his or her way, but still allowing it to be challenging. Then over time, regardless of how long it takes, increase the stress levels, until the point it is at a 100% and the person surfs the experience effortlessly. This is by definition evolution, the ability to adapt to the environment, while still remaining alive and becoming stronger!

MJ:  What is the difference in training for MMA, self-defense, police/army of only for “fun“?

RK: MMA is a sport and has rules, and hence you train within those rules. Self-preservation has no rules, so you train (With safety of course) within that frame of mind and intention. Police on the other hand have restrictions on what they can apply so legal issues of force need to be taken into account. For the military depending on whom you are working with, the idea is to get the fight over and done with as fast as possible.
When we talk fun that is a whole other animal. Even people who train for ‘fun’ have some sort of goal in mind. Fun often implies fitness, strength training and wellness for many people. Fun requires a change of mindset and I prefer this as a focus for training. While there are times to be serious about training of course, you can only train for that reason for so long before it becomes pointless. How long do you actually have to train seriously for the fight unless your job requires it? How long do you want to train to compete until you are either too old or it looses it’s appeal?

Moving into the realm of fun or better still ‘play’, makes you want to come back and do it again. I have fun when I train now so I can see that I will be doing this for a very long time. When I was only training to fight, it wasn’t long before I felt it was becoming way too much, psychologically and emotionally and the thoughts of giving it up was a real possibility.
This is the fundamental difference in the end if this is what you asking, competition requires one to find a way to end the game, while play requires ways to continue it. I much rather play!

MJ: MMA is getting bigger and bigger. In your opinion, what is the next step in its evolution as a “sport“?

RK: Well here is the thing. I don’t consider myself in the sport. Sure I am training one guy to compete right now, a long time client and friend. Sure we have several guys within my program that compete as well, but personally I have never felt the need to compete. I did when I was younger both in karate and western boxing but this was mainly due to the pressure from my coaches. I never enjoyed the experience.
I don’t actually follow MMA at all. I don’t have an issue with the guys who do per-say; if they want to, then go for it.
If you re-phrase the question to, “what is the future of martial arts in general” then I would answer that martial arts needs to return to one of it’s original intentions as a life performance vehicle. I loved the old idea of ‘martial arts as a way of life’ and I believe that for martial arts to remain relevant in the coming centuries, and not merely a spectacle of dominance, this is where it needs to be focused.

MJ: Where to train, how to become trainer and how can readers reach you?

RK: Trainers are listed on our home site at www.crazymonkeydefense.com, to become a Trainer can be found at www.crazymonkeytrainer.com and to read some cool articles on some of my thinking about modern martial arts, performance and life it can be accessed here www.crazymonkeyblog.com