Interview with Michael Krivka, Sr.
Author of Code Name: Indestructible
York Barbell, June 2011
Today I have an interview with Michael Krivka, Sr. I first met Michael at my RKC certification in 2010 and then hung with him later on in 2011 at the York Barbell Museum when Slim the Hammerman Farman and the Mighty Adam Joe Greenstein were inducted into their Hall of Fame.
To the right you can see former York Employee, Mike Locondro with his brown jacket towards the left of the photo and then Michael Krivka (black shirt, white sleeve with print) is standing next to Slim “The Hammerman” Farman, on the right (black outfit, white goatee).
Recently, Michael put out a pretty cool ebook, Code Name Indestructible, based around the James Bond movies, so I reached out to him and asked him if he’d be interested in an interview. He agreed, and along the way I found out some pretty cool things about him too.
Jedd: Michael, thanks for taking the time to do the interview with me and everyone at DieselCrew.com.
It’s my pleasure Jedd and thanks so much for the opportunity to talk with you and the community at Diesel Strength and Conditioning!
Jedd: First, could you tell us a bit about yourself, your training history, etc.
Michael: I’m a 50 year old Washington, DC native and I’ve been involved in physical training for the better part of my life. I started training in the martial arts when I was thirteen (starting with Tae Kwon Do, Kung Fu, Western Fencing, Judo, Ninjutsu, etc.) and I still teach several times a week. I’ve been a student of Guro Dan Inosanto, Bruce Lee’s training partner, for over 25 years and I’m a full instructor in JKD and the Filipino Martial Arts (Kali, Escrima and Arnis) as well an instructor in Lameco Eskrima.
You know me from the Russian Kettlebell arena where I have been an RKC (Russian Kettlbell Certified) for over a decade. I actually started lifting back when I was in High School to add some mass to my five foot ten inch frame. I graduated from High School at ninety eight pounds (scary isn’t it) and after spending some serious time in the gym working with my college football team I added eighty five pounds to my frame by the time I graduated four years later. To say that I bulked up would be an understatement. People who knew me from High School didn’t recognize me four years later!
I’m also a Crossfit Level I Trainer, CrossFit Kettlebell Trainer, and CrossFit Olympic Lifting Coach.
I know you from the realm of Kettlebell Training. Is this your primary mode of training and what made you transition to it?
I was originally introduced to Kettlebells when I was training in Sambo (Russian Combat Martial Art). I was training at one of the Russian embassies in downtown Washington, DC (with some “secret squirrel-types”) and saw a couple of Kettlebells in the corner of the training hall and asked one of my training partners about them. He showed me a couple things like the Swing, High Pull (one and two hand) and the “Two Hand Snatch” (what we now call the CrossFit or American Swing). I thought they were great because they reinforced the striking and throwing skills that we were practicing in Sambo.
Shorty thereafter a martial arts friend of mine from California mentioned that he had read about Kettlebells in a magazine (Milo) and that he had started training with them. I did a little research on the Internet (thanks Al Gore!) and found that there was going to be a two-day workshop given by Mike Mahler the following weekend so I signed up! I went to the workshop and was immediately floored by what you could do with the Kettlebell. People joke about “drinking the Kool-Aid” but man I was chugging the stuff! I fell in love with Kettlebell training and left on Sunday afternoon with the Kettlebell I was training with all weekend… and I still have it!
Now (over ten years later) I do most of my training with either Kettlebells or body weight with a healthy dose of Barbell work thrown, mostly Deadlifts, Cleans, Military Presses, Jerks and Snatch. I train five to seven days a week doing hybrid Russian Kettlebell and CrossFit workouts, with several martial arts classes thrown in for good measure.
What level of experience do you have as a Kettlebell Instructor or Coach?
Michael: Well, I’m currently an RKC Team Leader but have been an RKC for over a decade. I’ve attended, I think, seven or eight RKC’s, the first and only RKC Convention in Las Vegas (that’s a story for a different time!), the Combat Application Specialist certification (which was the original RKC II), the CK-FMS, and the Body Weight Training Workshop (with Max Shank and Mark Reifkind). I have also been to several non-RKC Kettlebell certifications (not a good idea once you’ve been to an RKC and seen the quality and expertise presented there) as well as CrossFit certifications and mobility/flexibility workshops. As far asexperience outside of certifications and workshops: I’ve been running group workout classes seven days a week for the last five years and prior to that was teaching classes three to five days a week. That doesn’t count the time I put in for my own training and technique development. I can honestly say that I’ve had a Kettlebell in my hands pretty much every day for almost a decade – with the exception of a couple days when I was sick or recovering from surgery! I’m not happy without my daily dose of Iron!
Jedd: For those who may not be familiar, what exactly is the RKC?
The RKC, which stands for Russian Kettlebell Certification, is a three-day certification that exposes you to the seven foundational techniques: the Deadlift, Swing, Squat, Clean, Press, Snatch and Turkish Get-up. Three days of hands-on training, critique and evaluation with some of the top Kettlebell instructors in the world will give you a strong foundation to build upon when you return home. Some people are amazed at the changes in their technical ability and are awestruck by the changes they feel over the course of a weekend. I’ve been to a lot of certifications and I’ve seen some pretty incredible work come out of them. I can honestly say that the RKC experience is the top of the line when it comes to hands-on training. I’ve been to a lot of workshops and certifications in my lifetime, between physical fitness, strength, and martial arts, and nothing (and I do mean NO THING) compares to the level of training you will receive there. Yep, it’s a lot more expensive than other certifications – and it’s worth it!
Jedd: When I saw you at York Barbell in 2011, you were running a Wounded Warrior project centered around Kettlebell Training. Could you tell us a bit more about that: what is it, how you got involved, and do you continue to do so today?
Michael: We were there as part of the events we had scheduled for a charity we started called “Kettlebells for Warriors” whose goal is to raise money and awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project and other charities that support our returning troops. We started Kettlebells for Warriors after having a discussion with my good friend Mike Locondro about how we felt we could do more to help out those who were returning with Traumatic Brain Injuries, PTSD, loss of limbs, and other physical injuries. It was a great idea but we needed a vehicle to get the process moving and we settled on using the Kettlebell due to it’s universal appeal in the military and elite fitness communities. We’ve been holding events each year and are in the process of re-focusing our fund raising efforts in order to maximize our impact. We are planning on having one large international event in 2013 and several smaller national events that will bring people together to have a great time working out and raising money for a good cause.
Jedd: Recently, you put out a new product called Code Name: Indestructible. Could you tell us about how you went about designing this program?
Michael: Code Name: Indestructible (CNI) was a labor of love! I’ve been a fan of the James Bond movies (and books) my whole life and I’ve seen each and every one of them countless times. A couple years ago I was rummaging around for an idea for a series of workouts and I put together the “Bond Girl” series. Let me tell you – these were crazy workouts! A lot of fun but just complete bi@#$es to do – which pretty much fits the Bond Girls themselves! Anyway, along with that series I started playing with the idea of doing a series of workouts based on the movies but never really finished the project. When I started hearing more about the most recent Bond film “Skyfall” I broke out my notes and started looking at finally completing the series. I even went back and watched a bunch of the movies over again to inspire me to create some really challenging workouts that would mirror the physical requirements Bond would need to survive.
Jedd: I can tell you are an amazing James Bond movie buff, due to the name of your ebook, and the workouts that your ebook includes. Could you tell us how you go about constructing workouts?
Michael: I’ve got to tell you that I had to modify some of the original workouts, not because they were too hard (and they were), but because there wasn’t a clear purpose behind the workout. Call it inexperience, but the purpose of the original series was to crush the person without a clear-cut plan or progression. I like to think that I’m a lot smarter now, but I could be wrong! Anyway, I went back and re-constructed some of the workouts and then created brand new ones for the remainder.
I have to say that I have been STRONGLY influenced by the work of Pavel and especially Dan John. I’ve always enjoyed reading Dan’s books, blog and his articles, and I can honestly say that my workouts have become better due to his influence. In particular I have found his breaking down of the basic movement skills into Push, Pull, Squat, Hinge, Carry and Other Ground Work (i.e. the Turkish Get-up) to be revolutionary. I tend to look at my clients through this framework and then design workouts around the “holes” they have in their movement patterns. If you look at the workouts in CNI you will see the hand of Dan John in many of them – kind of like Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s multiple appearances as James Bond’s nemesis! BTW – true “Bondphiles” will know what I’m talking about!
Jedd: Right now many people will be committing to bettering their health in various ways. Could your product help these people out?
Michael: That’s a great question Jedd and the answer is: ABSO-FREAKING-LUTELY! Along with the James Bond-themed workouts are several chapters on how to properly program the workouts to assure your success. Dan John, who wrote the Preface to CNI, mentioned that you really need to read the first part of the book before you jump into the workouts to get the best results!
I’m a firm believer in having a plan in place in order to succeed, and if you go after a goal without a plan in place, with definitive steps in place, you are not going to succeed. CNI goes into a lot of depth about how you should plan, monitor and review your workouts in order to guarantee you make progress and that you succeed. I think this information is the most important part of the book and that it will most likely get overlooked! The workouts are great and a lot of fun and I’m concerned that people will skip right over the background guidance content and skip right to the workouts!
Jedd: For those who might pick this ebook up, what level of expertise with kettlebells should they have?
Michael: I think a beginner with Kettlebells can get CNI and be able to do all of the workouts. One thing you have to understand about any of the workouts, and my own personal training and teaching strategy, is that you can scale and modify any workout and still keep its effectiveness. Let’s say that one of the workouts has Kettlebell Snatch and Pull-ups in it and you are absolutely horrible at both of them! Do you skip that workout and try to find another one? Nope – scale it! Can you do One-Hand Swings or One-Hand High Pulls? Great! Get rid of the Kettlebell Snatch and do those instead. Can’t do Pull-ups? How about doing Jumping Pull-ups or Ring Rows instead? You’re still going to get an amazing workout and when you finally develop the additional skills (Kettlebell Snatch and Pull-ups) the workout will seem brand new to you.
Jedd: Are the movements in the ebook covered as far as how to do them properly, either by stills or video demonstrations?
Michael: Each workout has a brief review of the skills required to accomplish the “mission” and I try to give succinct pointers on how to do them safely and effectively. I’ve even put in links to techniques that you may not know how to do in several workouts. For the most part, if you don’t know how to do a particular technique, you’ll be able to find a video on YouTube or go to your website for examples of how to do them. Just be sure to check out the credentials of the person who is demoing the technique and stay away from anything associated with Jillian Michaels!
Jedd: I noticed that many of your workouts are not entirely based on using kettlebells alone. What other types of equipment do your workouts include and why?
Michael: While I think the Russian Kettlebell is any amazing tool for building full-body strength and endurance it can’t meet all of your strength and conditioning needs. I think a heavy dose of Body Weight skills (i.e. Push-ups, Pull-ups, Sit-outs, Handstands, Crawling, etc.) along with Olympic and Powerlifting techniques have to be included to add size and strength. I’ve even included my favorite “torture device” the Wheel of Pain (WOP) aka the Ab Wheel in this series. If you’ve never learned how to use this tool properly you are in for a world of hurt!
Jedd: Aside from your expert ability at weaving James Bond themes into your ebook, what else sets this apart from other kettlebell training programs?
Michael: I think there are a lot of things that distinguish this program from others that are on the market right now. First, I’ve actually put people through each and every one of these workouts and get feedback on all of them. These just aren’t products of my imagination – they’ve been field-tested and refined and then tested again. Second, I’m not going to blow smoke up any of your orifices with this program – it’s hard and it’s meant to be. I’m not going “slash inches off of your waistline” or “instantly add twenty pounds to your bench press”. What I am going to do is challenge your athletic ability and make you stronger and more durable. Some of the workouts are going to make you wonder why you’ve been hiding behind a machine for so long and not doing the things that are going to make you healthier and more resilient. Finally, I’ve been around the block a couple times and the people that I respect in the Strength and Conditioning community know me and have looked over this program and have given it “two thumbs up” across the board. I didn’t write CNI to make a fast buck or to create an instant reputation for myself. My reputation and credentials are already in place and I wrote CNI because so many of my friends, colleagues, and clients insisted that I get some of this info on paper and out into the public’s hands.
Jedd: Michael, thanks a lot for all the information today.
Michael: Thanks so much Jedd for giving me the opportunity to share with your readers my thoughts on training and information about Code Name: Indestructible. I hope they enjoyed learning more about it and keep up the amazing work that you are doing at DieselCrew.com!
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Author of Code Name: Indestructible”
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