Tales from the Grip – Stories of Grip and Feats of Strength
Over a year ago, my buddy Josh McIntyre and I were emailing and he suggested a name for a series to be featured here on the site called Tales from the Grip. It was to be stories of training written by all of you and posted here on the site.
The title is of course a play on words of Tales from the Crypt, which if you have never seen, was a horror story series shown on HBO, I believe, about 20 years ago and probably longer. I am probably showing my age by referencing it…LOL.
Tales from the Grip – Fayette Fair, Dunbar PA – July 2012
Today, I am going to start the series off by telling you of my experiences doing my first ever professional Strongman Performances, at the Fayette Fairgrounds, which started last night (July 26th) and will continue on until Tuesday July 31. If you are in the area of Dunbar, PA, you should come check it out.
How it Came to Be
I received an email from John Beatty well over a year ago asking if I’d ever be interested in doing Strongman Performances with him or for him. John was the owner of Fat Bastard Barbell Company for several years before recently selling it to his friend Jerry when he got to busy to keep it going. If that doesn’t ring a bell, then you may remember seeing him on TV back in 2010 on America’s Got Talent when he gave the big “In Your Face” to Piers Morgan.
Here’s the video:
John is an accomplished Strength Athlete himself. He was a professional strongman competitor from 2000 to 2010, and has also competed in many powerlifting and Grip Sport competitions, while also bending some awesome high-level steel.
After the initial emails, I didn’t hear much from John for quite some time, so I didn’t think much of it, but then, late last year, I got a call from John and he told me that he could use me for some shows coming up in the summer. I thought it sounded like an awesome and fun opportunity and I immediately told him I would love to try it.
In the months to come, I picked John’s brain about how to even set up a Strongman show. Considering my bending experience was limited to contests where you generally wrap and try to bend as big of steel as possible in 5 minutes time, the idea of putting together an entire 30-minute program seemed very daunting.
I have watched performing strongmen like John Brookfield, Dennis Rogers, Pat Povilaitis, Dave Whitley and Mike Bruce a handful of times over the years, but they mainly had performed single feats as part of other strength endeavors. John Brookfield did some of his bending feats during a larger expo in conjunction with other acts. Dennis, Pat, Mike, and David had all done their feats at Mighty Mitts between events. All of them were awesome performances, but they were shorter in duration.
However, with John’s guidance and coaching, I began to see some light at the end of the tunnel. He and I talked several times over the last 6 months and he would always share some knowledge about how to set up shows, some of the staple feats he did, and how to tie feats together to make the show run well. I soon began developing confidence in myself to be able to put a variety of feats together that would be entertaining for the crowd to watch.
Building the Equipment
About 6 months ago, John sent me the plans for some of the equipment that he uses in his shows. One was a deadlift platform that kids can sit on and then you lift them up. Another was a finger lift platform where someone lays on a board and you lift them with one finger. And the last one was a Bed of Nails.
In hindsight, the right thing to do would have been to get right on it and buy the lumber and build all of the equipment so that I could train on it and get to know it.
Unfortunately, what I did was I put it off and never built anything until last weekend. I am no carpenter. In fact, I make a poor carpenter’s assistant, so I enlisted my Dad to help me put this stuff together. I figured it would take us maybe 4 hours on a Sunday morning to build it all.
It took use two hole days of serious work to build just the kiddie deadlift platform and the bed of nails. It took me 4 hours just to pound all of the nails through the plywood for the bed of nails, so that was quite a wake-up call in itself. Nevertheless, with the help of my good old Dad, the two pieces got built and I even through some deck stain on the deadlift platform. John was impressed with the craftsmanship and said that mine looks better than his! I told him I wanted to make sure everything looked good since my show was going to be a reflection on him.
The Drive Down
Finally, the day to come to the fair arrived. I figured, again, that the drive would be about 4 hours. I dropped the baby off at the babysitter and turned on the GPS in order to get an estimate of how long it would take to get down here. I nearly laid an egg when it said 5.5 hours. I still had to go get the trailer and load everything on it in addition to packing everything up in the car…amazing.
Once loaded, I got out on the road. I have never pulled a trailer behind a vehicle on a 4-lane highway. Quite interesting! I was swerving a bit at first, but eventually got used to it. PennDot has construction projects going on, on just about every highway I drove on yesterday, including a section on Route 22 where the road is one lane and the barricades seem just about wide enough to afford like a foot of space on each side of the trailer. Lots of fun driving, I can assure you. Sweat was pouring down my brow into my eyes as I drove. Awesome.
The First Shows
It felt good to drive the Jeep onto the Fairgrounds and find my location for the shows. I was placed under a pavilion, which was a good thing because it was pouring buckets last night.
For the first day of the Fair, with such bad weather, the fair was nearly empty, but we got the two shows in that were scheduled. The small crowds were great to break the ice and get things rolling.
In the first show, John handled the PA system and narrated. He and I traded back and forth doing feats.
For the second show, I manned the PA and narrated and did 6 feats while John did 4. Everything went well, including my flaming hammer torch feat. Other feats that we did included the kiddie deadlift, phone book tearing, horseshoe bending, mace swinging, kettlebell juggling, and more. A rather diverse range of feats.
More to Come
As the rest of the shows progress, I will keep you posted. But I must say, I am pumped to be doing them.
I never thought I would ever get up on a stage and perform for a crowd. I always saw myself as more of the coach person who would help others enjoy the feats of strength by safely learning to do them themselves, but after just one day, I am excited to be given the opportunity to share what I know in this new way.
I really want to say thank you to John Beatty, “The Strongman,” for giving me this opportunity. Find out more about John here: John Beatty The Strongman.
Oh, and by the way, my favorite feat so far has been bending stuff while laying on the bed of nails. Surprisingly the pain from 600 nails digging into your butt and back fizzles away when the adrenaline rushes through the body.
If you are in the area, be sure to stop by. If not, keep coming by the site as I will be adding to this post as the shows go on.
All the best in your training,
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