The Wolf Brigade theory on “Expert Generalism”.
When I began training martial arts, one thing I was immediately taken with and became almost fixated on in the years to come was how effortlessly those leading the training seemed to move; As a new student it was the visual side of the fluidity that initially appealed to me. As I continued my learning, changed disciplines, and ultimately put my training into more “real” practice, I began to discover that there is much more to physical proficiency than meets the eye- especially when it is expected to hold up under pressure.
Some of my early instructors in the more traditional martial arts moved with a grace and expertise that is only gained through exhaustive practice of the very same thing, day in and day out, for a very long time. My respect for that style skill development has not lessened, but HAS been compartmentalized, and now occupies a slightly different place. My later instructors in more combat-oriented martial arts and some of the world-class instructors I have had the opportunity to train with ALSO moved with a guided, hard-earned fluidity that seemed to me, especially initially, to be almost miraculously adaptable. THEIR version of “effortless” movement was not relegated to choreography, and no matter what physical question was asked, they always seemed to have an answer.
When my exposure and perspective began to change and I began to feel the tide shift in my own training and skill set, I mistakenly profiled one as having a HIGHER level of expertise than the other- a BETTER understanding of the movements or strategies they were utilizing.
In actuality, it was not so much a greater expertise in any chosen path, but simply a matter of the employment of a wider view- put simply, the “Generalist” approach, as opposed to the “Specialist”.
We had the opportunity not long ago to explain a little bit about our background, and convey some of our training mindsets and objectives to a different audience via the Hammerhead Fitness blog. We are very grateful for the opportunity, received some great feedback from many that read the articles, and wanted to re-post our portion of it here for those that may have missed it.
Our portion is displayed below- the entire article with Steve’s intro can be seen HERE. Thanks again to Steve at Hammerhead, and hope you enjoy…
“My 2002 introduction to CrossFit came in the form of standard bodyweight exercises combined into a short, challenging circuit at the end of our kickboxing classes. I had recently transitioned away from more traditional martial arts into Muay Thai and grappling, and realized immediately that the strength, power, and conditioning demands were enormously different and needed to be addressed. I remember our group DREADING the “CrossFit” part of kickboxing class, and we hadn’t seen anything yet!
The goal of our very savvy coaches (2 of the 8 participants in the 2nd ever CrossFit Certification class in Santa Cruz) was to hook us on the brief conditioning pieces and then deepen the water… and once they did, our performance improved immediately and dramatically.
We began to create adaptations of the training methods that suited our needs, environment, and larger goals- all the while assuring that we kept the “Ready for Anything” idea at the front of our minds. We took the fantastic blueprint that CrossFit provided and began to make it ours. The cops in the group would practice scenario-training with short intervals of explosive exercise, grapplers would use exercises like kettlebell swings and rowing (and later, 360 situps, maces, hammers…) in between rounds of live rolling to build durability and mental endurance.
For us then at CrossFit Long Beach, and now at Wolf Brigade, training was the vehicle… not the destination. The quality of each movement is immensely important, but in our brand of training, the movement is not the point. We want to finish quickly, or lift heavy, or whatever our prescription dictates not because we want to win the workout, but because we have seen that when completed with proper form, a progressive mindset, and an absence of “Gym Ego”, the exercises and combinations of help us improve in all ways possible- both mental and physical, both in and out of the gym.
On the cusp of a CrossFit competition this weekend, Steve from Hammerhead Fitness put together a great post focusing on
“The Aftermath” of a challenging workout, and included one of our “Mental Endurance” pieces to help illustrate the point.
Good luck to everyone this weekend, and thanks to Steve for including our thoughts. Hopefully they will resonate with and be helpful to some of you.
“Suffer with Dignity”
We are very excited to have begun a relationship with Hammerhead Fitness- a great local company with national and international reach.
Our first joint project is an article titled “The Pursuit of Preparedness” that debuted on their website this morning.
Please let us know what you think, and if you like what we’ve said, please pass it on.
“I have seen men build… and destroy. I have seen this world, which could be a paradise, reduced to a planet of greed, and fear, and hatred! I have seen humanity with its heritage betrayed!
I can stomach no more!”
40 Box step* @ 1/2 BW
20 KTE (Knees-to-elbows)
40 Abmat situp** @ 1/2 BW
Adjust height on the step before scaling back weight. For easy height adjustment, use bumper plates as a stepping surface. Situp weight is to be scaled down as soon as the butt needs to come off the floor for momentum on the ascent.
*Weight for box step can be DB’s, KB’s, bumper plates, sandbags. Demand upright posture and lots of tension to keep each step safe and useful- drive up, don’t lean forward.
**Kettlebell is to be used for weight on Abmat situp, and is held at chest level. Position and posture on situp do not change with addition of heavy weight.
There is often self-deception in place in thinking that the weight we CAN carry is the same as the weight we are WILLING to carry. Selflessness, humility, and true loyalty are challenging and often unrewarding loads to bear; The difference between the common and the uncommon man is the willingness to go just as far for others as you’ll go for yourself…
“Send me their sons and prodigal daughters,
Render up to me their lost and stray.
Give lust and life to our dances, flight to our fancies,
Give me courage for my passions and my pain…”
Someone once asked me why people need to scream to get their point across in music.
“Passion” isn’t neat and clean and quiet. “Obsession” doesn’t usually play well with others and do as its told. Sometimes chaos is the only path to catharsis; sometimes making more noise than you need to is the only way to be heard at all.
Scream your fuckin’ throat red, break something that doesn’t need to be broken, push yourself so hard that your eyes go blurry; Much stranger than WANTING to or NEEDING to is never feeling the fire that DRIVES you to…
Why are volume and intensity sometimes used to articulate a point or send a strong message? If you really have to ask, you may never understand…
“Dissension is the mother of invention…”
(If you play by the rules, then the game wins…)
The path already forged is already finished.
Pursue endless development on your own terms, not simply an “end” on someone else’s.
We post every day outlining what we did, but haven’t posted in a while regarding what we do…
Put simply, we want you to and will show you many effective ways to:
Move your bodyweight safe and fast.
Get your ass off the ground.
Lift heavy shit.
In here, and in our version of fitness, one is no more important than another, and one without the others is incomplete.
We want to be as efficient, learned, and technical as we can in performing all tasks relating to these objectives.
Move more, move faster, get stronger.
Eat, rest, recover, repeat.
“Progress in life requires effort, not simply attendance.”
“Experience: that most brutal of teachers.
But you learn, my God do you learn.”
C.S. Lewis (British Scholar and Novelist. 1898-1963)
The lessons in life that we are least expecting are often the ones that leave the greatest impression; facing the last things we ever expected will often teach us the most about ourselves.
I have owned and run a BMX brand called “Coalition” since 2004.
BMX has been a huge and amazing part of my life; owning and running brands in that industry since I was a teenager has made for many interesting ups and downs, to say the least.
A few years ago Mark Owen- a great friend and certified BMX distribution expert from Sidewall Action Sports- jumped in to help us with the brand and has done a great job.
Moving forward we’re simplifying things a bit, I’m getting more involved again, and I was recently interviewed about both Coalition and my history in BMX:
We also re-launched the Coalition website in step with the interview.
Regarding self defense:
We offer self defense classes at Wolf Brigade, both in an open group format on Saturday, and by small-group appointment.
Physical capacity, in our opinion, is only as useful as its application in keeping you healthy, happy, and safe. “Self defense” is often a murky term, and is just as often bathed in misinformation and mysticism- mostly for marketing purposes. NOTHING works all the time, big people will very often be able to overwhelm smaller people regardless of training, and if it is hard to learn or requires precision, it is HIGHLY unlikely it will work during a real-life attack without extensive, exhaustive practice; if you’ve been studying jiu-jitsu for 10 years, you may triangle choke an attacker, but that is by FAR the exception, and applies to very few.
Even the most well prepared can be victimized by the least prepared, just as the strongest can be toppled by the weakest. One near- sure-fire way to wind up on the wrong end of an attack/ altercation/ confrontation is to let your ego (or denial) keep you from considering the mental AND physical pieces of the puzzle.
The goal of our self defense training is just as much instilling a mindset of awareness and preparedness as it is introducing and practicing physical techniques.
We’re all looking for something; when our sights are set too low or we’re always viewing the next bar as too high, we very well may never find it. When the search ends, development halts, and our true potential looks down on us and laughs, knowing there’s no danger of us catching it…
I played lacrosse when I was a kid. I liked it, I was pretty good at it, and it made my parents happy. When I was 11, I came across a BMX bike riding magazine at the grocery store, and long story short, everything else took a back seat to the compulsion I had to find out as much as I could about this unique (and at the time, bizarre and unconventional) culture. The imagery was brash and bold, the players in the “game” were wild and looked like people you might be afraid of if you saw them walking in your neighborhood, and I couldn’t get enough. The idea of “convention”, while I probably didn’t define it as such at 11 or 12 years old, changed immediately for me. The stability and simplicity of team sports (and the just-add-water social circle they often create) stepped aside to make way for a path that didn’t make sense to anyone but me…
An event to pay tribute to Mike Tag occurred in Ithaca, NY last Saturday. The day had somber origins, but ended up being a fitting celebration and memorial for a truly unique influence in underground culture.
The end is seldom just “the end”… Mike’s legend will live on- passed forth in story after story that sound larger than life but couldn’t be truer, and will endear him to an entirely new generation of outlaws that will not be quite as fortunate as we were to watch it all unfold…
“Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.”
Last night, Friday the 13th of April 2012, my friend Mike Tag died.
For those of you that don’t know, I grew up riding BMX from age 11, and continued to do so my entire life. Mike was among a small handful of characters that influenced me, inspired me and at the same time got me into immeasurable amounts of trouble from the time I was 17 or so until just a few years ago.
He once tazed me in the stomach in the middle of the night on Hank Williams III’s tour bus, he fed me my first alcoholic drink as an adult at a VIP party we snuck into at the Phoenix Hotel in San Francisco, and even when he wasn’t getting into trouble, he was always smiling like he was.
He was a true roughneck, and a pioneer of BMX street riding and style. Mike was as caring and loyal as he was tough, and will be mourned by many, but forgotten by none.
Below are two FBM videos featuring Mike. The top one is one of my favorites ever, and captured Mike, myself, and many of our friends during one of the best times ever in BMX. The bottom one is my favorite video part of Mike’s, to one of my favorite songs ever.
Many new people have come through our doors and visited our site in the past 3 months. As any small community grows, it is a challenge to keep a mindset of discipline, specificity, and humility alive within all its members and followers.
Reading over our “Mental Endurance” posts may offer some great reminders for those that have been with us for a while, and may be helpful in developing and sustaining a strong training mindset in those that are newer.
Here they are, linked in order: