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6 Life Lessons I Learned From Kettlebell Partner Passing

By: Brittany van Schravendijk, KB Fit Britt

As a coach, high level athlete, and lifelong learner, I have spent a lot of time on personal development over the years. Despite the extensive efforts I’ve put into self-improvement, I’ve actually learned more about myself from Kettlebell Partner Passing (KPP) over the last year than I have in the past 20 years. I’ve learned that passing with someone can at first be uncomfortable, because we must face fears around failing, looking stupid, injuring the other person, and communicating through visual, verbal, and kinesthetic language. Standing in that vulnerability allows you to see yourself more clearly and connect with others in a more authentic way. Allow me to expand upon 6 important life lessons KPP taught me...

1. Giving a good pass is about much more than tossing a kettlebell.

When you throw someone a good pass, you radiate respect, love, compassion, and connection. You hold space for someone to be their most vulnerable, true self, and to communicate with them in that space. You support them in their vulnerability, and at the same time ask them to step up and give you a good pass in return. Good passes happen when each person clearly sees the other, and allows the other to see them -- no masks, no walls, no barriers. Kettlebell Partner Passing only works if both people are present in the moment, and communicating authentically.

2. Vulnerability paves the way for authenticity in relating to other people.

Admitting that I’m imperfect and don’t always throw good passes is tough for me. I don’t want to be seen as weak, flawed, clumsy, or bad at things… none of us do. When you are passing a kettlebell, there is no place to hide. You are standing in front of someone and you are defenseless. They are going to look into your eyes, and they are going to see you. Flaws and all. They are going to experience you making mistakes and sending bad passes. They are going to see you wrestle with your inner demons. They are going to see you struggle, adapt, and grow… and that is the most authentic version of who you are. That is what gives you the capacity to connect with someone as your true self, which is beautiful. 

3. Passing with someone doesn’t mean every pass is good; in fact, both of you are going to make mistakes and give bad passes.

That’s how you learn to communicate, and to forgive each other. In relationships, trust builds through owning up to your mistakes and improving the next time, for the good of both parties. The poor pass doesn’t matter; it’s the way you bounce back from a poor pass that is important. Will you continue as you have been because it suits you, or will you listen to your partner’s feedback, and do your best to transcend? Respect for your partner is shown in how you respond to their experience of receiving the bell. 

4. Chasing perfection is a zero sum game.

Not only is perfection unachievable, striving for it is damaging, and not just to the person striving for perfection. When we try to be perfect, we are only focused on ourselves, instead of noticing how we are affecting the person standing across from us. How can you identify a bad pass if you don’t notice how your partner responds to the pass? How can you listen and respond to their feedback if your own thoughts are crowding your mind? In reality, being present brings you closer to perfection than trying to be perfect ever could. When you are lost in your own thoughts, you are robbing yourself of the opportunity to react to what’s actually happening in the moment. When you are present, you can be the observer; notice what’s happening, and adapt accordingly. 

5. Living in the present moment is both the hardest thing to do and the one that brings the most happiness.

Think back to the most joyful moments of your life: were you worrying about what was on your to do list? Or were you fully immersed in the present moment and what you were experiencing? Passing a kettlebell with someone is a wonderful way to experience flow. When you remain connected in each moment, you can explore the present with the person you are passing with, which is an anomalous experience in our world. Getting into a state of flow is a zen-like experience, and leaves no room for worry, anxiety, or expectation… only presence. 

6. Cooperation is more important than competition.

Many of us have been conditioned to have an extremely competitive mindset. As a World Champion kettlebell athlete, I know very well what it’s like to view everything in life as a competition. While pushing yourself to be better can be beneficial, doing so at the expense of your connection with others is detrimental. Passing a kettlebell is not about competing; it’s about cooperating, which is how we grow to become our highest selves. Humans are the dominant species on the Earth for the simple fact that we cooperate in networks across the globe. Winning a championship might hold a certain amount of gravitas, but it pales in comparison to what can be accomplished when people work together. There’s a reason the best moments of our lives are ones we share with loved ones, not ones in which we are alone. Without each other, the meaning of life is lost. With each other, connection and love unite us, and we can achieve much higher aims.

There are many benefits to be gained from Kettlebell Partner Passing, and they go far beyond the physical. If you’re open to receiving them, there are many life lessons to be learned from KPP. While the practice of tossing kettlebells can bring about feelings of fear and vulnerability, what you stand to gain from the practice is important not just for personal growth, but for the growth of our local and global communities. After all, who are any of us in the world without each other? Think of how much more can we achieve if we give each other “good passes” in all areas of life!

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