Communication, it leads to Connection and Cooperation.
Chris Hook, KPP-1, SFG-Elite, FMS2
I have spent most of my training life, alone. I know that sounds sad, but it’s just the nature of strength training. There are other people in the gym but we are all doing our own thing. Sometimes I might be deadlifting with a partner, but what he is doing is unrelated to my own performance. You can push a training partner to “Get it!” on a tough set of Deadlifts and cheerlead a little bit, but there is limited cooperation and connection there.
(One of the reasons why Crossfit has become so popular is due to community connection with the ‘tribe’.)
I have gravitated toward activities that don’t require a team or a partner. I grew up loving to surf, skateboard, and snowboard. Sure I would do these activities with friends a lot of the time, but I was not dependent on anyone other than myself. Kettlebell Partner Passing (KPP) cannot happen without a partner, and maybe that is what I find most unique about it. Sure you can juggle by yourself and doing that can certainly develop your skills for freestyle KPP. Passing a bell with a partner is a barrier to "partner" passing, but it is the ingredient that makes Kettlebell Partner Passing such a nourishing activity.
One of the pillars of KPP is Communication. Without communication it is next to impossible to find the real depth and connection that comes from KPP. I am not saying to talk to your partner the whole time you are passing or give them a recap of your day. Rather, here are three simple things that can help bring depth and rhythm into your session:
1.) Ask for what you need.
If your partner is shorting you on their passes and forcing you to reach for the bell, ask them to get the bell to you. I will usually allow 2 poor passes before I ask for what I need. This gives my partner an opportunity to adjust on their own, 2 poor passes is enough to know that they might need some feedback.
2.) Just a little chatter.
Keep your comments, feedback, and questions brief. If there is too much chatter, it becomes difficult to relax and find a rhythm for the session. Use minimal words to keep the passes flowing, and if things are going well, maybe there is no need for much chatter if any at all.
This is a big one. Over time, you learn to read any partner that you pass with, their body language tells you if you are passing them ‘easy-to-catch’ passes. But, to gain that feel and to develop that awareness start by asking them, “How are these passes?”; or “Do you like these passes?”. Sometimes your partner might look like they are easily catching and returning the bell, but you might not be giving it to them in the ideal spot. When you Check-in and ask if they like the passes you are giving them, they have the opportunity to give you input or confirm that what you are doing is good.
Communication is key to all styles of passing. For freestyle you will need to work on a skill before you can incorporate it into a session. Check out this video, Castro and I are doing helicopter passes with two bells. Listen to the conversation pre-passing. Often it takes a little communication to understand what the job is for each person.
In this example, it was a matter of who will pass low and who will pass high. Notice how after about 3 or 4 passes, Castro Checks-in with me. He asks, “How are those passes?”. After a few more passes he asks, “Are you ready to switch?”. I say, “Yes” and I confirm that I am going to switch from passing high to passing low on the next rep. At the end I give the down command, meaning let’s set the bells down. When there are two bells in the air you need to make sure that you are both putting the bells down together, so no-one is taking a bell to the face.
I know the audio is not amazing, which is why most KPP videos are without sound. But, this is the type of communication that goes into making something like Helicopter passes with two bells happen seamlessly. If you are passing with one bell with two hands the same little bit of chatter would also be appropriate. Both bells are the same weight (16kg) just different colors.
When communication is lacking in partner passing, your sessions cannot become as rich and gratifying as when communication is used to sync up with your partner. Sure this is just a kettlebell being passed back and forth but the lesson here is everywhere in life. Communication is the key to all functional relationships. If you avoid talking about issues with your significant other how can the two of you grow and deepen in your connection? Just like if you avoid talking about your partners bad passes how can the two of you get better at passing and more thoroughly enjoy the depths of KPP?