Updated: Dec 6, 2020
BY: Rob Dixon KPP Solo coach candidate
I honestly had no idea what I was getting into almost two years ago when I attended my first Kettlebell Partner Passing workshop. A kettlebell instructor friend had seen Michael demonstrate Kettlebell Partner Passing (KPP) in San Diego and thought I would like Michael and the workshop. She encouraged me to go, and I am grateful she did!
I had experimented with flipping a kettlebell but hadn’t considered passing it to someone else. It was hard enough finding people interested in practicing flipping a kettlebell let alone someone willing to pass it back and forth. I mean, where does one find someone you trust enough to pass you a bell in a safe and consistent way and that trusts you enough to pass them a bell in the same way?
The workshop I attended had a friendly and encouraging feel to it. Michael is an authentically kind and supportive coach. Through his teaching process, he creates a calm trusting, safe environment. After a good warm-up, we started learning how to toss a kettlebell. Not throw, not pass, but toss a kettlebell. Tossing is a foundational skill where you let go of the kettlebell without a partner in front of you and allow the bell to land on the ground. This helped us get more comfortable with letting go of the kettlebell. It was an introduction to kettlebell handling and control.
We did this until both Michael and the rest of us were comfortable that we could consistently toss the bell in a controlled manner. After a safety talk and demonstration, we began working with Michael one-on-one to learn how to translate tossing into passing with a partner. As we each took turns learning to pass the kettlebell with Michael, the rest of us watched and grew more comfortable with the process and each other. Almost everyone is a little anxious when they first begin to pass for one reason or another and that comes out in different ways for each of us.
I later learned that not wanting to mess up, hurt someone, get hurt, and the often-present self-doubt were common reasons for this group. Having a concern about someone throwing, not passing, a kettlebell at you is a normal reaction! Michael anchored the moment with his proven process to learn passing while working through our internal concerns, doubts, and fears. I mean, there is nothing like a group of people watching you learn to pass and receive a kettlebell for the first time to help you focus. Once Michael knew we could safely pass with him, we took turns passing with each other. Looking back, I would say watching others pass with Michael gave us some confidence we could do the same with each other.
Of course, we dropped the kettlebell a lot more with one another, but we all eventually found our groove and got better at it. One of the best parts of the workshop was getting to practice with so many different people. Training with people having different body types, physical strengths, skills, and personalities was a great learning experience and I highly recommend it! The people you groove with isn’t so much about their similarities or differences, it is more about their ability to stay present, connected and focused on what they are doing.
We started the passing process by narrowing our focus to our partner. Looking them right in the eye and asking, “Are you ready?” Their response lets you know they are ready, focused with you on this moment, and committed to doing their best. Holding their gaze, you begin swinging the bell and counting out loud. If you make it to two swings without either of you breaking eye contact or focus, you begin to feel your connection and the rhythm of passing.
On the third swing your partner switches their visual focus to the bell and begins tracking its movement. You shift your focus to passing the bell directly into where their hands will be. You “watch” the kettlebell into their hands and then track the bell through their swing back into your hands. This process of following the kettlebell through each catch and pass happens until someone loses focus. The usual expression of letting your mind wander is throwing a bad pass, not catching the kettlebell well, or dropping the bell altogether.
How you pass the bell is often a reflection of your internal state of being. The passing process is dependent upon establishing and maintaining the connection with your partner. The better pass you send them, the easier it is for them to catch and then send you a good pass in return. It is about connecting with your partner and doing your best to set them up for success while they do the same for you.
Once you find that place where you are consistently passing a bell with someone, something unexpected happens. The self-talk fades and the energy of being fully engaged and present takes over. It is suddenly peaceful and fun at the same time! You are creating a kind of art that only can happen when two people are focused together in the moment. I was hooked on the flow of that experience.
The community of people who successfully pass with partners of different body types, physical strengths, skills, and personalities become “the calm in the storm,” so to speak. They can quiet themselves internally, focus on what they are doing, stay connected to their partner, adjust to their partner’s needs, and still take care of themselves. Practicing partner passing trains your ability to be “the calm in the storm” whenever you need it. This state of being carries over into your professional, family, and personal life experiences.
After the workshop, I wanted to pass more. Finding people to practice with was challenging. I talked a few friends into going to the next workshop and after participating, they also got excited about passing. After the workshop we started practicing with each other on Fridays after work. We would take turns passing with each other, watching others pass, and talking about what we saw. After a few months of this, a training partner and friend suggested that passing bells was a form of therapy. As a CEO of a global organization, she really appreciated the complete focus on the present and the flow of passing a bell for as long as we could without dropping it.
There is too much to partner passing to cover it all in one workshop. The finer points of passing the bell like handle rotation, pass height, bell placement, bell handling, and quieting the mind are more easily understood with additional workshops and practice. I was fortunate enough to train with Michael one-on-one for several months and that significantly changed my skill level. Knowing I didn’t have access to a lot of folks who wanted to pass as much as I did, he started teaching me what he called Kettlebell Partner Passing Solo.
The program focused a lot on stances, form, movement, flips, and juggling. It helped me increase my ability to focus for more extended periods and to slow down internally. I could practice on my own and progress at my own pace. The quiet mind and the ability to concentrate on one thing also translated well into other areas of my life. Eventually, I began to see the solo skills in motion in Michael’s mind-blowing freestyle videos with multiple partners and multiple kettlebells.
After a few weeks of solo practice, I attended another workshop, and the best part was my partner passing ability dramatically improved! I mean, how could it not? One of the essential elements of passing is to set your partner up for success and send the best pass that you can. I had a deeper understanding of the movements and more control over my passes, thanks to time practicing the solo skills. I can honestly say, I was a much better passing partner with what I learned and that helped my partners improve their passing skills faster.
It has been almost two years now since my first workshop. Since then, I went on to take six workshops and several months of personal training with Michael. I am currently in the process of becoming a KPP Solo Coach and had the honor of assisting with the February 2020 workshop in Albuquerque, NM. I enjoyed being able to share what I had learned and the experience of passing with other folks in the flow. Once I felt being in the flow and the quiet mind that comes from passing a kettlebell, I began to know myself in a more authentic way.