I often say that we should never stop learning, and it is important to me to live by my own beliefs. This isn’t to say I don’t make mistakes—in fact, I feel like I make a lot of them—but I have to always keep learning and trying to be better. This year has been all about learning and improving myself, no matter how slow a process or how long it takes. I want these principles to hold true with strength as well. My success in powerlifting and my years in the sport don’t mean I know everything. It doesn’t mean advancements haven’t been made or that there aren’t better ways for me go about training. So when I got the chance to attend the Kabuki Strength Seminar in Portland, I jumped at it and made the trip with a couple friends from American Iron Gym.

I had really been looking forward to this weekend for months in advance. I originally signed up with my friend Jesse, and a few weeks before the seminar Nick from the gym also signed up. Having only really known Nick from the gym, I felt like it was going to be an added bonus to get to know him better over this trip. Attending a seminar put on by knowledgeable lifters is a big deal, but getting to do so with friends just adds to the experience. These two also happen to be much younger than me, which always gives me a warm glow inside by getting to see younger lifters willing to make the time and pay the expense to actually go to a seminar. It is easy for people to say they want to learn and talk a big game, but to actually make it happen is something else altogether. This is a level of dedication I get excited to see.

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For all the seminars over the years I have attended, put on, or helped coach at, I still get excited about learning. It is interesting to see how different people run their seminars and the things they cover. Just trying to pick up new information, relearn old information, and hear things in a different way is amazing. Hell, I have to admit I also enjoy hearing when they say things similar to me or coach similarly to me. I suppose it is kind of stupid, but to hear them sounding and saying things, like I do kind of, justifies my own knowledge in a way. Plus, for years I have always tried to see the commonalities between great lifters, and this leads me to think, "Okay, those points, theories, and information are solid!”

Our trip started with a 10-hour drive up to Portland, which is definitely a long time to spend in a vehicle. It was a good opportunity, though. We had some great conversations ranging from lifting to just about everything else in life. I think in today's society with all our modern technology and rapid pace, some things have been lost. Knowing you have a long trip like that ahead of you lets you slow down and take more time to listen. It gives you time to just talk and let the conversation take its own course. I feel like I walked away from this weekend knowing Jesse better and definitely knowing Nick way more than I did. I would even say they gave me a lot to think about and allowed me to see some things from different perspectives. Other than ending up with a huge headache, the drive up was enjoyable for me.


We got to the hotel late Thursday night but the seminar did not start until Friday afternoon. It turns out that the smallest guy in the group snored the loudest. Lucky for me, I bring earplugs whenever I know I am rooming with people. When we got up Friday those two foodies were already trying to find the best places to eat. Super heavyweight eating is a thing of the past for me but we went downtown and hit three different places in just a few hours. I bowed out at the third and just ordered a glass of ice tea. No longer do I have to force down food, and I am good with that. Then it was on to the seminar.

Day 1 — Kabuki Movement System

Day one of the seminar was an intro to the Kabuki Movement System and Breathing 101. There is a lot to what they teach, but they do it in a very straightforward way. Hearing the principles and logic of the system is very interesting and makes a lot of sense. There is some complexity to actually doing it, while at the same time the principle are based on sound, simple logic. After finishing the seminar we had the opportunity to deadlift with Rudy Kadlub and Mike Hare, which I was not going to pass up. This was not the longest session but I learned a ton and we made some really great tweaks to my deadlift. They were able to help me figure out some cues that worked better to help me find the positions I wanted. There is nothing like actual face-to-face, hands-on coaching. Nothing. Of course, the day finished off with more eating.

Day 2 — Breathing and Bracing

Day two of the seminar brought even more learning, starting with a review of breathing and then going into bracing. I really like the term "bracing", and the extent to which they went into this shows just how important it is. Still, I continuously see people doing this wrong and not getting as much out of their midsection as they could. I have to admit, as much as I have always worked on this, I learned some new things at this seminar in relation to bracing. We then went into rooting of the feet, which is something I have been working on, but after this seminar feel I have a much better grasp on it, especially when it comes to coaching it. They did a great job covering these topics, from why they teach them the way they do to how to do them properly. They even showed many different drills to work on them. Then it was time for lunch.

Lunch was definitely a high point of the day for me. We got to stay at the facility and eat lunch with Chris, his wife, and members of his team. For those readers that do not know, I consider Chris a very close friend, and at this point of the trip, we had not had the opportunity to talk much. It was great to get a little time to catch up with him and his wife. These seminar weekends are pretty busy and I always struggle to get to catch up with friends, no matter if I am an attendee or coach. Lunch was also a blast. Whenever you get enough lifters together, there will always be a bunch of good information and some hilarious stories to boot. Learning is great, but so is getting to see the real life side of people and the powerlifting world.

After lunch we rolled into the hip and shoulder complex. Again, this was very thorough, covering why it is so important and why they approach it the way they do. They again went over various cues to help when coaching, which I think is awesome, because I am one of those people who sometimes does not get it until it is said in a certain way. They went over drills to help teach and strengthen the positions.

They dished out a lot of knowledge this day, but it was all done in a way that I felt kept it simple and easy to understand. There were breakouts after each section where we got in groups to go over the drills and to actually coach other attendees to make sure everyone understood how to perform them correctly. It was an intense day mentally and I jumped at the chance to squat with some of the guys after the seminar. Back in my higher-level days, I rarely veered from my regular training schedule, but these days everything has more room to play. So I was not going to pass up working on some new technique with people that knew. I admit I was tired from deadlifts the day before and working bracing most of the day, but I still got some good work in on the things I was learning.

Day 3 — Implementation

The third day was what I had really looked forward to because we got to do the actual lifts. Now, I love learning and had a great time the first two days, but I am a lifter at heart. I was ready to start putting everything into practice and wrap it all together. The day started with information about velocity training, which is something I have a great interest in. I think it may be the best form of auto-regulation. This can get a little complex, and Kabuki Strength has taken it to a new level. They may not have come up with the concept but they definitely have expanded on it to make it their own style. Next we moved on to the squat, then bench, and finally deadlift. Needless to say, I was definitely a bit tired by the end of this day.

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One of my real highlights of the seminar was when Joe Sullivan asked to get a picture with me. He asked me if I remembered him, and I definitely knew him from his great powerlifting accomplishments. Still, at the same time, I always had this feeling I knew him from somewhere but could not place it. He went on to talk about one of the elitefts seminars where I helped him with his bracing because I noticed his belt was getting loose at the bottom of his squat. As soon as he said that, my memory came rushing back and I realized that this was why I kept having the feeling that I knew him. It was great getting to talk with him again. I kind of loved the irony that I was coaching at a seminar when he was an attendee and then the roles were reversed. Plus, it is just an awesome feeling when you see someone you have coached, even if just at a seminar, taking the information you gave them and using it to make great gains, not to mention reaching the level Joe has. And on top of that, when they still remember you helping them it’s even better. That was very cool, very humbling, and made me very proud all at the same time.

I walked away from this seminar very happy I attended and found it well worth everything that went into making the trip. I learned a lot of new knowledge while reinforcing some old knowledge. I feel like it has made me a better lifter and definitely a better coach. I highly recommend this seminar to everyone from the average lifter to the clinician and everything in between. They teach such a great approach to lifting and doing it the best, safest way possible. I love how they not only address how to fix issues but also emphasize that it is so important to get to the root cause and fix that too. I highly recommend you attend one of Kabuki Strength Seminars. No matter your level of experience, I promise you will learn something. I know I did.