PCC Torrance: Once In A Lifetime

by Danny Kavadlo on October 17, 2017

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Danny Kavadlo Torrence PCC

And you may find yourself in another part of the world…

That’s what tends to happen when we instruct Dragon Door’s Progressive Calisthenics Certification, the first and best bodyweight training certification on the planet. In fact, in the nearly five years since its inception, the PCC has taken place in dozens of cities and numerous countries, spanning across four of the seven continents.

I guess you guys really love your pull-ups!

Last week, my brother Al Kavadlo and I, along with PCC Team Leaders Annie Vo and Grace Kavadlo, headed from New York to LA for California’s fifth PCC workshop. To say that it was an amazing experience would be to gravely understate the sentiment. This was one for the record books. But more about that later…

The event took place at Kettlebells South Bay, my personal favorite training facility in all of LA County. This self-proclaimed “unconventional training” center features built-in human flag poles, super-high ceilings and more pull-up bars than you could shake a stick at. But for me, the best part of the weekend by far, was the people in attendance.

The energy that filled the room really had to be experienced in order to be believed. As anyone who’s ever been to a PCC can personally attest to, the combined vivacity that erupts when you get a group of calisthenics fanatics together is inexplicable. It’s no wonder there were so many personal records set! From muscle-ups, to pistol squats, and even a one-arm dragon flag, a multitude of first time feats of strength, balance and skill were achieved!

It warms my heart and feeds my soul to be part of the chemistry. But to be clear, I was only a piece of the equation. Everybody played their role in the magic. It was truly a shared experience.

We celebrate the successes of the person next to us. In encouraging them to do better, we also bring out the best in ourselves. That’s really one of the most spectacular parts of the calisthenics community. When you take your neighbor by the hand, you both bring out the best in each other.

And you my ask yourself, has there ever been a PCC where everyone in attendance passed the infamous Century?

Yes. Once in a lifetime there was. And this was it. I told you this was one for the record books!

That’s right; every single man and woman in attendance performed 100 proper reps—40 stellar squats, 30 perfect push-ups (or knee push-ups), 20 hanging knee raises and 10 powerful pull-ups (or Aussie pull-ups). Never before had this happened in nearly fifty certifications around the globe.

Will it ever happen again? I couldn’t say. But you can. That’s right—I hope to see you, dear reader, at a PCC down the road. We’ll see if lightning strikes twice.

Big congratulations to all the newly certified PCC Instructors. You’ve raised the bar for us all and I thank you.

The posse’s getting bigger!


Photography: Riley Christian


Danny Kavadlo is one of the world’s leading authorities on calisthenics, nutrition and personal training. He is the author of several best-selling Dragon Door titles including GET STRONG and STRENGTH RULES. Danny has been featured in the New York Times, Men’s Fitness, and the Huffington Post. He is a regular contributor to Bodybuilding .com and TRAIN magazine. When not working one-on-one with clients in his native New York City, Danny travels the world as a Master Instructor in Dragon Door’s internationally acclaimed Progressive Calisthenics Certification. Find out more about Danny at www.DannyTheTrainer.com

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Embrace the Journey – Lessons from the Pull Up Bar

by Carl Phillips on October 3, 2017

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Carl Phillips and Danny Kavadlo

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities,
but in the expert’s there are few.” –
Shunryu Suzuki

Too often in life we want to rush ahead. We want to be better, more informed, more polished. What we don’t always want to respect is the process required for getting to that point. Our strength and fitness training journeys are a case in point.

The truth is, earning our stripes and getting good at just about anything in life takes time. It takes energy and focus. It takes a lot of hard work. It isn’t always pretty but the work involved in getting better is absolutely necessary.

Practice, persistence and patience are often requirements for improving. Not as sexy as “8 Minute Abs” or “Deadlift 500 pounds with These 5 Secret Steps,” but we know from bitter experience that the snake oil pitches rarely work. Hacks and shortcuts aren’t usually the road to our goals we hope they’ll be.

Learning to Appreciate the Grind

A certain amount of grind—showing up and doing the work—is necessary in most endeavours. Sticking points are inevitable the further we move away from beginner status. The more we spend time and effort engaged in a particular task, the more chance of hitting the point of diminishing returns.

How do we retain our enthusiasm for our goals when we hit these points?

One potential answer is to learn to embrace the journey. We immerse ourselves in the process of just trying to get a tiny bit better. We focus on incremental increases. and throw away comparisons to others. We’re doing this for us so the only point of comparison should be to ourselves, when we started out. Acknowledging and appreciating how far we’ve already come.

Personal Examples – Tussles with the Pull Up Bar

A personal example may be in order.

I’m a practitioner and fan of calisthenics. I’ve included some form of bodyweight basics in all my workouts for over two decades. As I’ve grown older, more and more of my workouts have become bodyweight based. It has been a constant for me. I find this form of training endlessly fascinating. I love the raw simplicity. I find the type of strength it develops to be so much more impressive than just lifting ever more external weight. A perfect front lever or pistol squat is a beautiful thing to witness.

However, along the way I have often run into spells of frustration with a perceived lack of progress, or when I hit plateaus. This frustration gets me nowhere fast and just leads to me enjoying my exercise sessions much less. Even dreading them a little at times, looking for an excuse not to practice. Not ideal.

Enter the Kavadlos

Along this journey I’ve sought out the lessons learned from those ahead of me, who possess a larger degree of expertise. In the world of calisthenics, the Kavadlo surname kept on popping up on my radar. The tattooed brothers from New York not only walk the talk, but also write with a stripped back clarity that is rare in the fitness realm. I became an immediate fan.

In a world of fitness bombast and dogma, the Al and Danny’s message was that many ways can work. Yes, they presented ideas and frameworks for their readers from their own hard won success and experience, but they also encouraged us to find our own way. To experiment and find what works and fits best for us.

The brothers approach their work applying an almost Zen-like “Beginner’s Mind.” They know that although many of us seek them out as experts, they are also still students in strength themselves. Never afraid to challenge their own ideas. Never afraid to learn more.

This message resonated with me deeply. I read every book the brothers put out. I nodded along, laughed at the humour and appreciated the deep wisdom in some of the words. What I wasn’t always good at was putting what I read into practice. There was a gap in me applying some of the lessons I was learning when it came to working out. This was particularly true in the case of embracing the process for its own end, rather than being focused on an external goal (more pull ups, less fat etc).

I’m pleased to say this changed in a big way last year. A major catalyst for this change was that I actually got some in person time with Danny Kavadlo.

Carl Phillips and Danny Kavadlo

While both the brothers are incredible writers from my perspective, nothing can really compare to an in person experience. I sought out some of Danny’s time on a visit to New York. To be honest, I wasn’t really expecting to be able to get any time with him as I knew there was a Dragon Door PCC workshop in town during our stay. However, I got lucky and Danny was able to find some time for me to not only have a 1 to 1 work session, but also spend a little time talking about his approach to life. The talk turned into a series of posts elsewhere (here, here and here.)

Danny has a motivating presence. He is truly the larger than life character you hope he will be. He also just seems a great guy, both interesting and interested. He exudes an energy and confidence that is tough to fake. In short, he seems very much like the real deal.

The lessons from that sunny and hot day on the legendary Tompkins Square Park bars will stay with me forever. It is an experience I truly cherish. One of the biggest takeaways from the many I had that day was the fact that there really are no shortcuts. No tricks that will get me to double my pull ups overnight. No hacks I was missing out on. We have to embrace the grind at a certain point. It’s part and parcel of the journey. However, our achievements are also all the richer for this journey.

The time with Danny inspired me but it also made me re-evaluate. It made me take stock. It has led to a shift in how I approach my workouts. I have chosen to embrace the journey. See the plateaus as a necessary part of the journey. Understand that sometimes they’re my body’s way of telling me to back off a little and/or change something. I hope to be at this for my entire life, so really, what’s the rush?

The result of this renewed approach is I get frustrated much, much less. I enjoy my workouts a whole lot more, even approaching them with a practice mindset at times (trying to refine a skill) rather than beating myself into the ground. As importantly, this has led to improved performance in a few areas of focus. I’m no Olympic level gymnast but I’m okay with that and that’s never been the aim. As long as I am improving from where I started and have been, something is going right.

For me, getting some expert tuition and cues from someone far ahead of me in capability and experience has been a game changer. I would encourage anyone interested in strength and fitness to seek out the same in person experience. If you are a bodyweight enthusiast like me, you can do no better than getting some of Danny or Al’s time (or both at a PCC).

The Obstacles Will Always Be There

I try to let this approach, and the lessons I’ve learned from it, spill over into other aspects of my life. Embracing the journey for its own sake in whatever I am applying myself to. I don’t always achieve that goal and still get frustrated at times but I’m getting better. I’m more consistent.

The pull up bar will always be there. However good I get at getting myself up to it, someone else will be able to do more reps, with a cleaner technique and that’s okay. It’s inspiring. All I can do is be committed to make my reps the best they can be for that day. Clean up my own technique, try not to leak strength or waste effort. Drive for that perfect pull up. Know that I gave the bar my best today and commit to showing up again and again to do more of the same.

We can all decide to embrace and appreciate the journey. Doing so often proves so much more fruitful than fighting it. The journey is where we spend a part of ourselves. Where we work towards our goals, where we earn our own prizes.


Carl Phillips writes short books full of big ideas and is the proud owner of Frictionless Living which is focused on helping readers live simpler, finding focus and clarity in distracted times. He is also a calisthenics enthusiast.

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Bodyweight Badassery Meets the Sideshow at the Seashore

September 19, 2017

A few nights ago, as summer was coming to a close, my son and I went to the beach one last time this season. We sat on the sand and looked into the sky. Slowly, I closed my eyes and reflected on the rapidly dwindling summer days of 2017. Times come and times go. All […]

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Progressive Calisthenics Returns To Beijing

August 29, 2017

Last week, the Progressive Calisthenics Certification made its return to Beijing, China for the third time in just 18 months. Once again, I had the esteemed pleasure and honor of traveling to the Far East to lead a group of forty calisthenics enthusiasts through the school of Street Workout. And what a thrill it was! […]

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Take Hold Of The Flame

July 18, 2017

Recently I received an email from a friendly fitness follower. This is what he asked: “Hey, Danny, how do you stay so motivated?” Well thanks for asking! But the truth is: I don’t! That’s right. I don’t. There is a fire burning deep within me. It’s in you too! This fire makes me move, helps […]

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Ask Al: GET STRONG Edition

July 11, 2017

Since the release of our latest book, GET STRONG, my brother Danny and I have gotten a lot of feedback on our new program. It seems that you guys are loving the book! Even though the program takes 16 weeks to complete – and it’s barely been two months since the release – many of […]

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Let’s Get High! How To Do A Muscle-Up

June 13, 2017

One of the things I love most about Progressive Calisthenics is the fact that it is a multi-faceted discipline. You see, we human beings have a tendency to over-categorize and compartmentalize just about everything. Sadly, this can lead to an improper representation of concepts that can often be better expressed with blurred lines. In other […]

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Internal Martial Arts and Calisthenics

May 30, 2017

A long time ago, before I became a trainer (and after a long hiatus in my own fitness and martial art training), I decided to get back on the scene. I began training a martial art called Taijiquan, also known as Tai Chi. To be perfectly honest, I chose this after watching late night Kung […]

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PCC Goes Commando

May 23, 2017

I’d heard big things about the Commando Temple gym in London from Al and Danny after the previous Progressive Calisthenics Certification there, so I had high expectations going into last weekend’s event. This would be the third time the PCC was happening in Great Britain, but it was my first time visiting the legendary Commando […]

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Taking The GET STRONG Transformation Challenge

May 16, 2017

What mechanism acts as both the Great Protector of our health and well-being—while often acting as the Great Saboteur of our attempts at physical transformation? That mechanism would be Homeostasis: “The tendency of a system, especially the physiological system of higher animals, to maintain internal stability, owing to the coordinated response of its parts to any situation or stimulus that would tend to disturb its normal condition or function.” “A state of psychological equilibrium obtained when tension or a drive has been reduced or eliminated.” As the cliché goes, we […]

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