I Failed the Century… and What I Learned as a Result

by Marcus Santer on February 11, 2014

Al and Danny Kavadlo in NYC

“Nothing happens without hard work, time and discipline.”
Al Kavadlo

I know, it’s a real cliche. But like most cliches, it contains an element of truth—I hit 40, looked at myself and my life and thought, “Is this it? Is this all I’ve done?”  And because I couldn’t afford to buy a Porsche, I decided to do the other cliched thing men frequently do when they hit 40, I decided to get into the best shape of my life.  Not that I was in bad shape to start with, but I definitely had that ‘Skinny Fat’ thing going on.

I’d spent the last 10 years focusing solely on Qigong (think Chinese Yoga if you’ve never heard of Qigong) to take care of all my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs. But looking in the mirror at my 6 month pregnant belly, I had to accept that as good as Qigong had been for helping me say goodbye to depression and thrive in spite of the stresses and strains of modern 21st century living, when it came to keeping me physically strong and looking good, it simply wasn’t delivering the goods.

Something had to change.

Now there’s something you should know about me before we go any further.  When it comes to research I’m a bit OCD, because when I commit to something I go all in. But I won’t commit to anything until I’ve really done my homework. Know what I mean?

This formula has helped me to succeed in most things I do:

1) Work out what I want to achieve.
2) Find a Method that has a proven track record for delivering what I want to achieve.
3) Find a good teacher that teaches that Method
4) Work my arse off: Persistence, discipline, tracking progress.

Using this formula I discovered:

1) I wanted to get into the best shape of my life.
2) When it came to physical exercise, calisthenics was my preferred method because it could help me grow strong and I didn’t have to waste $1,000s on equipment, memberships and so on.
3) The best source I could access was something with the odd title: Convict Conditioning.
4) I was ready to invest the required hard work, time and discipline.

The 3 things I loved about Convict Conditioning which made it stand head and shoulders above any other information I could find back in 2011 were:

Paul ‘Coach’ Wade is direct with a no bullshit approach to getting strong.
The progressive, step by step nature of his system.
A focus on ‘The Big 6′.

I dived in and here are the results: I’m stronger now at age 42 than I was when I was 22.  I look and feel better too.  And it’s all thanks to ‘Coach’ Wade and the brilliant Convict Conditioning.

Why I Took the PCC in Sweden

“Welcome to the most advanced, evolved, engineered piece of fitness equipment in existence… Your own body!”
Danny Kavadlo

I’m always keen to offer the best to my own students, it’s important I’m doing everything I can to help them live a happier, healthier and longer life. And based on my own experience with Convict Conditioning I soon began encouraging them to pick up a copy and get practicing too.

But the majority of my students are as far away from the ‘ideal’ customer the Convict Conditioning sales page is targeted at as you can get. And unfortunately most were unable to get the benefits simply because they couldn’t get past the marketing.  So I began looking for a way to teach my Qigong students calisthenics but in a way they would find accessible.

Marcus Santer with the awesomely talented Kavadlo Brothers--two of the instructors from the epic Sweden PCC

Marcus Santer with the awesomely talented Kavadlo brothers at the epic Sweden PCC

Something else you should know about me—it’s important to me that I’m suitably qualified to safely teach somebody something before I start. But trying to find a suitable calisthenics based instructor training course was proving to be a bit of a non-starter.

I saw that Dragon Door started teaching PCC courses in the USA, but I couldn’t quite stretch to traveling to the USA from the UK for a 3 day course.  So you can imagine my delight when I saw there was going to be a PCC workshop put on in Sweden. I didn’t hesitate for a second. I signed up straight away and began working on:

‘The Century’.

The Century really bothered me because it’s the gateway between you and the right to call yourself a PCC instructor.

I knew I could do 40 body weight squats
I knew I could do 30 push ups
I knew I could do 20 hanging knee raises

But the 10 pull ups, hmm. Now I was worried.

On a really good day with a following breeze I could just about crank out 11. So how the hell was I going to crank out 10 after doing the 3 other exercises in The Century and under 8 minutes?  But before heading off to Sweden, I’d managed to do The Century twice and I was optimistic I’d be able to pull it off on the day.

Boy, how wrong was I!

After two and half days of awesome, mind blowing calisthenics tuition from Al, Danny and Adrienne I was exhausted.  So when it came time for The Century test, here’s what happened:

  • Squats – Pass
  • Push ups – Pass
  • Hanging knee raises – Pass
  • Pull ups – I got to 6 and I knew I was in trouble.

Hanging from the bar trying to get my 7th pull up was an experience I won’t forget in a hurry. Agonizing inch by agonizing inch I finally strained my chin over the pull up bar.  “7!″ my examiner, Adrienne shouted.

I could hear the other PCC students urging me on.  In spite of wanting to let go of the bar, the iron determination I’d forgotten I had simply refused to let go. I took a deep breath and pulled the bar…  Slowly I ascended, millimeter by millimeter as the support of the group gave me strength I didn’t have.   Ah, but this was no Rocky movie—I got 1/2 way and my arms simply stopped pulling.

It felt as if someone was setting fire to my muscles, and I had zero left in the bank—but still I wouldn’t let go!

I heard someone behind me shout, “Change your grip!”  At the time, I had an overhand grip on the bar, the ‘pull up’ position. The underhand, ‘chin up’ grip can, for some people, make life a little easier.  And somehow I managed to change my grip and gave it another go.


I hung there for what felt like an age and then it was ‘game over’ as my feet landed back on the floor with a heavy thud.

I’d failed The Century.

What Happened Next?

“There’s a lot of failure on the road to success and that’s good.”
Danny Kavadlo

After 3 days of full on calisthenics awesomeness (I did my first non-handed head stand and some other cool stuff) I simply didn’t have enough juice left in the tank.  And hey, what use is a test if everyone passes? It’d be a pretty poor test right? Because then the only requirement for success would be being able to afford the cost of the workshop. You’d literally be buying your qualification not earning it. And that doesn’t work for me.

Luckily the generous people at Dragon Door give you 90 days to submit video evidence of you completing The Century.  So the first thing I did was grab myself an accountability partner.  Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned about getting something done it’s this—having someone to hold me accountable increases the likelihood of me getting the job done. It’s amazing what I can do if I know I’ve made a promise to someone else I’m going to do it.

The second thing I did was grab Danny and ask him how I should practice to nail The Century. His advice was to practice The Century.

So twice a week for the following 4 weeks I did that.  And twice a week for the following 4 weeks I failed.  Again and again and again.  And then on 8th December, much to my amazement I finally did it.  The video’s here if you want to watch it.

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned on the road to passing The Century is that failure really is just a stepping stone to success, that you can only really fail something when you give up.

Summing Up

Group photo from the legendary PCC Sweden Workshop

Group photo from the legendary PCC Sweden Workshop

I was a little nervous about traveling from the UK to Sweden on my own to attend a 3 day calisthenics workshop. Would I make a fool of myself? Would I be too old? That kinda crap.  But I was delighted to discover all my concerns were unfounded. A friendlier group of dedicated and friendly students you couldn’t wish to find.  And as for the instructors, well, awesome isn’t a big enough word to do them justice.

So, if you’re on the fence about attending a PCC workshop. Based on my experience I’d tell you to book your spot ASAP and take advantage of the generous early bird discounts Dragon Door offers.

Thanks for reading and I hope you’ve found something of value in this article.

Kindest regards,

Marcus Santer helps people to live happier, healthier and longer lives through the practice of Qigong. He is the founder and chief instructor over at Qigong15. The author of 4 books covering all aspects of Qigong his mission is to make Qigong as popular as Yoga, Tai Chi and meditation, because he believes Qigong is quicker to learn, less physically demanding and gives greater benefits than Yoga, Tai Chi and meditation all put together.  You can find over 500 posts showing you how to live a happier, healthier and longer life through Qigong on his blog, Qigong15.com

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