Vibrancy, Athletic Skill and Diversity: The Hallmarks of Dragon Door’s PCC Candidate

by John Du Cane, CEO and founder, Dragon Door on September 3, 2013

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Al Kavaldo, Danny Kavadlo, Adrienne Harvey and I were remarking appreciatively to each other about the extraordinary athleticism and the great diversity of the candidates at our second PCC workshop (and the first PCC, for that matter).

The athletic skill level was often off the charts. And yet even the most skillful of the candidates found themselves busting out PRs and discovering new challenges to inspire them forward in their ongoing quest for physical development.

Korean dip

In what other workshop of 21 participants would you encounter this number of Personal Records?:

First Clutch Flag—13

First Full Human Flag—5

First Muscle Up—4

First Full Back Bridge—5

First Back Lever—8

First Elbow Lever—7

First 1-Arm Elbow Lever—1

First 1-Arm Push Up—3

First 1-Arm, 1-Leg Push Up—3

First Freestanding Handstand—2

First Stand-to-Stand Bridge—1

First Wall-Assisted 1-Arm Handstand—3

First Wall-Assisted, No-Arm Headstand—9

First clutch flag attempt

How can this be?

Well, to my mind, this is how:

  • The candidates came VERY prepared.
  • The candidates often had extensive backgrounds in related disciplines like Martial Arts, Yoga, and RKC.
  • The PCC system of careful progressions and cueing allowed surprising breakthroughs in physical achievement, almost as a matter of course.
  • The candidates themselves were encouraged to share their own strength-skill secrets with the group—and often advance each other’s progress exponentially.
  • The teachers taught from an immense experiential knowledge base—allowing them to convey the absolute nitty-gritty of what works to get results.
  • The fun, easy, supportive team-feeling of the event enhanced the learning experience immeasurably.
  • The 600-page-plus manual contained a goldmine of extra tips to leapfrog your athletic progress—It’s the best work of its kind ever put in print, no question.

First Muscle-up

So, you might be asking yourself—“Do I belong in the PCC?”

You belong, in my opinion, if you possess any of the following:

  • A burning passion to excel athletically.
  • A willingness to work hard AND skillfully at your physical practice.
  • The capacity to enjoy the company of other like-minded bodyweight exercise enthusiasts for three fun-filled days.
  • The humility and wisdom of a Beginner’s Mind and the willingness to drop your ego at the front door.
  • The physical preparedness to pass The Century test.


Yes, many of the PCC candidates exhibit eye-popping strength and flexibility skills. Terrific. However the PCC is built to sustain YOUR individual quest for physical development—at whatever level you enter. It’s your body and your life—and the PCC is here to help you make it the BEST body and the BEST life…for YOU.

Interested? We look forward to welcoming you into what we consider the most vibrant new movement of physical culture on the planet. See you soon, we hope… 🙂

Yours in strength,


John Du Cane, CEO

Dragon Door Publications, Inc.

First Back Lever

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  • The feedback I’ve had about the participants has been mind boggling, John…maybe the most impressive thing to me is that many of those who excelled haven’t been training in bodyweight strength all that long. It’s amazing what just a few months of tough, kick-ass training can do. Calisthenics can perform miracles.

    Take that as an open challenge, folks. I want to see MORE of you reading this fulfill your potential and get your PCC shields.

    I will help you if you need me to. I never turn anyone away.

    • It’s difficult to sum up in words exactly how cool this whole program is — but seeing it in action is out of this world!

    • Jim

      Hey there Paul, I’m a big fan of your work and of the PCC. I used to be very into weight lifting but as I have gotten older(and creakier) I have explored body weight movements and kettlebell work more. I have noticed that I feel much better after doing so. I would really love to attend a PCC but I’m a regular guy who cant really afford the ticket price. Although I really believe that it is a gold mine of information that would help me in my Pursuit of health and fitness. I hope some day there is a more accessible workshop for the regular folks who aren’t trainers out there. In any event keep up the good work! And if I can I hope to attend a PCC.
      Best regards,

      • Thanks for the kind words, Jim! I’m real glad your training is going good, my man.

        Yep, the PCC is one amazing, powerful, transformative course! And it would be incredible to have you attend some day.

        But everyone reading this must remember that ya don’t NEED any workshop or cert to make great gains using bodyweight strength techniques, like the ones in CC or Al Kavadlo’s wonderful manuals. Hell, you can train at home for that!

        You don’t even NEED to attend a PCC to be part of the this community…you already are, good buddy.

      • Jimmy! Great to hear from ya, and thanks for the nice comments. I’m real glad your training is going good, man.

        You are right–the PCC is a goldmine, a truly transformative event. But never forget, you don’t NEED to attend to keep making great gains from bodyweight strength movements, like the ones in CC or in Al Kavadlo’s wonderful books. You can train at home, alone and still achieve wonderful things. That’s where the bulk of the change happens.

        That said, it would be incredible to get you to a PCC someday, Jim. Welcome to the community!

    • disqus_So8nqeA48f

      I’m following CC, but with two exceptions; I do both pullups and leg raises hanging from doubled over towels. My aim is to do them with one hand only (at present I do the leg raises with two towels gripped at uneven heights – about a foot difference -and the pullups I do on one large doubled over towel with one hand gripping two feet below the other). Is this something you have tried or is it, in your opinion, for some reason not a wise approach? The point of both modifications is to make the exercises harder for the grip.
      You might be pleased to know that less than a year after starting with CC and “Veterano”, and coming into it with an essentially average 30+ body, I can now do sets of 10+ one-leg squats, stand-to-stand bridges to the second last step in a stair, 5+ handstand pushups, I’m approaching the master step in pushups, and I do 5+ sets in the leg raises and pullups variations mentioned above. Everything hypnotically slow and controlled. Further, my back and knees feel better than ever, and I keep beating my personal bests in all movements, week after week. It took me a while before I was comfortable with training as “little” as you suggest in CC, but now I’ve learned to love the intensity! Thanks!

      • Hey there C, sounds like you got the right idea, my man! I have no problem at all with towel grip work, in fact I included a ton of it in CC2. (Far better for the knuckles and finger joints than modern grippers.) And, of course, the towels really work the thumb muscles, which regular bar work just can’t reach. Follow your plan and you’ll have hands of steel in no time, bud.

        I’m real glad your training is going so well! You’re killing it, buddy! But remember to add variety and freedom as time goes by. New things keep things fresh, C.

        Great to talk to ya and please stick around the PCC community.

        • dalmimmel

          Do you mean variety in programming or in techniques? In CC, you wrote that the big 6 were essentially everything you needed, ever. On the other hand, PCC has more variety. Obviously, variety makes training (potentially) more fun in the long run, but I’m reluctant to change my strict CC setup. The reason is that I’ve made, and am still making every week, progress beyond what I thought was possible. Why should I then change? I’m afraid that diversifying into more techniques will slow down my pace of improvement. Do you think that I will eventually have to abandon my present setup and add variety to keep improving because of physical reasons, or because of motivational ones? The way I see things now, I can’t see myself changing training approach as long as I’m consistantly becoming stronger, and I kind of want to see where my present path ends. But I don’t want to do something apparantly suboptimal either…

          • All great questions. I would advise all bodyweight strength athletes to use the Big Six as a standard throughout their training careers; you should work with them frequently, return to them often, and use the ten steps as a guideline to see whether or not you are progressing.

            It really does my heart good to know that you are working hard on the old school prison-style programs, and making consistent progress. Sounds like you got it licked! If you are progressing, enjoying your training and your joints are cool, then NO–there is no need to change. Why would you?! Keep on doing it, buddy!

            But…the mind craves variety, C. In six months, maybe a year, you will start to get bored. You will begin getting itchy for something new. When that hapens, I’d rather see you explore new exercises and approaches for a few months, as opposed to quitting. You will learn new stuff, have fun, and you can always return to CC refreshed, right? All athletes explore new workouts from time to time, but that DOESN’T mean you are quitting CC…just taking a holiday.

            Does that make sense, dude?

          • dalmimmel

            Absolutely! Thanks, Coach 🙂

  • xkbirdx

    I just want to thank you, among other things, for the 5 bullet points in this article about whether or not you belong at PCC. I am working to be able to be ready for April, but I think in my head I sometimes get the idea I have to be able to do a no-handed levitating muscle up first :/. (Yes, I know, comparing myself to other’s and their accomplishments is never a good thing, that’s ego). I can do this! Great article.

    • Danny Kavadlo

      Karen we would love to see you there! Train hard and smart. The Century is deceptively tough!

  • Leo

    Dear Paul Wade,

    I´m doing Convict Conditioning and at step 2 for push ups and pull ups, step 1 squats.

    I´ve got pain in my hip flexors when doing the leg raises series.

    I´ve hit the progression standard for knee tucks with perfect form, but with pain.

    Is there anything I can do to get rid of this?

    Should I continue with the leg raises or stop it for a while?

    I tried the Trifecta, but my wrists are not ready yet to support my weight during bridges and above all not during L-Holds. But the twists work very well (I´m at step 4 and it dropped my shoulder pain completely!). When am I ready to begin working on these without wrist pain?

    Another question is about structural balance.

    Is CC really balanced (one pull, two pushes).

    You mentioned that one can become very strong at pull ups and no other pull is needed.

    But I want to include dips and finally muscle ups as a centerpiece in my workouts later in my career. And what about Australian Pull ups, should I keep them in my program?

    I found a post from Robby Taylor at Al Kavadlo´s Forum where he listed the antagonistic version of every exercise:

    Level 1 – Australian pull up and basic push up

    Level 2 – pull up and dip

    Level 3 – muscle up and handstand push up

    Level 3a* – one arm chin up and one arm push up

    Level 4 – front lever (row) and planche (push up)

    So what about this?
    Do I need to focus on the fewest, most basic exercises I can to build strenght and muscle? Which exercises would be that, if I also want to learn how to do sentry pull ups?
    Is there a way to include all of them into a solid routine?

    Is it better to dynamic or static bridges, and do I have to wait until step 6 of squats and leg raises to begin any of them probably?
    Should I include some of the Inversions from Pushing the limits if I want to learn the wall hspu (like tripod, forearm stand etc.)?
    Also, is the full handstand push up good for the rotator cuffs (between chairs), because you advised to do them until your skull or chin touches the ground?
    By the way, is skull or chin better?
    Is there a way to do levers (especially the back lever) with soft elbows?
    Which steps do I need as a prerequisite to begin working on the clutch flag?
    I´m fifteen years old and wanna build a solid base in calisthenics with the most worthwhile exercises possible, but still want to learn the levers and muscle up.
    Greetings from Germany

    • Leo, good to hear from you again my man! as to your questions:

      -If leg raises–or anything–cause you pain while you’re doing em, stop doing em! Find something else. There are variants in CC.

      -Until your wrists are ready for bridges, you can get gains by working on short bridges.

      -Is CC balanced? Hell yes! If you want to add extra horizontal pulls, you can do so–or explore front levers, when the time comes. All these progressions are in the PCC manual. Same for the dips. They can all be done progressively. Matt “Fit Rebel” Schifferle featured dips heavily in his awesome Red Delta Project.

      -Robby Taylor looks like a smart man!

      -If you really want to progress quick, keep your training abbreviated–a lot of effort poured into a handful of exercises works much better than effort spread over lotsa techniques. If you want different programs, there are more in the Super FAQ, available for free, near the top of this page.

      -I prefer dynamic bridges, but PCC includes progressions for static bridges. Why not do both? Building up a great strength base in the legs and back–via squats–is a good idea, though.

      -I loved the inversions in Pushing the Limits and you should DEFINITELY explore them if you are interested in hand-balancing!

      -Chin is harder than skull–as to the rotator cuff, you need to experiment. I prefer skull then moving to asymmetrical hand positions, but hey–different strokes, huh?

      -You can perform levers with soft elbows–but the gymnasts among us won’t approve, coz bent elbows make the hold easier!

      -If you are fifteen, and not obese or injured, you should begin exploring the clutch flag progressions in CC2 straight away. Al Kavadlo has an epic article/tutorial on the clutch flag that I would recommend to anyone:

      All great goals kid. I got faith in ya! Now stop reading this crap and go do some pullups!

  • Hi Coach

    Firstly I wanted to thank you for releasing Convict Conditioning. I used to be a skinny injury-proned runner with no strength, whenever I tried doing weights I would either get injured or get bored.

    This all changed when I bought Convict Conditioning a year and a half ago, I’m still fairly thin but have put on nearly 10kg since then, my running has gone from strength to strength with a massive reduction in my number of injuries and am making very good progress with the calisthenics. More importantly though I’ve found a hobby for life which I’m extremely passionate about and is why I’m attending the Melbourne PCC in February.

    At my work I take a couple of calisthenics bootcamps, it’s unpaid as I do it for fun and enjoy seeing the progress of the guys I train with as well as myself. I have a quick question that maybe you’d be able to help me with though. One of the girls in my bootcamp gets lower back pain when doing lying leg raises, but she can’t tell if it’s good pain or bad pain, she doesn’t feel any problems afterwards. I’m thinking I should drop her back down to level one of this and maybe get her working on short bridges to strengthen her lower back. Any thoughts?

    Best wishes

    • Dave, you put on 22lbs of beef on CC?! You ANIMAL! Great going, my man, I’m proud of ya!

      …and soon you’ll be a PCC. Could you get any more awesome?

      Your answer to your own question (the bridges) is interesting, because some people get sore backs during leg raises because their backs are weak, or unbalanced…the spine is used as an “anchor” during these exercises, and the muscles pull hard on that old spine. It may just be that the girl’s lower back is little stiff. Pulling on stiff muscles hurts. Some bridges and a little stretching (forward bends) before the leg raises might clear things up.

      For what it’s worth, I believe that EVERYONE doing hard leg raises should be doing bridges anyway, to prevent imbalances. Get ALL your students doing short bridges! I’m glad you’re going to the PCC; the manual contains dozens of potential bridge progressions and Al and Danny know this area well. You won’t regret it, kid!

      • Thanks Coach, although to put it into perspective I was only 60kg before I started CC at 175cm that’s pretty underweight but yeah I couldn’t be happier with the results so far. The weight is only aesthetics though and what’s more pleasing is the progress I’m making with the exercises.

        Yeah I thought that a weak back might be the case though I didn’t think of it being tight, will get her doing some short bridges and stretching then and my other students too.

  • Kim

    Do a certification class in Arizona! Please!!

  • MrBoudahas

    Coach, i want to thank you very much for your teachings, i have a question. I have a very low progression with the Horizontal pulls exercise, i can do 1 set of 20 and one set of 15 with 1 second pause when my chest reach the edge. Is it normal to progress so slowly ?
    i m doing these exercice for one year 2 session a week.
    I apologies if my english is bad thank you very much Mister Wade and god bless you !

    • Your English is probably better than mine, brother! I get asked a whole lot about horizontal pulls–one of the ultimate upper-back exercises. I answered questions about progression on this exercise in my little book The Super FAQ )starting page 20). Trust me, that will answer your question better than I could in a short space here, and I really want you to succeed, so please read it. You can access the Super FAQ at the top right of this web page.

      Keep training hard, buddy–never quit on me! God bless you too my man.

      • MrBoudahas

        Thank you for this document coach.

  • Carter Doud

    Paul Wade, I’d like to thank you for producing amazing books and systems for calisthenics. My experience with working out started when I was an short and skinny teen in high school. I became very good with chin ups and went from 5 to 25 in 4 months. A year after I had started I had progressed to doing one arm chin ups. Shortly after this I discovered your book and learned how to train the rest of my body and make rapid progress like I did with chin ups. The only area which I am having trouble with is bridges, I can do a bridge hold but I can’t seem to get my elbows very straight. I am able to do neck bridges just fine, however I appear to lack the shoulder flexibility to do a bridge hold with my arms locked out. If you have any other tips to help with improving my bridge, I’d be interested in hearing them.

    • Hey there, Carter–lookin good, my man! And from the sound of it, you are kicking the ass outta your training. Well done, kid! As for the bridges–everyone has weak points.Hell, even me. If your rotator cuffs are stiff, if can be hard getting the arm position of the bridge right, under the force of the body’s weight. A great secret tip is to finish your bridging workout be bridging against the wall–fairly high up. Without the body’s weight hindering you, you will find it much easier to straighten you arms. Build up your time/reps with this more perfect arm position, and over time you will find that it improves your regular, on-the-floor bridges.

      Hope this helps dude, and remember–most tough guys can’t even do a half-assed bridge, so you are already beating them, right?

    • Hey there, Carter–lookin good, my man! And from the sound of it, you are kicking the ass outta your training. Well done, kid! As for the bridges–everyone has weak points.Hell, even me. If your rotator cuffs are stiff, if can be hard getting the arm position of the bridge right, under theforce of the body’s weight. A great secret tip is to finish your bridgingw orkout be bridging against the wall–fairly high up. Without the body’s weight hindering you, you will find it much easier to straighten you arms. Build up your time/reps with this more perfect arm position, and over time you will find that it improves your regular, on-the-floor bridges.

      Hope this helps dude, and remember–most tough guys can’t even do a half-assed bridge, so you are already beating them, right?

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