Last weekend I had the honor and privilege to assist at the Boston StrongFirst Level I Kettlebell Instructor Certification in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts. For those of you who are not familiar with what StrongFirst is, it is Phase II of Pavel Tsatsouline’s Russian Hardstyle Kettlebell Training and Strength movement here in the United States. The RKC by Pavel was Phase I. As Master SFG Phil Scarito stated it best during his “What is StrongFirst” lecture at SFG Boston, “StrongFirst is not a group, StrongFirst is a force.”
Four days prior to assisting at the Boston SFG, the Boston Marathon bombings occurred and during the first day of the certification the entire City of Boston and many of its surrounding suburbs were on lockdown as Federal and local law enforcement sought out the second bombing suspect. Fortunately, since the Boston SFG Certification was held in Tyngsboro, about 40 miles northwest of Boston, the certification was able to proceed as planned. However, the knowledge that law enforcement was simultaneously conducting a manhunt in Boston loomed in the back of our minds as we put it on the back burner to focus on the certification.
The Boston SFG was both significant and historical for many reasons – Not only was it the second ever SFG class to graduate with their SFG Level I Kettlebell Instructor Certifications, in addition to well deserved promotions for many SFG Leadership, AND the first time that an event like this was ever held in Boston, Massachusetts; but also this event, and this “Force” helped to solidify strength and unity in Boston, my native hometown, during a very trying time for the City of Boston.
As a Massachusetts native, to say that the bombings were unsettling is an understatement. I grew up in Newton, Massachusetts, one of the suburbs that was on lockdown last Friday April 19, 2013 while law enforcement hunted down the second bombing suspect. I used to live on Berwick Road in Newton, less than a mile from where the marathon runners run through Newton up Commonwealth Avenue towards Boston. As a child and a teenager, Marathon Monday, Patriots Day or whatever you want to call it, was a day of celebration, a day for families to get together and enjoy the unity of our city and to welcome people from out of town to come and celebrate our tradition of the Boston Marathon. Not a day of tragedy, terrorism and horror. These memories and associations of this day from my childhood and what it means to me as a Massachusetts native, combined with the fact that many of my clients and friends were at the finish line on the day of the Marathon; in addition to the fact that my sister is a nurse at Mass General Hospital, one of the hospitals that many of those injured in the bombing were sent to and she was working that day, caused these horrific events to really home for me and hit hard. I realize that here in the United States we are fortunate that random bombings and acts of terror are not the norm unlike in some other foreign countries. However, that’s what makes our country special and it would be nice if incidents like these remained an anomaly rather than the norm.
Many SFG Instructors and SFG Candidates were affected in some way by the Boston Marathon bombings and subsequent manhunt; however despite these events, all arrived at the certification ready to honor the commitment they had made many months ago; to either coach candidates through passing their certification, or to participate in obtaining their certification. SFG Instructors were truly focused on the importance of helping to deliver to candidates the best possible training event the candidates could receive. These candidates spent many months preparing for this mentally and physically challenging test and as instructors, we were there to show them what is StrongFirst.
The theme on Friday April 19, 2013, the first day of the certification, as the manhunt ensued was truly, “Keep calm and carry on.” This was not out of disrespect for those injured or killed in the attacks, as these events were in the back of our minds. But rather to press forward with our commitments and not to let these acts of terrorism paralyze us from continuing on. I believe that this theme and this perseverance helped those who were directly affected by the events, as I know of a few candidates present at the certification who were, to remember that there is good, there is strength, there is unity in this world… That “StrongFirst is a Force” that will help you to bring positivity to the tragic events of the past week and to help you to have strength to move forward. As confirmed by one candidate who was personally affected by the events expressed to me, it was refreshing to be able to breakaway from the tragic reality of the events of the Marathon and the manhunt and to focus on a positive, constructive and unrelated task.
The people of Massachusetts are an unusual breed of strength of mind, body and character. Or as Stephen Colbert said it best during his show opener on April 16, 2013, “For Pete’s sake, Boston was founded by Pilgrims – a people so tough, they had to buckle their Goddamn hats on!”
The people who choose to seek their StrongFirst SFG Level I Kettlebell Instructor Certification are of a similar breed of strength in mind, body and character. They choose to be strong, have the will to work for it and perseverance to bring out the elite in themselves – “Because Strength is a choice, it is an attitude. It is a belief in one’s power to move things in the direction one desires. By sheer force of will and imagination. And toughness.” ~ Master SFG Mark Reifkind. Therefore, the timing of the Boston StrongFirst Level I Kettlebell Instructor Certification, even though on some level unfortunate, actually could not have come at a better time as it redefined Boston Strong and truly demonstrated how strength has a greater purpose.
StrongFirst is a Force – a force of unity, a force of strength, a force of always striving to learn and do better and to BE better – Boston Strong, Boston Proud, We Are StrongFirst!