thoughts on simple and sinister

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Harald Motz

Level 8 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
hello all,

this is my first post on this forum and i want to apologize for any mistakes in my use of the english language (and body english), because it has been a long time ago since i was taught it at school. I appreciate any form of critique and form critique to enhance my awareness, since i know there are so many knowledgeable people on this forum in the pursuit of strength.

I am 37 years old and an complete  autodidact in learning to perform strength movements. Thanks to the internet i started to get informed about five years ago in my serious journey to learn lifting weights and practice of zazen.

I was in sports early on as a child (soccer, table tennis, tae kwon do, figure dancing in a strange thing called karneval) at a low level, because i grew up and live to these days in a rural landscape called der westerwald (westwood) in germany. In my youth i started  jogging and bike riding a lot in my spare time, most of the time alone. To move was and is one of the few things (besides breathing, drinking, eating and getting rid of the s***) in my life that take no energy out of me to get involved in. this comes to me naturally.

Because of my simple mind and love for simplicity i tumbled in the net on Mr. Tsatsouline and his teachings. Power to the People. A real man explaining without the so often artificial smile while demonstrating the lifts (but a rough sense of humour) and the use of understandable words what he does and why he does it, and so should i. A usefull down to earth approach to become a better man or woman.

I learned about principles (the good thing about them is they are a few and are universal in other aspects of life. Its only ostensible a disatvantage that it takes a lifetime of almost daily "boring" practice to get skillfull, while they give human beings sound routines to evolve. And when getting the chance to get time of a lifetime you can finally get wise.):

importance of breath
its about full range movement(aesthetically pleasing execution), not isolation
tension (comes from the brain and the nerves) generates force and makes us strong
practice means to execute often with utmost concentration not to failure
humility to be a student and to be a teacher

While you have an idiot as a teacher when you are your own student, i missed programming (cycles) although explained intensivally in all of Pavel's work and got ETK, RTK, PTPP, NW, VWC, KBM and the whole armada published by dragondoor, but all in all not a bad investment as you all know. But i kept a log and learned a thing or two. and the strong crowd of strongfirst knows the third thing. What we all can get out of this forum is usefull proven experiences proven in reality. Nothing fancy.

I started simple and sinister on 02.01.2014 and have until now 151 sessions under my belt, i currently post on my YouTube channel. The more I practiced and reread the e-book, i experienced that in the simplicity of this program are so many aspects hidden i have to practice on and on, to reap great benefits. This is a real WOD in disguise, a  Workout Of a Decade. By now i find the greatest benefit and the hardest thing to master, is my breath.

To stay calm and focused and breath out  deeply through my nose after the second set of swings is for me like drowning in stormy water. The natural reflex is to hyperventilate to suck oxygen when you come "over water" and rest after a turmoil of full body (and mind) explosive swings. I know when i polish this skill of stress manegement i will become big time more the master of myself istrive to be. A kind of yin and yang relationship.

The other aspect of the protocol is laser light explosiveness of each and every rep. In the swing i came to the conclusion its not only what you do with your working but what you do with your free arm. when this movement is equally sharp and crisp on either side, helps the swinging a lot. Same goes to the get up where i strive for fluidity and try to make my "strong side like my stronger side".

To get really into this is to read and reread the book, the forum, film and watch yourself and others doing it (assessment). Needless to say to follow the program as written.

I personally plan to come back to this protocoll as a sort of bread and butter or meat and potatoe program in the next decade along practicing a few other basics. Additionally for me it is good to know that i don't have to go all out in the sessions to let the improvements of performance come naturally and injury free. My observed benefits are:

focus and discipline (how boring is that)
flexibility, mobility (don't ignore the warm up program and stretching)
body tension
calm mind (stress management)
skill of auto regulation

thanks to all of you reading this post, greetings from the westwood,







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Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Harald, thank you for sharing your writing on your training.  I especially like what you describe about practice, and also your observed benefits.  And your description of staying calm and focused in stormy water - very apt!

I'm curious, what do you mean by the "skill of auto regulation"?

Harald Motz

Level 8 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
Anna, by autoregulation i mean to shift awareness to internal aspects of a given training session.

By s&s we have a program and with te sinister goal very high standarts. I think a maybe natural urge in ambituous people is to get to this as fast as possible.

This works only so long and soon there will be a point you do not improve the external numbers, e.g. weights or rest periods.

When this happens, the probability of using bad form (injury) rises and the ability to recover deminishes. Then you are not in your zone within your abilities. Soon you will quit the program.

Pavels hint on breath control encourages you to get internal not to execute the most weight as fast as possible, but to recover as fast as possible to make the 100th swing as explosive as the first. That means to own the weight. That means to be recharged after a session.

To get to this is to shift your awareness not on the numbers of the rest periods in each and every session but on your breath, especially to make the out breath long and smooth, to resist the urge to suck wind.

It really helps to stand tall and errect (do not collapse foreward after a set), and to film yourself to assess yourself.

So my sessions shift more and more to the rest periods. The more i practice the less will power it takes to stay calm, to suck air. Years later (hence my definition of WOD) it will come naturally.

I have faith in the program (not to tailor it). I have faith that i make progress in each and every session even when the numbers come down. I have faith that i have faith.

Hope that helps.


Steve Freides

Staff member
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
Harald, your comprehensive, detailed description of your experiences with the S&S program would make great reading - may I humbly suggest you post something similar on or other places where S&S is available for purchase?  I think it would help others to read what you have to say on this subject.



Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Shifting awareness to internal aspects of a given training session... yes, I understand.  Like yoga.  Be the observer, use the breath as the door to being the observer of self, and to focus on the practice rather than the task... Very good.  Thanks, Harald!

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Thinking about applying this internal awareness... Today for my swings, I tried something new:  Eyes closed.  That instantly brought me up a level in terms of being able to self-monitor all the finer points of the movement.  This worked especially well as I'm using the 20kg currently, where I have been using the 24 for several months.  As many other have described, backing off on the weight really gives you a chance to master the technique.  Today, I truly owned the swing through all of my sets.

Harald Motz

Level 8 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
Thanks Anna and Steve for your feedback.

Anna, tried with closed eyes  in my session today, too. I got back from the 48k to the 40k. Some repetitions felt really awkward, sometimes a feeling like i am not completely grounded, or the bell is not really connected to my body.

And its a good idea to lower the weight sometimes. With the 48k my heels come of the floor frequently, which i think might be a flaw. Maybe these swings are a bit to squatty, or the weight is to heavy then.

These swings are really suckers, in my opinion.



Founder and Chairman
Harald, thank you for an insightful post!

"Workout of a Decade."  You have a way with words.

Michael Corrales

Level 3 Valued Member
Harald- GREAT 1st post...lots of good information you highlight to think about. Thanks for your thoughts.

S&S seems to me an "inch wide and miles deep."  There is so much meat there. Thanks also for highlighting the breathing.  I've not practiced straw breathing at all, but plan to.  I've done some rep-to-breath ratio workouts and want to do some more.  Last time I did it was this past week and it was VERY challenging with a 24kg.

Lately the 32kg has been popping crisply with swings, so I'll mark that up as progress from consistent effort.  It feels great to just slow down and work patiently to own a certain weight KB.

Have you worked much with shadow swings and non-stop swings?  That's a whole additional area of variation and learning.  Getting to 100 reps, 2 handed swings with various KB's is another whole trip into lactic acid tolerance for sure :]  Last time I did shadow swings with ~30% of my body weight, I felt it for a couple days after...


Level 4 Valued Member
Harald -- congrats on your bad English but outstanding body English!  Using a 40 or 48 kg bell is excellent!  I'm also an autoregulator and simply cannot follow any program as written.

Harald Motz

Level 8 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
Yes Michael, the practice of straw breathing makes you calm down. Really helpfull.

I used shadow swings about 10% to 15% of my sessions. With the non-stop swinging there were only two session. Great idea to work more on that. An inch wide and a mile deep, that's what the program really is. There are so many things to work and put awareness on, and you learn more and more about yourself the more you practice.

What i like about the teachings of Strongfirst is the emphasis on practice, and what practice is. This attitude fits to my practice of zazen. in Soto Zen history Master Dogen and Sawaki made the point that zazen is enlightment (whatever people might think what it is), shikantaza. That means just sitting. Just sitting is to sit with straight back, chin pulled back, shoulders down, tongue on your palate, tip of the thumbs touching each other, breath in and breath out naturally, not clinging to any thoughts that constantly arise. Nothing fancy in heavens, but grounded down to earth.

So zazen is as much of the body as it is of the mind. Posture and attitude much like Stronfirst.


Harald Motz

Level 8 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
A short story i want to share that fits the practice of simple and sinister nicely.

The secret of the swordway

A young man came once to a great master of the swordway, to become his disciple. The master accepted him: “From now on” he said “You will be chopping wood in the forest and scooping water out of the river every day and bring it to the house. ”

The young man did that for three years, then he spoke to his master: “I came to learn the way of the sword, but until this day I did not even enter your dojo.”

“Good” said the master, “And from  now on come in and walk cautiously along the edge of the tatami without looking at it stepping away from it, after chopping wood and bringing water.”

The disciple did the tasks for another year when he got very furious.

“I leave you now. I learned nothing of that I came to search for.”

“Well” replied the master “Today I will give the highest instruction. Come with me.”

The swordsman led him to the mountains. Soon they came to an abyss. A simple log connected the edges over the deep emptiness.

“Now go over there!” said the master to his student. Looking into the void the young man stood paralyzed full of fear.

Suddenly a blind man came along and without hesitating fumbling with his stick along the log going calmly to other side.

All of a sudden the young man became deeply enlightened and lost all his fear of death. He hurried over the log and was soon on the other side.

His master called to him: “You mastered the secret of the sword: leaving the ego behind not fearing death. While chopping wood and scooping water every day you got strong muscles and tendons. While walking attentively along the edge of the tatami you reached precision and subtleness of movement. And now you have comprehended the way of the sword. Go on, you will be the strongest everywhere.”

Taken out Za-Zen the practice of Zen by Taisen Deshimaru

greetings from the woods.
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