Thursday, April 23, 2015

Armor Building, Double Cleans, and Silat

Lately I’ve been incorporating a bit of “Armor Building” into my training. I first learned of the concept from strength coach extraordinaire Dan John:
I work with a lot of people in the collision sports and collision occupations. One of the hardest things to do while preparing for these endeavors is what I call 'Armor Building,' a term that one of my football players coined a few years ago.
Essentially, Armor Building is all about preparing the body—especially the trunk—for collisions with other things.

Me, being taken down Silat-style.
As a martial artist, I am mostly interested in colliding with other people. Recently, I’ve been working on my Silat skills. Silat is a Southeast Asian martial art found throughout Malaysia, Indonesia, and the southern Philippines. A few years ago, I helped my instructor, Burton Richardson, film a series of Silat instructional DVDs. While there are many different styles of Silat, Burton’s version is very much about colliding with your opponent. It isn’t a parry-and-hit-back art as much as it’s a crash-into-your-enemy-and-slam-him-to-the ground art.

(A vanity-related aside: I was nursing a nasty back injury when we filmed the Silat DVDs and hadn’t trained for months. I had flab around by midsection and my posture was all screwed up. I looked terrible. But that was then. To paraphrase a line from Night Court, "I'm much better now!" You can see some clips of the videos here.)

If I’m going to be crashing into people, I don’t want to hurt myself doing so. And that brings us back to Armor Building.

There are several different Armor Building exercises. One of my favorites has long been the Turkish Get-Up. Over the last month or so, I’ve started doing adding Double Kettlebell Cleans. It is an intense move. There’s just something jarring about two kettlebells slamming into your body that makes your eyes pop a bit. To quote Master RKC Andrew Read:
When a heavy bell hits you for the first time and almost knocks you off your feet you’ll understand why. The clean is a shrugged off tackle or takedown. It’s a blocked roundhouse to the body (and it’s rack position is almost exactly like your guard in stand up fighting).
Back in my 16kg k'bell days.
Andrew Read also wrote a very good article on the Double KB Clean that you can read here.

While Double KB Cleans obviously work the posterior chain, you can also really feel them in your core. It really does feel a little like getting punched in the gut.

So far, I’ve been using modified ladder/pyramid system for my Double Clean workouts: 2 reps, 3 reps, 5 reps, 10 reps, 5 reps, 3 reps, 2 reps. That’s a total of 30 reps. I use a pair of 20kg kettlebells. I warm-up with some Sun salutations and Turkish Get-Ups, and do a few rounds of single kettlebell work as a finisher. I conclude with yoga and sometimes some Jujitsu-based rolling and tumbling.

As of yet, I haven’t had a chance to test my Armor Building routine by crashing into someone. However, my core definitely feels stronger, as does my lower back. That’s enough for me!


  1. Cool Silat style. Is it Pukulan based? Seems very Pukulan/Kuntau.

  2. Very astute observation, Matt! Burton Richardson is ranked Guro in Penjak Silat under Pendekar Paul De Thouars, so much of his Silat is very Pukulan-oriented. It's good, very effective stuff.

  3. You might enjoy this short clip of Burton acknowledging and showing gratitude to his various Silat teachers:

  4. That is great he shows respect to his teachers and that you are always doing so as well! Respect!