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Ronin was the term used to define a master less samurai. In times gone by that was a sign of great shame and likely these men were mercenaries. However, the world has changed greatly and these days it is unusual for anyone to stick with a single employer for their entire working lives. And in a job like personal training and with the advent of so much readily available information on the internet it would only be the dogmatic who followed a single information source blindly at the expense of all others.

A few months ago I wrote this piece on Breaking Muscle. People are hell bent on forming groups, cliques and tribes that help them feel better about themselves. They take pride in “owning” certain exercises or modalities of training, as if anyone can own a swing or a push up. They seem to think that if they just stand really close to someone they admire that somehow that person’s intelligence will rub off on them. But that’s not how mirrors work. These people, the sycophants and the suck ups, the best they can ever hope to be is a reflection. And images in a mirror have no substance, no depth. Just like the thousands who have tried to mimic Bruce Lee since his death. Sure, many can move like him, talk like him and maybe even look like him, but how many can actually replace him? None.

Over the last twelve months I’ve spent a lot of time watching the fitness industry, and in particular the little corner that I occupy. It’s actually really easy from Australia to do this these days thanks to Facebook, forums and all the other ways we can stay connected to these little cults and tribes. While it’s easy to stay connected it’s also incredibly easy to be objective, because we are, after all, separated by a vast distance. So when you see someone acting like a dumb ass you recognise that they really are acting like a dumb ass because despite being “friends’ with them on Facebook it’s hard to call someone you met briefly at an event two years ago a genuine friend.

That got me thinking that there’s probably a reason Australian sports science is a world leader and why we win so many medals in international competition – we’re objective. Being so isolated means we’re forced to figure things out on our own, to look in a direction that maybe those close to the source would be too shy to try. Aussie coaches are littered throughout the world now and often the best way to tell is to look for which countries are having break out performances at an Olympics. Chances are you’ll find one of our coaches there.

Back a few years ago it would have been unheard of, a complete act of sporting treason, for a coach to go work for a rival country. But these days it is commonplace. These ronin, formerly working for Australia are now plying their services to the highest bidder. A mercenary strength coach, winning medals for their new boss. Along the way they’ll be learning, taking what works and what doesn’t from those they meet and work with. And because they’re free to take what works and what doesn’t they’ll end up far better off then those who dogmatically adhere to one train of thought. Much like Bruce Lee they take what works and discard what doesn’t. Jeet Kune Do for athletes. And like Jeet Kune Do these results produce hybrid athletes who trample their opposition.With a straight blast training approach that delivers results the dogmatic can only dream of.

The fitness world is a funny one and trainers often mistake their own role in it. I’m sick to death of personal trainers claiming they’re strength coaches. My definition is simple – if you make the majority of your money from working with non-athletes then you are a personal trainer. If you make the majority from working with athletes and helping them win games then you are a strength coach. And because you’re a personal trainer you need to understand one thing and one thing only – your goal is to give your clients a broad GPP base so that they can enjoy their life outside the gym. That means a program that utilises many movements and planes of movement as well as works across multiple fitness qualities. I hate to quote Crossfit but this means broad time and modal domains. That means not boring your clients to death with making them follow a program out of a book. (On another note, why the hell do you deserve to be paid for making people follow a program from a book? It’s called “personal” training for a reason and everyone deserves their own plan).

And because your role is to provide GPP you need to understand a great many ways to provide it. That means there’s not one tool, one method or one man who you should be learning from. This sheep mentality is a death sentence for your clients. Learn to think for yourself and learn from as many sources as you can. I mean, if you’ve been to the course, read the book and you still haven’t grasped whatever the central tenets of a system are then please get out out now because you’re too dumb to be allowed impact anyone’s health and fitness long term. Take what you need and move on.

The greatest samurai who ever lived was a ronin – Miyamoto Musashi. Take the hint. There is no one way nor is there one master to follow.

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