top of page

Big, Strong, Fast, Light – Samurai’s & Kettlebells

Yesterday I was flicking through a book here at Wild Geese, it belongs to one of the Iaido students and is called “Flashing Steel – Mastering Eishin-Ryu Swordsmanship”.

It’s a very detailed book on the intricacies of the beautiful martial art of Iaido. As I flicked through a certain chapter jumped out at me, it was entitled:

Dai – Kyo – Soku – Kei

or in English:

Big – Strong – Fast – Light

The four terms listed in the chapter heading were then broken down through the chapter as the four stages of learning the art of the Samurai. I’ll summarise the points:

  1. Dai (Big) – Beginner level. At this stage of learning big movements are necessary to allow you to learn the basic mechanics of the technique. Exaggerate each movement and don’t be concerned with details.

  2. Kyo (Strong) – Only when the basic technique is mastered can you move to this stage and start to add power to your movements.

  3. Soku (Fast) – Without perfect technique, adding speed is futile. The addition of speed and strength will result in power.

  4. Kei (Light) – The final stage where all movements become light and subtle yet faster and more powerful than ever before. To the observer movements appear effortless. To attempt lightness too early will merely result in weak movements, Light is a result of countless repetitions over hours of training.

As a lifelong martial artist myself I can appreciate these words, they fall in line line with the way I was trained by several of my instructors. But it also transfers across to your kettlebell lifting.

Kettlebell lifting is an art, a sport and a great method of developing strength and endurance. But it is best approached with the Dai-Kyo-Soku-Kei philosophy.

Start with a bell you can easily control and take time learning movements. Only when you have the fundamental technique nailed down will you consider stepping up a weight or moving the bell faster. Many of the kettlebell lifts are ballistic in nature, they have a swinging action, so by adding Soku, or speed, you are significantly increasing the power output and workload on the body.

The final level of kettlebell lifting is that which is seen  on the platform at competition. It’s the last lifters to step up, the champions. These are the people that have spent countless hours under the bells and can make them dance to their will. A master lifter will make Jerking a pair of 32kg kettlebells seem like childs play, the snatch will seem effortless like the bell weighed nothing. The lifters face is calm, their body seemingly relaxed. This is the ultimate expression of kettlebell lifting.

As I read through the chapter it became obvious why Steve Cotter, also a martial

artist, calls Kettlebell lifting “The Martial Art of Strength Training”.

You can learn  more of this “Martial Art” next month when Steve is in Wild Geese teaching seminars (more detail here)

Or you can can go here and get yourself a copy of the Kettlebell workshop manuals, which follow the same sequence: Level 1 – Dai (Big),  Level 2 – Kyo (Strong), Level 3 – Soku (Fast). Kei (light), I’m afraid, you can’t learn from a book or a video.



32 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page