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Dragon Door Interviews Helder Gomes, RKC

March 29, 2013 05:30 AM

Dragon Door:  How did you find kettlebells?
Helder Gomes: I was in the Marine Corps and got hurt.  As a disabled veteran, I went to school, and started a small computer services company, but was never happy being out of the Corps.  The whole situation was a huge mental challenge, and I later realized how hard it was for me to become a civilian after having been at such an elite level.   Those ideas were so drilled into me as a Marine, that when I suddenly went from elite to nothing, it was just awful.

For about 10 years, I gave in and accepted that this was my life now.  Being in the computer business, I was very familiar with the internet, and stumbled across someone using kettlebells.   This person had many previous injuries, was older than me, and was doing things I never imagined I could do as a Marine, let alone as a disabled veteran.  Of course, I was curious and soon found Dragon Door and the RKC

I still felt defeated, because of the instability in my shoulder, but eventually after learning more about the RKC and other people's stories, I got motivated.  I needed to be patient because of my injury, but patience in the beginning allowed me to really excel over time.  If it wasn’t for my injury, and just practicing kettlebell swings for two years, I probably would have tried them for two weeks before moving on to every advanced movement I could find.  But, I was happy to stay with the swings, because they were something I could finally do!  These tiny baby steps allowed me to build up a stable base—just from kettlebell swings.  I had no idea that I was working on alignment, stability, my core, flexibility, coordination, and mobility.  Kettlebells soon became a big part of my life. 

Dragon Door:    Now how did you decide to become an RKC?

Helder Gomes: From the beginning I thought kettlebell swings felt great.  I have always been a goal oriented person, from scouting in my youth and becoming an Eagle Scout, and of course my time in the military.  When I first started, I didn’t think I could ever be an RKC, but after two years of kettlebell swings, I started doing cleans, and presses started creating stability in my shoulders.  As a twenty percent disabled veteran, I thought I couldn't be fixed.

Basically, I felt like I needed to teach people how to use kettlebells, but I wanted to have the proper credentials and the right information.  Becoming an RKC instructor in 2012 felt like the right thing to do.

Dragon Door:    Since you’ve been working with kettlebells, what's something you can do now that you thought you’d never be able to do again?

Helder Gomes:  Pretty much everything on a physical level.  I was always a big outdoorsman, and it was difficult to thrive on the outdoors with a limited physical capacity.  I can use my body again!  Kettlebells gave me physical as well as mental conditioning, and this conditioning prepared me for so much more than just swinging a kettlebell. 

The way we move with and around a kettlebell is the same way we need to move in life.  Whether we're talking about kettlebells, martial arts, running, or basic body alignment, movement is movement.  We continually review good movement patterns when we teach people how to use kettlebells.  Basically I went from many limits to no limits. Now I have the freedom to achieve my own goals, and the ability to coach and inspire other people.   If I can do it so can they; I've already designed the map all they need to do is follow it.

Dragon Door:    What are some of the ideas which influenced your Natural Training Center Method?

Helder Gomes:  The NTC Method comes from all my outdoor experiences, including kettlebells.  Many people aren't prepared to fully enjoy or interact with nature.  At Natural Training Center, we teach the skill-sets people need to really enjoy activities like hiking, camping, or an outdoor exercise regimen.  I think we belong outside, and that it’s the best way to work on our health.

Dragon Door:  What’s the first skill people need to get the most out of their interaction with nature?

Helder Gomes:  Overall conditioning.  I love the outdoors, but my clients and I live in the city.  Ideally, I would love to be outside for hours and hours utilizing natural movements to attain a high fitness level so I am always prepared to do whatever I want in nature.  Unfortunately, most of us have to drive 40 minutes to get to that special place outdoors, which isn't practical for me or my clients.  That’s where great tools like kettlebells come in—I can work with the movements we'll need in nature, but I can train anywhere. 

Dragon Door:  Are most of your clients in a particular age group?

Helder Gomes:   They are very diverse!  At Natural Training Center, we have grandmothers  as well as 18 year olds who are interested in something different.   The one thing everyone has in common is they really enjoy the outdoors or they would like to enjoy it, but don’t know how.  We take away the fear of the unknown with experience, new skill-sets, and tools.  Then they can explore and develop on their own.

Dragon Door:  One of the things that I really like about kettlebell training and body weight training is the extreme simplicity. How do your clients respond to it?
Helder Gomes: Most people seem to get everything they need from the swing.  I train people to work with kettlebells by helping them get to a basic level of stability so that they can start using the six RKC exercises.  Once they start putting those six exercises together, that’s when their movement patterns start to come together. 

So, I love the simplicity, but I also love the complexity, depending on the user and what the kettlebell is being used for— that’s the beauty of it.  There won't be a time when I’m sick of doing these six basics.  Even after using kettlebells for 10 years, every time I pick up a kettlebell and play, I discover something new. It's a lot of fun, I don't really workout anymore, I play.  But it takes spending time tackling the basics first—after that it is endless.  Like most things, the people who are best at something are also the best at the basics.  I love the simplicity for a beginner, and complexity for the advanced user.

Dragon Door:    Since you spent two years training just the kettlebell swing, what do you like best about it?

Helder Gomes: When clients that want to improve their running for a 10K, a half marathon, or even a marathon; I have their answer with the kettlebell swing.  Similarly, we can't be really prepared for life without some form of self-defense skill to at least protect ourselves and our families.  When I work on these ideas and want to recruit certain movement patterns, we work with the kettlebell swing.  In the NTC Method each "camp" or topic uses the kettlebell swing to completely maximize the user’s experience—it's all about movement and that’s what the kettlebell exploits.  It helps to reprogram our nervous systems to remove these restrictions that we've put on ourselves. 

Dragon Door:    Which martial arts do you teach?
Helder Gomes:  We teach combatives, so it’s a little bit of everything including Russian martial arts, Filipino martial arts, ninjitsu, and Marine Corps combatives—which is my background.  We're lucky to have many members who are well versed in many different martial arts, and everyone has added their own specialty over the last few years.  Now, we have a very good system to teach someone how to use their body and movements, instead of just mimicking what someone else is doing.  We’re not trying to make anyone into a black belt, but we are trying to give people tools for defense and survival—including the first option, running away!  . By sticking with our model of always being prepared, we are trying to give people something they can use immediately.  We are not a martial arts school, but combatives are part of our NTC Method.  Everything in our NTC Method is integrated, the way we teach combatives is very similar to the way I teach a kettlebell swing or bodyweight exercises. If we are moving efficiently, then the tool or method shouldn’t really matter. 

Dragon Door:     How old is Natural Training Center, and what are the different topics you teach there?
Helder Gomes: We formally became a company in 2008 and teach the following "camps": scouting, kettlebells, bodyweight exercise, combatives, and minimalist running.  We've added nutrition and yoga to each camp.  Additionally we do weekend campouts in the wilderness, which can be so psychological in terms of people and their comfort zones.   While people seem to have a lot of excitement and challenge from the obstacle races which are so popular now, our weekends seem to be even more of an experience for most people.  They're happy and can't believe they've done it.   Even if it's the same type of experience my 11 year old Boy Scouts participate in, it’s all relative as this can be another big step forward for someone.

Eventually people become comfortable and start to thrive out in the wilderness for three day trips with their water purifier, pocket knife, and backpack.  But, that's when they've learned many skills first.  I don’t want liabilities, I want skilled people that are going to thrive from what I’m teaching them not be terrified.  I’m building Natural Training Center to become what I have been looking for my whole life.   Everyday I feel so much more rewarded than when I used to make the big bucks, and I'm never going back

I like being multi-faceted.  But I like to encourage people to study with the best, if you want to be good at bodyweight exercise, study from the best.  If you want to consider yourself a martial artist, learn what the best teachers have to offer.  Get a diverse skill-set and which is what I'm really trying to do with Natural Training Center.  I didn’t invent any of this stuff.  People a hell of a lot smarter than me invented this; I just went ahead and collected the tidbits, put it all into my basket and wrapped it in Natural Training Center paper..  I live this; I know this works, let me share it with you.  The world doesn't need to know my name, but I want to know that there’s a select few who's lives have changed because I've given them the gift of being able to move well. 

 Helder Gomes is a Tribe Leader at the Natural Training Center in Cranford, New Jersey. 

He can be reached at: