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An Interview with David Martin, Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor, HKC, DVRT

David and Faith Martin kettlebell Get Up

Dragon Door: How did you first become interested in fitness?

David Martin: I was a wrestler in high school, and I've been athletic all my life. So, getting into fitness was a pretty natural thing, especially since I'm also a Marine.

Dragon Door: How did you decide to earn your HKC and DVRT certifications?

David Martin: I went through the Marines HITT (High Intensity Tactical Training) with my wife as the instructor. And once Josh Henkin and Steve Holiner presented the HKC and DVRT, I jumped on board as soon as I could!

Dragon Door: I didn't realize that your wife, Faith (read Faith's interview here) was also your instructor at the HITT!

David Martin: Yes, and she also taught the class where I became a yoga instructor. I don't teach yoga in a group fitness setting, but I include it in our Marine Corps physical training. I am also a Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor and it blends right in to that material as well.

The HITT Level 1 is an instructor program. So after completing it, we give the information back to our Marines, showing them the proper way to do the exercises, and teaching them how to build a program that works. Then, they build their own programs, but we show them how to do the exercises correctly in hopes of reducing injuries.

Dragon Door: How is the information from the HKC and DVRT most helpful for the Marines in your program?

David Martin: For one, it actually teaches them how to move. When many people first pick up a kettlebell, they just start swinging it around without realizing how to do it properly. They don't engage their muscles in the right way, they might take it too high, or they might not swing it high enough to engage the pull back downwards. They also usually need to learn how important it is to hinge from the hips. All these things are important since Marines are usually just told to swing the kettlebell—and so they may have been just doing it without any further information or instruction.

With DVRT, I think body movement is also a big factor. With all the rotational drills, there are so many exercise variations you can do with the Ultimate Sandbags. I think sandbags are great for the Marines, because no matter where they are, they can take the empty Ultimate Sandbags along and fill them up at their destination—then they can use them for full body fitness.

Dragon Door: How did you get started as a Marine Corps Martial Arts instructor?

David Martin: When I originally joined the Marine Corps in 1992, I learned LINE (Linear Infighting Neural Override Engagement), which was a type of martial art. After I left active duty for the Reserves in 1999, I got into civilian martial arts like Karate. When I came back to active duty in 2004, I wanted to become a Marine Martial Arts instructor, since they had developed their Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) during that time. As soon as I had the opportunity, I jumped at it and have been an instructor for the past three years. When people think about martial arts, they usually only think of someone performing the movements of martial arts. But our program incorporates Combat Conditioning, which uses similar exercises and drills as in the DVRT and HKC. Kettlebells also work really well with that program.

Dragon Door: What attracted you to martial arts?

David Martin: Truthfully, because I was a wrestler in high school, and I've just always been drawn to combat sports and martial arts.

Dragon Door: Which martial arts have you studied?

David Martin: I'm a Shorin-ryu karate practitioner; it’s an Okinawan style of karate. I have also studied Judo and Shaolin Kempo. With the exception of wrestling, my first martial art was Kempo—and that was before I came to Japan. After I moved to Japan, I started studying Shorin-ryu, which I am currently studying.

Dragon Door: Which moves from the HKC and DVRT do you think are the most useful for your Martial Arts students in the Marines?

David Martin: From the HKC, the get-up, especially when we teach them to do it correctly. The get-up is a very thoughtful process—when done correctly. It also helps when we teach the ground-fighting part of the of the Marine Corps Martial Arts. The get-up teaches them how to move, and how to get back up from the ground. Even though we aren’t doing get-ups fast, when it comes time to move quickly, the breakdown of the get-up works very well for what we do in martial arts. We want them to get up from the ground with good technique.

And of course, kettlebell swings can teach them how to control that swing and how to breathe correctly with the movement. Kettlebell swings also give them the muscle control they need to become faster and stronger.

From the DVRT, the rotational lunges—especially the version with the swing creates power from hip rotation. These rotational movements help us deliver powerful punches and kicks, because we are actually moving and training in those same planes. Also in DVRT, the side to side bag drag in the plank position. A normal plank isn’t usually challenging enough for most of our Marines, but adding the bag drag definitely amplifies it. It also helps us find weaker spots a lot faster.

Dragon Door: Were any of the moves in the HKC or DVRT especially challenging for you?

David Martin: At the HKC, the swing was actually a challenge for me. I know that seems weird, but learning the muscle activation in my lats for pulling the kettlebell back down has been my biggest challenge.

With the DVRT, learning to coming to a full extension (a plank-like standing position) was my biggest challenge. But I probably made the most progress from Steve Holiner’s cue to squeeze my butt to activate everything. Just that one simple cue helped out a lot.
David Martin Kettlebell Swing

Dragon Door: What did you most enjoy about the workshops?

David Martin: One of the biggest things was the knowledge of the instructing staff. I was highly impressed with Josh Henkin, Steve Holiner and Travis Johnson. When we were just hanging around, they seemed like normal guys, but in instructor mode they are super smart. Their knowledge is just outstanding.

Dragon Door: Did you certify in the HKC and DVRT in the same week?

David Martin: Yes, Josh, Steve, and Travis came over and taught a bunch of the Marines and others in the MCSS staff in the same week. It was excellent but tiring—wow! When it was time to test, especially at the HKC (which we did later in the week) my grip was so worn out that I was afraid I might end up throwing the kettlebell! It was really something else; both the HKC and DVRT tests were definitely a challenge. The mechanics of both systems including the hip hinge are very similar; they complement each other very well.

Dragon Door: What's next for you as an instructor?

David Martin: I would love to go for the RKC, and also want to go to the DVRT Level 2. Plus those Kavadlo brothers keep showing up everywhere, and I like what they’re doing. I use bodyweight exercises a lot, and used them exclusively for years—until my wife recently introduced me to Olympic lifting, I didn't touch any kind of weight whatsoever.

And of course just getting out there and instructing—and continuing to make sure I keep teaching my Marines the proper way to do the exercises!

David and Faith MartinDavid Martin, HKC, DVRT, Yoga, is a HITT and Martial Arts Instructor for the US Marines in Okinawa, Japan.