A few months ago, I had a call from Guy Lockhead, who created one of the first cooperative gyms in the UK, based in the city of Bristol. Guy has a diverse range of experience within the fitness world, and has explored all kinds of physical disciplines. This month he started a podcast based on people who work on the outer fringes of fitness. People who are open to methods of training from other cultures, from other ages and layers in societies from around the world. I am privileged to be the first interview. You can listen to it here https://www.guylochhead.com/podcast/peter-hodkinson

In this interview we explored my own journey within the fitness world, which came from a knee injury on the rugby field when I was in my late teens. It forced my premature retirement from contact sports, and left me looking for something to maintain my fitness level. I came across the little known Korean martial art of Sul-Ki-Do in London, headed by 8th dan Mok Yong Kim. I only knew master Kim a few months before he sadly passed away, however I was touched by the legacy he left, and the dedication of the senior black belt instructors including his brother, who continued running the organisation. Some years later I became a 2nd dan, and was beginning to understand the philosophy as well as the physical system we practised. I owe a lot to one instructor in particular, Christian Schelling-Tisza, who took me under his wing with a handful of others and began to show us a wider world than just kicking and punching. Christian exposed me to the Chinese healing meditation practise of qigong and set me off on a journey of learning about the roots of life, qi and unconditional giving. It is a path I am still on as you never stop learning. I was lucky enough to visit China for two long intensive training visits after being inspired by his own teaching. They were amazing experiences.

In 2005, Christian also introduced me to kettlebells. From here, I found Stan Pike, a gentle giant of a man who I describe as the UK’s ‘godfather’ of kettlebells, in order to become a kettlebell instructor,  I trained with him 1-to-1. During this time Stan also introduced me to Indian Clubs. I was particularly inspired by these circular practises, and after struggling to find the right weight ratio and shape I was looking for, I collaborated with a retired instrument maker & good friend, John Taylor, to come up with my first pair of turned Indian clubs. I had further teaching from Mike Simpson, and became more and more fascinated by this training method. Back then no-one seemed to have heard of Indian Clubs, and coaches and gym owners saw them as outdated methods that no longer fitted in the modern western world of fixed and free-weights. So I started my own fitness class in Bradford on Avon which I’m still running today. A couple of the original Bradford on Avon ‘swingers’ are still with me. The class is always evolving in order to maintain both mental and physical challenge  with a blend of bodyweight warm-ups, Indian clubs and kettlebell workouts.

I train for longevity and have evolved a movement style I am comfortable with to maintain a healthy body that is neither weak, nor burnt out from excessive training as I reach my maturing years. HIIT is good, but not necessarily for where I am now, in this 58 year old body. Resistance work is good, but I recognise that my muscles and joints don’t benefit from being pushed to failure too often. My background with qigong lies at the foundation of everything I do. It checks in with the ego when I am tempted to push for a heavier weight, and reminds me of the true meaning of a healthy body. So much focus these days is on how much tension people can generate in order to optimise strength. I really feel, that breathing and relaxation are seriously neglected here and more time should be invested in learning better practices for recovery, and removal of stress. There are many ways to create stillness, and relaxation. For me it is qigong. Others may find yoga, meditation, Wim Hoff or whoever. They are all a great places to invest.

I hope you like the podcast and follow Guy’s ongoing shares from people around the country. You can find it here: https://www.guylochhead.com/podcast

And you can find out more about Bristol’s Co-operative Gym here: http://bristolcooperativegym.org/