My name is Kat Tabakova. 

I grew up in Russia, studied in Israel before etstablishing a base in New Zealand..
My parents were both working full time as aircraft engineers, raising 3 children in a tiny studio apartment. Yet despite minimal space, resources and time, they stayed fit all their lives without gyms, classes or machines. In the tiny studio, we had a piano, three violins (we were all either dancing or playing muscial instruments, or both), tons and tons of books, a pull up and dip station, kettlebells and jump ropes. There were no gyms around at the time, and in winter the temperatures dropped below -40C, so for 3-6 months in a year you couldn't really go out for a casual run. So we adapted.
Fitness was non-negotiable in my family. Most Russians do not believe in relying on medicine to pull you out of your lifestyle related disease. Therefore fitness practices focused on prevention, energizing the body, health and longevity. Quite a different model, I realized, from what I saw when I moved to the West. 
We never spent more than 20-30 minutes a day exercising. I never saw my parents training hard, being sore for days on end, getting injured from their training or lying in a pool of sweat at the end of a workout. However what I did see were results.They had the most impressive endurance, flexibility and strength.
My family werent 'jocks'. And they weren't 'geeks'. Russia has a different culture regarding physical fitness and intelligence, as in they are not and have never been mutually exclusive. Smart people and 'straight A' students were generaly the ones who also practiced morning exercise, discipline and healthy diet. 
Nowadays, at 59 years old, Dad can still do 30 strict pull ups and he loves training pistol squats, while Mom  does yoga, kettlebells and pull up training. My brother owns a gym that his wife, kids and my parents attend, my sister practices yoga, trains outdoors, and still can do chin ups without ever stepping foot in the gym. My parents go hiking and mountain climbing as well as participating in physical challenges (fun runs, Crossfit, strength competitions etc) on a regular basis, while still working full time and looking after the grandchildren. 
I did springboard diving starting at 5 years old, before I could swim, ballroom dancing, 7 years of violin and piano, ice skating and cross country skiing. I loved hiking, exploring, running on the roofs (this was 1980s Russia, safety obsession hasn't been invented yet, thank goodness) and climbing trees (still do). All those activities laid down the foundation of good quality movement, the appreciation for practice, and a keen eye for technique in myself and others. I still remember mom pushing me out the door to go play outside when all I wanted to do was to curl up and read a book or play with my lego at home. Once out the door, I always had a great time however. Looking back, this was my first lesson in transition states that I will learn later on in Psychology of Motivation vs Discipline..  
After leaving home and moving to New Zealand at 19 years old, I quickly realised that even though fitness was a big business in the West, the maority of people were not doing anything at all fitness-wise. The same phantom of failure seemed to haunt the cult of the body. Stunning models of both genders peppered the magazines,weight loss diets were the norm, yet the population was battling with obesity and infantile eating habits. It was such a puzzling phenomenon. Until I got sucked into it and experienced the madness in all it's agonising glory.

Challenge #1 - motivation, variety and distraction.
I believe that our toughest challenges, when overcome, can become our biggest contributions to the world. I was about to experience my first one.
When I moved to New Zealand, I didn't have any fitness (or other) principles of my own. All I had was what my parents taught me, and a desire to be strong, healthy and look good. I had a minimalist fitness routine that I did at home, based on U.S. Marine protocols of pull ups, push ups, squats and running.
However, that was also the year I bought my first laptop and picked up my first fitness magazine. The research has begun. I was immediately consumed by the wonderfully limitless and wild cornucopia of training plans, methodologies, ideal body images, exercises, workouts, diets and training plans. Without noticing, I began to chase ever increasing body perfection, novelty, variety, and excitement. I cannot imagine what it must be like for people who grew up exposed to this system from birth, but it was a wild ride nonetheless starting at 20.
I would start a regime, be it fitness, nutrition, study or work related, going strong for a few weeks, then losing motivation when it became 'boring' and 'everyday' and eventually abandoning the plan, looking for a new shiny regime that will promise me ever greater heights of physique and achievement. I have not experienced such fluctuations in the past and it would be many years before I realised that with acccess to this great commercial variety of offerings comes the danger of great distraction, dependency and magical thinking.
Needless to say, I didn't have consistency therefore didn't get results. I found that I needed ever more 'fun and interesting' routines, craved constant entertainment, depended on outside sources of motivation (youtube, magazines) and had to motivate myself before I took action every single time. It was exhausting and I never lasted. In the long term it eroded my confidence in the ability to achieve goals and finish what I start. The problem was that it wasn’t just fitness, it was every other area of life. Coming from a limited choice culture, I got totally overwhelmed by the abundance of choice, promise and distorted information, and it paralyzed me. It took me many years of learning, observation, reading, trial and error, being coached by some of the best in the industry and continually revising and recreating my methods before I could fortify my mind against the addictive effects of the consumerist fitness industry. 
My journey took me to discover the importance of narrowing down options, creating limits, building habits and practicing commitment. I began to realise the value of doing a few things really well rather than many things badly or not at all. I understood that the meaning of focus in fitness and life was the same, and that focus created success, not the next whiz-bang training plan, Hollywood diet or 6-week challenge.
I learned to discover my values and align them with my fitness routine, to accept reality, to have patience, to practice integrity of technique, to stack priorities, to harness the power of less. It was the beginnings of my Fitness Minimalism philosophy, even though it would take more than a decade (and there would be many challenges on the way) before it became fully formed and applied in my coaching practice.
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I have read hundreds of books on the topics of human psychology, motivation, habit building, strength and conditioning, nutrition, fitness and philosophy. I got a degree in Psychology, taking courses in Behavioral Science, Cognitive Therapy, Exercise Science, Anatomy and Physiology. I became a certified Fitness Professional, a Strength and Conditioning coach, a Precision Nutrition Coach, a Kettlebell Instructor and a few other letters after my name that speak more about my obsession with learning than anything else.
In parallel with that I kept tinkering with my own fitness habits. As soon as I began applying the very first principles early on, my fitness began taking off and since the beginning of that journey, I haven’t quit training or sustained an injury in 15 years. It was up and down, but it was never off. My minimalist physical practice helped me overcome many life challenges. 
Two years after my personal fitness stabilized, I began coaching my first clients and never looked back since. 13 years on, I am still passionate about WHAT I do, I love WHY I do it, and FOR WHOM I do it, and am always improving in HOW I do it. 

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Challenge #2 - Whose goals?
A huge challenge in my early years was going after someone else's goals. 
Those were typically conventional aesthetic goals a.k.a. trying to get the abs, the shoulders, the arms, of somebody I saw on TV, read out from a women's mag or saw at the gym. Trying to be slim like a model, lean as a fighter etc etc. So, I would jump from programme to programme, wondering why I lost enthusiasm so quickly and never liked what I had to actually do to 'look' like somebody or to have the bodyparts I was after.
Why? Not because there is anything wrong with aesthetic goals. Not at all. I believe everybody has aethetic goals somewhere among their priority stack. The issue was that I was too mentally lazy (and I say this with love and humour, we're all mentally lazy sometimes) to think for myself and prioritize my own values. Because while we all might care about looks and endurance and strength and flexibility and health, we prioritize those things differently, at different times in our lives. Not only that, but all those things look very different to all of us. Health migh look very different to me than it does to you. Strength for one person might mean completing 5 ring muscle ups, for another it might mean performing a Turkish Get Up with a 32 kg kettlebell, and to someone else strength is being able to go for a long hike without getting sore knees.
Once I realized this and set my priorities in order, I realized that while I care after aesthetics somewhat, I care about health and physical achievement more. That I value function over form, and I want my training routine to tick many more boxes than appearance alone. Things like focusing my mind, improving my movement, learning patience, perseverance, discipline, integrity, trusting the process, respecting my body, have fun, achieve,  Self awareness, self control, handling failure, balance, minimalism, simplicity, elegance, poetry in motion.  
My goal achievement and satisfaction skyrocketed since then.
I have since experienced the same process with my clients. Everybody's different, but everybody's the same in that we all need to think for ourselves. When the goals come from YOU, i.e. when your mind, heart and gut align on your goals, you get the buy-in from your entire being and you do not self-sabotage. When you try to follow a goal you think you 'should' go after, you will trip yourself up every time. 
What I do with my clients now, especially if I sense that their goal setting is not coming from their own thought process but that they are 'borrowing' goals from others, culture, society at large or even from me, is I take them on a 'getting real' exercise.
As a result, we have an inner alignment and then magic happens.

Challenge #2 - Crossfit Ninja or an Ego Trip of a lifetime?
My minimalist fitness practice made me incredibly fit, just as it did with my parents and siblings. When I discovered the world of Crossfit, I could do everything at the elite level almost right away. Naturally my coaches began signing me up for competitions, which I began winning. In my first year doing Crossfit, I qualified for the Australasia regionals. Ditto for the second and third years. I was the alien creature who could do everything seemingly without effort, the crazy fit little Russian who lifted heavy, jumped high, ran fast and swung from rings like a monkey as if I was born doing it. No one believed me when I said that 7 years ago I couldn't perform one push up from my toes. No one believed that all one needs to be fit is 20minutes, a firm purpose, good technique and the discipline to do it all consistently over time.
So, slowly I began to build an identity out of my athlete persona, to become addicted to the winning, and worst of all, to buy into the exhausting long workouts, the twice a day training sessions and the compromise on form and progression in the name of 'intensity and competition'.
People were now streaming into my business asking to make them as strong, as flexible, as fit and move as well. I did that, making them stronger and better, and rehabilitating their Crossfit injuries, only to see them go and get smashed again by another WOD. 
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My joints began to creak from sheer volume of training. I began to question the purpose of all those arduous long workouts. I wasnt reading that much anymore, a large porion of my day was spend in the gym and a large portion of my income went into all the supplements needed to keep up the brutal intensity of workouts. 
So, I left to start Kettlebell Academy.
I learned a lot through this experience, for myself and my business:
- that my fitness philosophy was based on health and longevity, minimalism, efficiency, training smart not hard, self-improvement, intrinsic motivation, learning and competing with yourself. Other disciplines may be based on other principles, which will suit other people, but mine were these and they seemed to make me good at Crossfit (without actually even doing Crossfit).  
- That I think it is not sensible to be injured by training. I would rather get injured while lifting a car off of someone or while carrying someone with a sprained ankle down a mountain, than while exercising.
- That competition is competition and training is training. Making training into competition is failing at both.
- That moving with good technique, using smart progression and staying injury-free is of utmost importance to me, far beyond winning or proving something.
- That I may not have thought of myself as an athlete but I am one deep inside. I like to achieve. I simply need a sport that is health-promoting, allows for short traning sessions, requires minimal equipment and space and builds character. I since have found such a sport.
- That for general preparedness it's best to be well-rounded across 10 physical domains: strength, flexibility, stamina, endurance, speed, power, coordination, balance, accuracy, agility.
- That health can be considered as a mere absence of disease, wellness is super health and fitness is super wellness. In that way it is impossible to be fit but not healthy. More importantly, that fitness is super wellness maintained over  a lifetime. that fitness isn't about playing one finite game and winning once; instead it's about playing the infinite game, and playing for as ling as possible.
- That it's important to stay in touch with your values, because many things in life will test your focus.
- That if you don't stay connected to your own priorities, goals and standards, you will start chasing other people's dreams.
- That you should never follow anything blindly, even the words of your coach. No one will ever do your thinking for you.
- That values on paper and values in reality are different things. Be it your own, a business or a fitness discipline. So, if you want to know you values, don't look at what you have written down, but look at how you act. Actions and choices are far better indicators of values than words and thoughts. If you want to know the values of a business, don't look at their mission statement or their instagram quotes, look at the state of their clients. If it all aligns with you, you're in the right place.
- That everyone is different and we are all special snowflakes, but there are rules of anatomy and physiology that apply to us all.
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The reason.

Someone once said that the best way for us to show up in the world is to do what makes us come alive. I choose to teach and coach because what makes me come alive is seeing patterns, cutting through the noise, chiseling down to the essentials and providing guidance. It is finding out what makes you come alive, what makes you tick, what makes you shine and what makes you stumble, and then teaching you to find your groove and to tick better.
It has been over 15 years since that first big challenge inspired me to help others, and in that time I have had the chance to revise, perfect and refine my philosophy and approach numerous times. I have trained hundreds of clients and competitive athletes, run celebrity bootcamps and instructed Boxing classes, taught Olympic Lifting, Power Lifting, Gymnastics and Kettlebells, competed nationally and internationally, seen fads come and go, fell for some of them and learned from my mistakes, and through it all I noticed the principles that stay strong and endure. Those principles comprise the core of Kat's Kettebell Dojo and Kettlebell Academy of New Zealand philosophy. 
My fitness journey taught me that first of all, form follows function. And that it is a far better strategy to focus on improving your function from the inside, rather than obsessing about form. Focusing on health, strength and progress overtime will give a byproduct of a great looking body and well organised mind as well. I work with the outside and the inside of the person, to help improve their function. The form takes care of itself.
Ekaterina (Kat) Tabakova, 2019
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