Ivan Denisov Interview at WKC Sport Camp in San Francisco
It’s taken me a bit of time to decompress and absorb all of the events of our recent WKC KB Sport Camp before being able to write anything about the experience. I believe everyone who participated walked away a better technical lifter and it feels great to celebrate each lifter’s success, but I also feel a renewed sense of peace about the sport after reflecting on everything we learned from Ivan and Valery. We published videos of some of the BIG moments from the weekend, but there were even more lesser known moments that were just as significant to us. Beyond the incredible technique and unique methods being taught by Ivan in the gym, I had the rare opportunity to dig into the mind of the Absolute World Champion during our sightseeing trips to and from San Francisco as well as during a private training session that he graciously offered us at the end of camp. I jumped at any chance to learn more about kettlebell lifting from his perspective! What I discovered is that beneath the layers of physical armor and bionic work capacity, lays another dimension to his expertise which helps to explain his amazing success as both lifter and coach at such a young age.
In addition to his historic achievements on the platform, Ivan Denisov is an engineer, teacher, author, and is self-coached! He is currently completing a textbook on kettlebell lifting for graduate level students. In less than 4 years, he developed a team of athletes that are taking over the Russian Championships; he has already coached twelve of them to their Master of Sport rank. Two of his students, Ksenia Dedyukhina and Ilya Tashlanov, recently earned their MSWC distinction.
After watching some of his personal videos of his students in training, I was relieved to see something familiar: progress over time. Using his cool mini-notebook (which he says he sleeps with in order to protect), he was able to turn an informal meal or a simple car ride in Bay Area traffic into a state of the art high-tech classroom. He pointed out technical flaws demonstrated by his students on film and his face lit up every time he talked about the ideas he developed to help correct them. Then he shared his own training clips — including footage of his performance on the day he earned his first MS rank — to point out more errors; it was disarming and also oddly heartwarming to hear him quickly scrutinize his own mistakes just as he had done to all of us over the weekend. Ivan Denisov is human after all.
One of the most touching moments from camp was when Ivan told us how hard he has worked to keep his program free of cost for all of his students. He currently has over thirty students in Chelyabinsk and at only 28 years of age, Ivan is proud to be a mentor for them in and out of the classroom. “I am available to my students 24 hours a day,” he said with the confidence and wisdom of a man twice his age. “They come to me with any issues, not just kettlebell sport. I help them in school, with homework, and in family life, if they need me.” All that Ivan demands in exchange is their dedication to the work. I was inspired by his generous spirit (and his youth!) days after this conversation because I saw a glimpse of the immense contribution of a true Honored Master of Sport.
I was also intrigued when Ivan told me that, in his opinion, the 24kg regulation for professional female lifters is killing participation in his country. That sounded pretty controversial coming from the coach with arguably the best MSWC female champion in the world! Luckily he responded to the question thoughtfully. Ivan cited that there were over 120 men in the Russian Championships last year, but only 15 women… and this disparity is not by coincidence. The lack of 20kg kettlebells (due to the high cost of purchasing a 20kg bell) in Russia has simply forced women to adopt the 24kg even when they are not physically ready. “Many of the female lifters using the 24kg are only doing about 25 reps per hand, which is not much when compared to the men who use the 32kg,” he explained. Ivan believes there is a misconception that all women are snatching the 24kg in Russia without issue. “Few are ready for that weight,” he noted. He had a lot more say on this and many other interesting topics that I later requested by interview.
Maya: How many years have you participated in Kettlebell Sport?
Ivan: I seriously participated in kettlebell sport since 2000. The first time I heard about kettlebell lifting was in 1999 when I arrived in the city of Chelyabinsk and enrolled to study in college.
Maya: Who introduced you to Kettlebell Sport? Who is your coach?
Ivan: A fellow student introduced me. He proposed that I try to prepare for a competition, the championship of the institute I attended. I won the first time I competed and was given help by a technical trainer, Gregory Pashkevich. However, I never had an official coach. I taught myself and later studied my mistakes while analyzing kettlebell lifting though the lens of mechanical engineering.
Maya: What is your occupation?
Ivan: At the moment I am engaged in several positions. I work as a coach and trainer in a sports academy in the Chelyabinsk region. I am the Head Coach and Chairman of the regional branch of the Russian Federation of Kettlebell Lifting in this area. I’m also the Head Coach of WKC Russia. I plan to teach people the correct and proper techniques of kettlebell lifting, and promote Kettlebell Sport worldwide. I really love kettlebell lifting, and I want people all over the world to know about this beautiful sport! This is a unique sport, which allows the athlete to have a very high level of physical conditioning and show good results without special training in other sports. Kettlebell lifters can run marathons, lift weights, play sports, and much more. This is really unique!
Maya: What academic degrees you do you hold?
Ivan: I have two graduate degrees, one in mechanical engineering and the other in physical education. In 2004, I graduated from the Chelyabinsk Military Automotive Institute and in 2006 the Urals State University of Physical Education. I am proud that I’ve earned Red Diplomas in both (graduated with honors). In 2010 I completed my postgraduate education (equivalent to Masters degree) at the Ural State University of Physical Culture. I am currently completing work on my thesis for Candidate of Pedagogical Sciences. I think that before the end of 2012, I will complete this task.
Maya: Please list your incredible Championship Titles.
Ivan: I am a 2x winner of the World Junior Championships, 6x winner of the Cup of Russia, 13x Champion of Russia, 2x Champion of Europe, and 7x World Champion. I am only counting my personal records in the Biathlon and the Long Cycle, not including victories in the European and World championships in team relay events. I own 28 World Record for juniors and adults.
Maya: Please list your best results in Kettlebell Sport.
Ivan: Today, the best results shown by anyone in the history of kettlebell lifting as well as the world records, belong to me (using 32kg Kettlebells). Jerk – 175 ascents (world record), Snatch – 232 lift (220 – my previous world record), Biathlon total – 281 points (world record) (Biathlon total = Jerk + Snatch/2) , Long Cycle – 116 ascents (world record), Relay Classic – 74 reps in 3 minutes (71 – my previous world record). Snatch and a relay record at a competition where they didn’t have the possibility of setting records.
Maya: How many athletes are on your team?
Ivan: Currently, I coach 35 people directly under my leadership, but I also consult many others.
Maya: How many Masters of Sport have you developed?
Ivan: I have prepared 12 Masters of Sport in Russia, many of whom are winners of major competitions. This includes Denis Gafarov – winner of World Championship among juniors, 2x winner of World Championships and European Championships, 3x winner of the Championship of Russia among juniors, 3x times winner of the Cup of Russia, bronze medalist of Russia, silver medalist of the European Cup in 2009. Artem Gizzatullin – Russian Cup winner in 2010, the silver medalist Russia and the championship of Russia among juniors, long cycle in 2010, Oksana Sarvarova – winner of the Cup of Russia, 2010 silver medalist championship of Russia among juniors. Denis Sedin – bronze medalist Russia among boys, Kelzina Anastasia – silver medalist championship of Russia among juniors.
Maya: How many Masters of Sport World Class athletes have you developed?
Ivan: The most famous athletes: Ksenia Dedyukhina – 2x Champion of Russia, 3x European Champion, 2x World Champion, and World Record holder in Snatch. Ilya Tashlanov – Champion of Russia and the World in 2010. Denis Gafarov performed standard MSWC, but the specific competition he was in did not allow the assignment of this title.
Maya: Many people watch you and Valery and say that you have different styles. What is your opinion?
Ivan: Valery and I use similar principles in lifting. The meaning of kettlebell lifting technique is the use of inertial forces. My technique is different from Valery’s only in the trajectory of the weight. Valery uses a larger trajectory and therefore increases the load on his back muscles but reduces the load on his forearms. As well, the trajectory I use is performed at an angle, rather than straight in front. Our differences are minimal, and only because of the differences in the body mass of the athletes.
Maya: Professional female lifters are required to use the 24kg kettlebell now. What are your observations on the impact this has had on female lifters since the implementation of this rule?
Ivan: Of course, at this stage in the development of Kettlebell Sport for women, 24 kilograms is a very high load for Snatch. The participation of women using this load is small. A big plus in WKC is the inclusion of 20kg weight as a transition from 16kg. In my opinion, the 20kg weight is best for women’s kettlebell lifting at this stage of development in the sport. This may increase the popularity of kettlebell lifting and participation among female athletes.
Maya: When you visited us, you snatched the 24kg Kettlebell 730 times with a single switch. Has anyone else in the world done this before you?
Ivan: As far as I know, 730 reps of Snatch with the 24kg has never been done by anyone with one hand switch. Doing 425 reps with one hand for 20 minutes is also no small undertaking, but I think that I can do more if I was better prepared. I had never attempted this feat before.