Thoughts on Action Strength

October 24, 2012

This past weekend I had the unique pleasure to attend the Action Strength Level 1 Certification workshop in Boca Raton, FL.  It was taught by Harinder Singh Sabharwal, CEO and Chief Training Officer of the Jeet Kune Do Athletic Association.   Action Strength is a specific training program that develops functional strength in a manner that aligns the body, mind and spirit as an integrated whole.  It’s a system that is truly beyond compare in its ability to unify the body as one coherent unit to channel and deliver enormous amounts of power for any athletic endeavor.  On the whole, the weekend was one of the best training experiences of my life, one that will forever change the way I understand what it truly means to be strong, healthy, and fit.

I don’t make these claims lightly, either.  I’ve been weight training and training in the martial arts for over 25 years, practicing yoga and eating a plant based diet for over a decade, and have been doing some kind of workout 6 days a week for the last 5-7 years.  I thought I understood fitness and what it meant to be in shape.  I was wrong.  Action Strength was unlike any training I had done before and I learned very quickly that rather than being strong and fit, I was really just scratching the surface of my perceived abilities.

I had rudimentary understanding of the type of exercises involved in the Action Strength program from DVDs I had watched over the last year.  Tai Chi, Bodyweight, Kettlebells, and Gada (Indian Mace) exercises made up the physical portion of the system while the mental aspect was deeply rooted in the philosophy of Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do and Malavidya, the ancient Indian science of strength and power.  However, having never trained with Harinder, I had yet to have the true experience of this practice in action.

One of the first and primary insights we learned was that strength is a skill.  This was a new concept for me.  Honestly, I don’t think I had ever given it much thought, other than to assume that strength was a given or genetically predetermined.  As a tall and small framed guy, I believed that the length of my bones and muscles had a significant impact on how much power and strength I could generate.  The idea that strength could be learned and developed through a progressive approach to training was quite literally something I hadn’t considered before.  And after listening to Singh describe the different progressions and the science of numbers and repetitions, I began to realize that perhaps my physical limitations were dependant not upon my genetic makeup, but more on my training method which, up to this point had been based upon the conventional model of exercise and fitness.

The modern fitness and exercise model relies heavily on the western materialistic approach which breaks the body in to separate pieces or systems; muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, organs, etc.   From there it uses exercises that isolate and work each muscle group or system individually.  For example, to build muscle you would perform a weight lifting exercise for just one or two primary muscles while the
bulk of the body’s other muscles are at rest.  In a similar fashion, to increase aerobic capacity, we are taught to isolate the pulmonary and respiratory systems through running, biking or swimming.  This may sound like an over simplification, but the point is that contemporary fitness programs lean more toward working the body’s pieces rather than the whole body, let alone the mind.

In contrast, Action Strength is about the exact opposite.  In every exercise, we are striving to engage and recruit as much muscle as possible.  In this way, the body becomes a unified whole integrated through posture, breathing and intent.  As such, the exercises generate much more power and strength than conventional exercises.  The entire body is moving in harmony as opposed to disparate individual parts that break the chain and thereby disrupting the body’s energy flow, known in Eastern traditions as Prana or Chi.  As you might imagine, utilizing the entire body can make for an intense exercise experience.  However, one of many benefits of this type of approach is that since the exercises are so focused and concentrated, more can be accomplished in a shorter amount of time.  In as few as 15 to 20 minutes, the entire body can be worked out, energized, aligned, and unified for overall strength or for sport specific activities.

In addition, Action Strength incorporates a specific breathing cadence for each exercise.  Known as pranayama in India, this steady, deep breathing combined with the repetitive nature of the exercises (especially the Dand and Bhetak ) sets up a unique mind-body feedback loop that quiets the mind and enhances overall mental focus and awareness.  This is especially beneficial in the realm of martial arts in which your breathing determines your overall level of endurance and relaxation when physical stress is at its highest.  But even for those not inclined toward the martial arts, the exercises and their breathing component help to establish a state of stillness during intense physical activity which becomes a form of moving meditation.  Training in this manner helps us to understand that we lift the weights to condition the mind; as the mind comes more under our control, we can use it to hardness the tremendous power of our muscles for whatever task is at hand.

This mental shift can lead to a powerful transformation in the recognition that our physical limitations have their roots not in our bodies, but in our minds.  As Singh reminded us, when our breath is steady and controlled, our minds are brought to a focused intent that allows us to override the internal dialogue that keeps us rooted in the perceived limitations of our bodies.  Every time we push a little further, refocus our intention and breathe, we bypass the mental static that says, “I can’t do this”, or “I think I’m going to die!” and tap into our true potential that lies beyond the level of the mind.   In these moments we’re able to dig deeper than we have before and get to know ourselves better.  This is what Bruce Lee referred to as discovering the causes of your own ignorance.  Action Strength therefore becomes a vehicle for self-transformation.  When you see that self doubt comes from “in here” rather than “out there”, you realize that you alone hold the keys to your own evolution and growth and are poised to take your next step with confidence and power.

While Action Strength is designed to help people at all levels of health and fitness grow stronger (i.e. coming back from an injury, the next level, or high performance), it’s not necessarily an easy path.  Action Strength training is a lifestyle change, not a quick fix solution.  It’s not something you do for a few weeks or months and then move on.  It’s an ongoing progression of skill and strength.  Each level of achievement sets the groundwork for the next so we continue to grow stronger through our lives.  In this regard, I have just begun.   But this weekend’s program was an amazing start on this path.  I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Harinder Singh Sabharwal, Anshu Sabharwal, Brian Olson, Gavin Garringer, John Riddle, and all the participants from the seminar that put up with all my noob questions.  Your help and patience is what made this weekend such an amazing experience.

From here it’s up to me to both integrate this training into my life as well as share it with others, which I plan to do in earnest.  Look for FB & website updates ( and private training updates in the future.   In the meantime, feel free to contact me with questions if you’d like to learn more about his amazing strength training system.


3 Responses to “Thoughts on Action Strength”

  1. Fantastic write up on what was covered Adam. You did great in the course, hope to see you again soon!
    John Riddle
    Progressive Self Defense Systems
    Boca Raton,.Fla

  2. Julio Anta said

    Awesome article on the Action Strength certification. It was great meeting you in Boca at the training. You did great.
    Julio Anta
    Anta’s Fitness & Self Defense

  3. Joseph Robinson said

    Adam, I have been an AST student with Sifu Singh since 2011. Your description of AST is the best I have read.

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