Interview with Phil Ross – Owner of SURVIVAL STRONG & Creator of The Kettlebell Workout Library

Phil Ross

Places you can find Phil
The Kettlebell Workout Library
SURVIVAL STRONG

Tell us a little about you, what is your background & where do you come from?

OK, even though I attended the University of Maryland, I’m a Jersey Boy through and through! I was born in Paterson and wound up moving to Fair Lawn and then Ridgewood, where I graduated High School. The towns are all within a few miles of each other.
My grandfather was a boxing trainer at Paul Cavalier’s Gym in Paterson, so he taught me “the ropes” in regard to boxing when I was very young. My father was an exceptional athlete with a concentration in football. My whole family was filled with athletes and soldiers.
As a youth, I played football, basketball (not for long though, I always fouled out!), baseball and ran around in the woods a great deal hunting for snakes and fishing in the local rivers and ponds. When I was in High School, I played football until I hurt my back pretty severely my Junior year, I ran track for a bit but was known primarily for my wrestling. I wound up wrestling at the Division 1 level, but for only 2 years. After I was done with wrestling, I focused on my martial arts, strength training and I played 2 seasons of rugby. I graduated the University of Maryland in 1984 and never stopped in my pursuit of the martial arts, strength and fitness.

Phil Ross

I competed successfully in Combat Sports from 1979-2010. I won and/or placed on that level in Karate, Wrestling, Kickboxing, Taekwondo and Submission Fighting. I also competed and won in one power lifting meet and totaled 1400 lbs (approximately 636 kg) while weighing 179.9 lbs (approximately 81.8 kg). I also did the same in an Olympic Lifting meet, but that was amateur and I actually forget the numbers. There were two bodybuilding meets, 1st in one and 3rd in another. I enjoyed trying different activities in the related fields. I just really liked to train and test myself. Simultaneously, I was also a bouncer and a bodyguard, so I got to put my skills and strength to the test in real life situations on a regular basis.

I’ve had the good fortune to have coached and trained athletes to compete in MMA (UFC trainer for over 4 years), Kickboxing, Submission Fighting, Wrestling and Track and Field, to name a few. I’ve also trained several elite military units.

What are you trained in?

I have ranks in Bando, Taekwondo, Arnis, CDT (Compliance Direction & Takedown), Shamrock Submission Fighting, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Aiki Jiu Jitsu. I boxed out of Lou Costello’s Gym in the 1980’s and was trained in Greco-Roman wrestling by Olympian Chris Catalfo and his older brother Tim (Obake – later an MMA Legend). I am also trained in Kettlebells through the RKC (Russian Kettlebell Challenge) and calisthenics through the PCC (Progressive Calisthenics Certification). I passed the NRA hand gun certification in conjunction with my bodyguard licensing.

Phil Ross book

How did you get into all of this training?

Some was just dumb luck, but I also chose what I wanted to be good at and made it my business to seek out the best in the business. Examples:
When I was wrestling in High School, I sought out the Catalfo brothers. They were incredible beasts and a few years older than me. They gave me a great base.
When in college, one of my instructors was Pat Finley. He wound up becoming a disciple of Guro Dan Inosanto (Bruce Lee’s training partner). We trained in Arnis, Jun Fan and Shoot Fighting. Pat also trained with former UFC Champ Erik Paulson.

I wanted to become good at MMA, so I sought out Frank Shamrock, an Undefeated 5X UFC Champion and the prototype for the modern Mixed Martial Artist.
When I learned of Kettlebells (and fell in love with them), I sought out the RKC and eventually achieved Master level.

Phil Ross compilation

You host comprehensive martial arts training programs and pride yourselves on “No Nonsense Martial Arts Program”. Can you elaborate?

We promote a complete system inclusive of Stand-up (Bando, Boxing, Taekwondo), Ground Fighting (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Wrestling, Catch Wrestling), self defence (SURVIVAL STRONG, Trench Warfare Tactics), Weapons (Arnis, Knife Fighting, Kukri, Long Staff, Short Stick), Kata (Bando and Taekwondo Forms). It has been my goal to create a system that is suited for the Cage, Ring, Street or any other type of Competition. We have champions that have competed in the UFC, Bellator as well as local shows on the MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) arenas. Our champions in BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) and Striking Tournaments are too many to even begin to list. Our students have won many forms and weapons competitions on the National Level as well. This does not even take into account the High Level High School and NCAA Division 1 Athletes that have gone through our strength training and conditioning program.

How many instructors, classes and students do you have going at any one time?

We offer 46 classes per week at our studio. This does not include the small group and one on one sessions that are also being conducted. Aside from me, there are two additional full-time instructors, four part time instructors and five more assistant instructors on staff. Generally, there is only one class going on at a time, however, there are a few occasions that two classes or a class and a private sessions are being run simultaneously. Classes vary in size from four or five to as many at 20+, but our average classes are between 8 and 12.

Who are your classes aimed at?

We offer a wide array of training – from 3 year olds doing martial arts to students in their 60’s swinging kettlebells and/or throwing kicks and punches.

Our school does attract the more serious students though. We are not a “belt factory”, so you don’t advance in rank just by showing up.

Phil Ross two attackers

Who is your X-Cel personal training developed for?

Just about anyone who wants to get in shape, become stronger and more mobile or increase their performance in their given sport. We customize the programs to meet the goals of the client. My daughter Nicole has one more semester to compete her dietician’s degree from Montclair State University. She’s a Black Belt, PCC Certified and an RKC Level 2 Instructor as well. She designs nutritional plans for those who desire the services at our studio or outside as well.

You just returned from Europe? Sounds exciting. How did it go?

It was a great experience, especially for me being of Italian heritage to get to teach in the land that my grandparents came from. I did study my Italian for 5 months prior, but most of the attendees spoke English very well. I did say “Come se dice..” a lot of times though ☺. I’m looking forward to returning there as well. We spoke about doing another seminar in Milan in 2017. My goal is to do a 3 Day RKC seminar 100% in Italian.

You also host self defence seminars/ SURVIVAL STRONG workshops and certifications at local High Schools, what is this or tell us more about this?

This is “My Baby”, born from my S.A.V.E. program and video series. I have certified the physical education teachers of five local school districts in New Jersey. As far as the school districts go, I train the teachers; supply them with the manual, a S.A.V.E. Level 1 video and most of them purchase the SURVIVAL STRONG book. They then implement the course as a training unit for graduating seniors. The program has been very well received.

The program has also been used on a corporate level. I’ve conducted the self defence based empowerment and safety seminars for Harley Davidson, SUN Microsystems, Lore International, UPS to name a few.

Additionally, I train quite a few martial arts school owners. Especially if they are a sport based school, they may not have a great deal of self defence knowledge or true application. The SURVIVAL STRONG System is a turn-key program addressing bodyweight strength, defensive tactics, mindset, awareness, avoidance and general preparation.

Phil Ross compilation

Why is this so important to you?

Of all of the services that I provide, self protection and empowerment rank the highest. People should not have to walk the streets in fear. There is so much important information contained in the 356 pages of the book, that I consider it a “Survival Handbook for every Home”. Having the proper mindset is tantamount, whether it’s for strength training, athletics or self defence.

You’re launching FEROCIOUS FITNESS soon. What makes this different to SURVIVAL STRONG?

SURVIVAL STRONG is an overall survival and strength book. FEROCIOUS FITNESS is based on the top Kettlebell and Bodyweight based workouts for combat athletes and martial artists. There’s a great deal of mindset for a champion in this book as well. I talk about how I got to where I am today, the people that influenced me along the way and pivotal life experiences that left lasting impressions on my training. There is a “Top 10 List” of my all-time bad-ass fighters through history. I give a little blurb on each one, so the reader understands why they made my list. I talk about weight classes and weight control, different fighters and take the reader through a 10 week fight camp. I explain how this information can easily be applied to seasonal athletes as well. In my mind, non-martial artists and non-fighters can use these workouts to train like the champions and get into top condition with minimal equipment and sound tactics.
So the two books are very different but do have a common thread, other than the same author!

Phil Ross belt

They are written form the perspective of some one who has “been there, done that” and I sift through a lot of unnecessary garbage that people get fed from so-called experts in martial arts, self defence and fitness.

I have some great reviews and forwards for both books, MMA Legend Frank Shamrock and Brian Ebersole, a Navy SEAL, Paul Wade the Convict Conditioning fitness guru, Former Police Officers, to name a few.

What advice can you give people who want to branch out like you’ve done?

Follow your passion, but have a plan. Don’t bite off more than you can chew and don’t listen to the “neigh sayers”. They will try to bring you down. I didn’t always have support, but I was very determined. I made a lot of mistakes along the way, but quite a few very good moves. Either way, I learned and I grew. Also, do not focus on money. Strive for excellence and success and money will follow.

You also have online training, how does this work?

As of this moment, I have The Kettlebell Workout Library available online for only $9.99/month. You gain access to 20 hours of video with 104 workouts and downloadable PDF with the workouts printed out. There are warm-ups, bodyweight, plyometrics, dynamic tension, flexibility and even sledgehammer workouts that go along with the Kettlebell sessions.

What made you decide to produce your own book and The Kettlebell Workout Library DVD series?

When I took my first RKC certification some 9 years ago, I thought to myself “Man, this stuff is GREAT! What do I do with it?” There was not much in the way of group training data for kettlebells, so I chronicled every workout for 6 years and categorized them into Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced and Specialty. I kept the best and filmed them.

I wanted to provide something to take the guess work out for those new to and/or teaching kettlebells. Additionally, if you change the duration, intensity, density and volume – one workout becomes five!

I don’t know about most people, but I don’t have the luxury of offering Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced classes. Everyone trains together. I employ regressions and progressions and will have as many as three workouts going on in one class at the same time! The Kettlebell Workout Library helps me to manage that.

Phil Ross DVD

What one thing do you know now that you wished you knew 10-20 years ago?

I wish that I pursued my competitive MMA career when I had the opportunity. I was practicing Mixed Martial Arts in the early 1980’s and I even called it “Mixed Martial Arts”, but I didn’t coin the phrase. I should have. Many people who knew me knew that I had been mixing the stand-up and the grappling together for years, a decade before the first UFC event. There were circumstances in my life at the time and I let that slip away. I was determined to not allow the same thing to happen with me with kettlebells.

Have any advice for someone wishing to learn a new skill yet not sure how or where to start?

You first have to see if you have any aptitude for the activity and take some courses. Don’t simply watch YouTube and think you have all of the answers! I went and sought out the best in all of my fields. When I was in High School, I trained with wrestlers who were National College Champions and on Olympic teams. In college, one of my instructors Pat Finley started training with Guro Dan Inosanto (Bruce Lee’s training partner), so I was privy to some incredible knowledge. After college, I sought out the best fighting school in my area and joined them. When I wanted to learn from the best in MMA, I went to Frank Shamrock and became an instructor in his system and was his assistant at quite a few seminars. Then I got turned onto Kettlebells, so I studied with the Gold Standard in Kettlebell training – The RKC.

So if you really want to get good at something, seek out the best person or organization to train with and align yourself with them.

Phil Ross kicking

What would you most like to accomplish next?

I’m in the process of organizing the all of the SURVIVAL STRONG workouts. Once I’m satisfied, I will film them and make them available online. I am also in pursuit of my Masters and start back to school this fall. I’m pretty excited about this endeavor. I like the challenge. I am in the process of opening up a security company to provide training, assessments, anti-bully classes and armed and unarmed security for schools. The company name will be School Secure. I’ve partnered with one of my students and former police detective.

Phil Ross compilation

What rule do you live by?

I live by a code: Strength and Honor, just as the Roman Legions did. If you train hard, you’re prepared and you give maximum effort, that’s all anyone can expect of you. One has to look in the mirror and like what they see staring back at you. Try your hardest and put your all into whatever you do, no matter how trivial it may seem at the time.

I have also found that there is only one thing that you can control in your life, your reaction to things that happen.

If you could have one superpower, what would you choose?

Being able to fly and fly fast, Superman fast. I think that would be very cool. I could zip around from place to place and see different people with ease.


Thanks to Phil for doing this interview, be sure to follow Phil and all his channels below:

Places you can find Phil
The Kettlebell Workout Library
SURVIVAL STRONG


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