Performance Strongman – Part 2

by Thom Van Vleck

Brian Kerby "picking up girls" Strongman Style

We began to do Strongman shows for Bible Camps and Youth Groups in the local area. Soon, word spread and Brett Kerby and then John O’Brien joined our efforts. We all developed special talents and skills and soon had a show that I believe rivals any group in that’s out there in term of the quality of feats we perform!

To date, we have done over 250 shows to an estimated 25,000 people since 2003. Over 100 of these have been large productions that involved hundreds of spectators. Some are smaller, what we call “gym bag” shows where we just come in and do a handful of feats in a smaller venue. The JWC is not just about evangelism work. That “strongman” part is only a short part of the 80 plus year history of the club. In the past 15 years we also put on many secular events. We have held over 25 Highland Games events, 10 strongman contests, helped the local Irondogs at Truman State with a dozen or so powerlifting meets and Olympic Lifting meets, as well as helping train local lifters. Two of our members, Bill Leffler and Jim Spalding, are multi Masters World Champions in Scottish Highland Games. Not even mentioning the past JWC teams and their accomplishments as well as their own roll in All Round history. That’s another story!

Now, the JWC will be hosting its first USAWA meet after becoming a member club earlier this year. The first of what I hope is many. It just seems a natural fit since so many USAWA lifts have their roots in the history of the first performance strongmen and women. I know that we, the JWC, are looking forward to being a part of the USAWA!

Brett Kerby bending a 5/8" bar with his teeth

Performance Strongman – Part 1

by Thom Van Vleck

Thom Van Vleck breaking bricks using the "Double Forearm Break Style"

Many USAWA members are aware of our own Steve Schmidt’s career as a performance strongman, AKA “Strongman Steve”. He travels around doing strongman shows that often mirror his lifting efforts in the USAWA meets he competes in. As a matter of fact, I’d say that had it not been for Steve’s efforts to become a top USAWA lifter, his strongman career might not have ever happened! USAWA member Eric Todd, who has also joined the JWC for our shows at times, also does performance Strongman shows.

There are two other USAWA members that also have a strongman career as a part of the “Jackson Weightlifting Club”. This includes John O’Brien and Thom Van Vleck. After the “JWC All-Round Challenge” on Nov. 21 the other two more members of the JWC team should also be USAWA members, Brett and Brian Kerby as they are slated to compete in that contest.

The USAWA has a rich history and connection to being what I call a Performance Strongman. Many of the old timers like Appollon, Saxon, and Sandow travelled around earning their living performing, not competing. Today, guys like Steve, Eric and the JWC members do it for other reasons.

John O'Brien using grip pressure only to blow up unopened cans of soda

While just a few of the JWC members do performance strongman shows, they do it to spread the word of Jesus Christ. We are Christian men who believe that God has given us a talent and that we are to use that talent for Him. We are a non-denominational group that often also delivers secular messages such as being anti drug, staying in school, and being good citizens. But we never sacrifice our core message.

Brian Kerby and myself, Thom Van Vleck, are the core members of the JWC evangelism effort. We have been brothers in the Word and Iron since our teenage years and always shared a love of the iron sports. We finally had a chance to go and help Randy Richey and his strongman evangelism team, Omega Force, at the US Strongman Nationals in St. Louis. We ended up being a part of the show and were soon offered to travel with them overseas. Brian and I realized this would not be possible with our family, church, and job obligations and soon realized that God wanted us to share our talents locally.

Conner Wins Liberty Strongman Classic!!

by Al Myers

John Conner training for the Hummer Tire Deadlift - where he pulled 905 pounds.

John Conner, the Dino Gym Phenom, won the Liberty Strongman Classic this past weekend in Philadelphia. This professional strongman contest was directed by Al Thompson, and was attended by several of the top professional strongmen in the United States. I am very proud of John, as I have watched him train very hard these past few months with a new sense of determination. I don’t think John is anywhere near his potential yet.

At times, it was estimated that over 7000 people were watching the strongman show. Here is a YouTube Video of John being the first competitor to load all 5 stones at Frawly Stadium – just watch the fans go wild!!!