John Du Cane is an author, a CEO and widely considered to be the co-founder of the modern kettle bell movement. John is the CEO of the company Dragon Door Publications, a mail order house and publisher for books and videos on kettlebells, qigong, healing, fitness, nutrition, and internal martial arts. John Du Cane has also also written various books, including his most recent autobiographical release Wild Boy: What I Want To Tell You, a collection of true tales from John’s life. John Du Cane has also released numerous videos and DVDs on T’ai chi and Qigong. John studied at Cambridge University, and made thirty-four films in a 3 year span during a brief period of activity in which he was associated with the London Film-Makers’ Co-op. John Du Cane began his Qigong and T’ai chi practice in 1975. His teachers include Master Chiu, the official representative of the Yang Family in Europe, Grandmaster Choi, Grandmaster Shou-Yu Liang, Grandmaster Chen Xiaowang, Grandmaster Chen Xiaoxing, and Jose Figueroa. John Du Cane and Pavel Tsatsouline are also credited with starting the modern kettlebell fitness movement in the USA in 2001 with the manufacture of kettlebells in the US and the creation of the world’s first kettlebell instructor certification program. Please enjoy my interview with John Du Cane…
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?
I own Dragon Door Publications, which publishes fitness resources. I am best known for having co-founded the modern kettlebell movement and helping stimulate a resurgence of interest in bodyweight exercise with the publication of Paul Wade’s Convict Conditioning series.
Stone Free by Andrew Loog Oldham, the first manager/producer of the Rolling Stones, in whch he regales us with compelling portraits of what he describes as the “pimpressarios” of the sixties/seventies music business. I was led to Andrew’s book after fact checking my rock and roll stories in Wild Boy: What I Want To Tell You. Having known Chris Stamp and Pete Kameron, two of the Who’s original pimpressarios, I watched the brilliant documentary Lambert and Stamp, which led me to Stone Free. I am admiring Stone Free’s bravura phrasings, humour and amazing revelations about an extraordinarily creative period in modern culture.
What’s your earliest memory of reading?
At the age of about 9 in Sierra Leone, reading a second world war novel called To Hell and Back by Audie Murphy. It was a tough tale of brutish heroism that fired up my boyish imagination. I took this treasured paperback to school with me in England. The headmaster was horrified by my reading choice and confiscated To Hell and Back. I wrote an angry letter to my parents threatening to run away from school if the book was not returned to me forthwith. They called my bluff, I never got the book back and I grudgingly conceded to stay in school.
If you could encourage young people to read one book in particular, what would it be?
The Complete Works of Shakespeare by William Shakespeare. When my daughter was 16 she got two presents for her birthday: a car from me and the complete Shakespeare from her best friend. I saw my daughter’s eyes sparkle with more joy and excitement on tearing open the Shakespeare than on being greeted by her first Camry. Shakespeare wrote at a unique period in history when the English language exploded with a newfound vitality and vigour. Shakespeare’s muscular, stripped-down, vivid, image-laden writing has never been matched, anymore than his penetrating wisdom, his tragic vision and his comic ear. There can be no finer a writing model for a young person to emulate than Mr. Will.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
Washing dishes in the ashram restaurant in India.
Do you read as much as you’d like to?
Yes, I read every day, usually for at least an hour, often for many more. I love to read myself to sleep. Reading is my single greatest pleasure in life.
As a publisher who is essentially a promoter and marketer, all of the great books on direct response advertising and copywriting. I honed my skill at communicating my enthusiasms by studying the masters of persuasion, like David Ogilvy, Dan Kennedy, Jay Abrams, Cialdini, Robert Collier, Claude Hopkins and Gene Schwartz.
However, without the mental fortitude to endure the vicissitudes of being an entrepreneurial publisher, I would quickly give up the ghost and move on. In that regard, I recommend The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday (see Ryan Holiday’s interview) which explores to the Stoic approach to transforming a challenge into a triumph.
Is there a book that you’ve read more than once? What is it and why did you revisit it?
Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. Timeless wisdom of the first order. I first read the Tao Te Ching at the age of fifteen. Lao Tzu was the perfect antidote to the suffocating brand of Christianity that repelled me as a teenager. Without understanding that much of the wisdom, the Taoist message struck resonant chords in me that have forever influenced my path in life. Dragon Door itself was founded to translate Taoist and Tai Chi texts. Inspired by Lao Tzu, I began a novel at the age of sixteen called The Way, about a young man’s search for enlightenment. This unfinished work was a sign post to my future.
What book have you recommended the most to friends and family?
Recently, What Doesn’t Kill Us by Scott Carney. Scott trained with Wim Hof, whose The Way of The Iceman I recently published. What Doesn’t Kill Us offers the deepest and broadest answer to the question: why is it so worthwhile to practice the Wim Hof ice therapy and breathing methods? The science and the inspirational stories are all here. It’s a game changer amongst modern health publications.
What’s your favourite genre of book?
Biography, because I am fascinated by the lives of other men and women—and the insights they give into the human condition.
What do you think a world without books would be like?
I started to answer by saying: “a soulless wasteland”—because books are that precious to me. However, spiritually, I have to recognize that great human cultures have existed where all wisdom was passed on orally. I like the “artifactness” of books, the physicality of them, the feel of them and the comfort of their stored wisdom.
Is there an author whose writing you’re such a fan of, that you’ll read everything they release?
Paul Theroux. In modern prose, it just doesn’t get better than Theroux’s travel books. Check out his latest magisterial offering, Deep South to see what I mean. Theroux combines an incandescent phrasing with penetrating and deeply passionate investigations of the wonder and utter insanity that makes up man. Theroux deserves the Nobel Prize for Literature. My hunch is that his often darkly bizarre fiction has been a block to that recognition of his status as one of the world’s finest writers.
Do you think digital books will ever completely replace real books?
It’s improbable, because there is a special beauty and greater sense of permanence to the physical, paper book. There will always be people like me, I believe, who will continue to want that in their lives.
What book do you feel humanity needs right now?
Any of the most important texts from the world’s great religions.
What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life?
The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, as mentioned above.
So many, but let me recommend Sebastian Junger’s two books Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging and War for their brilliant exploration of the modern warrior mindset and the implications for our current predicament.
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
Any book that deepens my understanding of the human condition.
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?
I just wrote the first of a number of planned autobiographies, called Wild Boy: What I Want To Tell You.