You can't go wrong with big muscles, long blonde hair, and flash kicks. Chris Kunst — known as Tatsumaru to most — is the modern reincarnation of a Norse God. I've known him for a long time and wanted to get him in here to share his ideas.
This interview is long, but I'm not going to apologize. Get a cup of coffee and read.
As Mario would say passing someone in Mario Kart, “Hewego” –
1. Can you first give us a little background about yourself?
My name is Chris, online most people know me under the alias of Tats or Tatsumaru — a video game character inspired nickname I picked in early 2004 when I signed up to the Tricks Tutorials Forums.
(Anthony note: Tricks Tutorials Forums no longer exist. I'm apart of a secret underground troop of people that are rebuilding these forums — which are about tricking, strength training, and randomness — for the greater good. You should be excited about this.)
TT changed my life for the better, as it triggered my interest in training, nutrition and health – and that’s the stuff that keeps me busy on daily basis right now, having decided to study dietetics and all.
I am the author of Storm Tricks and have grown to become very passionate about tricking, strength training, nutrition, metal music and leading an awesome “alternative” lifestyle in general. I am a certified dietitian and am currently striving to combine that with the title of sports dietitian and personal trainer.
I basically enjoy helping people with the subjects close to my heart; training and health. That’s one of the main reasons I like working on my website; it’s a lot fun to help people, and I get a lot of satisfaction from it.
2. How and when did you find tricking?
I discovered tricking in early 2004 when a friend of mine (whom I got to know through a few Jiujitsu martial arts classes, which I do not take anymore) linked me to Jujimufu’s and Antoine’s “Scorch” summer 2004 sampler. (Video linked below.) I was fascinated; it completely blew me away. All the cool kicks, flips and twists being tossed by guys that actually looked awesome.
Being a scrawny, frail guy at the time, who was not very happy about his athletic capabilities – I was inspired to turn around my lifestyle in order to become a good tricker. I wanted a better body too.
I read through Tricks Tutorials relatively fast because I was so motivated and inspired. I soon realized all these things – nutrition, flexibility, strength training, rehab, getting an awesome body, etc. – all go hand in hand with becoming a more awesome athlete. I aspired to be one, and still do so to this day.
3. What do you think people need to know about you?
Hmmm, there’s nothing people really “need” to know about me. I’m just a guy passionate about the things he’s doing; training, living healthy and helping people. I am a solo trickster at heart and have a very strong sense of discipline, or a very strong “inner drive” if you will.
I see tricking, training and my general lifestyle as a gateway to becoming closer to a “dream image” of myself. “Becoming a favorite character of yourself”, so to speak. That’s one of the reasons I can keep on doing what I do and be very passionate about it.
I am largely motivated by following said dream images and they influence my life a lot. All of this makes me quite the oddball in social context and modern day society. But it’s what makes me unique in a way, and it has become a strength of mine.
4. How and when did your love for strength training come about?
It rather grew together with my interest in tricking. I actually started getting into “fitness” slightly before I discovered tricking, because I wanted to become bigger. I’ve been a really skinny guy my whole life. I had no knowledge on the topic of growing bigger whatsoever though, just like most people who start out.
When I found out about tricking, I noticed that the people I looked up to the most were into strength training, and I soon realized that expanding my knowledge on the subject a bit would benefit me greatly. I also delved into all the related topics, like nutrition.
Once I started tracking progress – both physique and strength wise – I developed a big passion for strength training. It was another way to push myself and my body, and to shape it closer to the image of my “favorite character”. The longer you are involved in strength training the more marginal your gains are, but for me every little bit of progress has always meant a lot. It’s like receiving a present you actually wanted.
5. Most people see tricking and are either baffled or scared. They would never fathom getting involved. What was it about tricking that made you say, “I want to do this?”
I was scared when I started tricking too! I crashed a spotted backflip on my face and didn’t dare to attempt any backward trick until a year later, haha.
Anyway, I basically wanted to do something different – I did not like “normal sports” much at all. I was also pretty unsatisfied with my life and didn’t have a lot to “drive” me.
Tricking opened my eyes and sucked me right in upon first discovery. It was new and fresh, exciting, daring, somewhat dangerous even… it was something I needed to make my life more interesting. That’s how I reflect upon it in hindsight. Back then, I guess I just wanted to do it because it looked freaking awesome. Again, in retrospect: I guess you could say tricking filled a certain void in my life.
6. How do you balance strength training and tricking?
It’s not hard at all for me. In mindset, I pretty much prioritize tricking. With that I mean; I care the most about tricking, my sessions and the video I am working for (solo samplers). It’s my main passion and drive. In certain phases my priorities may shift to strength training a bit more – such as having injuries which don’t allow me to trick to full(er) potential, or in the cold seasons when I can’t trick outside as much.
I really prefer grass sessions over gym sessions because I love using the outdoors in my videos. I still have gym sessions and good progress in times of winter though – sometimes even better than in summer, because plyo is an awesome surface to trick and learn on. This has been my general approach the past few years.
I try to combine both as effectively as possible – and I do not skip strength sessions. I love strength training. I kinda go about it like this:
In general, I have 3 strength sessions per week. I focus on compound movements and always incorporate basic essentials like presses, squat, deadlift and weighted chin ups. My training routine changes depending on my goals of course.
If I desire to drop bodyfat, I lower training volume and go for intensity. If I desire to go for a muscle building phase, my workouts are higher in volume. I change my nutrition accordingly.
I always keep a strength log and have some sort of program to follow. I am an organizer and planner, so I enjoy making my own schedules and playing around with new things from time to time. I feel it’s unnecessary to overhaul your routine every 6 weeks or whatever – but incorporating new elements definitely keeps things fun and fresh.
Tricking has always been a spontaneous thing for me; I do not really plan when I trick – unless it is a gym session of course – those being scheduled and all. If the weather is good, I can trick up to 3-5 times per week. I prefer short and “as fresh as possible” sessions; not tricking much longer than 30-60 minutes.
I try to get out when still somewhat fresh, as burning out each session really slows down recovery and I’ve find that to be detrimental to both tricking and strength training progress. Tricking is supposed to be a fun thing for me, and I get out when something just doesn’t work. Sometimes you just have a bad day and you shouldn’t fret too much about it. Leave, come back another day and try again.
I don’t necessarily split strength training and tricking days – IMO there’s no need for separation. (Anthony note: there is no separation.)If I feel I can trick on a strength training day, I just do that. It’s a mood- and time thing; I need to be in the mood to trick and I obviously need enough time. Like I said, tricking is mostly a spontaneous activity for me. If I feel good, I have the time, and the weather is calling me – I will head outside and go trick.
I do have a lot of goals written down for tricking though! I keep a tricking spell book which basically functions as a logbook for my sampler. In it, I keep track of my sessions and rate them afterwards, I have written down both realistic and unrealistic tricking goals to strive for, etc. Before each session, I usually look up my spell book and write down a few things on my hand so I remember to try and play around with them during the session. They’re usually completely different things, because some days certain tricks just don’t work.
In general – I put a lot of thought and effort into all these things and thoroughly enjoy doing so. I believe that such an active mindset towards tricking/training can really benefit someone’s inner drive. Or maybe the inner drive is something that is unique to certain individuals – I don’t know haha.
I basically love spending so much thought on planning ahead my tricking and strength training. Working on solo samplers is one of the most fun things in life for me – one of my biggest drives. It’s what triggers my urge to trick often. I’ll be like “hey, if I get this combo to work – I’ll have something awesome to add to my sampler” – head out, and trick. And if I’m at work or unable to trick at the current time, I make sure to write it down and try it as soon as I’m able to trick!
7. How do you feel strength training has either helped or hurt your tricking from both a performance and injury standpoint?
Ah yes, interesting question. Strength training has both hurt and helped my tricking. I will explain, starting with HURT.
First off, I have concluded that doing Olympic lifts is not necessary for a regular trickster or guy into getting strong and buff. Duh? I wanted to be cool and do them too. I have gone through many injuries thanks to trying to do them (and increasing weights too fast) – mostly minor ones and silly small annoyances mind you.
But still; they were minor injuries that would hinder or interfere with my tricking sessions. Staying with strength training basics, meaning; deadlifts, squats, a press, chins and dips – is a solid enough foundation and I’m much less likely to get injured then, I decided for myself. Tricking is injury prone enough as it is, so let’s stay as safe as possible during strength training haha.
Another HURT thing, is training too “hard” during fat loss phases. I wouldn’t cut down on volume enough, and I’d underfeed to realize fat loss of course – so in these times, tricking suffered due to under recovery. One thing I learned from these phases is this; if I want my tricking sessions to be successful, I need to compensate by reducing strength training volume. Rest is important too, and I tend to forget that at times. You can read more about this here in an article I wrote.
At times I wonder; how would my tricking be if I just tricked, like so many other tricksters? I don’t really have the luxury to a gym many days a week like a lot of awesome tricksters do, but what if I did? Does my “bigger” frame (I’m not huge but bigger than most trickers) hinder my tricking? The truth is; I’ll never know. And frankly, I don’t really care about it, since I love strength training anyway. When tricking is over for me (as in; the body cannot handle it anymore) I’m sure I’ll keep on weight training.
Now, how has it HELPED me? In a lot of ways, thankfully!
For one, strength training is partly like a bodily rehab to me. If I don’t do strength training, I get minor aches and annoyances. Proper strength training can be very therapeutic, I believe. I need it, and love doing it.
Besides that, it has helped me mentally. It improved my self-image; I look better, I feel better, I trick better. Strength training basically helps me get closer to my dream image, which I talked about before. I want to be a buff trickster – so through strength training (and proper nutrition, etc.) – I can achieve these goals. This is basically one of the most important things to me and really keeps me going.
And I also suppose that strength training has made me stronger, more explosive and all that, haha.
8. Tell us one thing we don’t know about you.
There’s probably tons of things you don’t know about me haha! I am a terrible sleeper and this has probably robbed me of potential awesome gains. I recommend everyone to have good sleep habits I’m still working on it after many years. The past few months I’ve been getting there. And I’ve been feeling much better.
9. Lately, you’ve gone to intermittent fasting as your primary nutritional strategy. Care to explain a bit about your current diet and training?
Yes, I’ve been doing Intermittent Fasting for about 1.5 years now – having found out about it halfway 2011. It’s been one of the best things I’ve discovered nutrition-wise, and that’s also coming from someone who almost religiously ate 6 times a day, spread protein intake evenly, etc. etc. etc…
I don’t believe it’s for everyone, but a lot of people can benefit from it and I’d encourage everyone to at least try it, before criticizing it (although I can see why someone would – I’ve been there). It’s convenient, it’s healthy if done properly, and most of all – it’s fun as hell! I have come to love the big meals I get to consume.
I’ve experimented a bit with different IF approaches, but usually come back to Martin Berkhan’s classic Leangains approach (16 hour fast / 8 hour feeding window). I am quite flexible with my fast and often end up fasting longer than 16 hours – especially during fatloss phases I like increasing my fast-time and having 2 bigger meals instead of 3.
Currently I’m doing a lean bulk after a long fat loss phase. My strategies are the same though; caloric surplus on training days, and a deficit on rest days (a much smaller deficit than when dieting for fatloss of course!). In general; an enjoyable diet. I am quite an active person and bike a lot for transport, so can get away with eating a bit more, which is fun for me.
A higher protein intake is more crucial on rest days I believe; I like to eat at least 2-2.5 g/kg. Seeing as I’m in a caloric surplus on training days and muscle loss is not likely, I stress less about protein. I still try to hit 160-200 grams, and often end up higher anyway haha. I try to enjoy my carbs furiously on training days, seeing as I keep fat intake pretty low in general.
When dieting for fatloss, I believe there’s some benefits in going pretty lowcarb (<150 grams). For maintenance or bulk phases, I like to use 150-250 grams of carbs. An amount that keeps me sane and keeps the diet fun. On training days I go anywhere from 400-600 grams of carbs depending on how active I was that day.
I like training fasted whenever I can fit it into my schedule. I personally use BCAA’s for fasted training, but I do admit it’s more of a mental safeguard for me than anything. I eat my biggest meals after training; sometimes that’s a 1500 kcal meal, sometimes 2500 kcal, and very rarely it’s a one meal a day type approach where I go for 3000-3500 kcal. Those are challenging and shouldn’t be done too often, haha.
I’m a calorie counter myself, but only because it can be done very quickly nowadays, through handy calorie applications on smartphones and all. A rough estimate is what I go for anyway – I like steering my daily nutrition intake from there. I also like planning my meals ahead; I often think about my next post workout meal and look forward to it haha. Makes training even more fun and rewarding.
Don’t become too obsessed with that though; I’ve been there during an extreme cut-phase. I was basically living for my postworkout meal because I was lowcarbing too much and destroying my sanity through it. Don’t go there!
One other pitfall of IF I have developed personally, and I’d like to warn people about, is this: I have sometimes noticed I purposely do extra work so I can eat extra amounts. Simply because I really enjoy the meals I prepare haha. I advise people to not go there; it’s a danger zone!
Some final take away points. Prioritize protein intake. Eat tons of vegetables, they rule. Enjoy yourself at (social) eating/dining events and use the “caloric buffer” IF so easily provides well – it’s a great strategy to reduce damage. Experiment a lot with your meals and don’t eat bland stuff – IF can be fun as hell. Don’t stress too much about details – they do not matter in the grand scheme of things. Be active or productive during your fast. Plan ahead a bit, and learn to become a good nutrition improviser. Invest time in “knowing” foods. If you don’t enjoy it, you’re doing it wrong.
10. To finish up, what advice would you give a beginning trickster from both a tricking and training point of view?
Set goals for yourself; something to drive you. If you want to get good at something and have found some sort of goal; learn about it and the subjects surrounding it.
For example; proper nutrition plays a huge (main) role in recovery, in what happens to your body (build muscle, lose fat), etc. – invest some time in learning about it, and put that knowledge to use! It will be worth it. Another example; learning an aerial. Maybe it’s dynamic flexibility you need to be working on, if you keep on crashing it because you don’t seem to be flexible enough. Spend some time reading how to effectively improve dynamic flexibility in that scenario! Oh, and put that knowledge to use again – otherwise it won’t help you much haha.
I’m really encouraging everyone to LEARN more OUTSIDE of the training sessions – never stop learning, wondering and questioning things! J Have a positive, curious and open mind!
Lastly, be patient. Progress takes time, and tricking has a steep learning curve. That’s why I would advise optimizing everything around tricking while working on tricks. Work on your flexibility, get your diet in check, read up on how to properly strength train and recover, etc. It might just have a very positive carry over effect to your tricks, and you might end up enjoying those “side subjects” very much! That’s how it went for me at least, hehe!
Thanks Tats. Was a pleasure.
Questions for Tats?
Drop 'em below!