Joseph “Da Rulk” Sakoda is accustomed to being surrounded by greatness. The renowned trainer regularly works with people who exemplify that word. We’re not talking about just actors or athletes, even though he’s worked with some of them as well.

Sakoda is best known for two things, one of them is his unique nickname—Da Rulk—which he got from some of his close friends back in his native Brazil. They named him Hulk because of his strength, but in Portuguese the “H” sound is spelled with an “R,” hence Da Rulk.

He’s also known for his efforts in helping first responders in law enforcement, firefighters, and members of the elite military. When these heroes need guidance to become the best version of themselves so they can perform at the highest levels, Rulk is normally the man that gets the call.

“That nickname just stuck with me. Some people still call me “Hulk,” but Rulk is what I get more often,” he says.

Da Rulk Learned Functional Fitness on the Job

Da Rulk first developed his passion for training thanks to his father, who worked for the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) for over 26 years before later working at the Los Angeles district attorney office as a special investigator in the Asian Organized Crime Unit. Being in a first responder household, he was always around them. Young Rulk recalled that they were big, strong, and fast, but there were some physical tasks that they just couldn’t master. During his time in college, he studied and heard stories about ordinary people performing superhuman feats when their adrenal system was elevated and nervous system was optimized in high stress situations.

“I was fascinated with one story of a 90-year-old woman that lifted a car off her grandkids in a car crash,” he said as a hypothetical example. He was so intrigued by it that he made it the focus of his education, studying kinesiology with an emphasis on biomechanics and sensory processing optimization.

“I was fascinated by all of it,” he says.

Da Rulk with fire fighters in front of the fire truck
Courtesy of Da Rulk

For Da Rulk, It’s All About Service

Da Rulk felt a strong commitment to serving the first responder community. Because of that, he began his career working with law enforcement agencies, including S.W.A.T. teams as well as other specialized divisions and academies across the United States. From there, he transitioned to working with fire department agencies.

“From there, I had opportunities to work with Navy SEALS, Army Rangers, Marine Raiders and most recently some of the guys at Top Gun,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate.”

Earlier in his career, he started working with athletes and teams in all the major American sports from the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and many others on both functional strength and cognitive processing efficiency. He has also worked with various celebrities in Hollywood, most notably Chris Hemsworth who recruited Rulk to work with him on the development of the award winning Centr app.

“I am also proud to have worked closely with Fortune 50 companies such as Kroger, their senior management and over 260,000 employees nationwide. I’ve have been blessed to have some amazing partners,” Da Rulk says.

He added; “I’ve always been fascinated with sensory processing and its application to functional performance and efficiency. Others focus on power and speed, but to me that is the third chapter in the book.” In his eyes, the first chapter is focused on managing our sensory input utilizing all five primary senses as well as our near and far senses of proprioception and vestibular regulation.

“That is what manages the adrenal system and organizes the nervous system,”

Good Execution Always Requires a Plan

Chapter 2 of Rulk’s training order would focus on motor planning and the tactical execution of training which incorporates the drills that the athlete or first responder would need to perform to be their best. Chapter 3 would be the traditional strength and conditioning elements which would be leveraged to execute those motor planning skills.

“I try to bridge the gap between the first two chapters and chapter three,” Rulk explained. “I try to develop and cultivate both a proactive and reactive strategy to training.”

Most people train for aesthetics purposes, but Rulk feels that functional bodyweight training can help with all aspects of fitness and athleticism. Essentially, if you can master how the body functions your level of success in all areas will be much greater.

“Functional training is a foundational pillar in all areas of fitness,” he explained. “It’s training that can be applied to everything and anything that you’re doing.”

A few ways to incorporate this training are ways that Rulk shares on his own social media, such as sequencing progressions of his Raw Functional Training (RFT) program, working on dynamic mobility, or finding more challenging ways to execute tactical drills for your profession or sport by incorporating sensory processing and cognitive elements. Even if you were to commit at least one training session as a functional training day, it could have a profound impact on all components of your fitness and profession if needed.

Rulk shared an example to illustrate the point. “If you think about a firefighter, they need to train a certain way to effectively manage all the stress, unpredictability, and challenges on every single call. Being able to manage your adrenal system, organize the nervous system, maintain dynamic mobility, and utilize strength and conditioning for the task you need to do, that is really what functional training is.”

Adequate Recovery is the Key ‘Plunge’ toward Optimal Functionality

As important as training is, recovery is even more vital to reach any wellness or fitness goal, much less to be a consistent high-level performer. Da Rulk understands this and focuses on the importance of nutrition, supplementation, and sleep to stay ready. He also considers cold water therapy very important, which is why he takes plunges regularly into his Plunge XL cold tub.

“There have been several experts talking about the benefits of cold-water immersion, not only post-training, but pre-training as well,” Rulk stated. “Dopamine release, cortisol reduction, and there are so many more benefits from doing it. It can really accelerate your performance and improve resilience, which I really emphasize its importance for.”

Da Rulk thinks that resilience is the next big focus for those paying attention to cold water immersion. In his eyes, the advantage of the Plunge specifically is the ability to remain in a supine body position instead of simply squatting down like other popular pods. He found that it helps with his joints as well as his muscles.

Another unique benefit he pays attention is for cognitive performance. While he and some people he’s worked with are going through that involuntary somatic motor response of shivering to warm up, he will challenge them to perform a variety of basic tasks, including small motor movements while focusing on their breath work to maintain neurological processing speed and cognitive acuity.

“It can really sharpen your spear and it’s a safe way to implement it. The body must overcome that involuntary response to perform those motor tasks.”

Da Rulk’s Final Piece of Functionality

In his own way, Rulk has had a direct impact on many people that perform important duties that also directly impact people. He may not be the one running into the fire or going after the bad guys, but his efforts to help the people that do be as prepared as possible and recover to the best of their abilities has and continues to make a big difference. That opportunity is what drives him to continue being his best every day as well.

“I’m always going to try my best. Embrace discipline, cultivate consistency, and expand your capacity.”

You can follow Da Rulk on Instagram: @da_rulk

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