Last interview we were here in europe, now let´s go again over the great see to see someone from the states. It´s Phil McMahon and the most of us will know him like a newcomer, but with this interview we can learn, that he was into steel bending at a very early stage and that it is more like a comback since the last two years.
Phil is also putting down some hard bends in a very short time, so take care what the future brings to that man.
Thanks Phil for the very nice interview and your poem of steel, which I really enjoyed:
Year of birth:
Weight 198lbs (90kg)
USA - Utah
There is this girl...
What does steel bending mean to you?
Mind over matter. Making what seems impossible, ordinary, then going for the extraordinary. Awakening people to the spuriousness of their self-imposed limitations. Feeling the sensation of something immovable yield to pure will and determination. The burgeoning camaraderie from finding a community of like-minded individuals, particularly the BESTIES.
When and why did you start steel bending and what does or did your active time look like?
I began bending when I was in high school, maybe 16 years old, around 2003. Around that time I had become fascinated with gripsport and did all of the styles, pinch, grippers, levering, bending, etc., while training for shotput, long/triple jump in high school. This was before DO technique was well established and when leather wraps were frowned upon. I got a benders bag from IronMind but never used the IMPs, instead I just rolled the steel down an old dish towel. My first bend was a 40d nail that I would attack every night for about a week until one day it just melted. I was ecstatic! That feeling of the steel moving got me hooked and I continued bending for a year or two, peaking at very short Blue nails and kinking 1/4” grade 5 bolts, all in the dish towel wrap.
I stopped bending at around 18 years old, likely because of a wrist fracture that caused some tendon and ligament damage at that time. I would then spend the next 15 years or so pursuing endurance running and ultra-distance road cycling, scarcely setting foot into a gym. Then in December 2021, I spontaneously decided to start bending again, reactivated my Gripboard account from 2004, and learned how to properly wrap IMPs. Bent a 1/4” grade 5 and a grade 8 within a few weeks. I’ve since trained consistently at bending, barring a few minor injuries, with steady progress, achieving the Horrido 8.8 cert and right on the cusp of the Nibelungen and 6.5” 8.8.
What do you love about steel bending?
The strong mental and neuromuscular focus required. Overcoming something that seems impossible. The high strength and technical ability necessary to bend makes it interesting because there are many ways to improve. It develops a lot of functional strength and each bend gives you a small trophy of your efforts! Also, I found that my road cycling improved from bending - neuromuscular control improved so much in general that my legs became stronger, more efficient and more responsive when pedalling, which was quite surprising!
What do you hate about steel bending?
How minor injuries such as a finger cut can basically stop all bending until it heals.
How does your training for steel bending look like?
My training has been almost entirely just bending. Some supplementary sledge hammer and kettlebell work was helpful, especially early on to build some muscle. I’ll usually bend a couple times per week working up to a bunch of maximal attempts. Now as I aim for some top end bends I’m incorporating more structure, volume and soon gym work.
How does your other training look like (strength or other)?
Outside of bending I train for road cycling. The snowy Winter in Utah this year has made it difficult to train, but as the weather clears up I’ll try to ride on most days for a couple hours, longer on the weekends. It will be interesting to balance bending and cycling training this Summer.
What goals have you set for yourself?
This year I would like to cert on the 10.9, Ogopogo and bend a KOAB under cert conditions. I’d also like to snap a horseshoe in under 30 seconds to set a speed snap record. Long term, bend bigger steel and more varieties. Have bending to be a lifelong hobby and achieve a lot of top tier bends along the way. Through all of this and beyond, introduce and inspire others to the beauty and wonder of bending as a sport and hobby.
What was the most impressive bend you ever saw (live or on video)?
Whatever Josh Goldthorp bends, especially the single IMP 8.8. Derek, Zsolt and Juha also greatly impressed me early on with their max bends. Brett Bracken bending a 12” spike unbraced DO.
Rapid stuff – choose one
Bolts or steel?
Unbraced or braced?
Singles or doubles?
Chalk or not?
Beer or water?
Cordura or leather or both?
Short bars or long bars?
Horseshoes or flat bars? Horseshoes!
Chips or chocolate?
The last words belong to you. What do you want the reader take away? Let us know your poems of steel!
Bend steeling or steel bending?
These two may seem the same.
Former yields what latter gives,
But only in the name.
Steeled mind and a mind of steel,
A hand within a glove,
Bound in sacred harmony
Of metal’s bending love.
Turn askew what once was straight,
A mental prophecy
Born of those who will be great
And have the mind to see.
Things may be as though they seem
Or maybe they are not
Bending steel is like a dream
You see what you’ve forgot!