Extended Family

The day I joined my gym, I got the typical “welcome” e-mail which included the following line:

“I would like to welcome you as a new student and family member”

For some quick background, the gym I go to is 100% muay thai, no MMA/BJJ/etc, so for that reason (I'm assuming), it is a bit smaller compared to some of the other gyms around the area that do everything. Seeing the word “family” in their welcome letter wasn't a big surprise. Smaller gym = smaller classes which means people get to know each other.

After a month of membership though, I'm starting to understand that there is more to it than that.

Twice a week I drive ~40 minutes to go to a place where I essentially embarrass myself in front of 10-20 people. I put on mid-thigh length shorts and go sweat my ass off, making horrible sounds (and faces I'm sure) all while trying to keep myself upright because I'm so out-of-shape that just doing stretches makes me tired. I spend most of class paired up with someone who gets to see how weak and uncoordinated I am from three feet away. I am essentially in a reality TV short where people get to watch me attempt to battle through adversity live.

And guess what? Everyone else in the gym is going through the exact same thing.

Think about it, how often do you avoid doing something or change what you are wearing to avoid looking “silly”? Would you sit out in your front yard and let your neighbors watch you struggle through three minutes of leg raises? While this might be a bit of a blanket statement, I think most of us tend to avoid situations like that.

Despite those factors, folks show up to classes where they are making themselves vulnerable, not just from a physical standpoint, but from a mental standpoint as well. I think there is a type of loose-bond that is formed with others when you can share experiences. You understand what the other person is going through. You know what it feels like when you are on your fifth round of drills and you hear the “30 seconds left” buzzer. You can't help but cheer your partner on and encourage them to push through it to finish strong.

Those moments are when the idea of being a family really start to take shape. You want the people around you to succeed. You want to see them level-up and grow. You want to enable them to do their best. So while the smaller size of the gym plays a part in creating the “family”, I believe it is what happens inside of the gym that really solidifies those bonds.