When I’m not doing martial arts regularly I feel like something’s wrong. Why that is might be the subject of a future post, but for now I’m thankful that it isn’t going to happen anytime soon. Or, to put it differently, I love my gym.
The indispensable reason is that John Lavin is really really good. It’s not always obvious how well a teacher knows his stuff, but when he holds the state championship from both the North American Grappling Association and the United Grappling Federation you know he’s legit. And it’s not just him either. SAMBO coach? Trained in Russia, bunch of medals. Muay Thai coach? Trained in Thailand, bunch of medals. And so on.
When I first looked at Lavin Mixed Martial Arts & Fitness I thought it was pretty expensive ($165/month for full access), but fortunately John lets you train free for the first month. So I started showing up and after less than two weeks I was sure that I’d happily pay that price. In fact, after further consideration I don’t consider it expensive. Why? I could paraphrase Edward Smith-Stanley and say “Those who think they cannot afford bodily exercise will sooner or later have to afford illness”. But that’s not really the reason. Slightly off-topic, saying that you’re in bad shape because you can’t afford the gym is a terrible excuse when there are free exercise opportunities all around. Doing anything demanding every day is the best training program in the world; if you don’t believe me, go arm-wrestle a farmer. And if you really want a planned-out program, make a $12 down payment and pay your installments in willpower.
The real reasons all hinge on what the basis for comparison is. First off, I know that the fees aren’t high so that John can get rich. In addition to paying rent for the really nice facility, he’s paying for gloves, shin guards and helmets, bags and mitts, weights and other workout gear, not to mention salaries. And at the end of the day he still has to pay all his own expenses. So yeah, it costs four times as much as 24 Hour Fitness, but what that place does is rent out treadmills to people who don’t show up much. That’s like comparing fish fingers with sushi: Yes, they’re both food containing fish, but one requires years of training while the other could be done by a monkey with a deep fryer. If we change our perspective a bit, what I’m really paying for is that someone who has spent fifteen years studying something teaches me what he knows. Is it expensive? If I go for four years I’d have paid about $8,000, and would probably have gotten pretty good at mixed martial arts. Did you go to college? If you did, chances are that you (or your parents) paid something like 20k per year, or $80,000 total, for you to get pretty good at something. Sure, you also get a piece of paper that might get you a job, but is that why you did it? If so you might have gotten the same results for free through apprenticeship. But if not, you paid for people with 10-30 years of experience to teach you something you (hopefully) wanted to learn.
Whether grappling is as important to learn as articulation and source criticism is for each of us to decide. But my point is that if we compare gym fees to an equivalent service rather than to other everyday expenses, it’s not expensive. And that’s without the free perks: I was having neck pains for a while, partly from work and partly from wrestling, but on John’s recommendation I bought a buckwheat pillow that helped a ton. When I’m early and catch the tail end of a kid’s class, I’ve noticed that John takes time out to teach the kids life lessons. I randomly picked up a book from his lending library, which ended up making a big impression on me. And you get access to a great guy with an encyclopedic knowledge of and a number of almost-but-not-quite ridiculous movie script ideas.