GMB is now just over three years old and we feel so privileged to have the support and great feedback from our clients and customers. It’s been a real labor of love and we’re lucky to do what we love everyday.
But what exactly is that?
Do we teach gymnastics? No. Really, we don’t.
Gymnastics is a specific sport with specific rules set out for competitions, and that is not what we do. We’ve said it many times before – if you want to learn how to be a gymnast, then you need to seek out proper instruction at a proper gym.
What GMB does teach is fitness and well-being through bodyweight training.
Some of the techniques we use come from gymnastics. But that’s certainly not our only – or even main – influence.
We teach through our collective experiences in athletics, martial arts, education, training, and rehabilitation. This combined history with tens of thousands of clients, students, and patients provided us with our own pieces of the puzzle of learning movement skill.
Andy is fond of saying that we’re not a fitness company; we’re an education company that teaches fitness.
We are educators, first and foremost, and our primary goal is to teach accessible methods to improve your physical abilities, whether you need more strength, flexibility, balance, coordination, or some combination thereof.
How This Whole Thing Came Together
We’ve written before about how important it is to know what you’re training for – having clear goals in mind.
Well, if you want to make the best progress, you’re going to need to work with a teacher or coach. And for that relationship to be productive and healthy, it’s a good idea to also get a clear understanding of that person’s goals too.
I’ll get to our goals for GMB in a minute. First, let’s look at how we came to them…
Ryan Hurst (that’s me)
In my case, I began gymnastics as a child, which led to me to a variety of movement arts for the rest of my life.
Now, I haven’t been a competitive gymnast for many years, but I still enjoy training hard (and smart!) and I’m doing things now at 40 that my 20-year-old self would never have imagined.
My intention with forming GMB was the culmination of these many years and the various insights from teaching and my own training. In my own training, I’ve essentially taken the hard falls so that yours can have a bit of a softer landing!
I’ve told my story before, and now I want to share a bit more about my fellow co-founders and how their backgrounds informed the development and progress of the GMB training methods.
Jarlo began his physical education in martial arts as a teenager, with a variety of martial arts styles (Shotokan, Wing Chun, Tae Kwon Do, Xingyi, Wushu, Taiji, Arnis). He began assisting and teaching from an early age as well, and eventually obtained certifications from Burton Richardson in his system during his time in Hawaii.
His interest in martial arts and health led him to a keen interest in strength and conditioning, and eventually rehabilitation, leading him to earn his physical therapy degree in 1998. He went on to obtain his board certification in orthopedic physical therapy and specializes in hands on work for neck, shoulder, and back conditions.
He’s always told me how he loves remaining a student, racking up thousands of hours in continuing education in therapy courses. And I’m glad he is too, because with each new class he shares the relevant concepts and principles that we can apply to the GMB methodology.
When he and I first met, I was amazed at our similar mindsets to training and teaching, since we do have different backgrounds, but it seems at the heart of our experiences was our passion for improving our physical skills and teaching that to others.
It was with his initial encouragement that I began thinking of what I could offer that was unique from other training methods, and that was the genesis of GMB.
Andy started his physical training at a young age as well, beginning with the martial art of Taido at 7 years old and progressing to be one of the youngest world championship competitors and black belts before the age of 20.
Or in Andy’s words “I got good at it.”
But getting good at it wasn’t all he wanted. When he began to help teaching the art, his interest grew, not just in his own performance, but in teaching others in the best way possible.
Along with his regular teaching responsibilities at the dojo, he became a secondary school teacher working with conservatively 15,000 students – the majority for multiple years with at least weekly contact over the course of 6 years.
He also became a teacher trainer known for his analysis of teaching methods and transferring those to his student teachers.
He’s had a chance to compete and teach throughout the world, including the U.S, the Netherlands, and Australia, and was exposed to the various learning styles of the variety of students from many locales.
In his continued search for improving the quality of his teaching, he noticed that most martial artists were lacking in adequate knowledge about physical training. The often repeated “Do more Kata” and “just punch harder” didn’t seem like the best ways to improve.
He had since then moved to Japan to study and teach and I met him when I was teaching a seminar.
We got to know each other well and shared our experiences teaching and thinking about physical education. We were able to collaborate on several different projects before GMB came to fruition.
Playing a Bigger Game – How We’re Building GMB to be a Community You’ll be Proud to Join
As you can see, we have been training and teaching for our entire lives, and each learned from a variety of teachers and systems for many years.
We’ve been lucky enough to have experienced both the good (and sometimes truly great) and the bad of it all. It’s just human nature that nothing is perfect and all good all the time. And we learned from it all.
What we didn’t want GMB to become was another player in the “us vs. them” game of isolation and differentiation of methods.
Over the years we’ve seen various styles and systems engage in this type of branding, rather than engaging in an honest search for fundamental concepts for quality training and instruction.
We knew we wanted to begin with these essential principles of improving body control and motor skill training, and not do anything “new” just to separate ourselves from the pack.
Yet, we still wanted to retain the open mindset of being perennial students, continually learning and adapting our methods as needed from like minded people. And we’ve been very blessed with that as well!
Changing the Way We Think About Fitness
In the last few years, you’ll notice a burgeoning movement of people emphasizing skill and bodyweight manipulation as their training style of choice.
We’re not going to pretend that we’re the only viable source of knowledge or quality advice when it comes to getting more from your body. Loads of great groups and individuals have cropped up encouraging not just physical training, but also a sense of play and fun.
Some of our favorite colleagues include:
- Mike Fitch from Global Bodyweight Training
- Eat. Move. Improve.
- Steve Atlas and the Body Practice
- Frank Forencich from Exuberant Animal
Exercise and physical fitness should be integral to our lifestyle, and a part of us rather than something we feel forced to do. For this to happen it has to be relevant to our personal situation, and interesting enough for us to do consistently for the rest of our lives.
If there’s only one thing that GMB can teach, this would be the concept I’d love for people to take away.
The Components of the GMB Method
There are many ways to break down the components of physical fitness, but the most practical categories in my opinion are: Strength, Flexibility, Body Control, and Conditioning.
I consider conditioning to be a specific concern that can be very different for each person, so we don’t emphasize that much in our programs. I’m not saying it’s unimportant, but there are already a lot of options out there for people to pick and choose from, so we don’t need to throw another pig in that pot.
Strength – The Force for Movement
Strength is vitally important.
It makes our lives so much easier when we are strong enough to do all the things we want, and have some extra in the bank when we aren’t feeling our best.
But strength should be viewed as a means to an end, and really that end is up to you.
Rather than forcing training for continued strength with no real endpoint, use it as a vehicle and take it as far as you need to, to get to the goals that you really want. Yes, being strong is great, but what do want to be strong for?
Figure that out and you’re on you way to more effective and personally useful training.
We train our clients and design our programs for full body strengthening to improve capability for particular goals and skills.
This provides appropriate training that’s meaningful for the specific client’s needs and desires. Some people are just fine working to add some more weight to the barbell or another rep in their bench press, but many people aren’t motivated by that, so we are showing them a different path.
Flexibility – The Freedom of Movement
Flexibility doesn’t mean being able to do the splits (though it can if that’s what you really want). It means being able to move the way you want and not feel restricted.
Some people will feel the need to attain the splits – perhaps they are in a kicking-oriented martial art, or practice acrobatics where that level of flexibility is very useful – whereas others have other flexibility needs. One of my favorite client comments is from a plumber who told us that stretching helped him to squeeze into the tight spaces in his job!
We provide a lot of different options for flexibility training at GMB, for one, because we know it is a useful tool that helps many people, and for another, because the skills we teach often require a certain level of flexibility to perform well and efficiently.
You don’t need to stretch as much as a contortionist to get benefits from stretching, and neither do you have to be fearful of it as some people seem to be in the last few years.
Flexibility training should be performed as needed to fit your particular wants. We’ve written a lot about stretching so no need to beat this poor horse any longer here – the main point is that if you don’t feel as loose as you’d like, then you should work on your flexibility.
Body Control – The Autonomy of Movement
Now we’ve come to my favorite part of our curriculum – learning how to move our bodies in a variety of functional, as well as seemingly impractical ways.
The love for the creativity of physical expression is deeply engrained in my psyche, and I think that’s true for the majority of human beings as well. Whether its watching athletes in specific sports, or enjoying dance performance, or simply watching people walk, run, and jump at the park, I love seeing people move and reveal themselves in their movement.
You can tell a lot by just watching someone move.
Our emotions inform so much of our body posture and actions. In anger, people stomp and gesticulate wildly with sharp and aggressive moves. In sadness, we slump and walk slower, and our bodies feel heavier and harder to maneuver around. In joy, we feel and move as if everything is lighter and easily handled.
And the same can happen in reverse as well. When you feel anxious, work on slowing down your breathing and stretch out your arms to open up and match your breathing. Keep that rhythm controlled and steady, and your anxiousness will soon fade.
The bodymind philosophy tells us that we can’t separate any part of ourselves. If your body is stiff, so is your mind, and vice versa.
When I teach freeform and specific movement skills, I work hard on getting my students to let go of preconceived notions and expectations of how they should move, or worse, how other people think they should move.
Get rid of achieving “ideal” form and technique in the beginning of learning and allow errors. This not only relieves a lot of pent up frustration, it also directly improves learning. It makes practice more enjoyable, while at the same time encouraging deliberate practice because all of those errors gives you specific actions to work on.
Playing and feeling how our bodies move through space and our bodyparts in relation to each other gives so much insight into who we are and what’s going on right now with ourselves.
Giving ourselves permission to explore physical actions and make mistakes is not only essential for motor learning, it’s also crucial for our mental health.
What You Get From Us
As I’ve said from the beginning, we are teachers. We’ve trained and studied and taught for many years to many different people in a variety of movement arts.
I’m happy to say that we’ve let a lot of unnecessary dogma and absolutes fall behind and have become better educators along the way. Our varied, but at the same time, similar, backgrounds created a unique combination of expertise and finesse, and the only thing we’re rigid about are the criteria of working as hard as we need to and still love our training.
We not only understand the skills and movements we teach, we also know how to teach them in a way that everyone can learn.
We teach strength and movement skills to people that want to enjoy their physical capabilities with a sense of freedom and play. Strong, flexible, and coordinated doesn’t mean anything until it’s connected to your personal situation, and we provide the tools and guidance to take you there.