A few years back, when my children were younger I read lots of children’s books. Of course I read out loud to my girls but frequently I was as much motivated by my own pleasure as theirs.
Until we discovered Jim Dale and the Harry Potter audio books, it was believed that I, in fact, had the best Hagrid voice around. Sometimes technology really sucks.
One of the books I read to my girls was Redwall, by Brian Jacques. If you haven’t read it, think Ivanhoe meets Wind in the Willows.
Redwall is about an abbey of medieval mice and other cuddly woodland creatures and their valiant stand against a rogue band of thieving, murdering rats and voles and weasels.
The story line is fairly typical, a young mouse on a monastic career track discovers his inner warrior and becomes a hero. At the time, what struck me most was the community that formed the back drop for the story. The abbey was the center of life for this community. Individual families pitched together for their mutual benefit. In the story there’s much telling of everyone working together for communal celebrations and a rich detailing of the food they shared and the efforts of everyone pulling together.
It made me realize that this was something missing from our lives at that time. Many people find this sense of community in their church, but neither Samantha or I are very church-y type people.
Shortly thereafter we found the Redmont School (now named the Alabama Waldorf School, but the coincidence is quite ripe, don’t you think?) and found a very real sense of that community. Since that time we’ve become so immersed in that community, Samantha is a vital member of the faculty and a nursery teacher, that in some respects we’ve pulled back a bit, if only to maintain our own family’s identity and needs. Nonetheless, the AWS community is an important part of our lives and one we wholly support.
When we talk about tribes we come to realize that in this day and age a tribe is not an exclusive term. Just because I identify with one tribe it does not exclude my identity with others. Therefore, my family is a tribe, the Alabama Waldorf School is a tribe. I also identify with entrepreneurs, strength enthusiasts, fathers of daughters, Southern white males who struggle with a positive identity in the light of historical stupidity, big guys with tender hearts, you get the idea.
My gym and all the people associated with it, both local and at large, are a very important tribe and not just because I tie my ability to earn a living to it. In fact, I’m coming to realize that this is actually the least part of why this tribe matters to me. As I struggle, along with everyone else, to make my way through this less than stellar economy, I realize that even if I can’t continue to make a living running this gym as my sole occupation, the gym will continue to exist. It has to.
Whether you know it or not I benefit from your involvement every bit as much, if not more, as you do. As I teach, I also learn. The benefits I have received as an athlete, a trainer, a coach and a person are directly attributable to your involvement. And I hope you see that same relationship exists between you and the people you train with.
This sense of community, the opportunity to grow and learn in a shared experience, has largely contributed to my desire to focus more on group training. I do not exclude one on one work, as I believe it has value, especially in bringing a new client “up to speed” in order to join a group, but I’ve seen that the development that takes place in a group setting far exceeds what I see one on one.
It takes guts to be a part of a community. That’s kind of a new idea for me, but I think it holds water. In order to join a group you have to open yourself up, you have to embrace the whole, risk censure, judgement, and possible rejection. “What if they don’t like me?”
The lone wolf can do whatever he wants, even be a coward, and he faces no one’s judgement but his own.
Finding the right community can be crucial in your development, just, as many of us learned at one point or another, can be finding the wrong one.
Pardon my lack of humility, but I think you’ll agree, this tribe, the Agoge, is one of the good ones. I invite you to consider, as we continue to explore the greater benefits of our time in and around the gym, how these might be reflected in our kun.
The first kun I offered was merely to open the conversation, in truth it’s awkward, unwieldy, and frankly too long. As Julie Watters reminded me it should be simple enough to carry in your pocket, something easily remembered, but complex enough that you can pull it out from time to time to ponder and explore.
So, what do we have so far? We’ve considered that with the right attitude time in the gym can build character and we’ve seen today that a community can be built as well. At it’s kernel then we see that well spent gym time builds us up not just as individuals but as a tribe.
In contrast to one of the oldest criticisms of fitness training we find our gym time to be the very anti-thesis of narcissism. How do we reflect this in our kun?