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PODCAST: XKM Owner Steve Sulze with Judice Sports & Rehab

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PODCAST: XKM Owner Steve Sulze with Judice Sports & Rehab

Podcast Season 2 Episode 4: Steve Sulze

On this episode of the show, I am interviewing Steve Sulze, owner of Xtreme Krav Maga & Fitness.  Their training programs give people the tools and experience they need to increase their chances of success during a violent encounter and help prepare you for the “real world fight”.  When he started his own business in 2007, Steve was faced with challenges at every turn. He persevered through it all and is proud to be helping people stay fit as well as learn self-defense. 

E-mail: steve@xtremekravmaga.com
Website: www.xtremekravmaga.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/XtremeKravMagaStLouis/

Hello, and welcome to STL active St. Louis's premier health and wellness podcast. STL active aims to give listeners in the St. Louis area the information they need to succeed and progress with their health and fitness. This podcast is brought to you by stlouispt.com and hosted by Doctor of Physical Therapy, Greg, Judice 
Hey guys, it's Dr. Greg, owner, and physical therapist at Judice Sports and Rehab. On this episode of the show, I'm interviewing Steve Sulze. Steve is the owner of extreme Krav Maga and fitness here in St. Louis. Their training programs give people the tools and experience they need to increase their chances of success during a violent encounter and help prepare you for the real-world fight. Whether you're looking to improve your fitness or build your confidence via tactical defense, you can get it from extreme Krav Maga. Without further ado, let's get into the interview with Steve. All right. Welcome to the show. Steve, thank you so much for being here. No problem. Glad to be here. Appreciate it. This should be fun. So let's introduce you to the listeners. Tell us a bit about your background and who you are and what you do.
Okay. Steve Sulze. I own extreme Krav Maga and fitness, also extreme tactical defense, which is our firearms company. Started in Krav Maga back in, gosh, probably like 2003 it's kind of funny how I got into it. My mom saw a news special on TV. That Krav Maga had just opened, but she came in she goes, Hey, Steve, I saw this Krav Maggie thing. And I'm like, Yeah, like what are you talking about? So you know, at the time there, there was not much on the internet about it. So ya know, I went and did an internet search to see what was a Krav Maga. And basically, all there really was was a main headquarters in Los Angeles. And then you know, like, this gym that it just opened in St. Louis. It looked really cool, you know, really awesome videos on there, some guys hidden like sandbags, and stuff, and Israel out on a beach and kind of beating the crap out of each other, my house looks pretty cool, I'll check it out, you know, I was looking for something that was going to be more intense than what I was doing. You know, just lifting weights, I just recently lost like 65 pounds by getting into weight training and better nutrition and just kind of having better healthy habits. So I was looking for that next thing because I had plateaued. And so you know, I called got information. And they invited me in for a free trial class scheduled my class. And then I ended up punking out and not showing up to my free trial class because I was intimidated, you know, I watched more videos, did some more, you know, research on YouTube and stuff. And kind of like a lot of our, , current members that have told us that similar story, they were afraid to come in and didn't want to get beat up on, you know, like, their first class. So, you know, they called me back followed up. And, you know, I was like, Oh, yeah, you know, I got the flu, whatever, I couldn't make it and just made up some excuse. And then they, you know, they're like, come in, you know, come come see the value that we offer. There's nothing like this in the Midwest area, and there wasn't at the time. So I went in, and, you know, did our trial class. And it was awesome. I ended up paying 1500 dollars in full for my membership for a full year. And I trained three hours a day, every single day after that, you know, and a lot, you know, 11, almost 12, 15-16 years later, you know, now I own, three facilities been doing it full time since 2011. And you know, a lot of stuff in between there has happened good and bad, learned a lot. But that's kind of how it all got started. You know, it was the person I trained with. His name was Sam Sunday. He was he's basically was my mentor. He was an Israeli commando from Israel. And basically like that, you know, their Navy SEAL version of us. And just a badass dude, man, like, when you're in his presence, and he's like, like you've ever watched like Zohan, like kind of picture him but less flamboyant. Right You know, more muscular and, but can do all that cool stuff. Take guns away. And you know, we did that in our first class. We did punches, you know, kicks, knees, elbows, we did some groundwork, taught us how to take a gun away all within an hour, and got a killer workout, you know, like sweating the whole time. And I'm like, God, this is this is way better than lifting weights. And like, I didn't even realize, you know, like that the hour had gone by, and I'm learning to defend myself, which you know, is invaluable. So, I mean, I was just hooked after that.
Yah, very cool. Yeah. And most of the folks that I've interviewed on the show, have very similar stories, not necessarily with Krav Maga, obviously, but you were looking for something different. You were looking for something better, a better way to do something for yourself. And you found something that you wanted to share with others. Yeah. And that's very cool.
became, you know, when I obviously when I became a member and then even when I first became an, you know, certified instructor teaching for that school, never would I have thought I was going to make that my life and ride my career, you know, at the time, that was just a hobby, you know?
Very good. So what was the what prompted you to make that leap to do your own thing? Well,
kind of go into that story. So that school that I was training that basically ended up shutting down about two to three years later. So the guys that opened, it moved up from Los Angeles, that's where they were, they own a gym, and we're teaching and training in Los Angeles, the gentleman who brought Sam to St. Louis was from West County, he's like, Hey, you know, let's open a gym, there's nothing like this in Missouri, they did that had a great facility. And basically, you know, like, a lot of partnerships, basically, there were some squabbles between them, and then they end up closing the doors. So all of us members had nowhere to train. And Sam, you know, went and tried to do his own thing and open up another facility. And we were ended up you know, like training at parks and different rec centers. And then he got a new facility going was training with him, he had other he had like five other investors. Unfortunately, after about two to three years, the exact same thing happened, again, some bad business practices, and, you know, they ended up parting ways. And that facility ended up closing a few years later, also. So I before that facility, close, I stepped back, I got married in like, 2007, I just had a lot of other stuff going on. And I needed to kind of focus on my life. So I took a step back, I was teaching at the time, I was a certified instructor at the time teaching for them for free, you know, driving an hour each direction because I had a passion for it. And it just got to be where it was not, you know, was not a priority because of other important things. So, you know, once I kind of stepped away, you know, got married, you know, and then I was got some people reaching out about a year later, that things weren't going so well at that gym that I was teaching at, they're like, Hey, we mission, this type of thing, and we want to continue to train. And so we started meeting at a park, the same thing done bouncing around a rec centers, and then we started renting space from a martial arts school in South County. And, you know, we started with like five people, then it was 10 15, 20. And then our, our makeshift class once a week was bigger than the martial arts school class. So he's like, well, I want more money, you know, and then more money. So then it got to be where we're like, we're paying rent at this point, that we could be leasing someplace. And that was about that was too late 2006, early 2007. And I basically said, you know, EFF it, I'll just open up my own place. I'm like if we're, you know, we're going to spend this amount of money. And I'm, you know, my background is in it, you know, some marketing background internet, you know, information technology, that's what I have my bachelor's degree in computer science. So, you know, I'm involved in the web stuff, which, you know, at that time, that's what was booming to have a flourishing business. So I knew, if I could start a business, I know, I can promote it via Facebook, I know, I can build a good website. You know, I knew how to do Google AdWords, then, which most people didn't even know what that was at the time. So I was like, you know, I think I can have a competitive advantage, even though I don't know what the hell I'm doing.
And you were obviously successful getting those temp classes filled. Yeah. So yeah, there was a good proof of concept before you went off and
started this exactly, we knew we had a good product. You know, we had passion for what we were doing. And that's when that kind of passion of just being in front of class and wearing an instructor shirt kind of actually turned into where you know, what we're we're actually seeing transformations and people have, we're getting stories of people we've trained, come back and tell us. Yeah, you know, I used the situation awareness that I've been learning, you know, in the training of, I saw this situation develop or you know, what I was assaulted. And, you know, I used the choke defense that you had taught me or whatever it is, and, you know, we still get those, you know, all that not all the time but frequent enough to where, you know, it's always a driving factor. So yeah, so basically, I kind of put a business plan together, I bought a piece of software to help me do x i didn't know how to do a business plan. And I was like, man, there's a lot that goes into this needed the business plan needed the marketing plan, I need capital, how much capital do I need? What equipment Do I need, you know, location, I got to sign a lease signing a lease means I got to do personal guarantee all this stuff that I thought I could just like go and say, hey, I want to, I want to rent this spot and just jump in and do it. So a lot of that was a learning experience. A lot of researching a lot of picking people's brains and figuring out you know what to do just writing everything down and tackling you know, kind of, you know, one step at a time. And in 2000, February 7 2008, is actually when we opened our doors. And Old Town Fenton started in a 2000 square foot facility. Myself and another one of the instructors, we were basically the head instructors. And our certification process that we do is so we're affiliated with Krav Maga worldwide, which is like our mothership. If you are out of Los Angeles, that's who, you know, we're licensed with that we train under and get all of our techniques and things like that. They're the biggest Krav Maga organization, first one that brought craft to the US. So I had to had to basically get my certification reactive through them to be able to open up the facility. And turns out that this old facility that I taught for basically had told them that I'd stolen you know, all types of intellectual information and property. Because, you know, I wasn't teaching for them anymore. They didn't have anybody to cover classes. So all this false information came out, there's, you know, a lawsuit that was developing. So like, I'm, I just did all this work to open up a business and sign three under the button, sign the lease, and then and then come to find out my certification is not active, therefore, they wouldn't grant me a license to basically run a Krav Maga facility. So I could have just opened it as you know, Steve's Krav Maga, but basically my validity of an instructor, if any, any members or potential clients were to call to LA and, you know, check my credentials, they would say, No, he was an he's an inactive instructor. So, so that's kind of what started my you know, what I in my head at the time as a downfall, I'm like, Well, okay, we're already out of business, we before we even opened, and basically got all that straightened out, you know, again, because, you know, all that stuff was, was not true. And had some people in Los Angeles that have known me, the whole time, I've been training vouch for me, and, you know, so we got opened, and we were there for and that space for three years, and then moved up into our graboid bluffs shopping center. And we've been there for basically the last, you know, nine years. And we've got 10,000 square foot facility, you know, showers, locker rooms, three training rooms. It's been a really big, nice big pro shop. It's a great state of the art facility, and, you know, packed with awesome numbers.
Very cool. Very cool. Yeah. Yeah, it's been a long journey it has, but once you moved into the new space, it sounds like everything's been stable and good. It has and, you know, I've seen the pictures online of driven by your space. It looks awesome. Thank you.  I'll have to do get you in there one of these days. Yeah, absolutely. Very cool. So obviously, with the name Krav Maga, there's a, an aspect of martial arts. And that's a significant part of what you guys do. You offer a lot of different stuff, but maybe let's go into the different types of martial arts, how they're different. Obviously, we don't have all day because I'm sure there's a lot of different details to each one, but kind of briefly go into each of the things that you guys do.
Yeah, um, I would say the easiest way to differentiate Krav Maga from traditional arts is what you said, you know, we're, we are a martial art but we are more martial, less art, meaning you were an aggressive system. I would say 99% offensive, you know, anything that we are doing defensive, we have some type of counter-attack is simultaneously as possible. No kata is no forms no uniforms. I think fancy. Our kata is our, you know, if you wouldn't say we have kata, you know, we obviously are doing repetitive motions of the techniques. But you can do bad muscle memory too. So a lot of traditional styles trained to punch from the hip like, you know karate or Taekwondo in their form. And, you know, we obviously our hands up like mixed martial arts fighter right, so our hands are up protecting our face, chin is tucked in, we're throwing punches straight out straight back. I like to think of Krav Maga as the true mixed martial art. And it's best explained that it culminates the best aspects of all traditional styles into one so our punches come from boxing, our elbows, round kicks, and knees come from boy tie, our groundwork comes from wrestling in Jiu-Jitsu, the self-defense and the weapons defenses. You know, those are are the core things that were actually created by Amy, who is the founder of Krav Maga. You know, he passed away in 1998. A little background on him as to how he developed a system was he needed when he went to fight the war and World War Two, he needed to give his family something the base so they could protect themselves while he was gone. And his background was boxing and wrestling, judo. So we taught them some very simple, you know, natural movements that his wife and his children could perform, even under stress, that, you know, he had, he had learned through his training and that that basically kind of culminated into well, while he was in the military, you know, you're sitting around if you're not fighting, you know, you're working out. So we Training these guys with this stuff and word got around that, hey, this guy knows what he's doing. And that kind of turned into the Krav Maga system which the IDF Israeli Defense Forces still uses to this day, including our military also, you know, and lawn for law enforcement agencies trained Krav Maga. So that was kind of the design around, you know Krav Maga of being instinctive and natural. So, everything that we're teaching in our classes, you know, we want it to be retainable under stress performable under stress, and, you know, not necessarily easy but simple so that, you know, a man can do it, a woman can do it, a child can do it, because in Israel, anybody, you know, as a 13, ages 13 age of 13 goes into the military. So we didn't really like reinvent the wheel, you know, or he didn't reinvent the wheel, you know, it's but the weapon defenses and the self-defense, that's really what makes us you know, our system separate from everything else, because we what we like to have one answer for 100 different scenarios as to where most traditional martial arts have 100 techniques for 100 problems. Yeah, we'd like to have one for that 100 because, under stress, you don't have time to think, you know, you literally react and if you're not reacting, you've already been assaulted. So that's kind of like I would say the big difference between what we do and a lot of people always ask, Well, how is self defense a workout, you're doing full body movements, you know, so if you've ever been to any type of, you know, cardio quote, unquote, cardio kickboxing class where you're punching, and moving your whole body, that's why you're sweating, you're burning 800 to 1000 calories in one of our one hour, you know, beginner Krav Maga classes, because your whole body is moving, you know, you're throwing those punches, kicks, knees, those elbows, in addition to your body being under, you know, adrenal stress, because we're turning the lights off, we're making you get facedown we're spinning around in circles are making you sprint back and forth, we're pushing you and popping you with pads to create stress and recreate a fight whatever it might be, you're amplifying your heart rate, because you're kind of scared, basically, you're having a small adrenaline dump in class, which fires more calories and entices that. But it also basically brings up that level of your training, because now, you know, you don't have that low level of, of reaction of where, you know, when, when we train you really, really hard, your body's like, Oh, this is normal for me now. So that when and if something were to happen to for you to defend yourself, you've been there before in the gym in a safe, controlled environment. And we've recreated that as best as we can, you know, in the gym is and with as many scenarios as we as we can. So
I love it. Yeah. And I think the biggest thing take away from that for the listeners is that it's a full-body workout. Right? Most people think when they're just doing combat style training is that all punches and kicks, and that's all you're getting, you're never working the core, but you can't do those activities without work without the correct. The other thing is, most people think, you know if I go to the gym, it's more of a full body work a typical chance more of a full-body workout. But those machines are very typically, you're targeting one muscle one, one muscle group, one plane, right. And so while it is effective, it can help you get stronger, it can help you burn calories. What you guys do is a lot more functional. And I do functional in quotes there because
it depends what your what's your functional for exactly
right. So if you're an athlete, of course, it's going to be more functional. But if you're a desk jockey, it's still a good thing to be strong through your entire body.
Yeah, you know, it's unfortunate that crime drives our business. You know, when we have active shootings, we have you know, carjackings murders, you know, St. Louis is touted as, you know, number one most violent city, you know, obviously living here, you could say, Yeah, I see it, but then I travel around the world, you know, training people on, it seems the same as St. Louis. And any place can be dangerous if you if you're not paying attention. So, you know, when, when we're talking to folks, and you know, they're trying to give us comparisons of you know, I can train it club fitness for $10 a month, sure, you know, or any of these other boutique places, but you're just leasing space on their floor, that's like, that's literally all you're you know, you're doing their business model is to have three to 5000 members, and 4000 of them, they hope that don't show up. And only 1000 you know, end up coming in and obviously at various times, and when you're there, you're again, working on typical machines that are only targeting certain muscle groups. You have no type of program typically that you're following. You have no type of guided instruction. So your injury rate is very high percentage that you can injure yourself, therefore now you're not going to train. You're not getting the results that you want and big muscles. Do not make You tougher or make you defend yourself any better. You might scare away a few people or intimidate somebody. But you know, at the end of the day, it doesn't make you, you know, a badass. And that was what I fell into when I why I found craft because I turned 21 I was getting into some of these kinds of bar scuffles, and, you know, I'm like, I'm a man, I know how to throw punches, but I've never done it before. You know, it's like, I've been beaten up before. So I think I might be able to be tough and fight. But, you know, not, that wasn't the case. You know, it's like, I need to learn how to fight. And then, you know, fighting led to defending myself and, you know, that led to wanting to fight, you know, in the cage and stuff, too, you know, which I did. And so, you know, it's like, I just tell folks, if all you want is beach muscles, you know, cool, hit the weights and, you know, do CrossFit, something like that, but like if you if you want functional training of where you get the confidence, not just by looking good, but also by feeling good, because you know, that you can handle yourself in most situations, protect not only yourself but your kids, your family. You know that that is something that you don't get at a big box gym, if you will. And again, like, you know, I've seen it, I felt that I've been in I've done it myself, and you know, we try to try to get that energy in people that you're not just learning moves. Like it's so much bigger than that.
Awesome. So after looking at your website, there was a few spots where it was obvious that the the self-defense stuff that you guys teach is obviously Krav Maga based, but then you also had some other classes like community-style classes that were like women's self-defense, specifically or tactical defense specifically, I'd saw there's a Girl Scout course as well. So maybe go into those a little bit because those seem to be likely different than just more of the fitness based Krav Maga defense training. Sure,
yeah, so you know, our bread and butter is Krav Maga, we also offer fitness classes. So we have a strength conditioning hit, you know, high intensity fitness class just just like a CrossFit or an orange theory fitness or, you know, any again, any of those those types of, you know, facilities where we do kettlebell training. You know, medicine balls, we incorporate bodyweight exercises, flip the tire, push the sleds, pull the slides, all that stuff. And then we do you know, our customized seminars is kind of what we, you know, would fall under for women's, you know, our women's self defense workshops, or our car jacking workshops or active shooter workshops, home invasion. So we do specialized workshops all throughout the year, that because not everybody can dedicate the time, or the budget to be able to train on a consistent basis. So not everybody can do a membership with us. So we recommend, hey, come in for you know, this for our home invasion workshop, because if that's what your main focuses is, you know, I have a firearm in my home, and, you know, I really don't know how to use it. And I just want to have a little bit more, you know, kind of comfort in that. And we always tell people, you know, we preface every training that we do, obviously, that like, you know, self defense is just like any hobby, you know, like the Cardinals train multiple hours per day, every single day, and they continue to do that, and they still lose. So like self defense, that's a hobby, take basically the same thing that as if you were to go play a baseball game, or a hockey game, if you're not practicing and training, you're, you're obviously not getting better. So, you know, it always needs to be evolving. And just, it's, it's outside of people's kind of comfort zone. So you know, so they, they don't see it, as a lot of people don't see it as a workout, they see, oh, I can take a self defense class, and now I'm ready to go. But it's not like that. So the specialized workshops are great. You know, again, you know, typically, most of them will revolve around our weapons defenses. Most attacks are happening with, you know, a gun or a knife. Again, like I said, the carjacking and home invasion stuff. And then our community outreach stuff that we do for Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, where, you know, we offer for their troops where they can come in, you know, we can teach them life skills for you know, these young boys and girls, and introduce them to the self defense. And then also, you know, healthier habits where, you know, we will talk to them about life goals and fitness and the importance of not only defending yourself, but you know, having that, you know that that health kind of in mind because it doesn't, you know, it doesn't get pushed in school, you know, enough that you know, that you need to be thinking about yourself and taking care of yourself inside and outside of school and inside outside of the gym and things like that.
Love it. Another thing that you had mentioned earlier was that situational, situational awareness. And I'm sure that probably goes into everything that you guys teach, because you have to be aware of your surroundings, right? Maybe go into that a little bit. Yeah.
So I would probably say that's one of the biggest buzzwords that gets thrown around in the self defense industry. And people say, Well, I just want to learn, you know, better self, you know, situational awareness and I'm like, Okay, well, that literally takes like years to do. It's not just a slideshow and all right now you're situationally aware you can handle everything. So you know how I kind of explained situational awareness is that you are make making decisions based off of variables that are constantly coming in. Right? So you know, we're here doing a podcast, I hear a noise to my left, I want to turn and look to see an address what that is, I'm situationally aware, somebody that that is not situation where their annoys happens, they don't pay attention to it. So they they took that variable in and they basically discarded it. So that's kind of the easiest way to think about what situational awareness is, is that you're constantly doing that every single second. Now, you know, obviously, you don't want to, you're not consuming your day by being paranoid of what was that? What was that? What was that in? You're like, looking everywhere, and you know, checking over under under every rock type of situation. But it's a it's just taking literally that one second of when you do hear that loud noise? What was that? Or you hear somebody screaming? What was that? And then you you analyze? Okay, is that? Is that not normal? Or Is that normal? So if it's if it's normal, then Okay, everything's probably alright. If it is normal, then maybe we need to do some more fact finding, like somebody wearing a trench coat on a 90 degree day carrying a duffel bag that is typically not normal, walking into a, you know, maybe a department store. So we need to do some more fact finding, you know, and then and then based off of that information that I find, do I need to do something? Do I need to address that threat? Do I need to call 911? Do I need to tell it, tell someone, whatever it might be? So that's the easiest explanation of situation awareness. And, you know, people ask, Well, how do I how do I do that, it's like, you get that through the training. Because the, in our drills that we're doing, like I said, we're doing multiple attacker drills were closed, making you close your eyes, making you spin around to simulate, like, your bell has been rung like somebody hits you, we're putting you on the ground face down, you know, maybe face up, maybe we're having you curl in a ball, maybe we're hitting you with pads first to simulate, you literally just got jumped. And now you've got to find your partner, you know, aka your attacker, your threat in this room of 30 other people, so everybody looks the same because our buddies got black shirts and shirt and shorts on. So now maybe you you got to try to decipher facial expressions, or maybe you're looking at shoe color or shirt color or whatever it is, and, and now your brain is training to not just see everything as as one and you have to force yourself to really learn to pay attention to small details. And the more small details that you pay attention to you become more situationally aware, you're thinking about the potential of what could happen as opposed to basically being oblivious and thinking that you know, crime doesn't happen because I live in West county and nothing nothing bad happens here, you know, because that's that's not the case it happens everywhere. You just may not always know about it, and it may not has happened may not have happened to you yet. And Are not you know, like our a mantra that we that we use that was told to me is you know, it's better to know it and not need it than need it and not know it and that's always stuck with me. You know as to where if I've ever had and I have had to use Krav Maga in my life nothing deadly where I had a gun pointed at me but I was you know, I was assaulted physically and have defended myself multiple times using you know, Krav Maga techniques, some were stupid, you know, bar fight type scenario that could have been prevented. One was an actual, you know, Light Assault where I was I was choked, and it was when I first started Kratos like three months in, but I use a pluck defense that I learned in class. It didn't work 100% I was supposed to kick guy into growing but it kicked the guy in the knee. But the plug got his hands off my off my my coat that he was choking me with and he got the point that okay, you know, I'm not messing around. But if I hadn't known that, even though I was a bigger guy, I didn't know what to do at that time. And I actually, you know, kind of froze for a second. I was like, wait a minute, I think I remember what to do here. And then I you know, initiated a defense. But that just goes to show that practices would go
a gotcha like something that you should be you mentioned the word intimidated, right. It's not something that you should be intimidated with your first class, nobody is going to be good the first time Exactly. This is not something that you're born with, you have to practice you have to train it, you have to keep you know, plugging away at those goals until you reach a level where you do feel more confident, more safe, more situationally aware to your surroundings.
Exactly. And that's, you know, and that's the thing is, obviously, we would love for everybody to train with us for their for their lifetime. And we do have some, you know, lifelong members, and it's just, I you know, I'm a second degree black belt in Krav Maga and I'm, I'm going for my third you know, in the next few years, and I still train because there there's never an end, there's always going to be somebody that's bigger, badder, tougher, stronger, more aggressive, more intimidating than you are out there. And I you know, I I just want to I want to be you know, we always use hashtag harder to kill. And I that's that's why I actually Training is that if if that were ever to be presented to me, I want to know that I can do everything that I can in my power to fight and defend myself. And you know, if it goes the wrong way, I know I did everything I could.
Very cool. Very cool. So kind of shifting gears a little bit here. The The biggest thing that a lot of people have trouble with choosing a new gym, or trying out a new gym is that intimidation factors. First one, but then they don't know if they're going to be accepted that community aspect, maybe go into kind of how you've built or fostered a community within your facility? And then do you guys do any sort of events or appreciation stuff, maybe just kind of talk about your people?
Sure. Yeah, something that kind of just has, had automatically developed through the years is a good culture. You know, it's, it's something you can try to create, but it probably won't work. And I didn't even think I didn't even know that culture was important, I would say till about five years in, and you, you realize the culture is happening, because when you have events, you know, you have all these folks that, you know, are paying you money for you technically to kick their butt, you know, and they show up, and then everybody's smiling and having fun, and you know, and doing cocktail hour and, you know, whatever it is, and then, you know, we're back on the mats, you know, the next day, and, you know, beat me punching each other in the face sometimes. And it's, you know, it's something that if you have good people that are doing things out of passion, to help other people, that culture just kind of culminates on its own. So, you know, we've always, you know, when I first started the gym, you know, that was my, my, basically my first business and, you know, obviously, customer services is always important. And, you know, I like good customer service, that's something that I have always tried to achieve, through all my businesses, you know, you know, as my as I've grown, and, and that customer service goes, you know, beyond and I'm not one of the people that say the customer's always right, because customer is not always right, sometimes they can be wrong. But it's a matter of, hey, let's, let's see what's going on here, and how can we make this better for you. So you know, that intimidation factor, when people come in, you know, our front desk is going to greet them, my memory coordinator is going to greet them, we're gonna introduce them to our instructors, we're going to sit down with you, we're going to go over your training goals, whether that is self defense, fitness, both, whether it's, you know, you or your child, and we're going to figure out if we have a good program for you. And if we're a fit, like, not everybody's a fit for us, and we're not a fit for everyone. And, you know, if, if what we have to offer and our solution, you know, fits your problem, we would love to have you to train with us. And if not, we're gonna recommend you to somebody who, who we may think like, we have folks that come in that, you know, want to want to compete, you know, in some type of fitness thing, you know, that's probably gonna be a CrossFit type, you know, avenue for you where you can do competitions, and that because Cropper doesn't have tournaments, you know, we do have members who do Jiu Jitsu tournaments, and also, you know, amateur fighting. But, you know, so it just kind of depends on what they have. And, and that and that, that that kind of culture is just all of our, in my instructors, we're all trained under myself. I feel like we have like minded people that want to learn to defend themselves, get in shape, while they're doing it, and have fun at the same time. And kind of, like you said earlier is that people get bored with the hamster wheel, you know, and on just on that treadmill or going to the gym every day and lifting the same weights doing, you know, 20 pound curls every single day, 10 reps like 10 reps, and it's monotonous and they're not getting that results. And our programs are designed for you to get results in a in a short period of time. Because it was designed originally, like I said, for law enforcement, military, and they don't have time or budget to train their whole lives. They go through, you know, a six week six month boot camp, you know, or Academy, learning this stuff. And you know, they're able to perform that five years down the road if they've never even done it again, you know. So that culture that we have, I feel kind of happened on its own, which which is a good thing. I think, how we maintain that is trying to keep everybody you know, set on their goals that they had discussed with us when they signed up. The events that we do, we do fight nights where we'll put the projector up at the gym, you know, and we'll have you know, like little everybody kind of potluck, bring their own stuff and you know, watch UFC fights, we do chili cook offs, we do car shows. We have happy hours of my buddy's restaurant, we do
an open a big open house party every year.
We do all of stuff, lots of lots of get togethers. And again, just to get people out of their shells. You know, a lot of the folks that come in are, you know, introvert type folks. And and I, you know, I would like I said I was kind of one of those guys in it geek that doesn't really like to go out or talk to people. And, you know, now I'm meeting new people who are also, you know, like minded and hey, I like like punching stuff. But I'm a nice person, you know, and I'm not not a bully or anything like that. And, you know, we tell people, like, we're not training you to be mean, we're just, we need you to flip that switch when you have to user.
Very cool. And that's, that's awesome to hear. Because I know, my biggest takeaway from that I was kind of from the beginning is that when a new person comes in, you evaluate them, you discuss their goals, what are they looking for, it's not a one size fits all approach, right? If they're not a good fit, they're not a good fit. And I do that with my practice, as well. Sure, if they come in with something that I can't help them with, I make sure to refer him to the right place. If you become one of those one size fits all places, you're gonna have unhappy customers, it's going to affect the culture, it's going to affect the people that are there. So I love that about you guys. You know, and that's, that's awesome. But then the events sound fun. They are I want to I want to come we have, we have a we have
a good time. We all you know, like, you know, all the fight nights and sweater party Christmas sweater, goo sweater parties and stuff. It's like we're always, you know, we're always doing something and there's, you know, there's something for everybody we're doing, we're even adding a bunch of more kid friendly stuff this year. Cool. So yeah, it's exciting.
Very good.
When I sent you some questions before we started recording, one of the things that you had said was kind of your key to success was to always do hard things. Always be pushing yourself, it sounds like that would be and that you, you don't miss goals. When you set a goal, you do everything it takes to get there. So kind of going back to you personally, how do you how do you go about setting your goals? And then what is your method or, you know, strategy for doing the right hard things to reach those goals.
Um, I was never really a goal setter. Again, I would say until, you know, probably after I started the business, I I wanted something and I did what I had to do to get it. So I had goals. I didn't I never wrote them down. I was just in my head. Like, you know, I'm a huge car enthusiast. I wanted a nice car. You know, when I you know, as a young kid, you know, you play video games you see, you know, Nissan Skyline GTR, and Gran Turismo, I own a 2017 GTR now, it was my dream car, I was able to achieve that. You know, what to have nice house got a nice house, you know, one of the great dane, I love Scooby Doo, I saw this great dane when I was like, eight years old, like, this is a coolest Doc, you know, I have two Great Danes or stupid stuff, like whatever it was, like, I've been, you know, very fortunate enough to not have a quitting mindset, I guess. Nothing was handed to me, I came from very, you know, crappy kind of poor family. I'm sorry, you know, mom, and that I say that, but but, you know, they didn't, they didn't, they were not rich, they didn't have, you know, money to do things for me, you know, like, I was not spoiled at all I worked, I've, I have worked for everything that I have to this day, folks that know me know that. And, you know, I still do that to this day and night, but I take pride in what I do. And I value the hard work that I've put in, which is why, you know, I feel that it's definitely you know, a level of accomplishment when I do meet those goals. It's not just a matter of, hey, I want to, I set this goal and I want to, I want to get to it's like I've gone through a lot, kind of came from nothing and worked up to what I have, and I'm still working towards, you know, like, success is a journey and like, there's never an ending to it, you know, and, you know, it's a, it's something that now I am writing things down, you know, because just to be more organized, I do have a vision board in my office and at home and, you know, setting, schedule and reminders and, you know, everything is on the calendar and it's just, it's a matter of like, what life is short, you know, my dad passed away a few years ago and that like really impacted you know, when he died, you know, he's like, 5052 very young. And it's something that's like, you know, we're we're here on earth and one wire Why are we here and like, you know, kind of to like, you see so many people wasting their lives you with with just different things, you know, whether it's like drugs or a crappy job or being unhappy in a relationship or whatever it is, and you know, anybody who is quote unquote successful or has been around the block or overcome major things, they will tell you, like, you know, write it till the wheels fall off, you know, like, really enjoy this journey. Because, you know, like, when you're older and you can't do all the fun stuff. You're gonna like, you don't want to be that person. That's like I wish I had done this, I wish I had done that. And I was very conservative, very frugal, you know, up until, you know, a few years into my business, and I'm like, I'm busting my butt, I'm working a full time job. Going to college full time, you know, when I first started the business, I was working on my MBA, and then coming and teaching at the gym, you know, so like, I was literally just, like, strapped out. And you had asked earlier, what made me make that leap? is three years in, I had to pick one, you know, am I going to continue my it career? Or am I going to continue to grow my business? Because there were they were both suffering at the time, you know, and I could not make the business was growing. I couldn't manage it all. So you know, I put 50 hours a week to both know, yeah, and it was really yeah. And it was, it was it was crazy. So I basically said, you know, what, this, I'm gonna make a go at this and went, you know, went for the win for the gym, and it's all worked out. So far, you know, thankfully, but that makes you have to work harder, you know, you now it's like, Alright, well, I'm, I'm on my own income, I don't have the steady paycheck anymore. I don't have insurance. And, you know, you, you have to, you know, have your priorities straight of again, just Alright, where, where do I need to go? Where am I at now? And what do I need to do to get there, and it's just a matter of, you know, like, do it, you're gonna, you're gonna have hard stuff. But again, after you've done those hard things, whatever it might be, even you know, whether it's physical training, whether it's not going out to the bar, and saving money, whatever it is that you're doing your sacrifices, you appreciate whatever it is that you earn so much more, because you did those things. And a lot of people quit in that timeframe, because they're not dedicated really, to, they want all they were they want what they want, but they don't want to do the work to get there. You know, that's definitely something that I've learned, just by watching other, you know, successful people getting, you know, tangible and intangible things.

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Martial Arts and Self Defense in Saint Louis