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Location is Not Everything...But A Good One Doesn't Hurt

My jiu-jitsu school recently moved to a new location and this past Monday was the first class. Although it was still somewhat of a construction zone, it is going to be an amazing place. The mat space is at least double the size, enough for them to eventually run two simultaneous classes. The changing rooms, which are brand spanking new, will soon have their own showers, eliminating the need for people to walk around in their towels. (I am not saying I won't miss the nudity, but at least I can now take my own shower after class without feeling like I am on the set of a porno) The front area will have a desk, a display case for gis and other swag, and some comfy seats for prospective students to watch us choking each other out from a safe distance. Along with all this space will come new classes, including more white belt classes. (Yippee!) It is all very exciting and reminds me of when our current dojo opened four years ago. The drywall dust that settles on the floor no matter how many times you mop. The smell of fresh paint. The hesitation to be barefoot because the wood floor is just too new. There is also the same feeling of possibility, only without the stress of it being mine. This time I am not personally responsible for the success or failure of this adventure. It is someone else's dream on the line, I can just enjoy the ride.  Although I am more than a little envious. It is an amazing space. I look at the room, still a mere skeleton, and I see simultaneous karate classes and toddlers crawling around and a ball pit and an open mat and 35 people sparring and a preschool classroom and so much more. It is the kind of space we envision for ourselves in 5-10 years. If we are lucky.

The move added twelve blocks to my commute. On Monday I walked it. Yesterday I took an extra subway. Today, who knows? I am attempting to find the fastest, easiest way to get to a place where I will then spend an hour sweating like a pig. The workout is fine. But god forbid I have to walk for an extra minute to get there.

In reality, twelve blocks is of course no big deal. If I kept training even after 9 months of never submitting anyone, a short walk is certainly not going to deter me. That being said, I did choose the original place almost entirely for its proximity to the L train. I do not like to commute to work out. I used to be a member of a gym on 14th street and 1st avenue, a single stop on the subway. I almost never went. I also was a member of a gym 8 blocks from my house and barely made it there either. The ideal workout space for me would be in my basement. Or even better, my bedroom.

Its funny that someone so active, someone who obviously does not shy away from hard work, would be so damn lazy when it comes to traveling. But I am sure I am not the only one. People generally look for gyms (and dojos) that are close to home. Getting motivated to exercise is hard enough without adding the headache of a crowded subway or rush hour traffic. When we moved from our old dojo, a small classroom we were renting inside a yoga studio on 105th and Broadway, to our own larger space on 106th and Columbus it was a difference of 3 blocks. But I am certain we lost a few students purely based on location. (If you live on Riverside Drive, suddenly the dojo seems very very far away. Even farther in the winter. )

Not everyone is like this. We have a few students who commute to us all the way from New Jersey. We have even had parents who moved to different neighborhoods and still attempt to get their kids to class twice a week. We must be doing something right for people to work this hard to train with us.

There is probably a complicated mathematical algorithm to figure out the exact distance where motivation loses to laziness. Is it 10 blocks? Two miles? Are all those unused memberships because the gym was just one block too far? This is why they make you sign an annual contract. Somewhere a NY Sports Club owner is looking at the address you put on your form and laughing all the way to the bank.

Thankfully, the longer you train somewhere the less the commute matters. It becomes more about your relationships with other students your loyalty to your teacher. At the end of my time with my instructor, Shuseki-Shihan William Oliver (over 16 years by the time he passed away), I would have traveled to Tahiti if that was where his dojo was. When you love who you train with, you will do kata in a construction zone, change behind a curtain, go home without a shower. You will also paint, hang sheetrock, pack and unpack boxes and eat takeout pizza for lunch (again) while sitting on a pile of wood that will soon become the new floor.

I have had mixed feelings about my jiu-jitsu school, and my training in general. Some days I am chomping at the bit to get to my next class. Other times I am discouraged and confused and I feel like I am the only person at the party without an invitation. It is hard to be a beginner in a sport where even the simplest of moves is extremely detailed and complex. And then there's the size factor. And the female thing. But it is getting better. And I think maybe, just maybe, I may be getting better too.

A new space doesn't hurt motivation either. New locations bring new students, new energy. There are few things more exciting than freshly painted walls and a shiny floor (or mats in this case) that sweat has not yet touched. And when I am not busy protecting my neck (or my arm, or my leg), I can always imagine the giant new space that will someday will be ours.


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