When I began studying jujitsu, I noticed a young man setting up a training facility next door, and he was using some unorthodox training methods. I was no stranger to old school strength training (read “stupid and destructive”), so I kept an eye on his classes.
Eventually, I found the time to meet him and do an introductory class. He introduced himself as Jerry Trubman. He was the son of Russian immigrant parents. Jerry was beginning his career in “The Protocol Strength and Conditioning”–a new business to Tucson and a new approach to mobility and functional strength. I learned that Jerry trained athletes to office workers. His methods were not aimed at making his clients “look” strong–his goal was to make his clients as strong as they could be (while maintaining healthy joints and ligaments).
I’ll admit: I was not sold at first.
The first session was simply an assessment. I failed/succeeded in a number of balance and core strength movements. I figured my years of sports injuries would keep a certain ceiling over me and any strength training I would do as a supplement to martial arts. Jerry announced, at the end of the first session, that I was “hyper-stable”–a euphemism for being less flexible but strong. That seemed fair enough.
I started a journey with Jerry that day, and I count myself lucky to call him a close friend. Our road–his as a business owner and top-notch strength trainer and mine as a student of strength–has been years of hard work.
It culminated last summer 2016, when Jerry asked me to be part of a team that would become national champions in the RAW strength competitions. Surrounding me were men and women of all ages and sizes. The women were especially impressive–all were about to become state, national or WORLD record holders. Thus, our battle cry became: “Let’s be strong like women!”
Because I trained hard (perhaps too hard) through my baby brother’s hospice and death, leaving his side long enough to lift ugly and lift angry at a gym near the hospital in Macomb, Michigan, I was deeply wounded in my soul. Every repetition became an exorcism of sorts.
I returned home from burying my baby brother. I returned home to Jerry’s gym and his coaching. I wanted to prove that I could carry the weight. He slowed me down. He took weight off the bar. Jerry wanted me to heal inside. It was an excellent and loving gift. Unspoken and gladly accepted.
Then, the day came. The day came to load of the bars to practice for the three competition lifts: bench, squat and deadlift. All lifts were to be performed according to rigid standards and commands. We were going for the final round of HEAVY and DENSE lifting to prepare for de-load training.
We had a helluva day. My son, Jeff, trained with me (as usual). We topped the day off with deadlifting “stacked fives”–five repetitions for a set of five. And the weights would jump upwards in the stack. I lifted in my competition gear which includes a pair of men’s ballet shoes.
There’s something about THE WEIGHT. The weight in your hands that fires up your entire nervous system. There’s something opened inside you. It’s like a door to a secret room where maybe you put all of the pain and the tears. And you rip the bar off the floor. Reset. Lift, reset. Repeating over and over the movement. And THE WEIGHT breaks you down.
I left the training area to catch a private moment. I found myself weeping from the weariness and pain. THE WEIGHT was not in my hands. It was buried underneath an anger I could barely contain. Watching Mark die was on a replay loop in my dreams and my waking thoughts. THE WEIGHT.
I returned to the iron. I finished. Jerry and Jeff knew how I felt. They embraced me to ease my loneliness and pain.
Two weeks later, our team took first place in the state competition. All of us placed first in our age/weight divisions. The ladies CRUSHED several national and world records, because they are AWESOME.
What I never told anybody…what I will say now: every time I grabbed the bar, I talked to Mark and told him I would lift THE WEIGHT for him. I promised him I would carry THE WEIGHT. It was stupid, I guess. Toxic masculinity and all that. I could have hurt myself. And even after collecting my medal and the team photo, I found THE WEIGHT was still there.
And so it will be. And, I promise, baby brother, that I WILL carry it.
Peace & Love,