CrossFit gets a lot of flack. Some is warranted and some not so much.
In this article I am going to explore some of the factors of why, the unspoken reason it does, and some of the parallels I see in the field between CrossFit and the Martial Arts/ MMA world (Hint: CrossFit is far closer to an Martial Arts school than a gym).
We have all heard the standard vitriol CrossFit receives. Poor Form, light weights, unqualified coaches, and insanely hard workouts are all on repeat on the CrossFit hate loop. I will be the first to say I have seen all of these plenty of times in the CrossFit world. I am not here to defend those. I am only trying to do my best at helping change the tide of how CrossFit is perceived by refusing to adopt some of the less than “safe” practices that were at one time championed (high rep box jumps, Olympic lifts to failure, etc.) although the tide is slowly turning as late adopters begin to join the CrossFit community.
These criticisms were no different of the “McDojo” martial arts schools that were popping up left and right. Black Belts in 2 yrs, No Sparring, sloppy useless techniques, etc is what the “purists” complained about . Then the complainers went of out business (I know, I was one of them.).
1. CrossFit = Martial Arts School: CrossFit follows the exact business model of a martial arts school. We need student engagement. The coaches know each person on a first name basis and we typically have coached each athlete that has come through the door. We run classes and not “equipment rental”. Your results are our results. I have always thought about CrossFit like a belt system (lets say Brazilian Jujitsu). Brazilian Jujitsu has a white belt, blue, purple, brown, and Black. Each belt ranking typically requires time in rank before promotion as well as skill demonstration and practice. Your results and experience are your belt rank.
The converse of this leads me to a story. Growing up I was always drawn to the things that were off the beaten path, looking for the secret, be it martial arts or fitness. Looking for “hardcore” places that would scare off typical folks. Hardcore powerlifting gyms or fullcontact karate schools. Each one of these places I can always remember a common theme. No matter what “hardcore” place we were at….we were always scoffing at “the other places”. You know the places. They had shiny things, bright colors, etc.
In martial arts we made fun of Tae Kwon Do schools. Black Belt factories we called them. Giving 6 yrs olds black belts we worked 10+yrs for. It cheapened all our efforts. When people found out I was a black belt they would tell me “Awesome, my nephew is a 2nd degree. He is 8”. It was like the thing that qualified me for so long was trivialized.
In the lifting circles we made fun of big box gyms. People that don’t work legs. People that don’t lift weights. People that use machines. People that just punch the gym card and go home. We were hardcore! We couldn’t stand at the end of each workout. We were doing insanely hard workouts that no one knew about. What is that thing cannonball they are swinging around (this was 1998, before anyone know what Kettlebells were, what CrossFit was, etc. There were just a few guys on the web that pioneered the resurgence of “Underground Fitness” (John Davies, Scott Sonnon, Lonnie Lowery, Dave Tate, Louie Simmons, Scrapper, RossTraining, Pavel.) . The Under
We were intense at our powerlifting gym. Clapping chalk, squatting until our noses bled, ripping you hands on deadlifts, moving wheel barrows until you puked. These were all rights of passage. It became what qualified our “fitness culture”. Underground fitness, fringe fitness, etc. Something interesting happened around 2003. People started coming into the gym and talking about Fran times and doing these goofy cheating pullups in the gym. Lifting light weight for times. WTH? LET THE JUDGEMENT BEGIN!
Back to Martial Arts: A funny thing started happening at our martial arts schools. The TKD schools were still pumping out little black belts…and being really successful at it. They were buying a third facility and began winning lots of tournaments….and beating us at some of them. Clearly this is just because of the “Idiocracy” of the consumer, right? Sort of.
CrossFit was the McDojo to the hardcore. It was the systemized distilled version of what made “us” unique. Just like the McDojo’s full classes…..people starting showing up and getting stronger and faster and leaner. There is NO WAY that these soccer mo