“IT’S ALL ABOUT BEING HEALTHY FOR LIFE”
Pulling, pushing, stretching, twisting, folding – our bodies are made for dynamic movement.
Greg Ramirez believes you should know how to use yours and to use it regularly.
Which is why he launched a business focused on his love for coaching, martial arts, and wellness.
He is the creator of Gun Club, a “movement studio” in the Wallabout neighborhood of Brooklyn, where he teaches how to uncover physical potential, however dormant or hidden it may seem.
There are few weights in Greg’s studio. No mirrors. His clients train in small groups, barefoot, listening to reggae and classic rock n’ roll, encouraging each other through each challenge, movements that often involve breathing and mindfulness techniques.
They spend a lot of time crawling and tumbling and getting up and down from the ground.“When you’re born,” Greg explains, “movement patterns are natural. The way babies move, the way they get up, roll over, the way they create momentum, is the way humans naturally move.” Unfortunately, we begin forgetting how to do these once we go to school and are sat down in desks, a problem Greg wants to remedy.
The growth of Greg’s business suggests his relaxed, team-oriented style is welcomed. While he wants clients to be knowledgeable enough to exercise on their own, they seem to stick around for the camaraderie and playfulness his program promotes.
Greg simply wants to spread the word that physical health is attainable.
The only thing he seems more excited about is his family – his wife, and their four-month-old son, who, during my discussion with Greg, was strapped to his dad’s chest in a cocoonish sling.
“I waited forty-five years for this exact dude,” Greg said through a grin.
Greg may be forty-five but he looks about thirty. In his back yard, his cat prowls. Lithe and agile, alert, he moves a lot like his owner, who’s on a mission to help people get in, and stay in, functional and energetic form as way to enjoy life more completely.
From a restless kid in 1970s suburban Las Vegas, to a walk-on Division-One college athlete, to an assistant chef, to a butcher on a farm in France, and now, as a health coach and active martial artist, Greg believes in the power of positive habits when creating a balanced lifestyle around one’s interests.
THE JALEPEÑO: What are the most important movements to practice?
GREG RAMIREZ: Can you get up and down from the floor without using your hands?
As we get older, we’re not on the ground anymore, unless you’re doing some kind of a grappling sport, some forms of yoga.
As we stop using that mobility, we lose it. It doesn’t come back until we work on it.
THE J: Why is that such an important motion?
Greg: When you’re born, movement patterns are natural. The way babies move, the way they get up, roll over, the way they create momentum, is the way humans naturally move.
Every day, it’s part of our workouts. If we keep moving that way, our bodies will remember the patterns. Our hips and ankles will open up.
A lot of our back problems start in our feet and hips. If we’re moving around naturally every day, there’s much less chance for injury.
We forget these things because we replace the movement with sitting in chairs.
As soon as you get to school age, you’re sat down at desks. You start losing mobility.
THE J: Any other key movements?
GREG: Some version of a squat, some version of a hinge. The squat covers our quads, the hinge covers our posterior chain, our hammies, our glutes, and our groin muscles. We always get a press in, a push, a pull – a row or chin-up. We do some version of these five movements every day.
THE J: How’d your business come to be?
GREG: My friend asked me to train him, so I took him to the park. We started walking up and down the stairs. We mixed in some pushups.
He hadn’t worked out in a long time. Pretty soon he was losing weight, learning how to use his body. I got a tear in my eye.
Once he got confidence and created a habit of these movements, it became a lifestyle. He changed the way he ate, he partied less.
THE J: Then what?
GREG: My gym was in our apartment! Poor Frankie (Greg’s wife), she was so pregnant and there’d be four sweaty dudes in her kitchen every hour for the whole morning.
I had to get it out of there. I had to keep it under the radar because I didn’t want my landlord to kick us out.
I’ve trained on a rooftop. I’ve been able to work out in many different spaces with different numbers of people.
There’s gotta be balance in your life. When I found balance is when everything started happening for me. Good things.
THE J: What’s your athletic background?
GREG: Las Vegas was suburbia in the ‘70s. I got involved in all kinds of sports. Soccer, baseball, tennis, swimming. I was involved in movement early in my life.
I was recruited in baseball and football. I walked on the football team at UNLV. I had an amazing positions coach, Chuck Pagano, now with the [Indianapolis] Colts.
THE J: What was that training like?
GREG: It was such a grind, training at the college level. Our strength coach, Mark Philippi, was a World’s Strongest Man competitor.
As soon as I finished school, I didn’t want to be in a weight room.
Eventually I got restless. I missed movement.
My kickboxing coach, One-Kick-Nick, introduced me to Jiu-Jitsu. I didn’t know anything about it. Not only was I moving again, but all of the sudden I’m on the ground, grappling, tumbling.
THE J: Jiu-Jitsu focuses on mobility and range of motion, yes?
GREG: Yea. Stuff I had never really done before. I got really into that. That got my wheels turning. I eventually went to a Jiu-Jitsu academy in Manhattan. I started thinking about sport-specific training.
THE J: What’d you like about that?
GREG: I wanted to be stronger and more durable – to help me with my sport.
I was already in my late 30’s. I was feeling the effects, recovery was slower. I started finding Jiu-Jitsu-based warm-ups, I came across kettle bells, and Steve Maxwell. I bought his DVDs. Steve ended up as my mentor.
I had a one-bedroom with a chin-up rack, Airdyne bike, and some dumb bells.
I was working as a cook, I had just finished having hand surgery. I was doing rehab in my apartment with kettle bells.
THE J: Did you continue to cook?
GREG: I am a cook. Once a cook, always a cook. But, I started figuring out I’m not gonna be a chef. I ate ribs and drank Coors Light. This is not the diet of a chef. I don’t have the palate of a chef.
I had to figure out another path.
I learned how to butcher, which took me to France, but I couldn’t stop my workouts. Everyday I’d work out. The family thought I was crazy.
When I came back, I started GunClub version 1.0, just some guys from the restaurant business and me coming up to the rooftop of where I lived.
THE J: What’s your training philosophy?
GREG: It’s all about being healthy for life.
I want this to have longevity – something we can do forever.
Something I can teach people and they’ll be able to do on their own.
If they want to keep working with me for the camaraderie, that’s amazing.
THE J: Everyone seems to support each other and get along in there, there’s a sense of teamwork.
GREG: When do you hear about camaraderie that that’s not team-sport related?
A lot of people, the only chance they had for camaraderie was partying, which is the opposite end of the spectrum.
THE J: Your website mentions developing good habits – are those catching on?
GREG: Positive habits. It’s not a coincidence that the people coming to Gun Club have started drinking less, going home earlier because they’re training with me the next morning. That’s one small thing.
If that’s the first positive habit, it will snowball. If you make time to take care of your body, your mind is not far behind.
Once you start feeling better and stronger, there’s a confidence that comes that you cannot beat.
THE J: Are your customers experienced in physical training?
GREG: I’ve had guys who had never been to a gym before. They end up in Tokyo at a hotel and email me telling me they know what workouts to do. This is why I do it.
THE J: What direction is the fitness environment moving in?
GREG: I think people are going to start getting into small exercise groups, small gyms. Big box gyms are the white buffalo.
Trainers there often don’t teach you anything. But they want you to pay them.
I’m the opposite. I want you to be able to do this on your own.
THE J: How to move and the importance of mobility. The body and brain get you through life, so why wouldn’t you take care of these? What do you think the most common misconceptions are about exercise?
GREG: The biggest misconception is that you have to go to big-box gyms to get in shape, grinding away for hours. People just toil away, wait for equipment.
We never go for more than 50 minutes at Gun Club. Once you hit age 35, there’s a law of diminishing returns after 40 minutes of exercise.
I’ve developed a program that incorporates mobility and dynamic stretching. We’re moving through these motions, never holding static stretches until the end of our workout.
Creating a warm-up that will ensure people are warm, loose, and more mobile.
THE J: Is there a martial-arts component?
GREG: A lot of the stuff in the beginning – crumbling hips, the crawling – are traditional Jiu-Jitsu warm-ups, things I’ve been doing for the last 15 years, but are brand new to a lot of people.
THE J: What are the benefits to practicing martial arts? Some tend to think of them as promoting violence, but I get the sense that’s inaccurate. What do they teach?
GREG: It’s the opposite of creating violence. People who learn a martial art gain the confidence to handle an altercation.
You know you can handle the situation and you know it’s best to avoid it.
Once you learn a martial art, you have nothing to prove. It’s an ego check.
When people want to prove they’re tough is when they lack confidence and when altercations happen.
THE J: How’d you make the decision to become a coach, a motivator?
GREG: I didn’t think about what was going to make me the most money or how I could be most comfortable.
Why not create a living around my lifestyle? Now my friends are all involved in it and this is what I do.
I didn’t set out to do this, it wasn’t planned. But I realized I enjoy coaching and motivating people. I wanted something that made me happy.
When I wake up, I’m excited because I’m going to be doing exactly what I’d be doing anyway.
I want everyone to know that if you take a fraction of your day and invest it back in yourself, the reward you get from that will last your whole lifetime.
THE J: This consistent effort will have lasting benefits.
GREG: It becomes part of your routine. The Power of Habit is all about replacing bad habits with good habits.
If you can do this, if you can somehow get the gratification out of a ten minute walk instead of four cupcakes, it’s gonna be lifestyle change.
If I can teach my friends to spend less than one hour a day honing their body, getting in touch with movement, that’s great.
Most people are so comfortable.
Mostly everyone in our society is never uncomfortable.
You gotta learn toughness.
One of my guys is a musician, never worked out. One of the first times he finished his workout, he looked at me and said: “I just reached a new level of tolerance.” He never thought he could get through it. He felt great.
THE J: What are you hoping your clients take with them?
GREG: Being able to function effectively and efficiently in work and leisure but also to be able to function in an emergency situation.
Zombies are coming, we’re gonna be ready.
We’re gonna be able to pull ourselves over the bridge, outlast them.
Be ready for emergency. Not only to protect yourself, but also your loved ones. You should be in shape to do that.
If you’re not ready, you might rue that day. We’re getting people outside of their comfort zones, to know they can do it.
I believe in what we’re doing. My goal is to spread this everywhere. This should be shared.
THE J: What do you like about coaching?
GREG: Seeing people start to become, the body awareness they’re gaining, doing things that are uncomfortable for them. This is one of those wake up moments. This is what makes me happy, what motivates me, being able to show someone how to move properly.
THE J: It can change your life.
GREG: It sounds corny, but it’s life changing. We have guys sending me testimonials. It’s real, because these aren’t meat-head gym rats.
These are artists, artisans, people who did every other thing but work out. That was the big thing for me.
It’s the best group of people working out. If they didn’t already know each other, they should have, and they meet at Gun Club. They make things cool.
THE J: You’re more than just a physical guide. You’re promoting a new way to look at the world. Consistent effort, embracing challenge. How to move, providing an accessible way for how to do it.
GREG: Hopefully I am.
THE J: Seems like a fulfilling way to use your time and energy. People seem to realize the value they’re getting out of it.
GREG: I’ve had very little turnover. Very few people get started and think “you know what, maybe being healthy isn’t for me.”
That’s my guarantee: show up, I’ll make sure you get in shape.
THE J: And you notice results.
GREG: I’m seeing people stand up straighter. Chest up, shoulders back. That’s what I’m teaching.
Start your day this way: get some movement in, release tension.
If this is how you get started, there’s a good chance you’ll have a good day.
You and I are standing doing this interview because I don’t sit down if I don’t have to
THE J: Seems like when you’re lean and strong and flexible you can get more out of your experience.
GREG: By the end of my senior year I was about 213 pounds (he’s 5’ 11”). Not good weight. I had to be big to take the beating I was taking every day.
I’m 160 right now, in such better shape. I’m faster, I feel better, my endurance is better.
THE J: There’s a relaxed vibe in there. The lighting. The plants. The music.
GREG: I’ve worked out at the grimiest places, it doesn’t have to be that way. The aesthetic is one more element to making it nice, something people associate good vibes with.
All praise and thanks to Frankie for creating the beautiful place. Her knowledge of plants, which plants can clean the air, she created a comfortable environment.
THE J: Parting words?
GREG: There’s gotta be balance in your life. When I found balance is when everything started happening for me. Good things.
I’m gonna make myself valuable. This happens every time I get that spark. I have to make it happen.