Ever since the closure of CMD Malaysia in 2020, aside from an official notification to clients and supporters of the inevitable I haven’t said much about the overall experience. Mostly as I needed time to wrestle with the fall out and also in mourning for the sudden end of the gym. I could not have foreseen how the gym was going to close this way. While the end was relatively swift, it was emotionally, mentally and financially painful. While I will never be able to replace the lost time of 2020, the thousands of hours of experience I had harvested in building the gym from scratch, the community, the operating systems still hold it’s value. The financials hit hard in particular as not only was CMD Malaysia affected, but also the businesses in the two upper floors of the property which I had shareholdings in succumbed under the same forces. A triple whammy as they say.
Everyone is Dealing With a Similar Fallout
The situation on the ground here in KL is similar to many other cities worldwide. We are still in a hard lock down due to infection control at time of writing and my usual activities are prohibited; however, months prior to the current situation I was invited to coach BJJ on a private training basis at a nearby academy for the gym owner. He has a smaller facility located in an upper floor shop lot space that has been equipped for self defense training, and was already a blue belt from a different academy so was familiar with the concept. I later discovered that despite coming from a well known BJJ academy he actually disliked the large format classes and the ‘smash or be smashed’ attitude at his old gym. Ever since he started his own facility, people who left due to the same dislikes at his former gym naturally gravitated to his place and one by one they also started to train with me.
Things got pretty busy, at one point, I was coaching 4-hours back to back and Mondays to Saturdays and this reminded me the experiences I gained from the decades of CMD is still sought after. My prior experiences of operating a full time facility has provided the coaching tools, interpersonal skills and self-pacing I needed to quickly build positive working relationship in any environment. This confidence boost was much needed as at some points I was teetering on the cusp of depression, self-pity and anxiety.
Conflated to the lock down, the apartments where I live had a few confirmed infection cases and the property management conservatively decided to prohibit the use of the common facilities like the gym, common room and swimming pool so I’m also restricted to my apartment only. One of the few things that kept me relatively healthy was the regular use of the weights room, and gym equipment. The common space I had planned to use for the kettlebell and workout videos but all that has to be delayed again.
But Wait There’s More
I don’t see many people in my age group being active in the martial arts scene. Most in my age group are either golfing or hitting their mid-life crises pretty hard by donning skin tight spandex and jumping on expensive bicycles around the city. The corporate types are buzzing around in circles to keep their convertible sports car batteries working, with the top down as there’s hardly any traffic nowadays due to the movement restrictions. Obviously I chose the right profession, not.
With this comes the obligatory annual health checks. Blood work. Dietary restrictions and supplements ad nauseum as you young ones will no doubt encounter when you get here. Overall the doc says I’m in good shape for my age, high cholesterol as expected but nothing alarming. No alcohol for now to tweak a few things. So that has put a damper on my cocktail/mixologist-wannabe hobby aside for the time being. I’m guessing by the time things ‘return to normal’ I should be able to whip up a nice, tasty drink for you if you are in my side of the pond. You can see some of the concoctions here. Remember to follow me on Insta. Thanks.
With all this going on in the past few months, it would all too easy to fall into a spiral of self-pity, anger, and depression, but even though at times I felt like I was falling off the precipice into the pit, I discovered that I was anchored to reality and had the tools to manage the hurricane of emotions and stresses from due diligence of closing the businesses.
The old saying, to raise a child takes a whole village. My experience has been similar in that, to keep a man in reality-check takes a whole team.
The main challenges I faced in the past nine months included the wrap-up of the gym. Packing up, organizing, selling the gym equipment, shipping out the merchandise to friends, and handing back the keys to the landlord. This was one of the biggest emotional impacts that had me choking and not in a nice BJJ kind of choke. It got so bad until I avoided going back to the gym and had other people handle this portion for me as the feeling was too raw to handle.
Approaching the deadline for returning the keys to the landlord, I first became aware of the specter. It emerged from the nearby shadows and pointed a crooked finger at me, marking me. I felt it’s presence but ignored it hoping it would return to the shadows and go away. It’s heaviness grew on me and a little by little with each passing day. This is also one of the reasons why I decided to withdraw from many social media platforms as I was automatically attracted to bad news, drama and negativity which made the specter braver and it approached closer to me from where it lurked.
The main anchor that held me firmly is my long-suffering wife, Kate. She has been with me in my CMD journey from the very beginning and has been precise with her words, providing a confidence boost or a verbal kick in the arse as needed, all the while making be believe that I originally came up with the idea. Without her perspective and support I think I wouldn’t have been able to share this story with you as I would have been pulled into the dark whirlpool of self-pity and depression. For her role in my sanity, I will be forever grateful, then again she already knows.
KK and Farrah, these two sweethearts, helped tremendously in wrapping up the gym, keeping us company with their unique sense of humour and levity, shone their light brightly at the shadows keeping the specter at bay. The CMD merchandise that is still available was made possible by their efforts in saving it and shipping them out to our friends.
My CMD brothers, Eric, Jax, Neville, and Jacques, for being a sounding board, extending their generosity and help when they sensed I was wavering. Keeping me occupied with tasks and providing a mission to keep me focused. I always feel that they had my back in this ordeal.
The CMD trainers and old clients who gave words of encouragement and support. Thanks again. Your belief and trust added fuel to the fight to stay on this side of sanity.
Winnie, my accountant who has been instrumental in sorting out and wrapping up all the official and legal obligations, without whom I’d also be lost in the sea of taxmen and fines. Not doubt the financials was a total loss last year, but we managed to cut loss and I consider the investments as school fees to another semester at Life University.
The final hurdle was overcoming the feeling of guilt that the specter threw into the mix. From the moment it pointed its nasty finger at me, I felt I had let the team down and somehow failed and disappointed the team. Though everyone had told me otherwise the feeling was hard to shake off and returning to the mats at a different gym helped to resolve that. The confidence to excise the guilt was eventually reinstated from coaching again. Doing what I loved helped to diminish the struggle after every class I coached. The new clients gave a renewed energy and refreshed sense of purpose that has been omitted in the past few months as sitting at home all day and night does not make Jack (not related to Jax or Jacques) a happy boy. The feelings of being appreciated and valued for the coaching was sorely needed to help me face the challenges for the years ahead.
Last but not least, Rodney, for always providing a voice of experience and for sharing his personal struggles. His experiences were as the crash barriers on the highway I was speeding on, and made me keenly aware of the potential pitfalls of depression on one side and physical injuries on the other and how easily one can slip into the ravine of depression and anxiety without realizing it, only to know that it can get out of control in a blink of an eye and it’s consequences. I’m grateful to have learnt mindfulness techniques through his earlier work and it served me well many times throughout the years under many different situations, the recent ones being the most challenging, yet the simplicity and efficacy remains. Domo arigato as the doctor likes to say.
No doubt there will be new challenges awaiting us all but as with all of life’s experiences, I have learnt, grown from it and share some of this with you in hopes you are also encouraged with a strategy to tackle your own struggles in your lives.
When international flights are allowed again, be sure to visit me in KL and I’ll whip up a tasty cocktail or two for you.