The Power of a Ritual

September 14, 2016

Looking at him today, you'd think it makes sense that Brad Robinson's a gym owner - he's wicked fit. But Brad had to pull a 180 when he made his life about being fit, being a MMA fighter, and being owner of Ritual Gym. 

Before : Brad is second from right

"It's been quite a ride."

So, Brad, you're a yoga-ing, MMA-ing, HIIT-ing gym owner... today you're the poster boy for health, but that wasn't always the case?
I went from being an athlete, to being an obese corporate guy traveling the world, and now back to being an athlete. My return to being an athlete came from having a terrible moment in 2008 when my first son was born, where the hospital almost didn’t let me into the delivery room because they didn’t have any scrubs that were large enough to fit me, not even close actually.

It was the rude awakening that I needed. But, at over 140kgs, I didn’t really know what to do. I bought books, joined a gym, got a personal trainer, etc. Nothing really worked – I had some early results, but they quickly slowed down.

However, if I’m anything, I’m relentless when I have a goal in mind. I’m a hyper-competitive person, and martial arts really gave me the boost I needed. I was so terrified to lose in a competition that I just outworked everyone in the gym, I basically lived there. I’m also a data nerd so I started a spreadsheet and tracked my weight. Daily. For two years. It just really kept me focused and helped me make good decisions knowing that at 7am the next morning, I would be accountable to myself and the data – you can’t hide from data.

Did you ever slip up - even with the data in front of you?
Of course, but knowing what I know now – it wasn’t really a slip up. There’s no such thing as perfection. If you want the cake, sometimes you should just eat the damn cake and not feel bad about it. The big ah-ha moment for me was when I realised I needed to change the lens I was using. All this stuff on the cover of magazines about 6 weeks to abs, etc., it’s all nonsense. You have from today until the day you die – that’s your window. It took me years to get in the awful shape I was in – it would be ridiculous for me to think I could go from really overweight to rocking beach abs in 3 months.

When you know what you’re working with (the rest of your life) and you know the recipe (eat real food, move around a lot) it isn’t all that daunting of a task. It really helped me stay focused on the goal – little bits of forward progress add up over time.

Brad & Ian

Brad & Ian

How did you get from out-of-shape to Ritual-Gym-owner?
The name and the general concept was from my co-founder in Ritual and fitness guru (he’s absolutely going to punch me in the face for calling him that) Ian Tan. When I was struggling to reach my goals during my insane weight loss spreadsheet days, I met Ian. Everything changed.

I was doing the usual gym nonsense at the time, long cardio sessions, running, weight training, etc. I wasn’t really going anywhere, all my progress has stopped and I was still 100+kgs. Ian whipped me into the best shape of my life (from clinically obese to abs) in a very short timeframe. The sessions were tough but they were short, never more than 20/25 minutes. I was so skeptical, but the results spoke for themselves. I invited my friends to start training with Ian and their results were the same as mine. It was life changing for all of us.

After one amazing/awful training session, I looked and Ian and said “this shit shouldn’t be a secret”. I’d spent so long in gyms, and with personal trainers and was getting such slow results. I met Ian and started spending 1/4th the time in the gym and getting phenomenal results. Once he started showing me the science behind his training philosophy, I was hooked (remember, I’m a data nerd). I couldn’t let it go after that, and insisted we build a business together.

Where did yoga enter the mix?
I have to give all the credit to Stephanie Bovis and Alicia Pan. Stephanie works for us at Ritual, and back when she suggested trying yoga I honestly thought that it wasn’t for me. I was so silly - I thought it was for soft, granola eating hippies (no offence Alicia and Bobo J). As a professional MMA fighter, I’ve treated my body as poorly as possible I’d say, and those two watched my well-being deteriorate over the years. They really convinced me that yoga would be a beneficial addition to my training, and they were absolutely correct. No hyperbole when I say that yoga has dramatically improved my quality of life. When I took my first Basics class I was humbled, addicted and hooked all at the same time.

Training Hard

& Restoring After

Having gone through this all, what tips do you have for people looking to shake up their lives, too?
I always say that discipline gains momentum. Start small – make your bed, and do your dishes before you leave the house in the morning. Just do that, every day, no excuses, ever. it literally takes less than 2 minutes of your day, but it’s discipline. Nobody enjoys making the bed and doing dishes. However, coming home to a nicely made bed and no dishes in the sink feels great. If you can’t overcome the little things, it’s nearly impossible to tackle the big challenges. Don’t forget to floss.

Thanks Brad! You're a legend for what you've accomplished and for sharing. See you on the mats soon.  

Image credits to: Cheryl Tay, Straits Times, mma-in-asia.com.