Peter talked with Harry Shaw from CrossFit Lakeway. They discussed growing a CrossFit box focused on community and family.
Peter: Cool. Well, let's jump into it. So, I'm talking here today with Harry Shaw from Lakeway Elite Fitness and CrossFit Lakeway. Harry is a friend from way back when. Harry, did you come to my garage and buy stuff from me when I was out of my garage? Or was it-- had I already moved on?
Harry: No, no, no, we met-- I met you guys back when it was in the garage and you guys were working on some prototypes.
Peter: So, you do Krav as well as teaching and doing strength and conditioning work, so tell us a little bit about your operation out there in Lakeway, Texas.
Harry: This is our 11th year, and we started with Krav Maga. I got really involved with Krav Maga and then I found CrossFit, I think, like everybody did. You know, we saw the movie 300 and those guys, found Jim Jones and then found CrossFit, then I think it was probably a year and a half later then that I became an affiliate. We've been affiliated with CrossFit since 2008. We were within the first couple hundred affiliates, and now there's like 18,000 affiliates, so it's kind of crazy.
Peter: What brought you to Krav? Out of all the martial arts or none, why Krav?
Harry: : It was really interesting. I had a friend of mine that was a personal trainer and as I finished college, I kind of knew that I wanted to be working close with people and I finished college and was going, "What do I do, what do I do?" I was staying home with my kids and I called him up and I said, "Hey, what do you recommend and think I can work super early in the morning and then come up in the evening," and he said, "Why don't you come and do a Krav Maga class and we can talk about this Krav Maga stuff?" And when I got there, I was blown away. I was a martial artist before when I was a kid and I remembered getting in fights, you know, sometimes you have to fight. And I would look at my hands and I'm like, "Okay, I know how to punch and I know how to kick. How do I combine it?" Then I took that Krav Maga class and it was like, "This is it." So, it was a lot of fun, I fell in love with the program about empowering people that are not, but could be victims, so women, children, and men, and it didn't discriminate about anybody. It doesn’t matter your age, your gender, your size, you can still protect yourself, so it's really empowering.
Peter: From there, where's the through line to actually opening a studio?
Harry: You know, it went really quick. I think I was a student for probably like 6-12 months and then the opportunity came up and around and we were allowed to take the Lakeway territory, which was the only territory available for Krav Maga Worldwide. And we applied and we got it and we decided to open a school, and here we are. And it's really interesting, because we have the only two black belts that are active here in Austin. I think the closest black belt is down somewhere in Houston, so within a good 60, 70 miles, we are the elite Krav Maga school. There's really nobody that can have the experience or the accolades that one of my instructor's has, which is awesome. So, we're trying to always make sure we have the best. We trained with the local law enforcement and we train civilians and everybody. It's a lot of fun.
Peter: Let's go back to your strengthening and conditioning journey. You opened the Krav studio first, is that right? And then branched out into strength and conditioning?
Harry: It's really interesting. I think we were actually the first studio to have a kettlebell. We were probably the first in having a couple kettlebell classes, and it came from the Krav Maga community that a lot of people were coming to the US from Europe and stuff like that, and I think one of those guys had talked about kettlebells to one of my coaches and he brought him back to Austin, which was a lot of fun. And then for a while, I didn't really know anything about strength and conditioning until I got into CrossFit, and even then I have always believed that if you cannot do things with your own body weight correctly, you shouldn't be loading anybody up.
So, my strength and conditioning journey really started - even though I didn't get into CrossFit for almost eight years - I fell in love with CrossFit, and I fell in love with the methodology and then I started really diving into studying, getting information and I was reading some really thick books about movement and just became really, really passionate about how all these compliment each other. And it kind of felt the same way I feel about Krav Maga: it's very organic and it's not a lot of gimmicks, it's just good, old elbow grease and common sense and principles have been tried and true for a long, long time.
Peter: Fast-forward to today: where are you? You run a Krav Studio, you also run a CrossFit box, how closely affiliated are those? I know they're right across the parking lot from each other, but do you have a big crossover between the two?
Harry: It's funny, because those are the programs are - I would say - the black sheep of each family. When you're in the martial arts world, they say, "What do you do?" Krav Maga. And they're like, oh my god they do Krav Maga, because in reality, we're not a martial art. So, martial arts are always going, "Oh my god they don't do Kata. And now, CrossFit is a lot more accepted in a sense that it's a lot more popular, people know what's going on, but we do have people that do both and people that do CrossFit for three months and then they do Krav Maga for three months. They're like brothers - brother and sister, you know? It's just really interesting. But they're actually very attached at the hip, because they're - like I said - they're very organic, they're about being efficient and functional and they're about taking care of business. So, if I grab a Krav Maga person and put them in a CrossFit box, they're going to succeed because they have a no-quit mentality, and same thing with the CrossFit people: you put them in the Krav Maga side and they'll excel because they won't quit and they'll try to push themselves as hard as they can. So, it's really is a very interesting dichotomy.
Peter: Lakeway, for people who don't know, is kind of like a small town outside of Austin that has now become essentially like a wealthy suburb of Austin. One thing that I think is really interesting is that it is kind of a wealthy community, and it was a little bit more of a retirement community. What was it like opening a box there?
Harry:Well, it's something that I-- we're closer to nowadays is to pretty much destroy this bullshit. There's a lot of gimmicky fads where programs come and go and people are afraid of change, and when I started all this CrossFit stuff, it was very hard because people were like, "What are you doing? What is this? This is crazy - I've heard you're going to be hurt," and what we're trying to do, and that we've always done, is we educate our clients. So, once people come to us, they quickly realize that, number one: we mean no harm. We have their best interests at heart, but also, they're going to get coached and they're going to get educated. So, there's people that eventually-- they're endurance freaks and they don't like a lot of weight, so they go or they come back and then we have different ways to appeal to those people. But, back then, it was hard, man. I mean, it was really hard. I remember-- you know, there's really not a lot of people doing what I do, and I think we're the first-- probably the first box out here. I was the only box out here for a long time.
Peter: Veering a little bit back to opening a box in Lakeway, who's your ideal client? I would imagine you've got a little bit of a different kind of meat and potatoes client than, say, somebody in downtown Austin or in New York City or Miami or someplace like that. So, who's meat and potatoes for you?
Harry: We are a family-oriented facility, meaning-- like today, we're starting with our middle school classes, so we have co-ed classes, we have women only classes, we have middle school kids classes, we have teens classes, we have an advanced class as well. We basically-- I have people that have not only their spouse, but their whole family's a part of the gym. So, I would say because we are a family-oriented business, it's not about-- we don't have a lot of young, single people. We have people that are parents and they'll work and they just want to be healthy for the kids to have fun with, and so that's pretty much like where I'm kind of-- my life, you know, I have three kids and my wife, pretty much that's what we have. We have people who love the aspect of the community, they're very involved because Lake Travis is the normal high school and they have a great team, and it's all about the kids. It's all about the kids and the family. That's kind of our-- our model is we're a family business, pretty much.
Peter: How do you, from a business standpoint, how do you incentivize or how do you talk to people about, like, "Hey, you should get your middle schooler training with us as well -" what does that conversation look like, or how does that happen?
Harry:: When I talk to a parent, I want to educate them. When we focus on the kids, this is what I tell the parents, "I want to focus on making sure that I always put them in a safe position, and then once they're in a safe position, making sure that they get stronger, and they can replicate that position on the field so they can avoid injury." That's our goal. So, I'm not going to teach him how to play rugby or football or lacrosse or volleyball, or whatever they play, I'm just going to teach them to be in the best athletic position they can be in and making sure they're the strongest in that position and they can actually survive the training they're going to do with a sports coach. So, that's our goal. That's why I tell the parents, I'm like, "Hey, what are they doing?" And then I say, "Why are they doing it?" "I don't know, because they're telling them." I'm like, "You know what? You should know why they're doing this." You know, you go to Dicks and they sell these parachute things and you turn around and there's a kid walking around with a suit made out of rubber bands, and you're like, "Why are they doing that?" They're just going to get hurt. We make sure the foundation is sound. We always want to make sure that we find people's Achilles and attack them and then make them stronger. And same with the kids.
Peter: I go to a gym - it's not an affiliated box - and it's a very hardcore vibe there, it's not really-- I don't want to say it's family unfriendly, but it's probably not super family-friendly. So, how is your culture different to encourage that family-friendly attitude? How do you do that? How do you grow a facility where the mom feels comfortable, the dad feels comfortable, the middle school kid, and the high school kid all feel part of a community?
Harry:Well, it's a great question. I always tell people, like I was saying before, go and try everybody else and then find where you're going to feel more comfortable and where you're going to grow. I think part of the appeal of our business is that, number one: I'll always look you in the eye and tell you the truth. And number two is that we're very, very forgiving in a sense that we understand this is life. It's fine to be competitive - competitive is great - but we always say, "Okay, so you want to be competitive at this, great. How are we going to get you there? How much time are you going to be able to put in?" "Well, I can only do this," I'm like, "Well then you're not going to be an Olympian." It's like, we're not here - and I'm not sending anyone to the games, I'm not sending anybody to the Olympics, but could I prep all those people? Absolutely. I mean, can sit down and write programs for each one of those goals, but at the end of the day, for me, it's hey, this person's going to go to the lake and they want to look good and they don't want to get hurt when they're on the paddleboard or skiing or water boarding, whatever they do, or they like to run on the weekend. I had a guy from the gym that ran a full marathon without training. Obviously he's done them before, but he's never not trained for one. He goes, "Hey, I did something stupid." I said, "What did you do?" "Well, I ran a marathon on Sunday." I'm like, "It's Tuesday and you're here to work out?" He's like, "Yeah, man, I feel super strong." And I'm like, "Great."
Also part of that is I'm putting my money where my mouth is when I'm creating a knowledge base where it's going to be guaranteed of what we can do for you. So, we're not only going to affect your wellness, your fitness, your self-defense, but we're going to affect you as an individual. We have a great nutrition component that my wife does, we have old school strength and conditioning, we understand protocols for current things: from muscle endurance, for high performance, for competition.
Peter: Well, Harry, let's close it out now, unless is there anything you'd like to say? Like to let the world know?
Harry: No, I appreciate you and your friendship and your support. A hell of a ride. I can relate to, see you guys in so many ways, because it's all about passion and quality and relationships, so I appreciate you.
Peter: I love it. And if people want to find out more, should they go to LakewayEliteFitness.com, or where's the best place for people?