Training Maynard James Keenan | Rock Star?
Friday January 10th 2020, I was fortunate enough to pass some of my knowledge onto probably the biggest wine making rock star the world has ever known, Maynard James Keenan the lead singer of the rock bands “Tool”, “A Perfect Circle” and “Puscifer”. December 2019 I got the call that Maynard wanted to learn and train Muay Thai while he was in San Diego, and I’m not going to lie, I was pretty excited…but not in the ways you might think.
Maynard and I actually met more than 10 years ago, after a Tool show, introduced by one of my Muay Thai students and friends in common. I was more a fly on the wall at that point, just hanging out with a few people in his private room after a Tool show at this same venue, talking business. Maynard and I spoke briefly about a back injury that prevented him from training BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) but not much else except some humorous banter over a picture.
Hearing that he was no longer training combat sports was disappointing and exciting at the same time, since I have nearly 20 years of Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai experience. The joint and back problems typically suffered by all long term BJJ practitioners simply do not happen to Muay Thai practitioners with proper instruction. So, I REALLY wanted to turn him onto Muay Thai since I knew his back problem would be less of an issue striking, than grappling.
However, right then and there, I could tell he wasn’t in a place to welcome a new combat sport into his life from a complete stranger.ha So, after our quick chat, we shook hands and I was on my way. It never left my mind that I knew Muay Thai was a great option for him with his type of injury, so, when I got the call last month, to train MJK, I was very excited to help bring my sport, fitness tool and self defense rooted in Buddhism, one step closer to “the man” and possibly the masses that follow him.
2nd Time Meeting | Training Maynard:
So, my girlfriend who had never heard of Tool nor been to a Rock concert before (at 37 years old) came with me to have the experience of her musical lifetime. As we pulled up to the back of SDSU Villejas Arena where the band RVs and a row of Semi Trucks sat full of gear, things immediately began to feel surreal. Pulling up it was completely obvious that we totally fit in because nothing says “Muay Thai badass” or “Rock Star” like rolling up in a white Prius with blinged out license plates.haha
We parked right by the large ominous roll-up door were we were met by Maynard’s head of security who handed us our passes and walked us into the arena, straight to the room where we would be training. My lady was then escorted to a VIP waiting area with an array of delicious foods and I simply wandered around a bit back stage waiting for Tool to finish soundcheck.
While cruising around I may or may not have gotten in a little trouble for taking some harmless pictures and not having my back stage pass on me (ha), so i went back into the training room to wait for MJK to arrive.
After maybe 15 minutes or so, the door opened…
And I am here to tell all of you, when Maynard James Keenan walked in the room it was crazy!
We both acted like completely normal people, said hello and shook hands 🤯 haha
We talked a bit as he warmed up… I asked him to shadow box for me since he had already trained a handful of times with various MMA, kickboxing and I think 1 other Muay Thai trainer…then we started working some drills.
When MJK started moving around, it was obvious that he had the grace of a Russian ballerina…ha j/k, the guy has a wrestling background and has been dancing like Gollum for the past 30+ years. However, I will say this, as I broke techniques down for him, and took away a couple less than ideal movement habits he had previously learned, I was shocked at how quickly he picked things up! Practicing and learning Muay Thai is a mental game, and MJK has strong game…dude learns fast.
It was unfortunate that he had picked up some less than ideal “habits” from his handful of previous “kickboxing” lessons… I was definitely triggered and REALLY wanted to work on breaking those habits so he could feel more comfortable throwing them…however, I was there to add to his knowledge and not as much to show him pros, cons and alternatives to what he already knew. (Although I tried to a bit.ha)
Overall, we did a bit of everything. Worked on his Muay Thai movement (Muay Thai March), fundamental elbow technique, breaking and countering the Muay Thai clinch from a taller opponent, leg kicks (which we perfected and I will totally f**k with him if he forgets the technique next time.ha) and more.
We trained and talked for about 2 hours, so we got a pretty solid impression of one another and I am not going to lie, it was pretty fun. Meeting someone with a similar personality and sense of humor that is also at the top of their game is pretty fun…not to mention, MJK definitely enjoys crossing over the edge of the envelope in the interest of humor as much as I do 😬.
I’ll tell you a little Rated PG back and forth we had that I found funny towards the end of this story.
The Rock Star Lesson to Learn:
What I really wanted to share with everyone was my impression of Maynard as a student.
Maynard James Keenan is one of the biggest rock stars on earth…yet he was humble 100% of the time, super chill, funny AF, focused, disciplined and he took constructive criticism like it was candy coated 😋
His only goal in training was leveling up…to be better. #whateverittakes #amiright?!
Not for one second did he act like a “Rock Star”, entitled or any other negative descriptive, he was a model
“student” just like the ladies and fellas that train with me at American Boxing Muay Thai and Fitness, daily. And for that reason alone, this was an amazing experience for me 🙏
Maynard didn’t really know me, but he put himself in a vulnerable and challenging situation with me because he trusted my accolades and the opinions of others, all in the interest of being better today than he was yesterday, for all the reasons that are his own.
I posted this story and it excited me because I want people out there to realize, the path to growth is usually uncomfortable and takes a leap of faith. Finding a coach/mentor in anything isn’t about finding someone who is your bff, enables the sh*t out of you and makes you feel warm and fuzzy… Its finding someone who knows the process and tells you “how to get where you want to be”. That is usually uncomfortable for most because it means you’ve done/do things “wrong” and it is pointed out. It is especially difficult as we age to trust someone and subjugate yourself. Now imagine you are the “King of your castle” like MJK how much more difficult that would be.
So, if you want to be one of the biggest “rock stars” in the world or the biggest rock star at work, or a rock star of a parent etc etc, you’ve gotta embrace the process with open ears, eyes and humility…suck it up people! #WWMJKDO? haha
Kru Dave and Maynard Dialogue:
So, like I said before, we shared more than a few laughs while training.
I typically ask people I train what their ethnicity is…I like to find commonalities within the groups.
Here’s a Rated PG “back and forth” that had me laughing pretty good.
Me: So, what’s your ethnicity?
MJK: Irish Italian.
Me: Oh nice, that makes a good fighter…
MJK: I’m more of a complainer.
I’m sure you can imagine how he said it, just so you know, it was exactly how you imagine…Simple, to the point, hilarious, a typical MJK response. Lol
Maynard is clever, sarcastic and super observant…but I think we all know that. It is his humility that stood out to me. Maybe it was his years of wrestling, maybe his time in the army, maybe it was just life experience or a combination of each, but it is there and it is a great example for everyone.
Interested in meeting Maynard James Keenan? Easy!
Go be the best in your town, city, state or country at what you do, support his projects, be a fan, not a fanatic, be humble and be patient…you never know when you might get the call! (Ok, maybe it’s not “easy”.ha)
Everyone is also asking me how much he paid me…
Well, lets just say, I am waiting for my Caduceus Cellars MJK select wine/s to arrive 😉