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Other than being an entrepreneur, you also describe yourself as a coach and motivational speaker. What kind of coaching and speaking work do you do? And are they available in Bali?
Prison reform is important to me and the conditions that inmates exist in around the world are something that pulls on my heartstrings. Being incarcerated for more than a decade of my young adult life and knowing the effect that it has had on myself, my family, my friends, and my loved ones has made me committed to turning this negative into a positive.
I know the world of prisons, I’m sorry to say, as well as anyone. The USA is the most over-incarcerated country in the world and I want to help change that. The present prison system emphasises punishment and retribution, causing harm to all of those who are a part of it. The inmates, the correctional officers, the average citizen and taxpayer, society as a whole; they all suffer. No one can escape the reality that prisons are violent, toxic places. I’m just one voice, but I have been speaking out and speaking up trying to change things. Over the years I’ve spoken at schools, universities, police athletic league events, boys’ and girls’ clubs, and met privately with non-profit leaders, politicians, activists, and law enforcement officials. I’m continually advocating for the wholesale reform of existing conditions and sentencing guidelines.
Mandatory minimum sentences and solitary confinement must be done away with completely. Education, not incarceration, is the answer. My dear friend, Professor Baz Dreisinger, the author of Incarceration Nations: A Journey to Justice in Prisons Around the World, says it best, “The prison industry is a billion-dollar industry; depending on the state, we are spending at least 10 times more on incarcerating people than on educating them.”
A high-ranking captain at a federal supermax, where I was incarcerated, saw me five days a week for almost four years. He saw me cleaning dishes in the chow hall (cafeteria) for 10 cents a day. He saw me during my one-hour recreation time making trash bags full of water to do bicep curls and shoulder presses. He saw me bring my fellow inmates of all races and backgrounds together. He asked me, “Chris, where did you learn how to do this?” I told him my mom had sent me a book on training but that I needed access to more books so I could learn more. I wanted to study and learn and make the best use of my time inside, not just waste away. I wanted to make it when I got back home!
He saw how training brought inmates of all races together and significantly reduced violent behaviours. The next day, I met the prison warden. He drilled me with questions that day and the next week I gave him a list of books that I wanted to read. A week later, they were in my cell sitting on my bunk. Two months later, after watching my every move, he believed in me and allowed me to set up a training programme at yard time and coach a class on training, so guys like myself could come home and feel educated and confident in having a real job as a trainer and work that paid real money that would help them to lead an honest life rather than one that would lead them back to prison.
On 5th May this year, I celebrated my 10th year of freedom.
Inside, I was given a chance, I was given the books I needed to educate myself and the chance to show what training can do for the body and the mind. What I learned and taught myself in prison and the years studying and training since I’ve been out have been incorporated into what we teach at Boom Boom. I’ve been blessed to make a great living from coaching and I have worked with some amazing clients. I am still involved in numerous other projects back in the states in the prison reform space and will continue that fight.
As far as other work here in Bali, my local partners Theo Burggraaff, Made Raymond, and I have been in talks about several of the projects that I was a part of in the States. We are looking into how we might best be able to work with at-risk and less fortunate children here. Through their amazing connections in the community and all they do here, we would love to find a way to help those incarcerated here. These men and women will need help and assistance when they reacclimatise into society. Helping them with this transition only makes our society a better one for all of us.
Turning to COVID-19, how do you maintain operations for your gym, coaching and, talks at the moment? Would you consider following these new adjustments when economic sectors are allowed to fully operate again?
We were going to open in March. We decided not to open but instead used this extra time to work on perfecting our space and, most importantly, to develop extra safety precautions. Proper sanitising, disinfecting, and overall hygiene controls have never been more important so we had meetings with John Marciano, the owner of Republic of Soap and their GM, Lea Pallas, to identify the best solutions for our new cleaning programme.
They have provided us with the best all-natural products available anywhere to help ensure the highest hygienic safety standards possible. They are made from the highest-grade ingredients and contain no industrial chemicals or bleach, so we will continue down this path at our facility.
As far as coaching and talks… unfortunately, this is all on hold for now. My singular focus has been on being ready to open and on opening safely.
How will you ensure customers’ safety and comfort even when entertainment hotspots and fitness centres finally reopen in Bali?
Our priority is protecting the health and mental well-being of our customers. This has been an eye-opening and life-changing experience few months for all of us. We will have a hands-free check-in, administer daily health checks to staff, coaches, and clients. We will also be lowering the maximum numbers of guests admitted into any one class which will allow for more open space in the room. We will also be staggering our class schedule to allow our staff to undertake our strict cleaning procedures in between classes.
Throughout this public health crisis, people have been cooped up in their homes, and in some cases in complete isolation, for a frustratingly long period. We want to provide them with a fun and safe place to train where they can blow off some steam and an overabundance of pent up energy. We have been asked by so many to open, but my partners and I wanted to wait on the official notice from the government and to follow the specific protocols that were set in place.
Mention three activities you’d love to do in Indonesia or anywhere in the world once this pandemic is over.
Bali is known for many wonderful things, but everyone knows how great surfing is. I’m tired of my friends making fun of me for coming here and never getting on a surfboard. I know I’m going to be terrible at surfing at the start but I guess surfing is a lot like life; you just have to keep riding the waves and keep getting up on your board. My partner, Todd Gisondi, owns the premier surfing charter in Bulan Buru so I guess there’s no better boat or teachers anywhere than the crew Todd has assembled – and he’s been asking me for years to come surfing with him! I guess I’ll have to just put myself out there so I can level up and quiet him up.
With the lockdown, I found myself at home on my own much more and I started to cook for myself more. I realise I love to cook! I’m definitely going to take some cooking classes so when I head back to NYC, I can cook some of the great local dishes from here for my family and friends.
Lastly, I have just been going, going, and going since coming home in 2010. I haven’t had the pleasure to really just see all that Bali and Indonesia offers. I’m going to get on my bike, just get lost when I get some time off and see all the beauty in my new backyard.
Lastly, a little birdie told me you and Mark Baker are friends. Can you tell us about that? Also, would you two collaborate with your gym and his business, In the Raw?
Ha! Bali and its little birdies!
Mark is like a big brother to me. When I first came to Bali in 2016, we met up. Some of my best and closest friends in New York, Miami, and LA are Mark’s dear friends. They were like, “you two guys have to meet!”
When we finally met, we became fast friends. After tasting the best juices of my life, mixed with a great bottle of wine, and 2.5 hours of non-stop stories, laughs, connecting all the people we both knew, I think we both realised we would be brothers for life. I have the utmost respect for Mark’s business acumen, his personal commitment to his brand, his love and respect for his employees, and I love his indefatigable zest for living. He possesses the finest human qualities; honesty, integrity, and commitment. Being a man of your word is as important to Mark as it is to me and it is nice knowing that it still exists in today’s world. Mark knows my story, my reputation, and my work ethic – and I know his. As Mark always says, “real recognises real.”
Boom Boom will do some great things with Mark and In The Raw. We are excited and honoured to have him as one of our partners in Boom Boom.