"it was late june, 2007 - i had spent the night in the back of my pickup truck on some side street outside of an industrial district in Salt Lake City. the sun had just risen and i pulled into a small, fenced in parking lot behind a nondescript warehouse - and now i was waiting. somewhere in this little building was my destination, a bare bones training facility that called itself gym jones. it was about 6 months earlier that i first heard about it, saw a youtube clip of this old guy named Mark Twight talking about his training philosophy, about using the gym as a tool to expose and confront - to train your mind through training your body. something had resonated, i went online immediately, found the website - it was all black and white, punk rock meets fight club - self actualization through physical trials - all served up with bitter prose and a fuck-you attitude that i found strangely optimistic. i devoured it, was made hungrier by the hunt - i had to decode and decipher, to try and paint a picture out of glimpses - but it wasn't enough - i was trying to see the wind by watching leaves blow. i wanted to understand the current. so i chased down the source, wrote an email and asked if i could come by - drove the 6 hours, spent the night in the truck and finally ended up sitting on a tailgate at seven in the morning wondering what i got myself into.
i had convinced myself it was going to be terrible. drill sergeant style, yelling and the standard “extreme” ultra-masculine noise, but i knew that there was information here, and i was willing to pay the price. what i didn't expect was the level of humbleness, of openness and genuine care that i found inside those walls. sure, there were harsh truths and hard workouts, but there was always the sense of camaraderie, of community. hard work is just that, but it was the thought behind it that we focused on - instead of yelling and threats there were ideas. beautiful, simple ideas. words strung together in way that made scramble for my pen and then feel stupid for needing to write them down, for having needed to hear them in the first place. words that changed the way i thought, reframed how i saw the world. written down after the fact it seems silly, seems like i am overstating things - but there was a fundamental shift that occurred, an understanding. with this shift came the feeling of agency - of creation. like the relationship between a sculptor and her tools, this wasn't just exercise, it was communication. it was practice. it was the choice to live deliberately, to become exactly who and what i chose to be. it was only after being exposed to that action that i was able to see the currents, to be open to the message behind the movement, to realize the deeper motivations, the depth and the breadth of this tool.
so i went home. began to test and train and work with other people, to talk and share and to assemble the pieces i had into something cohesive. i continued to read Marks writing and we even exchanged some emails - he answered my questions with questions, encouraged me to explore, to learn, and to write. he never made anything easy - but managed to make everything worth it. to imbue small decisions with a significance, to help me see not just the consequences but to understand the strings, and how to pull them. Mark taught me the strength of story, of crafting an identity as a tool. a lever. that self-image can be a weapon, can be crafted and sharpened and built for a purpose. and then one evening i got the email that gymjones was following my little twitter feed - then mark asked if it was ok for him to repost an article i wrote. i had all the respect in the world for Mark, for his project. i had learned so much from him, owed him - and now he is going out on a limb, telling people that i knew what i was talking about. to be clear - i fucking didn't - i was just trying to figure things out, “testing the waters” but after that day i was no longer trading on my own name, and it was too late to turn anything down. i had to become a person worthy of that faith. there is an Abraham Lincoln quote that sums up a lot - “ i am a success today because a friend believed in me once, and i didn't have the heart to let him down” - no other action would have elicited that level of commitment. the confidence that he showed me still baffles me. i did not deserve it, and i will spend the rest of my life trying to prove that i am up to the task, that he made the right call. its beautiful really - an amazing gift, a debt that i can never repay - and the stubbornness to not let that stop me from trying.
Chris "Burkey" Burkeybyle
"In the first few minutes of meeting someone, to know you would be best friends for life, is rare. Such was the occasion when I met Mark Twight.
I met Mark while visiting a friend's pistol range in Colorado. Although I didn't realize it then, today I know many aspects of my life bear his influence.
My favorite saying of his, "It doesn't have to be fun to be fun," awakened me in many an un-fun moment. And its appearance isn't limited to just grueling experiences. One day while driving my van through the neighborhood without a care in the world, I heard Mark's words and realized I could not be any happier.
Whether the topic is nutrition, exercise, commitment, or maybe my favorite, just listening to music together, Mark has positively infiltrated my being. For that, I'm grateful."
"The truth is I didn't know who Mark Twight really was before I met him. I had zero knowledge about climbers or climbing, I came from a flat Island in the UK far away from his world.
So my experience on meeting him was without expectation, he didn't have anything to live up to and I wasn't looking for "the man behind the words". Our meeting happened at a time when I'd grown a little weary of the "fitness Industry". It had become a shallow pool of monetisation and shameless self promotion. Everyone was interested in what they could spin and sell to a population that had lost their way and didn't know any better.
But here was a guy without a business model or agenda. A man that had literally trained because his life counted on it. When you are looking for something pure and genuine in a world of fake and this guy walks in... You take notice.
So I listened, I learned, I fascinated myself with Gym Jones... The culture, the rawness, the return to something more basic, more fundamental. Closer to discovery than display. It was a journey that would change my world. Not just my training but my future. Salt Lake became my spiritual home because that's where I was growing more than I had grown in years.
Today I continue to grow in his company. Working with him, feeding off him, giving back to him and helping to carry a torch that was lit in those years passed.
So thank you Mark for re-igniting me, helping me, believing in me and laying down the wonderful path which I have walked so joyfully and continue to walk onward to the bright future."
"Maybe you have an idea of who he is. Maybe you’ve seen the pictures or the resume or read the words. Yes the words.
But the thing about Mark is, he’s generous. And maybe this is the key to his success across multiple disciplines and endeavors. If you're having a conversation with Mark he’s giving you his full attention. He’s not waiting to get a word in or fingering his phone. He’s in the moment, intent, invested and listening, really listening and giving himself completely to the conversation and the moment that is happening.
Maybe that's not the exact definition but I call it generous. And yes, it must be the key mentioned above. We could all learn to do this so well."
"Mark and I have been friends for many years…we met for the first time in 1994. On some deeper level than I have with most, an immediate connection was made.
At the time I was in Albuquerque NM when he came through on a slideshow tour. The local shop that sponsored his event was a place I rented space from for my sewing, climbing shoe repair and guiding business. I was 24, running my own businesses to carve out enough to climb, travel, and adventure with limited restrictions. Mark and I shared not only a similar mountain spirit but a mindset for training and harnessing our full potential as an athlete. There are people and spirits you meet that are forever with you and forever change you, whether it is a split second connection or a deep and lifelong friendship often just knowing they are alive keeps a smile on your face and your heart happy.
Mark was traveling with a friend’s artwork. Many climbers and alpinists knew his name, Randy Rackliff, and that he created woodblock masterpieces. Mark took it upon himself to help Randy sell them, at the time Randy wasn’t inclined to put them out there much, or possibly thought that they weren't as amazing as they were. I loved his print “CHAINED” which is the image below, so I purchased it from Mark when he was in town. 22 years later this print hangs in my home office, I see it everyday. Not only will it always remind me of the day Mark and I met and the friendship that moment spawned but also it represents a deeper philosophy we share.
This image can represent a lot of things to a lot of people. That is the beauty of art. It is for the individual and the audience to appreciate and take away what they will, based on their own personal experiences. CHAINED reminds me that WE, are only “chained” by our own personal limitations and that to move forward we must “Break the Chains” that bind us; be it the chains that bind us due to fear, self doubt, discriminations, whatever the case to move forward, to live an exceptional life they must be broken and often more than once. This reflects my own personal and simple philosophy…Face your fears, they are the single thing that holds you back.
Wherever the world takes you MFT, break the chains and continue to be exceptional. I promise to do the same."
"The path of my life has never been fraught with the danger of a thrill-seeker. Instead I’ve moved with the optimistic enthusiasm of a trusting naif. My energy was focused on the so-called arts and contrived adventures along far flung but well-travelled routes. As I sit now to reflect upon one particular beacon named Mark Twight, I’m challenged to give proper weight to his appearance that cold Winter morning in Montreal.
A week prior I’d heard his name for the first time. My cousins and I, sitting in the shadow of Yosemite’s El Capitan, spoke of moving "fast and light" in the mountains. Twight, they said, was the obvious authority on the matter. Jump ahead seven days and I’m on the set of 300 and shaking Mark's hand in quiet astonishment of such a coincidence and with the nervousness felt before a christening of sweat in the Spartan warehouse he called a gym.
It was 2005, I had an idea of what a gym should look like. They were filled with complicated machines isolating particular muscles. The undeniable exactitude of it all was reinforced by stickers of skinless men whose muscles gleamed as they were targeted. To find myself in Thermopylae’s concrete and drywall expanse with nothing recognizable except a truck tire was shocking and inspiring. I was not struck by the physiques of the stuntmen walking around in their leather shorts and crimson robes but of the creativity that had to be expressed in that space. It wasn’t the gear, it was the thinking that distinguished the 300 gym. That space seemed to be a workshop, a lab, an artist's studio in which Mark was crafting so much more than men. Curiosity piqued, I dove in. And with the film’s release, many more would discover and follow.
Learning and experimentation begat friendship, friendship swirled with work, and time honed it all into today’s good fortune. Mark Twight is someone I get to greet almost daily with a smile. I get to train in an on-set gym not dissimilar to that 300 gym (albeit better stocked with the trappings of an evolved enterprise). Eleven years later, the spirit of creativity has not wavered. Inspiration and deep understanding remain a paramount concern, and his pursuits, discoveries and thoughts, generously shared, now affect legions of people better for it.
I know in my heart that my life was changed in Montreal., that my body was changed by Mark's instruction and that I remain inspired. My optimism hurtles me forward, confident in Mark’s continued effort. For all of it, I am grateful."