He’ll make you drop and give him push-ups.
Make you feel like you’re crawling through mud during mountain climbers.
And maybe, just maybe, have you address him with a “Sir! YESSIR!”
But ILKB manager and army sergeant Leon Cypher just wants you to know that with discipline comes confidence.
And that he will not leave you to do it on your own.
“See that’s the thing” says Leon Cypher, manager at Harlem’s iLoveKickboxing studio, “It’s a team building experience. It’s not just you training yourself. It’s you training with other people.”
This he says is his teaching philosophy. And he has his military background to thank for it
Leon recounts one of his military experiences in which he was ordered to hold his squat for a whole ten minutes. In the middle of a South Carolina field and under a winter rain, he sat on an imaginary chair with 40lbs of food, water, blankets, and anything else he could fit in a bag on his back. He lost feeling in his fingers while holding his M16 in front of him.
“All of a sudden I heard my sergeant say ‘Oh you want to quit? Ok everyone sit!’ But I learned that we ALL had to get through it to survive the experience. If you try to go at it alone they’re just going to eat you up and chew you out. It’s really helped me on this pathway of instructor.”
But before this revelation, Leon was somewhat of a loner.
His parents met in the military while both serving terms. Because of this, Leon consistently moved from state to state and never could keep a close group of friends. Even when he didn’t have to move and got a chance to call a place a home, he preferred to be a gaming stay at home nerd (as he describes it) than step outside his room.
“I never really had anything consistent that made me happy. Growing up in the Bronx it was really tough. It wasn’t the best of neighborhoods. There was a lot of drugs, violence, all that stuff. That’s what all the other kids were surrounded by. I didn’t want to deal with that.”
Leon spent hours beyond hours closed off in his room playing video games and watching cartoons. But home was no sweet escape from the street wars.
There was constant arguing and very little love and support felt between Leon and his parents.
“I never really had that closeness and I felt like I couldn’t really talk to them. I tried to reach out and I would get shut down. I would be like alright I know to never do that again. I’ll just keep it to myself.”
While locked up in his room he also turned to food for comfort. His diet consisted of chips, pizza and just about every bad thing you can imagine.
Back then he didn’t realized the harm he was doing to himself.
“I had no energy for anything. I was so lazy. Looking back now I didn’t realize it but I was actually overweight. Maybe even kind of depressed.”
But thanks to a weight training class in high school and the military veteran teacher, Leon got his first taste of what it was like to be healthy. He started losing weight but most importantly Leon started feeling something different.
“I felt happier. More self confident. I didn’t want that to stop. That was my new escape. And that actually helped me not just stay happy but also spread it to other things.”
Leon says he started becoming more active and social. Whenever he found himself wanting to once again shut himself in his room, he searched for something to keep him busy and healthy. He set a goal to always improve himself both physically and emotionally.
A few years later while bored and living in Puerto Rico, Leon went with a friend to visit an army recruitment station. He went as support for his friend but after asking many questions, the recruiter looked at Leon and told him he should give the test a go.
Leon figured why not. Both him and his friend took the test. Only Leon got in.
“In time, these people became like my second family. I spent every single day at that recruiter station learning the trade and how to become a recruiter even though I was a future soldier. I was working out with them everyday and they even put me in charge of training other people.”
Leon would end up becoming a recruiter and helping potential soldiers get in shape for their assessments.
Leon ended up back in New York and decided to enroll at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. During a very stressful semester he remembered his promise to himself. He would not shut down. He would not go down the same path.
He did a quick search on Groupon and came across iLoveKickboxing.
“It was super cool and just lots of energy. I was really inspired by the instructor. Although all I was getting was my little check from the reserve, I was just like take my money!”
Leon says that iLoveKickboxing has gotten him in the best shape of his life both mentally and physically. So much so that he doesn’t worry about his military physical assessments that come every six months. Thanks to ILKB, he was able to do ten more pushups than the last time, max out the points for sit ups and shave off an entire minute off his run. He’s so fit he’s actually being promoted to sergeant.
Look at Leon go!!!Come Play and work on that speed!#GetFitFeelGreat#beastsidehttp://bit.ly/ILKB-43rd-st
Posted by iLoveKickboxing.com – Midtown East, NYC on Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Soon after joining, Leon saw a for hire post on Facebook that would lead him into becoming the manager that he is today.
Leon was quickly contacted.
“They asked me why was I interested and I said I loved how they inspired people because I used to do something very similar in the military. It gave me a lot of people’s skills. I was a really shy guy. Before my fitness journey, I was really quiet, very to myself and then I wanted to expand and reach out.”
Reaching out might not have been the route Leon would have taken had it not been for his high school teacher, his army recruiter, and the ILKB instructor he took his first class with. He says they all in one way or another helped him to truly want to connect and teach others. Leon hopes that as manager he can spread what he’s learned to as many people as possible.
“I want to spread happiness like a plague. By having five to ten of me I can expand to a whole new range of people who grew up like I did. Whose self confidence is low and who are not as healthy as they want to be. They don’t have an escape or something to keep them in the zone. That’s what’s really driving me to push hard as a manager to get to those people who don’t yet know this is what they need in their lives to be better at what they do.”
And of course Leon is not going to let them do it on their own.
“In high school I got the me experience, then when I went to the recruiter station I got the experience of sharing it with other people. Since I trained kids who wanted to join, that’s when I started to get like the instructor experience. Helping them achieve fitness levels they never thought they could do. Being there to say ‘see you can do pushups now’ and experience their excitement got me thinking ‘you know what? I want to keep doing this…At ILKB, we teach you the physical stuff but that’s not where our job ends. What makes us different is that we are not like most gyms that are like ok bye see you tomorrow. We’re like bye see you tomorrow but if you have any questions I’m here for you too.”
Want some more Leon?
Then catch him and his crew at their brand new Harlem studio.