Jeremy Johnson’s Monster Camp
Photo by Eric Leslie
Jeremy Johnson’s story is very simple. “I was a punk and the gym saved me from breaking into your house and going to jail.”
It’s a surprising statement from this fit 36-year-old who recently opened Monster Camp, a fitness training gym that shares space with Team Quest on Center Street in Redding.
“I spent a lot of time getting kicked from school to school,” he says. “I got in all kinds of trouble for fighting and thought I was tough until I walked into a gym with real martial arts.”
“There’s a huge difference between a street fighter and a martial artist,” he explains. “Where one is driven by rage and raw energy, the other uses tactical, disciplined awareness. A street fighter will always get beat by honor, respect, loyalty, dignity, hard work and dedication. I had no idea what those were.”
Walking into the gym changed his life and put him on a path with purpose. Since then, Johnson has spent nearly every day of his life in the gym, training, teaching and coaching. For him, the journey means everything. “I promised I would give back, pay back what someone gave me.”
You’ll not find traditional weights and machines at Monster Camp. Tractor tires, climbing walls and various barrier structures litter the workout area. A yoga room with soft mats anchors the space.
“We practice muscle confusion,” says Johnson. Muscles respond better to new and different intensities, so on a given day, he might run members through high-intensity circuits where they jump, climb and work with punching bags. The next workout could be slow and sustained with a good portion devoted to yoga to build core strength.
Officially open since November, Monster Camp runs much like any gym, with paid memberships allowing members to attend classes and develop personalized fitness training plans. But for Jeremy, the passion reaches back to his bumpy beginnings. “Do we help adults get strong and big and cool? Yeah, we do,” says Johnson, “but it’s really all about the kids.”
The “kids” refers to 13- to 18-year-olds who populate the gym after school from 3 to 5pm. They take Johnson’s Monster Camp classes and then plug in to a martial arts discipline, all the while talking about what’s going on in their lives. A good number of these teens are referred to him from peer court, drug court and the Youth Violence Prevention Council. “I get the kids off the street,” he says. “They don’t get values at home. They don’t have good grades. We teach them core values and keep them accountable for the positive and negative things they do.”
“Something you’ll hear a thousand times here is ‘we have no quit,’” says Johnson. “These kids have been quit on by every adult and authority figure—teachers, parents, the government.” He works hard to help kids see the benefits of pushing their own limits and not quitting on themselves.
It was in an effort to fund the youth programs that led Johnson to open Monster Camp. For a few years, he relied on fundraising, donations and out-of-pocket cash. He figured by building a paid membership base, he could offer a win-win scenario. He says his paying members really buy into the program because they know they are saving the community at the same time. He hopes to have enough paid members to support at least 300 kids per year.
A successful product of his own “no quit” policy, Johnson looks to future as a place of growth and legacy. “I want to train one of these kids to take my role and see the program continue and grow,” he says. “I just want to save as many kids as possible.”
Monster Camp • www.monstercamp.tv
(530) 949-3477 • 1101 Center Street, Redding