Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Man behind Afrobrutality

 Syn Martinez is the man behind Afrobrutality, Afrobrewtality, and Afrobrutality Radio . He is a social media ninja, designing master, brutal programmer, and all around cool guy. First thing I do in the morning is check his Instagram (@afrobrutaliy) - his designs are sick and he pairs them with some great print ("Believe in your fucking self" is one of my faves).

I have felt like a stalker getting ready for this post, researching Syn, listening to pod casts on Squats and Espresso ( here and here), reading articles, looking at pictures, and going back through his Instagram. Learning more about who he is, and how Afrobrutality came to be, has been inspiring. He works hard, believes in himself, and surrounds himself with great people.

Back in the early 2000's Syn was working from home, eating McDonald's for breakfast, Chinese food for lunch, and watching a lot of movies. Fast forward 115ish pounds and a wake up call workout with his crew, and he knew he needed to make a change. He worked out with his crew, ran some 1/2 marathons, lost 120ish pounds, and got into triathlons. In 2007 he organized a group to compete in the Urbanathalon in NYC and designed their shirts. They were a hit.

Syn learned about CrossFit after a Nike Sparq competition in 2007 and ended up doing the Mainsite WODs for all of 2008. That's when he noticed the training programs, the Level 1 Certs, and the affiliates on the side of the website. There were two established CrossFit gyms in NYC: CF South Brooklyn and Crossfit NYC. He was invited to his first Fight Gone Bad at CF South Brooklyn in 2008 and then did workouts with his crew where they could find the space. Pretty soon his crew was being invited to more competitions in the tri-state area as Crossfit Harlem. They walked in and ruined your day. They were monsters.


Syn's goal with his programming is to create monsters. He loves barbell chippers, running (remember he was triathlon trained), and heavy barbells. His programming is meant to piss you off and get the best out of you. He is a brutal coach because he cares. He's not going to let you lift 65 pounds for 6 months, he is going to push you. His goal is "to help the average individual feel like they could go to the games tomorrow".

I was introduced to Syn through boy Phil (@mrbillup500). He started following Syn and Afrobrutality awhile back. Phil even got tatoo advice from Syn at one point (I'm telling you, this guy knows EVERYTHING). We met face to face at GMU for the 2014 Mid-Atlantic Regionals where he was selling Afrobrutality gear. I got two tank tops and instantly needed more. I went home and ordered more online - tough to choose though since I dig most of his designs. Syn also supported Phil's journey to Nationals in Colorado by donating to his travel/meet fund.

Over the next few months I started following Aftrobrutality on Instagram. We became friends on Facebook - sorry folks, Facebook says he has maxed out his friends. I was instantly hooked. He interacts daily with his fans and he constantly posts really dope designs. I sent him messages here and there and he always responded, which was cool cause he is one busy guy. I just wanted him to know I appreciated what he was doing and what he stood for. After staying in touch for a few months I reached out and talked to Syn about becoming "The People's Athlete" for Afrobrutality. He wants to help the average athlete. That's me, average athlete. My goal is to lead by example and show the average person that you can do this too. You can make time for yourself, you can lift heavy ass shit, you can be fast, you can do a pull up, and you can be bad ass. He was on board!  Little while later I let him know I would be in New York and maybe we could meet up. His response? Sent me his cell#, stayed in touch the whole day, and he set up dinner for my family with some of his crew and Skully the Pitt. Not only did he set up dinner, he shut down SpaHa Soul (a great soul food restaurant) in East Harlem so we could have the place to ourselves! Syn means business, if you are loyal to him, he is loyal to you. I felt like royalty, I have not met many people that would go out of their way to make all that happen. Next time we are in NYC (travel plans in the works) he has promised to take us to the best pizza spot ever - I'm not telling you where though. Top Secret.

He did the design for The Outlaw Way singlets - you can check that out here.

He designed for Bob Harper.

Bob and his boys

Kevin and Matt reppin their Brutality gear.

Kevin Ogar and Matt Hathcock

So we got to chatting the other day and got a some more information for your reading pleasure.
When and how did you get involved in CrossFit/weight lifting?

I've been lifting weights since I was in 13 years old at school and I was able to maintain that until I moved to Harlem in 1996.
How did Afrobrutality come about?

When I was doing Triathlons and during my off season in 2007 I found a Competition in Midtown call Nike Sparq Testing, so I entered. The competition was based on measurements how high could you jump, how fast could you run from side to side and how long could you maintain a runners pace. Based on my Scores and my Age at the time (36) I came in First place. When it was over we were all sitting around talking about what we did to prepare for the Competition and a guy named David Lipson (Camille's now Husband) said "CrossFit" and another guy said "GymJones" so I went home and researched both and decided on "CrossFit".
Where was the first box you went to?

At first I just followed Main Site ( and did the workouts with my Crew, then one day I realized that on the right hand side of the page there were two things "Affiliates" and Level 1's. So I first went to CrossFit NYC when they were on 39 between 5th and 6th Ave, it was very small, I couldn't find a parking space and I decided to not go in. The Second place I went to was CrossFit Virtuosity at the time Keith (the Owner at the Time) was using a Dance Studio and it was all Body Weight stuff and one set of rings, no barbells, and the Third place was CrossFit South Brooklyn which was near my job at the time. It was the first actual CrossFit gym I went to and the first person I met was Jacinto (three time Games competitor and oldest ever to compete at The Games).
Ok. Fun one: 3 things you would take if stranded on an island?

Barbell, weights, my lady
Crossfit South Brooklyn. How long were you there before you knew this was for you?

I was never a member of any CrossFit but my own. In 2007 when I ran came across I knew immediately it was for me.

Afrobrutality started out of your trunk....what made you decide to start that line?

I was thinking of a good CrossFit affiliate name and something to call me and my crew at CrossFit competitions. At every CrossFit competition we were called CrossFit Harlem so we decided that would be our name. So when I thought about how the first CrossFit Harlem shirt would look I knew it needed to be a symbol that I always wanted make which was Huge Afro, a Skull and an Afro pic with a middle finger coming out of it.

The first shirt just had CrossFit Harlem on the front and the Skull on the back, so I sent it around and everyone said the Skull has to be on the front. So in my mind I said if I do that what would I put on the back. I had a few names, AfroArmageddon, AfroTerminator but I remember two things, one is when I started posting workouts on FaceBook they were all called Brutal, and the more dominate part of the logo is the Afro so AfroBrutal hmmm how about AfroBrutality and Boom.

Another fun one: most embarrassing song you love?

I grew up with Soft Rock so I have an entire embarrassing playlist. Abba. Barry Manilo.
You are a social media ninja. How do you stay on top of it all?

It's not easy I can tell you. I started with Facebook in 2009 and just took it slow. I was the first CrossFit affiliate with a Facebook page and from there I just kept up work the with the Trends. It takes being anal about staying on top of it. Making sure you have the right notifications and always make sure your telling your story.

What's a typical day look like for you?

5am Instagram catch up
 9am AfroBrutality post 
9:15am-10am emails and text messages 
10am-5pm Designing for myself and others
 1pm AfroBrutality post 
 9:15am-9pm InstaGram, FaceBook and Twitter posts 
8-9pm get the supplies for "Our Routine"
 9pm AfroBrutality post
 9pm-11pm "Our Routine"

What's your favorite cup of coffee? Sugar, cream, black.......


Sometime MCT Oil and Ghee butter

Do have have fitness goals for yourself now? Deadlift a certain weight, do a competition, run marathon?

I just want to workout three times a week. Since I closed the gym it's been hard to workout regularly
Any desire to open another one?

Not by myself.

Are you programming for gyms now?

Yeah, I program one day a week
For how many gyms?
And are you looking to expand that? Or is one day cool for you?

Always looking to expand. 5 gyms so far
What happened that you branched out into radio, coffee........stuff you love? How did you decide "I need more work"?

Just replacing the energy I put into the gym into dreams I've had in the past.
Any other big dreams coming?

The radio thing will be big. I've got some ideas for a total weightlifting gym and coffee shop. I just need a good team and some Capitol.

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