Move­ment cul­ture, an all-en­com­pass­ing, demo­cratic form of fit­ness train­ing, is on the rise. Mar­i­anna Cerini meets some of the trail­blaz­ers on this new path to health and well-be­ing

Hong Kong Tatler - - Features - Pho­tog­ra­phy NIC AND BEX GAUNT

n an airy stu­dio in Wong Chuk Hang, eight men and women of dif­fer­ent ages and ath­letic build be­gin to warm up, jump­ing lightly in place, do­ing hand­stands, play­fully in­ter­act­ing with one an­other and mov­ing about the room. The space is called Trybe, and the group is here to take part in dif­fer­ent classes—strength train­ing, tum­bling, hand­stands. But this isn’t a reg­u­lar gym. The dis­ci­plines they are un­der­tak­ing are to be ap­proached as com­po­nents of the same prac­tice, one of the fit­ness world’s bur­geon­ing con­cepts: move­ment.

If the term sounds loose, that’s be­cause it’s sup­posed to. Move­ment in­cludes a va­ri­ety of work­outs and phys­i­cal rou­tines, from gym­nas­tics and park­our to cal­is­then­ics and ac­ro­bat­ics. To many well-be­ing en­thu­si­asts and body cognoscenti, it is an all-en­com­pass­ing life­style. “A cul­ture. A way of life,” says Teddy Lo, one of Trybe’s co-founders and mas­ter coaches. “One of the main prob­lems with the mod­ern fit­ness in­dus­try is that it pushes peo­ple to­wards very spe­cific, one-sided tools and goals to im­prove their strength and stamina. Move­ment does the op­po­site. It in­vites you to try every­thing—es­pe­cially the things you’re most scared of. It’s train­ing both body and mind to get out­side fa­mil­iar spa­ces.”

“Stan­dard gyms,” adds Steph Lee, a

co-founder and move­ment teacher at Trybe, “di­vide rigidly by dis­ci­plines: dance prac­ti­tion­ers stick to their dance rou­tines, yo­gis to yoga, weightlifters to their bench press and dumb­bells. Move­ment brings all of these to­gether un­der one umbrella. It’s for peo­ple from all sorts of sports back­grounds.”

Teddy and Steph are cases in point. He comes from martial and cir­cus arts by way of crossfit; she used to be a pro­fes­sional bal­le­rina. Vee Lea, an­other co-founder and in­struc­tor, is a for­mer aerial and pole dancer. They all grav­i­tated to­wards move­ment as a way to take their phys­i­cal ca­pa­bil­i­ties and men­tal fo­cus to the next level. “I think of it as a demo­cratic ap­proach to well-be­ing,” Vee says, “which in­her­ently ex­tends to how you go about ev­ery­day life.”

The idea of in­te­grat­ing ranges of ex­er­cises isn’t new. The Afro-brazil­ian martial art capoeira, for in­stance, com­bines el­e­ments of dance, ac­ro­bat­ics and mu­sic, and dates back to 16th-cen­tury Brazil. But if one had to put a face and name to the re­cent rise of this holis­tic ap­proach into the main­stream, the trio is quick to credit one per­son: Is­raeli ath­lete Ido Por­tal. “For the last decade, he’s given it its iden­tity,” Teddy says, “and he has been par­tic­u­larly vo­cal about go­ing against tra­di­tional fit­ness norms. If we were to point at a founder of sorts, it’d be him.”


Ido Por­tal is the first name to pop up when you type move­ment cul­ture into Google. Born and raised in Haifa, he spent years study­ing capoeira, martial arts and gym­nas­tics, among other dis­ci­plines, be­fore blend­ing them to­gether into his own prac­tice. In the move­ment cir­cuit, he has an al­most guru-like halo and the per­fect poster-boy ap­pear­ance to go with it. He looks lean, hand­some and per­fectly chis­elled. He speaks in short mo­ti­va­tional bites—“we are all hu­man first, movers sec­ond and only then spe­cial­ists,” “If it’s im­pos­si­ble, it’s a good goal to have,” “There is no wrong move­ment. There is lack of prepa­ra­tion and lack of aware­ness”—and has 460,000 fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram.

Al­though vari­a­tions on move­ment have ex­isted for a long time, Por­tal is the one who has pro­pelled it into the lime­light through mes­meris­ing videos, clever use of so­cial me­dia and, no­tably, by be­com­ing move­ment coach last year to the pro­fes­sional mixed martial arts sports­man Conor Mcgre­gor, a clear move to dis­play the reach and po­ten­tial of the method—if a pro­fes­sional fighter chooses to take bal­let classes, then walk like a lizard and hang like a mon­key (some of the ex­er­cises in move­ment cul­ture), surely such phys­i­cal pur­suits have to be the ul­ti­mate work­out. Tick­ets for Por­tal’s work­shops around the world sell out within hours.

“Ido is your starting ref­er­ence point when you get into move­ment,” says Clare Lim, co-founder and CEO of Sharedspace, a move­ment stu­dio in Cause­way Bay. “I did three camps with him when I de­cided I wanted to learn more about the dis­ci­pline back in 2011-12. I now train un­der Fight­ing Mon­key, an­other move­ment school that weaves to­gether dance and martial arts like qi gong, but Ido is def­i­nitely the main spokesper­son for the con­cept.”

“What I like about move­ment is how loose it is,” chimes in Daniel Strange, a private move­ment prac­ti­tioner based in Cen­tral who trained un­der one of Por­tal’s Hong Kong stu­dents. “Which is why you can call it a cul­ture. It doesn’t fol­low set rules or rou­tines. It’s con­stantly adapt­ing and evolv­ing. We live in such a rushed, hec­tic so­ci­ety, par­tic­u­larly in Hong Kong, and I think move­ment en­thu­si­asts are drawn to the idea of tak­ing a break from all that and en­gag­ing in ac­tiv­i­ties that feel un­plugged from the ana­logue world. It’s a way to bet­ter un­der­stand your body. Not just one as­pect—abs or legs or bi­ceps—but your phys­i­cal­ity as a whole.”

In­deed, a move­ment “course” might see you do park­our, work on bal­ance, mo­bil­ity, strength and con­di­tion­ing, and do tai chi­in­spired se­quences. There is also a strong game com­po­nent. “In our classes, we have peo­ple play with each other, or move in sync with a part­ner,” Clare says. “The idea is to en­cour­age cu­rios­ity and emo­tive em­pa­thy, to shape the way we re­late to the space and peo­ple around us.”

“The brain is such a huge part of how the body trains,” Vee says. “Move­ment cul­ture keeps that at the core of all its dis­ci­plines. It’s in­te­grated train­ing at its best. You can get a lot of phys­i­cal ben­e­fits from that.”

Peo­ple have taken no­tice. Al­though not yet as pop­u­lar as HIIT (high-in­ten­sity in­ter­val train­ing), spin­ning or yoga, move­ment cul­ture is in­creas­ingly en­ter­ing the radar of elite ath­letes and hard-core ex­er­cis­ers. Both Trybe and Sharedspace are just over a year old but op­er­ate at full ca­pac­ity and have ever-grow­ing ros­ters of mem­bers span­ning black-belt karate fight­ers, soc­cer play­ers, lacrosse pro­fes­sion­als, pole dancers, Brazil­ian jiu-jitsu wrestlers and elite javelin throw­ers, but also “be­gin­ners, kids, fam­i­lies,” Steph says. “Move­ment cul­ture re­ally is for ev­ery­one. It’s an open field.”

Daniel says he’s had to ad­just his sched­ule to take in more stu­dents.

“Peo­ple who have a fit­ness rou­tine are con­stantly look­ing at more chal­leng­ing ways to get fit­ter,” Clare says. “Move­ment of­fers that in a 360-de­gree way.”

BALANCING ACTS Move­ment cul­ture blends dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines, from ac­ro­bat­ics to cal­is­then­ics, to com­bine grace of move­ment with bod­ily fit­ness. Here and on the last page Teddy Lo, Steph Lee and Vee Lea of Trybe show­case the phys­i­cal breadth of a move­ment class

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