Thursday, April 12, 2012


This post is about what has become my favorite hour of the week, Wednesday at 7pm.  I drive a half hour in the opposite direction after work to spend this hour in a stinky, sweaty, crowded room in the middle of an ugly strip mall next to some of the seediest sections of San Diego.  I, the perpetually late guy, show up early because even though the class is scheduled to start at 7:15, it fills up by 7:00 and if I want my fix, I must be there early.  I share this special moment with a capacity crowd of like minded individuals.  Together, we exchange more sweat than words.  The body to my left is overgrown by ripped skeletal muscle, he looks like he would have no trouble pulling a semi truck out of the mud.  The body to my right screams out sinew and balance, as if she could walk a tightrope carrying a martini without a hint of wobble.  Inside this room, magic happens.

For quite some time, I have wanted to put into words how Tabu's class affects me, but I have found myself unable to do so.  The biggest reason that these words are so difficult to put together is only beginning to become clear to me.  I finally started to understand today, after I took a different sculpt class and I was actually able to remember it, how completely erased my mind feels after Tabu.  What is it that makes his class so special?  Let me start by ruling things out.

Tabu has what seems like an infinite bag of evil tricks at his disposal.  Each week feels like an entirely different car crash than the prior week because of how he mixes it all together.  Sure, there are the signature pieces that make it a legit Tabu class, signatures that the regulars know well and that the first timers may find surprising.  It's not a real Tabu show until he expresses disgust or contempt for at least one member of the room and you sure hope it isn't your turn this week.  Then there is the predictable countdown from 50 or sometimes even 100, and no I'm not kidding that each number is accounted for.  I'm especially not kidding about how he starts the count over if at least half of the room isn't shouting the numbers out loud enough to hear over the music.  Then there are the missing parts, no gentle integration, no ego pampering, no guarantees that the work is ever done before savasana.  These things, they are talking points and they are the fun flairs that add to the uniqueness, but in and of themselves, they are just the bling, not the meaty essence.

Diving a bit deeper, I see a man who is magnificent in physical form.  I see a man who looks at me and can instantly see every weaknesses and insecurity floating through my thoughts.  His eyes, they survey the entire room and everyone in it, even when you think you are properly hidden behind the moving masses.  His voice commands attention with every single word.  The simple phrase "breath in" when spoken from his mouth offers no alternative course of action.  Even if there were space for it, you take only one pair of weights with you to your mat for the Tabu show because you know he's never going to tell you to pick up the light ones.  The most intense part of class for me is actually not the moment when my HR spikes past 180 and I can't see past my nose and my breath becomes rhino-like.  The most intense part of class is when I look over and see Tabu demo 3 leg downward dog that looks more like standing splits and my mind shatters into pieces realizing how great the chasm is between what he can do and what I can do.  Strength in words, strength in body, and strength in mind, Tabu has every ounce of that.

None of that is why I like this hour so much.  It's all cool fluff, garnish if you will, but it's not the true essence that brings me back each week.  Eventually, as I get to know the man, he will become less exciting, more familiar.  Eventually, I will have seen most of the tricks in the bag and the patterns will become more predictable.  It's really not about being different or louder or fiercer than I find so appealing, though he is all of that.  I've never been one to reject conformity and I think I am actually fairly adept at embracing the repetitive and mundane sides of life.

What makes Tabu's class special is how he simultaneously embraces and rejects the concept of failure.

I can't handle Tabu's class.  Every week, it breaks me.  Every week I reach my failure point, again and again and again.  I'm not sure if Tabu himself would survive his own class, it would be Tabu against Tabu and neither would back down, so it sounds like an equation with no solution.  He will tell you that you should listen to your body and take a break if you need to, but at the same time he will tell you that you can do more, you can do another set, you can try harder, and his mere presence implores you to realize that there is no try, there is only do.  He will tell you that you are strong and he will lift you up on his back, as he wills you forward, as he demands that you give more than you thought you ever could.  Tabu does not tolerate failure, and yet his entire class is structured in a way to force you to reach failure.

Once this realization sets in, the nervousness of walking up those steps fades into acceptance.  At first I wanted so desperately to make it through an entire class without breaking down.  I set that as my goal, thinking that if I put in enough work, one day I might finish every set.  As the weeks ticked by, I modified my thinking.  There will never be a Tabu class that I can handle.  I would never want that anyway.  There is only one constant about this class, I will break and I will be forced to make a decision, actually 10 or maybe even 20 times during that hour.  That question, the one that burns in my head, the one I ask myself every week when I collapse into the sweat soaked towel on top of my mat, "how many seconds until you get up, Dave?"

1 comment:

  1. Did you ever see that Sports Science show episode where some guy had trained for years to take an unprotected kick to the nuts from a heavyweight cage fighter? Yup. Years and years of getting kicked in the nuts over and over and over. Sounds like heaven eh? I could research and see if there is a local instructor or something if you want...