Conventional wisdom says an active lifestyle should stop you from ageing.
But when fitness gurus Jozef Frucek and Linda Kapetanea worked in dance academies, they saw people moving every day who were still deteriorating at the same rate as everyone else.
Injuries were ever present, weights were wearing out joints and gym goers were out of their comfort zones with new exercises.
“So we started to have a look, and formulate other ideas. It led us to create Fighting Monkey,” Frucek said.
The innovative workout involves a range of exercises, usually based around movement, that require balance, strength and coordination. Weights are kept light to protect joints, and students have to figure out the best way to lift strange objects to develop their own awareness.
Watch: Fighting Monkey makes you move
One of the pillars of Fighting Monkey is ‘earthquake architecture’.
“When you look at ancient people, they were building where earthquakes are because they though it was an area of power,” Frucek said.
“So, can we put an obstacle in our way, rather than wait for one to come to us and be unprepared, but in a way that doesn’t damage our body.”
Fighting Monkey uses alternative tools to traditional workouts, to force your body to move and to improve your balance.
For example, instructors attach a tennis ball to a piece of string and swing it back and forth in random directions around a student’s body.
The student must duck and weave to avoid being hit while staying in the same spot.
Another tool is a 9 kilogram smooth wooden ball – so light it won’t wear down your joints, but designed to improve your “body’s intelligence”.
“We realised the most strong guys work with the ball and they cannot deal with it because it has no handle,” Frucek said. “It becomes slippery when you sweat. We realised the guys who are super strong are not strong at all.”
A third tool is a huge log, cut into a rectangle. It only weights 40kg, light for its size, but is cumbersome and hard to lift.
Kapetanea said: “The beauty is you have to improvise. If you have to carry the wood you have to find your way to do it – there is no one technique.”
Frucek said: “These muscular guys could not lift them. There was not enough neuromuscular connections for them to understand how to lift it above their head. Weaker ones with more understanding could do it.”
Often though, Fighting Monkey exercises are far less complicated, especially for first time students.
“If someone stands for three minutes, they are fine,” Frucek said, “but if they stand still for 20 minutes, they begin to drop and we can see where they are weak. It is a look into the future of what will happen to them.”
He said if he puts a mirror behind standing students they immediately see their posture drooping and say “‘Oh god! Is that how I stand?’”.
But it’s important to let students figure out their own solutions in Fighting Monkey – they mayimprove slower initially, but benefit more in the long term.
“It’s teaching without teaching,” Frucek said. “If you remove yourself and offer only some situations, they look for their own way to solve them.”
Workouts are so variedthey not only help prevent injury but improve athletic performance for other sports, the instructors said.
But fighting Monkey requires patience.
“Hongkongers have a problem with time,” Frucek said. “They cannot take their time. It’s a sign of ageing.”
He used the analogy of an elderly person losing motivation to work on problems because they assume they will die soon.
“Hongkongers think they have to rush from one place to another, read books fast and do everything fast. They are missing many important nutritions along away,” Frucek said.
But ultimately, Frucek and Kapetanea do not claim Fighting Monkey is the best training out there for everyone.
“If you love CrossFit, for example, then it will serve what you want, or if you love Judo, you should do that,” Frucek said.
“At the end, you may finish with hernias and knee operation, but that’s fine because you gave up your health for something you love.”
Fight Monkey plans to hold events in Hong Kong, check out their Facebook page and stay tuned for the launch of the Fighting Monkey Hong Kong page.