For handstand enthusiasts and aspiring acrobats, or anyone looking for next-level physical challenges, you might find your new fitness haven at Trybe HK, a recently opened 3,500-sq.-ft. ‘movement facility’ in the Southside and one of the first dedicated acrobatics gyms in Hong Kong.
“We call ourselves a movement space,” says Teddy Lo, one of five co-founders of Trybe, who all met within the fitness industry as individuals interested in various forms of gymnastics, dance and calisthenics, and wanted to create a community of like-minded people. “We want to offer a space and community that fosters and encourages people to try new things. It’s one thing to offer classes, but another to offer the right mindset and intangible support for people to keep practising and moving on their own.”
After a sedentary college lifestyle where he played video games all day, Teddy Lo was first inspired to join the Crossfit scene to get his health back on track. In 2012, he founded Central Crossfit gym Crossfit852.“The goal of crossfit in the very beginning was to constantly mix up your training programme and try very different things. As Crossfit grew mainstream, more imitations are popping up attempting to ride on its success, and new students are coming in with different expectations” says Lo. “It’s become harder to stick to the original roots, despite the top notch coaching available. So here at Trybe, it’s a fresh start, but we want to encourage more creativity and differentiation between each person.”
Since then, Lo has swapped heavy weights for handstands, and adopted more of a cross-training approach, experimenting with different disciplines in circus arts, gymnastics, dance and martial arts along the way. Due to the lack of circus arts training in Hong Kong, he’s even sought advice and training from Cirque du Soleil professionals while visiting abroad.
“Some of the artists are collegiate level, or former Olympic competitors, and it’s cool to see their perspective and how they recommend adults to train as well, since we’re not training professionals here at Trybe, we’re not sending anyone to Cirque du Soleil — just yet,” says Lo. Sitting down with Lo, we asked him to share his insights and journey towards developing the skill-oriented training programme at Trybe HK.
I became a trainer… because of the enjoyment I got from the first few times I could accomplish a skill, and then being able to empower and enable that in someone else — that’s hard to find in a job. Still even now, when we get a new technique, we’re happy, we throw it on Instagram right away. It’s not just about posting it online, but when the student leaves, they were able to do something they couldn’t before. When you’re in the gym, it’s just you. I’d say it’s a little bit easier — you don’t need to worry about so many things. Whereas performing gymnastics, the shows change from day to day. It’s not just about the movements, you need to look relaxed, you need to communicate some kind of message to the audience.
My fitness philosophy… is that I don’t like to see fitness as a “I have to work out every day” kind of mindset; I don’t want to work out for the sake of working out. I have to have something I want to achieve, let’s say a one-armed handstand or a one-armed pull-up. And the fitness comes with that. I would set the top goal and divide what I need to do to get there. I think it’s also very important to be virtuous: a lot of people like to avoid their weaknesses, and there’s some valid or not valid excuses. But if you always avoid it then you’ll always be stuck with a closed mindset. You learn a lot by pushing yourself into something you can’t do. So, do everything. You don’t need to be a master of everything, but I think everyone should try at least the beginnings, otherwise you don’t know what the possibilities are.
The key to staying motivated… is finding the next step. Should I choose a harder variation, or should I try to combine it with something else? So I learn how to juggle, and I can handstand on my canes, maybe I should juggle and handstand at the same time. Testing the possibilities is a good way to get motivated. People overestimate what they can do in one week, but underestimate what they can accomplish in three years. It’s like learning a language, you can’t expect to pick that up in two weeks. Nice how Facebook has that Memories feature now, because now I can look back two years and think, “wow… I used to suck!”
When you’re stuck… find a coach or like-minded people. I started hand-balancing about three years ago. I started one-arm handstands about a year and a half ago. I thought I would be done in six months, and now I realise I probably still have another year and half to go. It’s the thing that makes me think when I wake up, “goddammit is it gonna be today?” Sometimes it gets closer. I have flown around to find various coaches, but what has done the most for me is finding like-minded people. You don’t have to always practise together, but it helps when you know someone else is going through the same thing. At Trybe, we don’t want people forced to practise alone in the corner of a gym and then get the weird eyes from people as they fall on their face. Here, it’s fine to fall on your face, everyone knows what you’re doing.
When I work out… my ritual is actually to change everything. For a lot of people, they say they work out to prepare for the unknown. You never know when you need to do something or lift something — I want to be able to see what I can do when I am off guard. So I suggest to keep doing stuff that you wouldn’t normally do. If you stay where you’re comfortable, then you just get better within your domain but you’re just hiding your weaknesses.
We encourage cross-training a lot. I take popping lessons, tap dancing and wushu… for now. For the next three months, maybe I’ll do salsa, or something weird that will make people say “why?” Things with a long tradition, there’s gotta be a reason why people are still doing them. And that’s what interests me. Boiled down, most people don’t realise how similar exercises and sports are. Contemporary dance and jiu jitsu share so many similarities. We want people to see beyond these boxes.
For power food… I lean towards more protein, but if you’re Asian and you need to go home and eat and you’re not eating rice, it’s a little disrespectful, right? So whatever works, that makes life easier. I really like eggs, and it works out well because nutritionally it has almost everything you need. From there, steak is good. Steak and eggs were my go-to in college, because it’s easy to cook and it turned out to be filling and nutritious.
I believe in eating… what makes me happy. I’m quite casual about food, and I get criticised for that. But it’s more important to me to be able to focus, and if that means I have to eat some chips before coming in then that may be what I’m doing. I do avoid drinking, I find that affects me more for the next day.
For cheat day… fried chicken is always good, especially with all the new Korean places. I like gai daan jai (egg waffles), and now they have all these new fillings. Other than that, I’m always up for ice cream, but I don’t think ice cream is always as bad as people make it out to be.
The thing about losing weight is… Most people feel that they should go to a traditional gym for weight loss first, and will probably come to us afterwards, because they might feel that they need a prerequisite before they can do what we do here at Trybe. Unfortunately what happens is that most people get stuck at the gym. When you focus on physique or numbers, very few people hit and are satisfied with their numbers.
A guy wants to be big and strong; there’s going to be a new guy at the gym bigger than him. There’s always someone on social media who looks more shredded than you. Some people say, “I want to be lean” but what does that mean? Whether you learn something, or whether you have improvement, should be the focus. Whether your forward rolls are more smooth, they look nicer, or you didn’t hurt while doing them. Most people will know right away if they’ve done it right. When done properly, most of these skills will feel easy.
My favourite exercise… is the press to handstand, because it works almost everything in your body. It’s lifting yourself into a handstand without jumping, which takes a lot of shoulder strength. Other than that, I do like to go back to gymnastics basics in a lot of my training: pull ups and push ups are staples and there are many variations. For lower body, I still squat two or three times a week, it’s hard to get away from that with a Crossfit background, but it does good stuff for me.
In the end I still identify as a hand-balancer, so I focus on handstands and anything with feet off the floor, upside down, that’s what I enjoy. It’s one of the few things that makes it feel like we can fly. It’s always a crowd-stopper, people see it and they want to do it too. It’s achievable by anyone, which I like.
When I’m not training or working out… I am SO close to buying a PS4. So far since I’ve been working out I’ve been staying away from video games. I want to play but I know I’ll get sucked into it. But for now, a dog is taking a lot of my attention, and I’m spending a lot of time exploring the Southside. Family and friends first.
My workout playlist includes… it depends on what we’re doing and who’s in charge of the music, sometimes there’s some weird French rap going on, or sometimes there’s some Jay Chou in the middle of my session and he’s singing about love — not very helpful! — but we like to do a lot of improv work, like dance. We just put on the music and see where it takes us. There are some songs that work better than others. Personally, I like heroic war music. Like something from “300,” something that makes it sound like I’m about to do something epic. It puts me in the mindset.