Alden Boon

Bhas Karan: From Army Commander to BODYATTACK Instructor


My body stoops over my knees as I seek a momentary respite. A torrent of sweat pitter-patters on the floor like rain on windows — I’m knee-deep in my enervating mission to complete 120 power lunges in four minutes.  My heart is pounding like a jackhammer ripping through concrete slabs: I had earlier just completed successive high kicks and jacks and squats and whatnot. I contemplate my decision to put myself through agony. The pulsating 170-bpm remix of The Weeknd’s Can’t Feel My Face blaring from the speakers imbues slight, almost-futile motivation.

“And now, we’re going to take it down a little, just so we can rise to our peak,” hollered the strapping BODYATTACK instructor, whose energy permeates the room and never seems to peter out.

“That wasn’t your peak?!” my mouth agape, my mind offended by the revelation.

Bhas Karan used to wear green to his workplace. Devoting 10 years of his life to the Singapore Armed Forces, the infantry specialist was tasked with grooming young impressionable conscripts into effective soldiers. The effervescent and glib-tongued 31-year-old often took on double duty as a master of ceremonies, his anything-goes humour whipping through the crowd.

Today, his choice of work outfit is less regimental and more comfortable. His brightly-coloured singlet reveals a tapered and hard-earned Adonis physique: the culmination of many hours spent pumping iron. He jettisons his polished though scuffed-up boots for a pair of Reebok sports shoes. Knee high socks, diligently chosen to match his top, complete the ensemble. It is the uniform a BODYATTACK instructor so proudly wears.

“BODYATTACK is an adrenaline-filled fitness class that combines athletic movements like running, lunges and tuck jumps, with strength exercises like squats and push-ups thrown in the mix,” explains Bhas. “During a typical class, one could burn up to 750 calories. It’s all about pushing the limits of your physical tenacity.”

BODYATTACK is one of many fitness programmes masterminded by Les Mills International, Auckland. Intensity, sweat and above all results are its hallmarks. This pre-choreographed aerobics-inspired workout comprises 11 tracks, and for one hour takes participants through journeys of agility, speed and strength.

At the heart of the Les Mills empire are the instructors. They are the faces, the ambassadors, the lifeblood of this global brand. While most of us are still lost in slumber, many of them, like Bhas, unfailingly wake up at the crack of dawn and ready themselves for an 8am class.

The first steps

Bhas’s first BODYATTACK class was back in 2009, and he was a participant. Ten minutes prior to class commencement, he had no inkling what it entailed. “In came this petite yet mean-looking lady, who introduced herself as Daisy [Terry]. And by ‘mean-looking’ I’m referring to her physique. Her demure disposition transformed the second the first music beats dropped. Fierce and brimming with energy she was, and she took us through a myriad of lunges and tuck jumps and jumping jacks.”

In that short one hour, Daisy had a profound impact on Bhas. “The way she delivered her coaching… the way she implored the participants to push harder… the way she carried herself on stage… she was the true mark of an instructor. She redefined the meaning of ‘fitness’. I was so impressed to the extent I wanted to be like her. I saw myself doing what she did best. And being a people person, the decision to embark on this journey came easy.”

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Alden Boon
Alden Boon is a Quarter-finalist in PAGE International Screenwriting Awards. When he's not busy writing, he pretends he is Gandalf.