Alden Boon

Bhas Karan: From Army Commander to BODYATTACK Instructor



A test of endurance and resilience

For Bhas, the road to certification was not paved. Many Les Mills instructors enter this milieu, hailing from fitness backgrounds. A BODYCOMBAT instructor with martial arts training powers through the workout with aplomb. Many BODYATTACK instructors had their start in aerobics and hence find the acclimatisation easier.

“I really had to improve my physical fitness,” reveals Bhas. “I had to cut a percentage of my body fat as well as gain muscular strength. My core control was at its lowest. The execution of certain BODYATTACK movements requires superb core stability. That was my biggest challenge.”

Another thing Bhas had to cut was Indian cuisines. Five thousand years of celebratory heritage have blessed us with classics such as roti prata, tandoori chicken and masala dosa. All super tasty, all super high in fat and caloric content. “Sometimes my mom would get angry with me for not eating her home-cooked food, but she understands I have to be on a diet,” he says.

“But on cheat days, I do not hold back.”

Inverted Comma

I always say this to the participants: “Attend the classes because you want to walk out of the studio feeling accomplished and much stronger than you did the previous session.”

Inverted Comma Bottom

BODYATTACK instructors are athletes, motivational speakers and dancers all rolled into one lean delicious package. To the uninitiated, it seems that they are whimsically and recklessly busting out impossible moves after another, like drill sergeants hell-bent on tiring the body and breaking the mind. But they are not. Les Mills programmes are carefully scripted, each high jump or low kick synchronised neatly to the music beat. One misstep and the entire choreography is off.

And hence, instructors have to commit time and effort to studying. “It takes me approximately a week to remember the steps,” says Bhas. “First, I’ll listen to the music until the rhythm is ingrained in my mind. Then, I’ll watch the choreography, track by track. After that, I’ll dedicate one day to rehearsing the choreography in front of a mirror, usually with my fellow instructors.”

Bhas recalls the first BODYATTACK session that he helmed. “It was nerve-racking: to be on the stage all by yourself. Everything I had learnt over a few months I poured into that class. Thankfully, I didn’t make any mistakes and the participants came up to me later and said: ‘That was a great class… not bad for a first-timer.’ Their words of encouragement made me want to perform even better.”

Motivating the participants is one of the biggest challenges for Bhas. “The last thing you want to do is to conduct a lacklustre class and leave the participants to their own devices. It looks to be an easy task, but it really isn’t.” Bhas wants his participants to enter the studios, fuelled by a conviction that they can do better than they did before. “If they have been doing push-ups on their knees, I want them to propel and do push-ups on their feet. And I want them to leave all negative feelings at the door, and really dedicate one hour just to themselves.”

Unlike boot camps, respect is a two-way street in a BODYATTACK class. “I have mad respect for all my participants, who attend the classes after a hard day’s work or on an early Sunday morning. Seeing them work hard to achieve a common fitness goal is my satisfaction.”

For BODYATTACK instructors, what lies beyond ability is mettle. And Bhas’s mettle was hardened during his formative years. “I think most people can recall an encounter or two where they were bullied in school. I was no different. Every part of me, from the colour of my skin to my weight and my head of naturally-frizzy hair, was ridiculed. Even my name, Bhas Karan, made me a target. ‘When you see a bus and a car, you run!’ the other kids would chant.”

Bhas fought back, and in retrospect he felt it was not the best way to deal with bullies — perhaps it is the wisdom acquired with age that shapes his new perspective. “It took me a while to realise the best way to deal with bullies is to simply ignore them. My mom used to say: ‘When the dog barks at the sun, the sun doesn’t stop shining.’ Eventually, they would no longer find the thrill to pick on you anymore.”

Inverted Comma

What the mind conceives, the body achieves. When you put your mind into it, your body performs and attains.

Inverted Comma Bottom

While these incidents Bhas has already put behind him, they are a catalyst for him to push on harder than before. All the hitherto achievements he has, Bhas credits sheer hard work as his success formula. “I always put my best foot forward in whatever I do.” That he should be teased for being different during his early years has now become his very impetus to be a BODYATTACK instructor. “It’s the willingness and desire to stand out from the crowd, and do something not many would do.”

Bhas’s transformation from a marginally-fit person to now a fitness instructor who steamrollers the toughest of physical challenges should serve as an inspiration to others looking to do the same. “My advice to aspiring Les Mills instructors is to constantly attend the programme that you love, be it BODYATTACK or BODYCOMBAT or BODYPUMP. Continue to hone your fitness, and once you think you’re ready, enrol in the Initial Training Module by Les Mills Asia. Once you’ve become fit enough, the next thing you can concentrate on is your coaching method.”

And there is no rest for the wickedly fit. In June 2016, Bhas flew solo once again, this time for his first-ever BODYPUMP class. The certification was yet another feather in his cap. “After BODYATTACK I asked myself: ‘What’s next?’ Strength training has always been an interest of mine, and as challenging as it is, it is something I want to pursue.”

No doubt, with his fervent passion and seductive ebullience, Bhas will continue to set the fitness world ablaze, empowering one participant at a time the same way Daisy did him.

Enjoyed this story? Read Haukur Thorsteinsson: Life on the Off Road and discover the exciting life as a tour guide cum 4×4 jeep driver!

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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.