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The WHY of Bodytribe

The flora and fauna of the place, the art on the walls, the absence of mirrors and the use of nontraditional gym equipment such as sandbags, kettle bells and giant tires – all of that has drawn a close-knit following of swim-against-the-mainstream types. A tribe, if you will.

This vibe has drawn people to Bodytribe for nearly five years [now 7 years] since it opened on 21st Street, near J Street, in midtown.

Sacramento Bee, 2008.


What is Physical Subculture?

The body is a tool for greater purpose, not just the end result of your training. Therefore, training is the means to an increase in the quality of life through movement. The Physical SubCulture is the modern organized effort to incorporate centuries of physical rituals and beliefs in exercise and movement into an integral part of all aspects of culture. Whether through lifting heavy objects of all shapes and sizes or finding new ways to move the body by itself, the Physical SubCulture movement is about strengthening the spirit through pushing the limits of the body.

Our strongest pinnacles of culture, be it artistic (musicians, painters, writers) or cognitive activists (philosophers, religious idealists, politicians), have become attractive to us through a deeper, more powerful lust – the lust of the mind and spirit. After initially hitting our senses, we found something inside of us that embraced them, which replied back to our senses to ask for more. Our senses then were a means to an end, not the final decision, with the ultimate choice being a fulfilling internal and eternal one. This is what we can become, and the tools needed for a true fitness lifestyle – dedication, focus and intensity – can be applied to all aspects of life. This is a definition of fitness: becoming better at life through movement. By improving the connection between body and mind we will make ourselves more useful, more inspiring, more “attractive” than just a pretty little flesh packet. – from Ritual vs. Routine, the Bodytribe mission statement.

Why a SubCulture?

Simple. We’re independent from the mainstream modern fitness movement, practicing and playing almost as an underground movement beneath the modern corporate structure. Sure, this sounds like the ramblings of a wannabe Abbie Hoffman or a Crass fan, but it’s nothing new or particularly revolutionary. In fact about a century ago, the quest for strength and ability WAS the fitness movement, and Physical Culture was the banner it fell under.


So What Went Wrong?

Since more money can be made from trying to sell the quest for aesthetic perfection and exploiting exercise as the snake oil for ‘beauty,’ a very limited view of exercise and training has emerged. The obligatory path to a better appearance. Marketing and promoting of exercise as the tool for simple appearance helped usher in decades of self image woes and issues that have created entire industries to both feed and cure low self esteem (and give therapists job security for centuries). The formula was easy, and is still used today (look at any ‘health and fitness’ magazine cover). Here’s the equation that has proven an effective money maker for many years:

You are ugly. We can help.

This marketing formula sure works better in our society then trying to sell the Physical Culture concept of movement; that physical strength and performance increases other qualities of life as well. As Bernarr MacFadden used as a slogan for his Physical Culture magazine that he started in 1899, “Weakness is a Crime – Don’t be a Criminal.”

Movement should be that integral to our existence, but not through the obligation of aesthetics. Over time the performance and ability of the body, which has a direct and strong impact on the spirit and mind, took a minor role in training. Today, the ‘fitness’ industry is a sham, selling gadgets, supplements and imagery, not actual exercise or ability. Curves, 24-Hour Fitness, and their kin, promote and perpetuate aesthetic stereotypes while providing very little in REAL exercise science or training. The mere fact that there are such things as ‘ab’ machines just proves how silly the industry has become. But the Physical Culture movement has always been around. It just may be hard to find these days. It has become a subculture, a movement forcing the mainstream to evaluate what training really is.


So What is the Physical Subculture?

  • A passion for strength, not an obligation of the scale.
  • Training without mirrors
  • Understanding the mind and spirit better through movement.
  • Picking up something heavy. Really heavy.
  • No fear of the body’s abilities.
  • Using REAL training tools with long histories. No gadgets or fads.
  • Embracing training as intense play-time.
  • Acknowledging and exploring capability.
  • Training techniques that are useful, enjoyable and sacred.
  • Banishing weakness.

Turn your cell phones off. Don’t bother looking at the clock (we don’t have one). Through our doors, no matter what you are leaving outside, here you are strong!



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