Fitness: Want to get fit? Crawl!


The first time that fitness coach to stars like Alia Bhatt, lifetime sportsman, fitness devotee, former corporate lawyer, and HT Brunch columnist Sohrab Khushrushahi attempted Raw Functional Training (RFT), he was wiped out.

“For someone who’s always been training, lifting weights, I sucked at it initially! To suddenly move like that and realise that I’m not mobile enough made me feel like a beginner. But that was a great workout, both physical and mental,” he says.

One of the first things he attempted was crawling. “I saw Da Rulk’s crawl video on social media and thought ‘that looks easy’,” says Sohrab. Then he found himself crawling around Mahalaxmi bridge on hands and knees. “People thought I was bonkers. But I finished the 77-minute crawl with my ego in my bloodied palms, with legs sore, and a life lesson in fitness… after 20 years of working out! That’s RFT.”

Thor’s raw functional trainer

Joseph Sakoda is his name, and what his mother calls him when she’s got beef with him, but to Hollywood heartthrob Chris Hemsworth and the RFT community of real-life superhero first responders, elite athletes, supermoms, Navy Seals, top guns, police officers, kids and senior citizens, he’s Da Rulk, the CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists®) professional with a background in kinesiology and biomechanics who invented RFT to help everyone include movement in their daily lives.

In case you were wondering, ‘Rulk’ is ‘Hulk’ (‘R’ is pronounced with an ‘H’ sound in Portuguese), the name given to him by his Brazilian friends!

Raw functional training is movement. “And body weight. There are nine basic movements that we teach you. Once you get these, we mix those movements to create a ton of different, unique sequences. This makes it physically and mentally challenging because you are creating the sequences without a break, going from crawl to squat to other movements. You have to be mindful of what comes next, mentally switched on. No one is telling you what to do next, and you’re not stopping to check what comes next, you’re just going,” explains Sohrab.

Crawling is a foundational movement pattern, says Da Rulk. “And that’s just one of the movements in RFT. A lot of our movements are also focussed on hip mobility which directly relates to lower back strength and overall health.”

Adding load or weight is optional and as per requirement. Like when during the pandemic, to his wife’s horror, Sohrab lifted his three-year-old son. “I didn’t have weights,” he shrugs.

Sohrab & Da Rulk

India is RFT’s first international licensing adventure. Sohrab insists he relentlessly pursued Da Rulk to bring RFT to India. He succeeded and it is arriving this very month. Da Rulk says he was impressed with Sohrab’s performance when he trained for his certification. “I also fell in love with Indian culture,” adds Da Rulk.

As a boy, Sohrab had dreamed of playing cricket for India, cricket being the sport that turns the whole country into a community. That didn’t happen. When he left his 16-year corporate law career in his thirties to pursue his lifetime passion of fitness as a full-time business, he wanted to build a community of people passionate about fitness outside the gym. RFT fit right into that plan.

Joseph Sakoda aka Da Rulk trains a firefighter
Joseph Sakoda aka Da Rulk trains a firefighter

“Exercising can be a chore. But if you have fun doing it, you will want to do it again and again,” says the entrepreneur who calls himself boring but now less so, at least in front of the camera. “I like to get comfortable in the uncomfortable,” he says seriously.

What’s your purpose?

RFT is not a replacement for CrossFit, or any kind of training, say Da Rulk and Sohrab. It can be done standalone or with any exercise régime, physical activity, anywhere, in a small space, with no weights, just your body weight, hands, the floor, and gravity.

“We’re building a movement of movement, resiliency, adaptability, both mental and physical. That is our purpose,” says Sohrab, who’s been training since he was 13.

“The question is,” Da Rulk asks, “What do you want from fitness? To look good? I don’t believe that. I think it’s something deeper.”

Purpose is your GPS system, he believes. “Inspiration and motivation are great tools to use, but they don’t sustain you. There are days you’re not going to be motivated, inspired. Having a purpose will ground you.”

From HT Brunch, August 6, 2022

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