In the first 2 entries I am going to give you a history to introduce you to who I am as a person so that you might see why this is so important to me. The subsequent posts will more around my experiences, challenges, nutrition and training. Understand though that this is different from my show write-ups. It is an account of my life so content will largely be determined from history and day to day occurrences. I encourage feedback though. It will help me determine what you the reader would like to hear more about. I hope to share down to the nitty gritty details, the good and the bad, the fun times and hard times to hopefully show all of you out there that whatever you may be experiencing in life with the right attitude, a bit of determination and inspiration you can overcome anything. Bear with me through these first 2 posts they are more informational in nature and I’ve been told sometimes I talk too much but I am a fan of context. I want you to know me and in turn it will make it easier to be honest with you, the reader.
So let’s get this started.
Who am I?
My real name as many of you may be shocked to know is not TheLayman. It is Mubeen Bassa. My name is Arabic and I am a Muslim which adds a whole other crazy dynamic into the mix of being a bodybuilder. I mean how do you bodybuild when you can’t eat or drink for most part of a month each year? I felt from early on that I was put on this earth to try and make a difference to others in whatever way possible.
For most people who consider me a friend or family though I am known as Dubs (pronounced – Doobs) which is a conversation for when you meet me face to face. So feel free to refer to me as such if we ever meet.
If you spoke to young me at about age 9 I would have told I wanted to be a MotoGP Rider, a physicist (due to reading too many Goosebumps books and my fascination with quantum mechanics and time travel) and a Bodybuilder. I had gotten my first motorcycle at around age 9 but it was also at that age that I first noticed these things called muscles. I would challenge myself on the jungle gyms and at school doing all manner of “strength manoeuvres” which would later come to be known as Street Workout or Calisthethics (Frank Medrano you can thank me later LOL). It was also around this age I became fully aware of who Arnold Schwarzenegger really was. i.e. more than just a movie star.
Fast forward to age 12 and I’m working in my dad’s warehouse answering his phone calls with a prepubescent voice which allowed customers to think that there was a young female at reception. While my dad was out either collecting or dropping off I eventually became bored so I thought to myself hey “This could be a great time to get some training done! Gainz going up!” The only problem was that I had no form of resistance and was unaware of the Charles Atlas method of providing resistance to the body. So I did the next best thing. Found some empty 5 litre paint cans, broke a broom “accidentally” so I could have a bar, filled the cans with water since I knew 1ml of water was equivalent to 1gram, then with the vast amount of buff tape my dad had lying around taped the hell out of the cans to the broom stick. Booom! Barbell Baby!
My first exercises were squats, bicep curls, standing shoulder presses (I attempted olympic lifts but I can tell you now that the violence of my movements left me wet and flecks of paint covering me) and bench press. Not too shabby for a 12 year old kid I would say. I mean that’s like 10kgs right? I would spend the time my dad was out of the warehouse training and running to the office to answer the occasional phone call so at the end of a work day I could have trained for between 3 and 4 hours.
At age 13 we moved out of the medium deep south of Johannesburg to central JHB and luckily there was a gym close by. The “Seido Karate Dojo and Gym” to be precise and it was walking distance from home. I nagged and nagged and nagged until I got a gym membership. The gym wasn’t big by any stretch of the imagination but it had everything you needed as a newbie. I was introduced to circuit training. Each evening 2 big burly guys would walk in and throw around some iron. The one was a bouncer named Mike and the other who’s name I can’t remember was Afrikaans, huge and lean. For the purposes of this entry we will call him “Johan”.
One night in my 3rd week as I trained Johan called me over saying “Seun” I gestured to myself in shock “Ja jy! Kom hier!” I walked over really afraid. Not only was he intimidating but it was only “97 people. I hadn’t really come into actual contact with any white person due to us staying in Lenasia South. I thought about making a run for it but realised Mike the bouncer was at the water fountain and would stop me. I approached cautiously thinking to myself “Ok I’ve placed top 3 in every 100m sprint I have run till now. I’m small but quick.”
Johan asked me with a thick Afrikaans accent “What are you trying to do here?”. In my mind I was thinking to myself can’t this guy see I’m here to get huge? But I answered in my squeaky voice “Ek oefen Mnr” (Yes I could speak Afrikaans at that age despite being Indian. My mom is from the cape and Afrikaans was one of my strong subjects at school). He looked at me shocked, probably surprised at my Afrikaans prowess and said “Nee man. What do you want to achieve by gyming?” This was my first goal setting moment. I pointed to a poster of young Jay Cutler. You know like this one.
I received a laugh at which time Mike was called over. I was then told in no uncertain terms that I was not going to end up looking like Jay by doing the circuit. I was instructed to be at the gym at 5pm on Monday and that I would be training with them. I was on top of the world. Not only had I met a real live bodybuilder I was going to train with him. Over the next few months my voice broke, (testosterone kicked in) I trained and ate my mum out of house and home. During the months of cricket season to rugby – 3 months – I went from 55kgs to 62kgs. All natural I might add. Trust me I had no inkling that guys used gear. It was all hard work and determination for me.
My mother kept complaining that she had to cook extra food for me and my father tried to convince me that when I stopped weight lifting at an older age I would get fat. “Stopping” what was he talking about? I was going to do this till the day I died. Let’s not even get into the lecture I got when I asked for money for my first tub of vile tasting egg protein. Statements like “Indians don’t gym” were thrown around along with many more strange assumptions about weightlifting and those steroidal supplements (MRPs).
I trained through high school on and off and at the end of it all in the 5 years I weighed 68kgs with abs for days due to my metabolism and the amount of sport I played. When it came time to choose a career I knew what I wanted to do.
Acting! No really I had become really involved in theatre and did drama as a matric subject. I had a plan. Get qualified as a classically trained actor, do my PTs course and move to LA working as a PT getting huge, acting and competing just like Arnold. IF I failed at acting it wouldn’t be so bad I could still be a bodybuilder or possibly trainer to the stars. Jump forward a few years I had studied a bit of Sport and Exercise Science, psychology and PTs course. I now weighed 75kgs at a year round bodyfat of 6 – 7% with minimal cardio. I was prepping for my first show at age 20 with guidance from a gentleman I only ever knew as Demon. No really every time I asked his name he would say Demon.
I worked, studied, trained, ate and slept for about 10 months till the night of the 14th November 2003. My cousin and I decided we would get some awesome sound fitted into my car in time for Eid(like the Muslim Christmas) that year so we could do what all Indians in JHB did in those days… go to Zoo Lake with pimp out cars and really bad hairstyles and fashion senses, only to be rained out by 12 o clock. Anyways we found a guy as all Indians do to fit the sound. He asked us to drop one of his workers at Park Station in JHB Central to catch a train home. It was early enough so we agreed. At about 19:30 we were crossing an intersection when an 18 wheeler truck was trying to make an orange traffic light but was too far away T-boned us. There were 5 of us in the car. My cousin, my best friend, my baby brother and the guy we were taking to Park Station. My cousin who was on the side that the truck impacted had some glass in his face and a really sore shoulder. My brother ended up with a fractured pelvis, my friend with a broken clavicle and the guy, well he was in such shock he jumped out of the car and started running.
I don’t remember but my cousin came around to the driver’s side to ask me if I was ok. He said later that I told him I couldn’t feel my legs at which time he called the ambulance. It seemed like an age as we sat there waiting for EMS to get there. What I do remember was that people passing by were trying to steal the newly fitted sound and whatever else they could get out my car. Africa isn’t for sissies right? Lets just say thank goodness for the “Vultures” we all despise so much.
The paramedic opened up my door popped my head into a brace and asked me if I feel any pain. I told him my neck was really sore so he told me not to move. I was taken out on the gurney and realised that my legs didn’t really respond to my thoughts but I felt as though they were there. I decided to remain quiet about it. As the hours ticked by I felt more and more tingling in them and eventually they recovered all feeling. The doctor would later explain that they had given me anti-inflammatories to reduce the swelling on my spine. After doing an X-ray he was still not happy so sent me for a CAT scan and there it was as clear as day the body of my C2 vertebra was split. That’s the inside of the vertebra in case you’re wondering. Looking at the image below you will notice that rather substantial.
I kept asking when I could leave to go home and tried to remove the head brace over and over since it was now past midnight and it was really annoying me. A few minutes later the worst experience of my life ensued. The doctor walked in with a cranial traction device along with 2 nurses. My parents were asked to leave and he explained to me that he would be attaching the device to my head. Having been for surgical procedures before I asked “Ok so you’re going to knock me out right?” he didn’t reply, just shook his head. I then asked “How are you going to do it?” He replied “With this” holding up a number 13 Gedore Spanner.
To be continued…