So it’s Sunday morning. I am sitting on my porch as I write. It is a beautiful Jozi winters day. Maya and Debs are playing in the background and the birds around my house seem to be in a particularly chirpy mood. All in all it makes me feel really happy with my life at the moment. In fact just this morning Debbie asked me if I am happy with my life. I replied to her that I would say I couldn’t be happier at the moment.

As my reader you may ask me why I am so happy. You have been on various journeys with me reviewing shows and my personal struggles with health issues and trying to get on stage. Yes I am a bodybuilding and fitness fan but what on earth could be making me happy enough to make a statement like I made to Debbie this morning.

Not only am i surrounded by love. I am surrounded by hotties!!!
Not only am i surrounded by love. I am surrounded by hotties!!!

To be honest it’s truly simple. For the first time in a long while I feel as though I am surrounded by love. Now this is not to say

Hotties! Hotties everywhere!!
Hotties! Hotties everywhere!!

that I have not been surrounded by it before. But since we’re being frank it probably had more to do with the fact that I felt as though I had been experiencing so much inner turmoil about my own shortfalls and competitive failures, I forgot to look up and smell the love.

The past few months haven’t been the easiest for me but the Arnolds has been somewhat cathartic for me. So let me tell you why.

I started my Arnolds weekend on Thursday. I got in to work early so that I could get out a bit early to try and get to the registration to join all those competing. It was possibly one of the slowest days of my life. All the athletes flying from around the country updating their statuses and hash tagging the crap out of like everything – #ACA2016 #Excited #Flying #Landing #SandtonCity #ItsCold #Registration #OMGThisISTakingForever #NotSoExcitedAnymore – and there I was like #Work #KillingMySoul #TheManHasGotMe #FOMO.

Me and Dave pondering life
Me and Dave pondering life
Yeah registration was mammoth
Yeah registration was mammoth

Anyhow, I eventually escaped the corporate prison and made my way to the SCC for registration. I have chosen to name this blog the way I did because at this point I started to ponder “What it would take” to get through this weekend but also what it took for you all to get here. For starters I think it took a lot of patience at registration on the athletes behalf. So I commend you all for that. Now while I am truly like a Facebook stalker level expert, I haven’t been involved in each and every one of your journeys to the Arnolds stage. But I am grateful and glad to say that I was involved both directly in 2 superb human beings journey to the Arnolds stage. Let’s just say I was part of the support structure. The 2 athletes I am referring to are Earl Abrahams and Joe Manjoo. Both are extremely knowledgeable and experienced athletes and as luck would have it, both these athletes won their overall lineups.

The Arnolds festival is a celebration of sport. But more importantly for me it is the celebration of Amateur sport. I know I may be going off topic here but bear with me for a moment. In my preview blog I briefly spoke about some of the complaints I had been hearing in the build up to the ACA2016. It set my mind working and I had a few thoughts which I felt I had to spew out in this piece of writing. So in the spirit of Arnold and Reg Park the words he gave us at the pro show I shall momentarily digress. The market in this country for Fitness and Bodybuilding is not as huge as say Europe and the States. Our local brands are making waves around the world but the truth of the matter is the reason they had to expand worldwide is due to the fact that the SA market is simply not as large as others they could potentially explore. SA brands offer a unique trade-off for the world. While we are cheaper to we haven’t necessarily sacrificed on quality due to the fussy nature of our local market and the brands commitment to quality. That being said due to the fact that our market isn’t that large and Pros are hard to come by, we are in a unique situation where AMATEUR athletes find themselves in a position to be ambassadors and sponsored athletes.

The dictionary defines the word amateur as follows:

 

Amateur

noun

noun: amateur; plural noun: amateurs

  1. a person who engages in a pursuit, especially a sport, on an unpaid basis.

“it takes five years for a top amateur to become a real Tour de France rider”

synonyms: non-professionalnon-specialistlaymanlayperson; More
antonyms: professional
 

antonyms:

 

expert

 

adjective

adjective: amateur

  1. engaging or engaged in without payment; non-professional.

Origin

Amateur

late 18th century: from French, from Italian amatore, from Latin amator ‘lover’, from amare ‘to love’.

 

Ok ok I hear you all thinking in your head if you haven’t lost patience with me yet “Where is this all going?” Well let me tell you.

Joe and Earl with their overall wins will apply for an IFBB Pro Cards. Yes even with outright overall wins you have to apply. If all goes to plan and they do get it, Joe’s crossover in the NPC is Classic Physique so he would compete in that category and Earl is a clean cross over to Pro Bodybuilding. So technically they will both now have Professional status. But, unlike the States in particular in SA Pro Bodybuilders still have to “work” a day job to support their professional bodybuilding careers. I have seen this having had a certain level of access to Andrew over the last year and a bit. In fact as a SA Pro in particular all of a sudden the cost of competing skyrockets. The travel, the food, the supplementation, all to support the drive to be able to step on to a stage with the best in the world.

But what did it take for these 2 to get to this point. I was in contact with both Earl and Joe on a daily basis leading up to this weekend. Their approaches to the pursuit of perfection are on completely opposite ends of the scale. Joe’s journey to this point has been a lifelong pursuit of bettering himself from his last show. In a discussion after one of our last posing sessions before the King Shaka Classic where he qualified for the ACA2016 he said this to me “Dubs I don’t care if I win or not. All I am trying to achieve is this vision I have in my mind of how I feel I would like to look.” As it turns out the judges at Shaka and the panel of International Judges at the ACA felt the look that Joe has in his mind and the look they would like to see, is the same look. So Joe’s approach is somewhat esoteric in nature.

Chatting to Earl daily and catching up over the phone during various points of the prep there was a constant underpinning theme. I would constantly be told “My bru, all I want to be is a Pro! Is that so much to ask?” and on Whatsapp the chat would regularly go something like this:

Earl: Dubs!

Dubs: Coach?

Earl: Just tell them…

Dubs: Tell them what Earl?

Earl: Tell them to just send my Pro card now already.

To which I would reply…

Dubs: Sorry you have to come and earn it

Or some other response to irritate him and entertain me. Sorry coach!

Watchout Dex we are coming
Watchout Dex we are coming

Whether he knew it or not Earl was willing into existence his goal. His desire to achieve this is unlike any other I have known. We all say we want it bad but for the first time in my life I was taught what that truly meant. There is a reason this man is called BEAST. It’s not because of his training or his ability to eat. For me it is because of his ability set a goal and stay focused and out desire others. A Pro card is only the beginning of Earl’s journey. Earl is a working class bodybuilder. Nothing was given to him except God-given genetics and a mother who taught him right. If you have ever been to Worcester in the Cape you will know that it is a small town compared to the big cities in SA where it’s not easy to come by a lot of things. Agriculture is the main industry the town supports and in and among that, now they have a potential Pro level bodybuilder to support. The people are salt of the earth, sweat of your brow kind of folk. My favorite moment was after the win we were exiting the athlete’s area and Dexter was walking in. Earl wanted a pic with him and while taking it whispered in his ear “I’m Earl Abrahams… you must remember my name cause I’m coming for you next year” or as we say #Its_cool_bro_ill_come_at_you  #No_really_dont_get_up_ill_come_at_you (registered Beauty and Beast hashtags hehe)

Just a side thought. I challenge you to find another Pro Bodybuilder in the WORLD that has a V-Taper and Shoulder to waist ratio like Earl’s. I don’t know if the Pro world realises it yet but Earl has the potential to bring a brand new look to the highest level of the sport, that not many will be able to compete with. I also challenge you to find a bodybuilder out there with the aesthetic and shape that Joe has. In a time where a lot of athletes seem to see classic bodybuilding as a lesser form of bodybuilding. Joe’s physique shows the outcome of applying a lot of thought into what you want to actually present to the judges all while maintaining his weight within the rules of the class. PS. I’m not sure if anyone else has realised this but if Joe gets his Pro card. He will make history and to my knowledge be SAs FIRST EVER CLASSIC PHYSIQUE PRO!!!

The road for both these guys has not been an easy one. Both have told me that this was one of the toughest preps they had done. On many occasions I have had to tell Earl what he used to tell me in the early days of him coaching me. Let’s just say “twee lepels (2 spoons) cement” goes a loooong way! When Earl came out in the Overall Lineup for the mandatories I found myself shouting “Amper klaar nou Earl” (Almost done now Earl) because I have known the struggle he went through to get here. He has basically been IN PREP for a year. The toll on the mind and body was massive.

Though Joe usually has monk like levels of calmness. I know that this prep really pushed him mentally and I think in the end when he looks back at it he will have learned more about himself than he realised he knew previously and had somewhat of a spiritual and introspective experience.

So to answer the question of what it took. I would say, it took EVERYTHING! As Earl always says #Take_everything_leave_nothing!

Back to my point though. The Arnold Classic Africa was a showcase of Amateur talent and a platform for some to jump to a professional level. Those who competed did so for the love of their chosen sport. So let’s take a step back and remind ourselves at this point that if we choose to compete as amateurs we should do so because in us deep down somewhere there is a child that is driving us to do so. Whatever success comes with it, we should be so grateful for and for those out there who count themselves among the fortunate few who can say that they are ambassadors and sponsored athletes, you are truly blessed.

My overall experience of the ACA2016 was a positive one. I know there may be some out there who may have had a negative one or were not so impressed with aspects of the weekend. But for me at the bodybuilding stage was awesome. The amateur show as run really well.

The Pro show taught me a thing or two which I will he implementing in my efforts to help grow the sport and give back.

Speaking of the Pro show! What an honour and privilege it was to be able to sit in an audience and see it live. It was an even bigger privilege to be able to see our SA boys compete. The immense feeling of pride that welled up inside of me when Andrew in particular was on stage can’t be described in words. I found myself exclaiming in disbelief to Debbie that I can’t believe that Arnold is here from the first moment he opened his mouth on stage. For those of you who follow me you will know that as I’m sure for millions around the world Arnold is a hero. He is the reason I got into training and bodybuilding. It was a lifelong dream to one day be able to meet him and have a conversation with him, but sadly due to my commitment to covering the Amateur show I didn’t leave the main auditorium for the duration of the weekend.

There was a moment when we were in the Hotel after the Pro show that he came walking past and I thought this is it OMG I’m going to meet Arnold. My heart raced, my palms sweated and I hurriedly opened the camera on my phone. Sadly it was not to be and all we got was a “Howsit guys!” and a smile and off he went to dinner. I’ll just call it a meeting in my head. Maybe one day I will fully realise the dream. For now I’ll live off that moment of excitement for like the rest of my life. At least I got to meet some great Jordanian brothers in Iron and make a few new international friendships which I hope will be lifelong ones.

Writing this now I actually still can’t believe that we had a Pro show in SA in my lifetime. Some consolation for not meeting Arnold was the fact that I met Bob Lorimer and some of the Pros.

20160528_164306
With Mr Bob Lorimer
20160528_162805
Dubs and Dex

So what did the ACA2016 take. As I said it took everything. Everything from athletes, everything from organisers and everything from me as a fan. But it truly GAVE me two moments I will cherish for the rest of my life. Those were when Joe and Earl won their respective overall titles. Being there to witness the moment and heading backstage barely able to contain myself to congratulate two absolute gentlemen of the sport and gentlemen in life as I have come to know them, is honestly something I cannot place a value on. There was nowhere else I would have rather been than by their side with a hug and perhaps a tear or two. For me though this is a bitter sweet win for both men. While I am truly happy for both of them from the bottom of my heart. I realised that if both are granted their Pro cards. It is actually the end of an era. We will most likely see them only guest pose here and there and will no longer see them on an amateur stage. They will no longer be fighting it out with the likes of their greatest rivals and friends. Call me a pansy but I really did shed a tear when I had this epiphany. To be a Pro is somewhat of a lonely road in this country. They are few and far between and not many can relate to the requirements of actually being at that level. So from me to all of our SA Pros know that at the very least you guys and girls always have my love.

Curry and an Indian
Curry and an Indian

As always, I try to take a learning experience for myself out of these events. The thing I feel ACA2016 gave me was… PERSPECTIVE. As I am always trying to develop my knowledge of the sport and my eye so that I can guide and answer questions to those who may ask them of me. The ACA gave me a unique opportunity to pit myself against international judging and see if I was on par. I am happy to say that I selected a lot of the winners and top 3 in the lineups on my notes. I have some interesting things that I will be writing on in the coming weeks as to what I feel the results taught me regarding criteria especially for Men’s physique and Fitness Bikini.

Also let’s not forget I usually do an athlete review. Which this time I will be doing on the Pros! Yes even they, are not above my Layman

One of the nicest Pros i met this weekend Lionel Bayeke. OMG is that a bodybuilders thumbs up pose from Debs!?!?
One of the nicest Pros i met this weekend Lionel Bayeke. OMG is that a bodybuilders thumbs up pose from Debs!?!?

opinions. I never thought I would be able to review a Pro show but the spirit of Reg Park has smiled upon me and I’m truly looking forward to giving you my opinions on this one. So keep an eye out for these blogs!

Now the count-down begins for next year’s ACA2017!!! Who will be crowned Champion and Pro in the coming years! I’d say SA bodybuilding has never been in a better place than it is right now. The standard at the show I felt was exceptionally high. Not only did the international athletes help raise the bar. You SA athletes didn’t look out of place at all and I am proud to say that you raised that you honestly were right up there with that bar. I just wish I had these opportunities that all you guys have now, but who knows… maybe I’m not done yet hey…*wink* *wink*.

 

Your Brother in Iron

 

TheLayman

 

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