Last week I went with two friends to a free [read promotional] work out class at a place called “EPIC” put on by Sassy Hong Kong. 50 women, in an hour long class that was supposed to go through 4 types of work outs: yoga, self-defense, capoeira and boxing. I should have known it wasn’t going to make me sweat before I even showed up. You can’t get a workout from 15 minutes of yoga.
I first got a good stretch in yoga, with about 20 crunches, when the 15 minute timer went off to switch to self defense. The 5’6″ male instructor picked two dyed blonde women in Lulu Lemon attire to demonstrate how to defend from an attacker who has hold of your hair-both bangs and ponytail. It was as though the women were accidentally in a high school shop class, acting like they weren’t trying but also wanting to not look stupid.
In the class of 50 women, I knew only the two friends I came with. I quickly decided I would have to find a 4th person with whom to partner for practicing getting attacked by the hair. I, like everyone else, dread being the last to partner in a work out class. Shouldn’t be too hard… someone had to have come alone.
As the demonstration ended, people stopped trying to not get noticed by the instructor, we returned to our far off corner of the mats, and I looked for someone who looked like she was looking for a partner. It took 2 seconds. “Hey, want partner up?” “Sure!” Easy peasy.
We exchanged names (Cassie) and awkwardly decided that I would attack first: starting with the bangs. Practicing defending yourself with someone you’ve just met is a precarious social position, might even be a great bonding experience for new sorority members. She had bobby pins in, so I felt a little bad grabbing her by the hair, but she succeeded in twisting my arm behind my back and doing a gentle choke hold. So we switched and practiced a couple times before we felt a bit too awkward to show more interest in beating each other up and stood around chatting until the next move was demonstrated.
After 15 minutes of pretending to break each others’ arms and pull out each others’ hair, we started the capaeira. 7 bemuscled instructors (one of them was a less muscular woman) in white karate uniforms showed us one move and a kick thing that was like swing dancing but over your head. Once again, Cassie and I attempted to coordinate our new dance moves and kick at each other over our heads. We were a bit more relaxed because we’d already attacked each other by the hair a few times, but our coordinated kung fu dance lasted a mere 2 minutes before the leaders started showboating for 10 minutes.
Thankfully the timer rang for boxing. This instructor had slightly smaller arms, and started off with basic technique: elbows in, on your toes, slight squat. Yes. He meant business. We spent the next 15 minutes punching, hooking, jabbing and ducking; I finally was getting a work out and thankfully not punching Cassie.
As it ended they needed to do a group photo, announce raffle winners and refreshments, and hurry us off the floor so the MMA class could get started. I was a tad embarrassed to be in such a stereotypical gender role, doing a sampling workout with only other women while the real sportmen waited to start.
Respectably, there were 3 women in the MMA class, and my coworker was friends with one of them. They said hello and started talking, then Cassie strolled over and said hello to their friend as well. We inched off and finished tying our shoes. As we wandered towards the refreshments we caught up with Cassie. “You know her too?!”
“Yes! I work with her!”
“Small Hong Kong!”
“Small workout class.” I said.
Turns out my randomly selected partner from a free work out class is the coworker of a woman in the following MMA class who my coworker knew. We chatted about the coincidence over the provided Pret-a-Manger sandwich refreshments (we recognized our Pret options all to well from various work lunches). All of us had arrived in Hong Kong about 4 months ago, mid-twenties, and knew our Pret refreshments. We may hang out again in the future. Who knows.
Free workout classes for groups of women in Hong Kong are a small world.