Back in the mid to late 2000’s, those that gathered around the pull up bars in the playgrounds and street-side parks of New York City wouldn’t have known the wheels they were setting in motion. A new fitness phenomenon was being born. Soon people began to take notice of the moves they were performing on the bars – a kind of freestyle body-weight workout. These determined few soon became local gurus for the sport. But thanks to viral video they were getting noticed elsewhere too – in lands so far away that few of them had ever dreamed of. The global movement was calisthenics. To tell its story was filmmaker/producer Rain Bennett.
The Ground Up
From the bitumen of New York, U.S.A. to the cobble-stone of Riga, Latvia, and then all across the planet – Rain Bennett’s film “Raise Up – The World is Our Gym”, documents the explosion of the underground calisthenics or “street workout” movement.
But like all great things born in the underground, in its infancy, the calisthenics movement must first find its feet in modern fitness culture; a culture which has never ceased to devour trends and spit out gimmicks. IMDB describes the documentary as follows – “an underground urban fitness movement risks losing its identity as a social tool as it rapidly becomes a new international sport”. Will the acquiescence of calisthenics into the mainstream fitness culture be bitter-sweet? When asked where the calisthenics movement is heading in the future Bennett replied in an interview:
“I think that’s a very interesting question and it’s going to be really interesting to see how it does develop over the next three, five, ten years even. The one thing I think is that it’s not going to go away… but we aren’t sure where it’s going to land.”
– Rain Bennett (Youtube)
An Expanding Subculture
Regardless of its future in the mainstream, there is certainly no shortage of positive sentiment on where the sport is right now. In countries all around the world street workout teams are popping up in their hundreds. Just type “facebook street workout <cityname>” and the first few pages of Google will be filled with bar groups. The movement is booming and why shouldn’t it? Street workouts are “being used to keep kids off the streets, raise health awareness, and get people in the best shape of their lives” (Source: RaiseUp, Indiegogo). Plus at the core of the subculture there seems to be a shift away from the egoistic ‘bicep curls in front of a mirror’ mentality and instead a focus on a grass-roots community driven, ‘each one teach one’ style fitness regime. It’s a simple idea – street workout parks strengthen communities because they are social places to hang out, get fit and breed positive attitudes. The fact that calisthenics parks are popping up in some of the poorest countries around the world is testament to how affordable they are for a community to setup and maintain. Local governments take note.
“Raise Up – The World is Our Gym” is Rain Bennett’s first documentary, although he has been in the film-making/production industry for over 10 years. The original idea for this film came to him when, in the mid 2000’s, he was asked to collaborate in the making of a public service announcement for Shaw University. It was here that he was introduced to one of the pioneering groups of the freestyle calisthenics movement, the New York City bar group, the Bartendaz.
Later in 2009, with the idea of the documentary coming to fruition, Bennett hit the streets of New York to document the first signs of the developing sport. In 2012 he was able to secure enough money from an Indiegogo campaign to travel to Riga, Latvia where his eyes were opened to just how widespread the movement had become.
“When I originally wanted to come to Riga, I knew it was going to be important but I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to get or why. But once I got there I knew that I was exactly right. This was crucial to the storyline because it is so much more than New York – New York is just the first part of it – but this is now… it’s just huge.”
– Rain Bennett (Youtube)
Watch the trailer for the film below:
Bennett and his team has had to sort through 1000’s of footage taken from all around the world. But fans of the sport will be pleased to see some familiar calisthenics names will be starring in the film with the likes of Bartendaz, Barstarzz, Barmasters Xtreme, Bar-barians, Hannibal For King and Beastmode to name a few.
We wish Rain all the best with his documentary and we hope that the initiated calisthenics fans think it’s a solid portrayal of their street workout movement. As for the uninitiated, we hope it fires you up about ways you can strengthen your body and enrich your life. But regardless on where you stand, we’ll leave you with these words from Rain:
“To me, in my opinion, I think that no matter what aspect you love about this culture the most – if you’re out there being social and trying to live a healthy lifestyle and a positive lifestyle and not only that but trying to help others live positive lifestyles then, man, I think it’s all good and that’s what it’s about.”
– Rain Bennett (Youtube)
If you live in Manhattan, the film will be screening at the 2015 Planet Connections Film Festival.
We were able to get in touch with Rain Bennet on his Facebook page and asked him if he was getting the word out; how the Planet Connections screening went; and if he would be screening at any other indie film festivals. He replied with the following:
“Hi! Somewhat. I’ll be pushing it much more once we get the “final” version. Planet Connections screening went really well! Basically our last test screening before release. Next event is a health and hip hop event with the FDA in Raleigh, NC, where we will do a calis demo with musical performances, tumbling, breakdancing, etc., and show the film later that night. Tourin it around the states the rest of this year and early next year, and international next year.” – Rain Bennet (Source: Facebook)
He also mentioned that “Digital/DVD/Blu-ray release this fall before Xmas“. So, GREAT news! We’ll keep watch this space…
Why not join the community and post a comment below – this way you can stay in the loop for all the most ultimate of calisthenics news and events.