WHAT doDr Safia Mohammed, Dr Brian Bocage, Yvonne Batson, Marisa Gibson-Bailey, Lisa Wickham and Sheldon Felix have in common? Sokafit!
Sokafit is a fun and interactive health and fitness system that uses soca music and dance to give a full body workout.
And now the brand has international appeal, as fitness instructors from three of the five continents are on board with the programme, and Sokafit is set on bringing in instructors from Asia and Europe as well.
Currently Sokafit instructors lead classes in Australia, Canada and South Africa, some French West Indian islands and Barbados.
Principals in the business, co-founded by Wickham and Felix, all have specific roles. Mohammed provides wellness consultancy, Bocage gives relevant advice, Batson is the nutritionist/dietician and Gibson-Bailey, the exercise physiologist/sport scientist.
Wickham excitedly spoke to Newsday about the fast-rising Sokafit. She said Gibson-Bailey, having worked with a number of elite athletes, approached her and Felix to do the Sokafit programme and lead classes around the country.
It was taken to 23 schools, including seven in Tobago. Community “burns” were also held throughout TT, before they eventually sat with the multi-talented La Shaun Prescott to tweak the Sokafit programme.
Prescott, who has an MSc in economics from The University of the West Indies (UWI) as well as an MFA in dance from Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, is now Sokafit’s head coach. She also finds the time to run her own dance company Elle NYTT, established in 2007, with branches in New York and TT.
Wickham said Sokafit started off as a television show, first airing in 2016 on TV 6, for ten weeks, and a second TV series will soon be shot for airing in May.She told how the system got its first international exposure. El Desafio, a Colombian television network, was quietly shooting the Latin version of The Survivor television series in Tobago, when the producer saw a bit of Sokafit, liked it and immediately hired them to be in the show, which airs in 59 Spanish-speaking countries.
Wickham said they were featured for up to 25 minutes, and as a result, as well as through the heavy use of social media, they started getting enquiries from around the world.
Australian Jamie Trahanas came to TT to train, became a certified Sokafit coach, and now runs classes in Sydney, Australia. In an e-mail to Wickham, Paulin said: “Sokafit has impacted my life in many positive ways. It helped me to embrace my Caribbean culture and touch people’s lives through sport. I love to empower them to a healthier lifestyle.”
Tania Parissi, an Italian/Canadian, came to TT as well for training and now coaches in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, while Jenny Paulin of Guadeloupe now has the rights to the French Caribbean islands, operating in Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana, St Martin and St Barts.
“All coaches must come to TT for training, but recently we went to South Africa and trained some 22 coaches,” said Wickham.
Sokafit sessions are now being held in Johannesburg and Pretoria.
The training to become a Sokafit coach comprises an education on what is Sokafit, what is calypso/soca, different types of soca, TT’s cultural history and the plethora of moves, including the Round the Savannah Wine, Plymouth Push Back, Buccoo Bounce, Bago Rock, Dame Lorraine and Sando.
Wickham said there are over 100 Sokafit moves developed by the Sokafit team, and given names to educate participants in the programme on different aspects of TT, but the training ends with written and practical exams set by Gibson-Bailey and Prescott.