If you were to ask the average person on the street who Ido Portal was, most would not have any idea. Show them a picture of him, and they may mistake him for a bodybuilder or professional wrestler. Show them a video of Portal, and they very well may begin backing away while wondering how someone (or something?!) could have such mastery of their body.
As a lot of our readers know, Portal is neither a bodybuilder nor a pro wrestler, and he is most definitely a human. But if this is your first introduction to Portal, he is the world’s foremost authority and expert on movement.
Didn’t know that was a thing? Well, it is, and a highly sought after thing at that. Portal does personal sessions with UFC champion and Shot of Adrenaline favorite Conor McGregor, who this Saturday will take on Nate Diaz at UFC 196.
We wanted to explore exactly what it means to be the most prominent movement coach around, but in order to do that, it was necessary to find out how exactly Portal discovered his burning passion for something most of us take for granted every day.
Creating His Passion
In “The Social Network”, the mostly fake story of the creation of Facebook, one character says that “inventing a job is better than finding a job.” And indeed, Portal isn’t the latest successor in a long lineage of movement masters. He just took movement training to a level no one ever had previously.
“I come from a martial arts background,” he said in an interview. “I did some traditional chinese martial arts [and] japanese stuff as a kid.”
Later on, Portal got introduced to Capoeira, a Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics and music.
“Probably what struck me [with Capoeira] was the fancy stuff, and not what it really is, which is first and foremost a social interaction, movement, corporal dialogue, movement conversation.”
But Portal soon realized that martial arts was but one inkblot on the painting of his true passion.
“[Capoeira] sent me on a lifetime journey leading to the realization that I don’t just love martial arts or strength or this or that, but I am actually obsessed with movement,” Portal says.
This bit of self-discovery led Portal to search the world for a true movement teacher that was teaching more than one discipline. The problem was, he couldn’t find anyone that took movement training that far. He was looking for someone that could use readily available tools to “deal with movement at the highest level.”
“After countless searches, I could not find anyone who honestly could represent that title,” he says. And believe me, I’ve searched — around the world.”
So, he became that guy.
“How presumptuous, I know, but also how necessary,” he says of this decision.
The “Philosophy of Movement”
On the quest for learning everything he can about movement, Portal has racked up his share of flyer miles.
“Over the years I’ve traveled the world both teaching and studying from a variety of teachers,” he says, “from osteopaths, manual therapists and MDs to professional dancers, yogis, athletes, circus performers and fighters.”
No stone went unturned, and he did his best to keep a holistic approach to learning.
“I tried not neglecting any angle, from nutritional approaches to movement & health to Functional Anatomy & Physiology to methodology of the training process to mental aspects of movement practice and more,” he says.
And his “philosophy of movement” is something he says “just happened”. As he tells it, he was teaching capoeira and trying to find more information for himself and his students, and as we mentioned, he found that the answers for a lot of questions were outside capoeira.
As he and his students progressed, his methods took on a life of their own without him really knowing it.
“Actually, I didn’t realize it completely, it happened to me,” he says when asked if he was aware he was creating the Ido Portal Movement. “I always talked about movement, and I remember vividly the early years I was just constantly saying ‘we’re doing just movement,’ and I kept doing that … But my students started asking each other ‘what are we doing?’ and people started saying ‘We’re doing movement,’ then, “What kind of movement?’ ‘Ido’s stuff.’
“And then I said, OK, maybe it’s the least of the worst, maybe it’s better to put some name on it, to tag it, but still maintain the purity of the movement approach and call it movement practice versus calling it some new name.”
Truly, for Portal, movement is not about learning different maneuvers or studying different disciplines. “It’s about freedom,” he says. That’s the connection he wants his students to have with movement — to understand that we are given a body that is capable of doing incredible things and to take use it as he believes it was initially intended.
That’s why Portal would like to see a world with movement centers, instead of gyms: “Places where you actually move.”
Portal’s philosophies have garnered him a lot of attention in the world of fitness, but he’ll tell you that’s not where he concerns himself.
“I don’t do fitness,” he says. “II talk about movement. Fitness is a small, small, small world within the universe of movement.”
And an even smaller world within fitness is the focus on how your body looks.
“Aesthetics is reverse engineering,” he says. “Concentrating on aesthetics is reverse engineering, which usually fails … It is similar to a nose that is not meant for breathing.”
Training His Way
You’d be hard-pressed to find any of Portal’s movement exercises pinned up on the wall at your local gym. Indeed, you’d have trouble finding them just about anywhere; that’s how unique they are.
Take his squat routine, for example. You may notice that, unlike approximately all of the squat exercises you’ve been taught before, Portal doesn’t require you to perform a full squat from the standing position to squat and back up. Instead, you’re in the squat position the whole time. From there, it’s a series of deceptively difficult stretches and maneuvers.
And if you’re really in the mood to be humbled, take a look at his “upper body basics”. Just be forewarned that these exercises are “basic” in the same way a shark attack is “uncomfortable”.
But Portal will be the first to tell you that they all take practice.
“Repetition is the mother of skill,” he told a podcast in 2014.
Speaking of which, just in case you think this is too advanced for you, let Portal tell you how his mom is handling the workouts:
“My mother is over 60 years of age, and she started to train with me when she was 57. And she performs handstands, and chin-ups, and ring work. It’s for everyone.”
He says he does do olympic lifting as well as some workouts with weights, though he says that’s mostly to stretch (he calls it “loaded progressive stretching”). But for building upper body strength, he’s all about the bodyweight exercises, some of which you can see in the link above.
He’s also a big fan of gymnastics, calling it the most well-rounded, difficult sport he’s encountered. So even more reason to read up on how to pass yourself off as a gymnastics master.
As you would imagine, one who blazes a trail like Portal has is not entirely likely to conform to how others think he should behave.
He’s not too concerned about money. He considers it about as real as the money from Monopoly. He’s also doesn’t obsess over exploding his brand and getting it into the hands of as many people as possible.
“A lot of my stuff online is not geared toward size,” he says. “I’m a niche guy, I feel like a niche guy.”
And he doesn’t just march to his own drummer in terms of keeping quality over quantity.
“I can be rude, I have a dirty mouth, I’m not very politically correct always,” he says. “I will say things very direct … I prefer honesty to modesty any day of the week.”
And honest he is. He says he doesn’t believe in “total open-mindedness”. He says popular street workouts are nothing more than “broken-up gymnastics”. And he is really not a fan of vegans.
“I can’t view that as something healthy,” says the 15-year Paleo diet veteran. “I’ve never met any vegan that was able to perform [and] present the same physique and the energy levels that I see more often in a more carnivorous diet … I refuse to work with vegans.”
But his against-the-grain mentality is represented no better than with one of his most prominent students, Conor McGregor. Like Portal, McGregor has a tendency to say what’s on his mind and not worry about hurting anyone’s feelings (unless that’s the goal).
But Portal — who seems to be a full-fledged member of his training team — doesn’t shy away from this attitude, and even posts lengthy Facebook statuses defending his student.
defending his student
On Saturday, McGregor squares off against Nate Diaz in UFC 196, and no doubt Portal will be supporting his student often thought of as an antagonist in the sport of mixed martial arts. We have a feeling that any last-minute advice from Portal will likely echo his training and how he approaches the complicated movement that is life:
“Improvisation is the human condition. You’re born. You die. And in-between you improvise.”