Elbert Tiwa: The Face of An Empire

As an ex US Marine and Under Armour sponsored athlete, Elbert has certainly been prolific with his life. When you talk about Empire Fit Club, it’s hard to miss the fact that Elbert is very much attached to it. He IS the face of Empire Fit Club. Empire has been around since October 2016 and have grown stronger within a year. And recently, Elbert has opened another boutique studio in Pondok Indah area called Ubiifit. Elbert has a passion to give people options on ways to be fit. Rest assured that Elbert won’t stop getting people fit. I met up with him at Ubiifit to get to know him more and find out what he has to share.

Chydie: What inspired you to get into fitness and health?
Elbert: I’ve been very active since I was little. Fyi, I was a skinny kid. I like to play sports because it was one of the ways for me to make friends when I was a kid. When I went to high school and college, I started playing sport for both of them and I started lifting weights. Then I went straight into the marines where I would work out 3 TO 4 TIMES IN A DAY.

Chydie: How did being the marines help you?
Elbert: The biggest take from the marines is the discovery that my body can do amazing things even though I was sleep deprived and mentally pushed all the time. So, because I was pushed so hard in the marines, the things I do now are much easier. If I only had 4 hours of sleep and I have to work out, it’s not a big deal anymore. Because I’ve been through much harder things for 4 years and the mental barrier has been broken.

Chydie: How did you go from being in the marines to coming back to Indonesia and building empires?
Elbert: I joined the marines in 2010 and got out from active duty around 2014. I felt that I’ve already gotten what I needed from it and decided to go into the civilian world and open a business. Since fitness is my thing, I figured I’d open a gym. At that time, I was thinking about opening one in the US. But in 2013, I came to Indonesia for a vacation for a month and a half. The first 2 days I was here, I just ate. At the third day, I needed to workout. My brother suggested me to go this gym and the drop in fee was pretty expensive at the time. I thought Indonesia was supposed to be cheaper than the US. So, I went around some more to other gyms to check them out and they were about the same prices. I found out that there’s a market here and there’s nothing like the concept that I wanted to bring in. I set my foot down back to Indonesia in 2014.

Chydie: Did you start off straight away with Empire Fit?
Elbert: No, I started off with MFBT, which was a bootcamp in a park in Senayan area. That was basically for me to test out the market. After a year, we decided to properly open a space for people to workout.

Chydie: What are the challenges of being in this industry and how are you different from other gyms?
Elbert: One of the challenges is definitely the education about fitness. A lot of people still have misconceptions because there are a lot of misleading information being given to them. For instance, girls are scared to come because they think it’s hard and they’re going to get bulky. What makes us different from other gyms is the fact that we try to change people’s habits first before giving them a certain type of workout regimen. We have to understand them first and that is why we have this level system. With the level system, we can see where people are at. The first level is commitment. We can see whether a person is committed or not if they come more than 4 times. For first timers, we just want people to come and have fun. To get people to move and play games — that’s why we have a lot of partner and group workouts — to get people engaged and enjoy the workout. After we see that they’re committed and having fun, we can implement more serious and effective workouts that they need.

Chydie: Do you know that many look up to you and that you are an inspiration?
Elbert: I don’t know. Why do I not know this? I need to meet these people. Hahaha.

Chydie: What is your workout routine like and do you follow through a certain meal plan?
Elbert: I generally eat MY MOD but I’m not restrictive about my nutrition. I mean I just ate junk food at a cafe before coming here. As for workouts, it depends whether I’m doing a competition or not. I teach at 7am to 8am and afterwards I would do an hour to an hour and a half of strength. I’ll go on with my day and I’ll come back if there are night classes just to make sure everything is okay. I try to workout once a day now. Sunday is usually my rest period.

Chydie: What is your personal goal right now?
Elbert: Right now I’m getting back into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I want to compete next year. I took a break from it because I popped my shoulder back in 2013 but now it’s feeling great after surgery and stronger than ever. Eventually I would like to get into MMA as well.

Chydie: What are your future goals? How do you see yourself in 5 years?
Elbert: I would like to open more Empire Fit Club all over and I’ll be traveling around those gyms. I’ll be going into doing seminars as well. Teaching people to become trainers and create better quality trainers. So, not so much teaching in the future because I would have great trainers to do that. And if my trainers would like to open their own place, I’m all for it because I believe the market is just going to get bigger. If people can have more and better access, all the more for it for all of us.

Written by Chydie
Photos by Chydie