José López shows off his one-handed hand-stand on a kerb in Paseo Marítimo de Huelin. Marilú Báez
A Malaga man at the peak of calisthenics

A Malaga man at the peak of calisthenics

26-year-old José López, renowned in this sport for almost a decade, came fifth in the world in his category at the freestyle championships in Latvia

Nacho Carmona


Friday, 20 October 2023, 16:13


Calisthenics is in itself a metaphor about life. About progress, motivation, and discipline as a means to success. It is the living proof of how the first steps open the door to greater things. From 'kalos' (beauty) and 'sthenos' (strength), this sport, which was created in France, is based on the idea of exercising with only your body weight. "You start with something basic like a kneeling push-up and you end up doing the flag or a handstand with one hand," explained José López (from Rincón de la Victoria, born in 1997), a well-known calisthenics athlete for nearly a decade.

He explained the basics of this sport: "Through discipline and your own body, you are going to achieve a flexibility, a strength, and a skill where you no longer need your own body. It is useful in life and boosts your self-confidence." He also said that apparatus can help when practising calisthenics, but the ground also works fine.

José explained that calisthenics is an inclusive activity for those who do not have resources for other sports. "If someone wants to get in shape and there is no gym in their town or they do not have money, come to calisthenics. Here you can meet all sorts of people, we don't turn anyone away. There is no negativity at all," he said on the topic of difficulties he came across when starting this sport.

José López
José López Marilú Báez

The horrible feeling of being small in comparison to those who know it all, he assured, is not a problem in calisthenics. Undoubtedly, it demands great determination and discipline: "The park [where they practise] is free and nobody is forcing you to come. Nobody is going to improve for you."

Calisthenics as an activity has evolved considerably through the years. José López, who has seen the changes himself, was one of the driving forces in his local town, Rincón de la Victoria, proposing a project for the first calisthenics park in the town.

He started training at the Baños del Carmen in Malaga with a new boy in his class: Fernando Ruiz. He realised how lucky he was to stumble across him, as he saw a teacher in Fernando, someone who would introduce him to the activity without asking for something in exchange, just perseverance. "He dedicated his time to me and gave me his wisdom. I was very grateful for this," he said.

Fifth in the world

In August things came full circle when he finished fifth in the world in the middleweight category at the world championships in Riga (Latvia); in the same competition his mentor came seventh. Now José is the teacher for others who want to begin and make progress in the sport.

It is certain that calisthenics is growing. López believes that the 'boom' came in the months following quarantine: "Nobody wanted to be locked away at home. Everyone wanted to be in the fresh air. Quarantine heavily impacted people with health issues, and I believe this flicked a switch in their heads. At that moment, calisthenics became the perfect sport."

Furthermore, he strongly believes that the sport is becoming more and more neutral. He explained: "For example, when you see me training, you think it is impossible. But you have to remember you do not have to start by doing a handstand on the first day. I have some pupils who are seven years old and some who are 60, who were my teachers at school. It is normal to feel lost on the first day. With time you will get to know your body and the ways of this sport."

His life has changed since he began doing this at nine years old. His habits have changed and he has adapted to his sporty lifestyle. In any case, he has never been a person who likes alcohol and partying. "My bad habits? I like fishing and table football. I have never liked alcohol. In the months far from the competition, I like to have a glass of wine from time to time, just for the taste," he told us.

At the end of September, Malaga became a focus for calisthenics on a national level. The town of Alhaurín el Grande hosted the Spanish Championship. This is a competition that takes place throughout the year and has different stages around the country. At the championship final the winners from each of the stages gather.

José López added: "It is a quite well-known competition. Each time it improves and there are cash prizes, which is something the world of calisthenics has been missing. It provides a lot mentally, but little on a professional level. No one can survive only by competing, but by teaching, as in my case."

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