When a hulking, blond, curly-haired, 230-pound, 5-foot-11-inch white man introduces himself as “Jujimufu,” you’ll have some questions. Perhaps you’ll muse “What does that name mean?” or “What is the origin?” Maybe you’ll even wonder “Is that some sort of cultural appropriation?” The answers are not as exotic as you might imagine, but just as amusing. And they bely the social media fitness stars’ not-so-serious approach to a serious business.
Jon Call is Jujimufu’s real name and he lives in Alabama where he was born and raised. On the phone, he is jovial and friendly, with a gentleness to the way he speaks about his life’s work. You’d never guess that he was the same guy from the viral video showing him bench pressing 100 pounds while doing a mid-air split between two chairs. When the video went viral approximately six months ago, Digg dubbed him “Possible Son Of Macho Man Randy Savage.” In conversation, he’s more Fred Savage.
While he may not hail from one of the early tech epicenters, the 29-year-old was something of an Internet pioneer. Back in 2002, Call became big into acrobatic tricks (better known as “tricking”) and describes the obsession as “an underground sport born online.” As he began his research, he noticed a dearth of step-by-step tutorials for people just getting into the tricking game. So at the age of 16, he made the decision to fill that void. “I’m gonna be the guy who creates the tutorials for these moves,” he recalls telling himself.
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Even though he sees the enormous reach of Instagram, Call still has mixed feelings about it. “I find that YouTube is actually better for connecting with people and getting them to get to know you. They get a sense of who you are and trust you more,” he says. “Whereas with Instagram, I feel more like it’s an animal in a zoo where a bunch of people are like ‘hey, look at this!’ Both platforms are really useful in their own ways.”
He admits that the anonymity afforded by YouTube has left him exposed to nasty comments, and actually sees Facebook as the platform for having the most open, honest, and respectful discussion of his work. “If you read any YouTube comments, there’s a lot of trolls and haters. it’s just a rough place,” he says.
As for the original question of his name, much like his entire career, it also would not have been possible without the Internet. When Call was a kid signing up for America Online, he tried to make a screenname that was uniquely his. He tried every combination of of words and letters he could think of, but all of them were already in use. That’s when he typed in a bunch of random letters, and Jujimufu was born. “That was something no one had thought of,” he says. “So I started using it on Web forums and bulletin boards online. People started to get to know me by that name and I never changed it. It helps me not take myself too seriously.”
While he’s forever indebted to the early fans of TricksTutorials.com, and all the people he’s met along the way via Instagram, Facebook, and live events, perhaps he is most grateful for the Internet, in general. When asked where he’d be without it, he’s transparent. “I wouldn’t be anything [without it.] The Internet is the reason I am what I am,” he says.
He adds: “I wouldn’t have gotten exposed to any of this stuff without the Internet, especially in a place like Alabama. I depend on it. There’s nothing here. I’m the only person who does anything like this in my entire area. I had to live and work through the Internet to keep my interest in this and build on this.”
Photo via Acrobolix