How to spot the deception that is rife in “bhangra fitness”

If a “fitness” centre won’t ket someone teach in their “fitness” centre, how can they claim they’re the best “fitness” class?”


Bull poop alert! A so-called “award” took place in late 2020 in which some people, who aren’t qualified to teach in a “fitness centre”, won the “best fitness” award.

  1. A shop claiming to sell organic food, that isn’t appropriately certified is deceiving you.
  2. A plumber changing your boiler that is not Corgi registered is deceiving you.
  3. A person offering you financial advice but is not qualified with a DipFA (Diploma for Financial Advisers) is deceiving you.

You know this, but why do people accept anyone that teaches exercise or fitness classes at face value? You might think, “yes but dance and exercise, that’s different”.

People rest their hopes, and fears, related to obesity and other lack of exercise related conditions on people that promote their services as ‘“bhangra fit”, “bhangra cardio” or “bhangra exercise”. Shouldn’t we ensure that people offering any services in this area be qualified, rather than just dancing in their living room or a community centre?

How is it possible?
Anyone can hire a community venue, or their living room and stream through Instagram. They welcome anyone to fit their timetable or use their platform.

To be able to teach in a fitness centre, instructors need at least a level 2 qualification, appropriate insurance, music licence and more. Most fitness managers are qualified beyond level 2 themselves and expect to see instructors audition, or see some videos of them demonstrating their skills.

Even during these times when fitness centres are closed, teaching online needs to be according to the guidelines provided by CIMPSA. Which includes not using copyright protected music.

Ignorance is no longer an excuse
Exercise and fitness is a regulated industry, and people who accept such awards without any qualifications or licences are deceiving you, and themselves.

So how did they win the award?
Even this award is based on deception. Here’s how I know.

I was contacted, out of the blue, about 2 months ago “congratulations, you’ve been nominated as best fitness class, alongside…”.

Reading the list of other nominees, I knew this was bogus. I looked them all up, none of them on the register for exercise professionals.

I responded to the unsolicited message “thanks, but I request that you not include Pungra in this award. If in the future you provide some rigour around the nomination process, such as ensuring that if someone is nominated as best fitness, they should at least have some qualifications related to fitness, then I’ll be very happy to participate”.

To my alarm the bloke tells me “others in the industry wouldn’t take too kindly to you saying bad things about them, your nomination stands!”. I was flabbergasted.

This is an example of gaslighting. Instead of taking my feedback and demonstrating some intellectual humility, he deflected his lack of standards and high level of ignorance; and turned my feedback into the problem. And although he might not have known before contacting me, he certainly knows now and continued with his bogus competition regardless.

I didn’t want to be involved in this award, so I asked him again one more time – he tells me “your nomination stands” and then blocked me. I thought, “what kind of dodgy operation is this, where people can’t even opt out?”.

Blocked on Facebook, I emailed him instead, explaining that I will inform CIMPSA and EMD UK about his strange “you can’t opt out” policy and bogus fitness award.

He was too rude to reply to me. Instead, he removed Pungra from his web site, and replaced it with another so-called ‘bhangra’ fitness brand, let’s just called them Spicy Bhangra (not their real name).

If you have even the slightest sceptical bone in your body you’ll be thinking, “so you’re telling me that in between Pungra being removed, someone nominated Spicy Bhangra? All in the space of about 10 minutes???

So, what really happened?

I’ve been in this game long enough to know that there is no one “nominating” people for these awards in the way that is implied.

What’s really going on, is that the guy who runs the award is searching online for terms like “bhangra”, “fitness”, etc, and then messaging them. He got agitated that I didn’t want to be involved, and his ego couldn’t take the idea, “someone doesn’t want to be involved in my great award? How dare they?”

He just searched online for another name to fill his quota, and messaged them the same thing “Congratulations, you’ve been nominated for this award”.

Why would he do such a thing?

Well isn’t it obvious? Clearly not to the people that “got nominated”. They promoted the award through their channels with messages like “we’re so proud to be nominated for this award, friends please help us win by emailing and texting this code to this address/number”.

And guess who won? The people that got most people to text/email the code.

But what did they really win? I mean “really”?

The real winners are the people that run the award that have used all the social networks of the people “nominated” to promote their award. They could have spent thousands of pounds promoting their brand… or they could fool people to promote it for them with most a Google search and a text message.

How to spot the phony awards

Easy. They trick you into promoting their award.

They convince you that they are a legit award, and fool you into promoting their award to all your family, friends and followers. It’s the cheapest and oldest marketing ploy in the book.

How to spot the dancers masquerading as fitness instructors

Check for the following. Are they:

  • or have they ever, taught in a bonafide fitness centre? Think Everyone Active, Nuffield, Virgin Active, EasyGym, Fitness First, etc. Or… are they actually teaching in non-fitness centres like community centres, dance centres, halls or similar venues. The thing about these latter venues is that they don’t have any rigour in place for who can hire them. Can someone pay for it? That’s all they need to hire it.
  • teaching a fitness class, or actually is it a dance class? Look for clues like elaborate choreography. Check their videos to see whether they’re genuinely teaching for exercise, or appear to be preparing for performances – these are not the same thing.

Take a look, this is a “fitness” centre called Dormer’s Wells Leisure Centre run by Everyone Active in Southall. Not a living room or a community centre.

  1. Are they a registered exercise professional with CIMPSA? Search for their name on https://cimspa.tahdah.me/public/members. Feel free to search for me (Ravi Sandhu).
  2. Ask them for their certificate(s). Expect to see at least a Level 2, the basic standard for the fitness industry. If they don’t have this, no fitness worth their salt will allow them to use their centre. Let me spell that out, it means they are not in the fitness business.
  3. Alongside their qualification to teach exercise, ask if they have the appropriate music licence to use copyright-protected music.

Want to see my certificates? Feel free. As well a previous music licence (I don’t want to make my current address public, I am sure you can understand – but rest assured, I have an up to date music licence).

Welcome to the hypocrisy zone

I ask you, if someone:

  1. can’t teach in a fitness centre, should they be allowed to call themselves a fitness class?
  2. is streaming Punjabi music (which is almost entirely copyright-protected) through services where it’s illegal to do so, then how much do they really ‘love’ the music? After all, they’re using it illegally.

Why are they doing this?

The simple answer, is that people still come to their class regardless. For as long as you, or anyone, continues to join their class without checking their credentials, they’ll continue to operate in this deceptive way.

Let’s change it up in 2021

I call on you to help me, and the Pungra team, raise the bar. We don’t need to make the bar unachievable, but at least instructors should have:

  • A level 2 qualification in the fitness industry
  • The appropriate public liability insurance.
  • The appropriate music licence.

I’m doing what I can to educate as many people as possible, including launching the Instruct Pungra course in 2021, postponed from 2020, in partnership with the UK’s national governing body for group exercise, EMD UK.

Let’s hope in 2021 we will have more ‘actual’ exercise/fitness to Punjabi music instructors, bringing this era of deception to an end.

I need your help to get behind Pungra. Please stop supporting these phoney awards, and stop congratulating people for winning a phoney award.

Last time I checked, having Instagram followers isn’t a qualification”

Let’s strive for higher standards. If you’re with me, stay subscribed or better still, become a member.

By Ravi Sandhu

Author of "The Day Bhangra Died" and founder of #Pungra.

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