He has 32 teeth, the correct number of teeth found in an adult human being – but the extraordinary things he does with them make one wonder if they are not more than 32. With his teeth, he lifts weights as heavy as 150kg, pulls cars, lifts up bags of rice and cement, and is currently growing a beard which when tied with a rope, he uses to pull a 50 litre keg of water.
Michael Chukwuma’s skills have earned him his reputation as the ‘Strongest teeth in Africa.’ Popularly known as Akpoi, a name which was coined from a nickname given to him by friends–Akpola, meaning strong wood, the Anambra indigene says he discovered his talent while he was facing challenging times growing up in a polygamous family with a father’s neglect.
“My father did not really take care of me or send me to school, so I had to hustle to see myself through school. In the ghetto where I live, some people do some gym training and body building for other people which they use to earn money, but I wanted to do something different from that.
One day, I challenged some people at the gym saying that I could carry the same weights they were lifting with their hands, with my teeth. They did not believe me. I started by carrying the rod without weights with my teeth and gradually moved on to small weights. Today, I can lift weights up to 150kg with my teeth.” Mr. Chukwuma says it is not enough to discover one’s talent. That is only the first stage. A lot of work has to be done in training and developing the talent.
“When I discovered my talent, I knew I had to train regularly so that I won’t lose it. Sometimes I jog long distances. I can jog from here to Ikorodu without taking any water or food. I also work a lot on my inner strength. I eat foods that give me energy such as fufu and eba and sometimes I eat ripe plantain and beans.” One unusual thing Michael does which he attributes to his extraordinary strength is his ability to keep himself away from any form of intimate relationship with women.
“If I get close to a woman, it reduces my ability to lift extremely heavy weights. If I’m able to keep away from a woman for up to six months, I will be able to lift weights that I’ve never lifted before.” He, however, makes it clear that he does not abhor having a relationship with a woman in anyway.
“I will definitely get married someday. I’m not impotent. But any woman I get married to must understand the kind of job I do, except she doesn’t want me to take care of her financially.” He sees his skill as one that shouldn’t be utilised for himself alone and so he trains young men who are interested in what he does on how to lift and pull weights with their teeth.
“Some people approached me and told me they want to learn about what I do, so I train them. We start with the small weights first.”
His greatest challenge is getting adequate financial support to project himself and his skills to the world.
“People are requesting for my work on VCD. They also want me to organise shows and events, but all these cost money. In order to project my talent to the whole world, I need sponsors who will fund these things. I can’t do it all on my own.” Michael is well known in his neighbourhood, Idi-araba. He attributes much of his success and popularity to the support the people of his neighbourhood have given him.
“There is no resident of this area who does not know me. Even the okada riders at the bus-stop know my house. Sometimes, I demonstrate my skills on the streets. If I go outside and start to lift weights with my teeth, within minutes, a crowd will gather around me and that’s how I gained popularity.” As strenuous as his skill is, he says the continuous physical exertion on his jaws doesn’t cause him any pains.
“Since I’ve been doing this, I haven’t felt any pains as a result of the weights I lift. However, sometimes I have injuries on my gums when the iron scratches me. I have had a broken leg few times also.” Lifting and pulling weights is not the only thing Michael does to earn a living. He also practices interior decoration and painting and works as a gym instructor.
“I am into interior decoration. I make window blinds for offices and do house painting. I also work as a trainer at Mosanga Fitness International Gym Center at Mushin where I train people in body building and abdominal reduction. Sometimes I teach African dance.” Michael’s biggest ambition is to have his name in the Guinness Book of World Records.
“I want my name to enter the Guinness Book of Records. I want to challenge the white people who do similar things to show them that we are stronger people here in Africa.”