By Lori O’Harver
Imagine stepping through a door and into a place where the line between life and death is paper thin. A place filled with anticipation where rich music syncs with (and quickens) your heartbeat and the light seems to change from twilight to darkness both in color and black and white, then back again. Now, imagine you’re a gladiator and death, a real possibility; your only weapons are speed, athleticism, courage and instinct. You’ve just stepped into the cleats of Toby Inman, Bullfighter’s Only’s Demo Man.
At 35 years old, Inman’s athletic resume takes a minute to digest. Gymnastics, hockey, figure skating, marathon running, baseball and football, as well as every event a guy rides something that bucks in rodeo. Here’s how he stepped through to bull fighting.
“I was getting on bulls at practice pens where guys dressed like bullfighters would cheerfully bounce around and let you die if you got in trouble,” Inman said. “In self-defense, I asked a talented bullfighter to teach me evasive tactics. He showed me how to find and hit a corner, that place in between a man and a bull that you can’t see until you’re taught it’s there. Tough enough to do in cleats, really tough to make those moves in heavy, batwing chaps, stacked heel riding boots dragging spurs with long, offset shanks. What started as the need to stay alive long enough to step up my bull riding game became a challenge.”
Then, an adrenaline addiction. That first hit is intense.
The game of American bull fighting is black and white. Dance with a wicked-fast bull with murder on his mind and barely tipped horns and live to shout about it. After winning that primal contest, winning the money is a matter of style and every man’s style is unique.
Inman is a thinker. At 35, he’s grown a mental game you might find on a mountaintop in Tibet. ‘Go slower to be fast’ is a mantra of his. He doesn’t obsess over anything. Not the bull he’s drawn, how tough the competition is or where he needs to be in the standings. He’s mastered ‘in the moment’ almost magically; able to visibly drain all his energy out of the soles of his feet to become the graven image of a man in front of 1,500 hundred pounds of smart, furious skewer on the charge then spring back to life and evade in one graceful move.
For 2018, his fitness training is more focused than it’s ever been before, his goals are high and he’s healthy going into the first Bullfighter’s Only competition in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Photography: Todd Brewer