Muay Thai boxing at the London Fight Factory
This week’s adventure is Thai boxing at the London Fight Factory on Hanbury Street. It’s another first – I’ve never tried any sort of combat sport before.
The club is exactly as a fight club should be: an old warehouse, hidden away and reached by a fire escape that opens on to a large room with wall to wall mats and punch bags and hard-looking men in grizzly headlocks.
I’m early enough to watch the end of the previous class. Everyone is dripping sweat and breathing hard and there’s a great atmosphere. I get chatting to one of the few girls – a regular – and she says it’s like a family there. They don’t even bother with lockers.
We start off with some fairly intense aerobic stuff: running, star jumping, hopping and skipping – just enough to fill the room with humid breath. After that we calm down with some stretches, then partner up for the rest of the session.
I am paired off with another beginner. He’s at least a foot taller than me and looks like he could break rocks on his head but he’s a true gent. If he minds being paired with a girl he doesn’t show it; and he doesn’t even flinch when we have to take it in turns to wear a pair of pink gloves.
I immediately love it. It’s brilliant. It is exactly what I need after a day at work.
When he’s holding the pads, I can’t reach to kick them; and when I’m holding them he has to punch from a squat, but we work out a system of sorts and get a good rhythm going. I’m sure he could take me out with one swipe, but he holds back and insists it’s just about perfecting the technique. I, on the other hand, am having so much fun that technique is forgotten and I punch as hard as I can. His hands barely register an impact. I am more like Scrappy than Tyler Durden.
It is pure focus – trying to get the technique right, holding the pads properly etc – combined with a great aerobic workout.
I float home on my bike more relaxed than I’ve been for weeks. I am typing this with an encroaching ache in my arms and calves but it’s totally worth it. I will be back to try everything they’ve got to offer – Brazilian Jujitzu, mixed martial arts (cage fighting), the lot.
This feels like a proper sport, the exact opposite of the sterile cleanliness of a Virgin Active. It’s probably not for anyone with a tendency towards OCD – you share gloves and pads, work barefoot on a mat, and generally trade quite a bit of sweat with your partner. But that’s all part of its authenticity and charm if you ask me.
So my advice is to do it, or to come with me next time I go. The first class is free, and then there are several great value membership and pay-as-you-go options after that.