Fight Scholar makes you feel like a fighter from the moment you walk in the door. (I wonder what that means for the little girls learning Highland dance in the adjacent space.) That's because its front entrance is draped with boxing-style curtains. For a second I think the gym is closed, though I realize up close that the darkness in merely a drape. So, I split the curtains and walk up the stairs. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't humming an impromptu version of my own entrance song on the way up, but I digress.
I was headed to a 7pm boxing class led by trainer and Fight Scholar owner Brian Bynoe. Bynoe has been in boxing all his life, operating this facility on Lawrence East for four years. He tells he sees a mix of men and women, though concedes that women come more often for Fight Scholar's fitness-based classes.
Indeed, I find myself in a room of men, though they all seem of varying age. The youngest looks to be about 15 (and training for his first fight in February, I'm told) while the oldest volunteers his age is 57. "And I've never been knocked out," he says, adding he has been boxing on and off since college. "I've been knocked off my feet once, but that was more of a slip."
The class starts with warm-ups--skipping, jumping jacks, defensive drills and whatnot. The group is small with Brian and trainer Joe taking on about two fighters each. Not an expert on personal training techniques but a recovering shrinking violent to stern direction, I realize almost immediately that I like their style.
To the audio backdrop of British house music, they give instruction clearly and concisely, not hesitating to move your foot to readjust your posture or position your elbows. They strike me as the type that won't bark orders down your sweaty neck, but won't kiss your sore legs after a tough bout either.
The group breaks up for individual activities--double-end bags, heavy bags, speed bag, while one poor guy, who is wearing garbage bags under his sweats, keeps skipping. "He's trying to make weight for his fight this Friday," Brian says. "He's trying to get under 160; when he came in, he was 205."
Fight Scholar hosts the occasional fight in its regulation-sized gym. DJ, food, spectators--the whole thing. I anticipate I am quite a ways away from my first time in the ring, especially since the sound of the boxing timer blaring every three minutes nearly throws me off my feet. Nevermind the jabs.
The class ends with everyone in healthy sweat, and the garbage bag-clad fighter given strict instructions to take it easy on the water and go to bed hungry. "Boxing is dancing with punches," Brian says. "It might look simple, but there are a lot of elements that go into it. Just because you can run kilometres on the treadmill doesn't mean you can make it in the ring."
For those who want to.. uh.. "dance" Fight Scholar offers drop-in classes for $25 and 10-class packages, along with extended memberships.
Writing by Robyn Urback. Photos by Dan Cronin