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Fitness Clubs

FightClub (Donlands)

Posted by Dan Cosgrove / Posted on September 6, 2011

fightclub torontoFightClub offers Systema, a Russian martial art taught by owner Emmanuel Manolakakis. When I walk into the gym, he shakes my hand and brings me into his office, a cubicle sectioned off from the main gym, to tell me more about the club and its fighting style.

There are only 3 major Systema gyms in Toronto, and Emmanuel asks if I've ever tried it before. I have, at Vladimir Vasiliev's Systema Headquarters (the first Systema school in Canada). I learn that Vladimir was Emmanuel's instructor, and that he regularly visits the school for training.

fightclub torontoThe gym itself is a good sized space. The floor is completely matted, and a fitness area houses free weights and kettlebells. The class size is decent, with enough people to offer partners of every size, but not feel crowded.

fightclub torontoEmmanuel is incredibly friendly and this carries over to his students. Everyone works hard, but I don't feel like anyone is showing off. I get offered advice multiple times, but never feel talked down to.

fightclubDuring class, I don't feel like I'm learning new techniques so much as being encouraged to get more comfortable with myself and my partners. The class offers ample opportunity for this, as partners switch every few minutes, and almost all exercises are cooperative.

fightclub torontoWalking is used as a gentle warm up as well as a break between exercises. Emmanuel's philosophy is that walking is something that you can do anywhere, unlike exercises like yoga or tai chi.

Jogging around the gym, we watch and mimic our partners movements. It takes my mind off of the actual exercise and lets me last longer than I would normally, while improving my awareness and peripheral vision.

fightclub torontoSome drills that I've only seen in Systema include using your fists to walk along the wall or a partner. At first this seems intense, but I quickly learn that the objective isn't to destroy our knuckles (or partners), but to learn how to apply and receive pressure without injury.

We perform some grappling and kicking drills. Both share the same philosophy: attackers use less than full power, and defenders do what comes naturally. Where other styles teach dodging or blocking, Systema teaches to roll and sink with attacks, or deflect with minimal effort. Emmanuel works with a senior student, and while it looks intense, neither is getting injured or even breathing heavily.

fightclub torontoAfterward, students sit in a circle and say what they liked about the class. You can tell that Emmanuel puts a lot of stake in the feedback of his students.

After class, I asked about fees. While Emmanuel told me that he prefers prospective students to try a class before talking price, he didn't make me jump through hoops. Fight Club offers 4 payment options:

  • Taking 1 class/week costs $350 for 6 months or $600 for the year
  • Taking 2 classes/week costs $650 for 6 months or $1000 for the year

As Systema doesn't involve gradings or uniforms, there are also no hidden fees.

fightclub toronto. Writing by Dan Cosgrove. Photos by Jesse Milns



Janik Litalien / April 21, 2011 at 12:30 pm
I trained for 5 years at Fight club. From the first time I set foot in the place, I was made to feel welcome.

Here no one judges your degree of ability and the last thing you will find at FC (or bring to it) is ego.

What it will give you is a great workout, amazing skills and you will train with amazing people not only from everywhere in the world but also from all walks of life. You will learn to face your fears. The process is not easy, but when you come out of it, you will discover things about yourself you never thought you knew.

You will find that regular attendance at fightclub will become the break you need from your day-to-day routine.
Your worries and your stress stay at the door...

I'll always remember when that tornado hit the T-Dot 2-3 years ago, I was training at Fightclub and our class was so intense, so focused, we were so in the zone that we never gave a second thought to the fact that rain was pelting like crazy outside. When I was asked, once home, if I saw the tornado, my first question was "Huh, there was a tornado ???".

Finally, and most importantly, I could go on forever about good stories, great people, awesome instructors and the excellent coffee next door but the only thing better than my tales will be yours. Try FC, the greatest thing you'll find there is yourself.

Oh yeah and if you have a chance to train with the two guys in the picture, don't let it pass by, they are really awesome to work with!

Train Hard, fight easy !

Mark / April 21, 2011 at 09:42 pm
Like Janik, I've also trained at Fight Club for a couple years. As a young university student, I first came to Fight Club because I thought it would be "cool" to learn Systema, the Russian martial art.

After some time training now, I see it has much more to offer. The training at Fight Club is a comprehensive strategy for building physical and psychological resilience, and is therefore a unique (and rare) approach for building a strong person overall.

While fighting is one situation that can elicit a stress/fear response, it represents a small proportion of our lives (unless you work in security or law enforcement). We often also experience stresses in our relationships, workplaces, and finances that can weaken and drain us.

How do you identify and remove physical and psychological tension that arises during your life? How can you use this knowledge to protect yourself from physical violence and act in the face of fear?

Training in Systema at Fight Club has shown me the beginning of the answers, and the feeling of health and wholeness you get from chipping away at your weaknesses is subtle but intensely rewarding. I personally, hope to train for the rest of my life.

Swing by and get a feel for the club. You owe it to yourself to explore who you really are deep down.
Milos Malic / May 11, 2011 at 07:37 am
In January 2010 I flew from Europe to TO for training. With limited time and focus to spend it in couple of clubs, Fight Club was on top of list as recommended by several friends.

I took both private and regular classes. Tutoring was great and the crew too. I am glad that I didn't miss that, and proud to wear F.C. t-shirt 7390 km away.

Thumbs up for Fight Club.
James / May 20, 2011 at 06:44 pm
Mark has accurately described one of the many purposes of Fight Club, that is, building physical and psychological resilience. It might also be helpful to think of Fight Club training as a technique for cultivating the self, for building 'character'. Much of what we learn is communicated through the medium of the martial arts, but that's only a means to greater end.

But stuff like that sounds weird, so how about this:

Fight Club = Violent Yoga

Train with us and you'll learn how to breathe calmly under duress, react with fluidity to complex situations, and generally promote your internal and external well-being.

There is nothing explicitly cult-ish at Fight Club, nor is there anything hierarchical. We're all friends. You'll be among men and women just like you, people who just got off work and want to learn a valuable skill while blowing off steam.

Try out two classes and try to tell me that you've ever experienced anything like it.

Mike / September 6, 2011 at 02:59 pm
You'll find the training isn't additive. We don't add belts, trophies, titles, or combos to our repertoire. These ideas are detrimental to your true development. Training in Systema is a cleansing process. The removal of these ideas we have about ourselves and other people is progress to truly understanding the art.

Cleansing your perception is a continuous and humbling (and very enjoyable) process. With clean "sight" you then free yourself with all of the added benefits: confidence, creativity, and happiness.

The group at Fight Club are great people. Healthy food is as nourishing to our bodies as great relationships are nourishing to our spirits. I urge anyone who reads this article to try the training.

The instruction is world class!

Enrico Pallazzo / September 6, 2011 at 04:29 pm
Great article and comments. I was thinking of going back to Krav Maga after several years off, but a friend was talking about Systema over the weekend and it sounds like something I'd like too. Good to know there's a good school close to home!
:D / February 21, 2014 at 05:37 pm
you all broke the 1st rule of fight club...... damn

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