“So do you get many girls in your classes?” I asked the receptionist of the London Fight Factory over the phone.
“Er, a few,” she said shiftily, “but definitely come along, everyone is welcome.”
Although I was excited to give it a go, there was absolutely no fucking way I was going somewhere called the London Fight Factory without back-up, so I enlisted my friend Carla to accompany me to a free taster session at the underground martial arts centre on Old Street. I had done some boxing before with a personal trainer, but I’d never been to a dedicated gym with punch bags and boxing rings and a whole bunch of other people with an interest in learning to hit things really hard. It was going to be…interesting.
We arrived early, just in case the instructor turned out to be the sort of sadist who punishes latecomers by making them do push-ups in front of everyone. The open plan dojo was divided into two separate teaching spaces, a free weights area and a reception, and the smell of sweat and raw testosterone was almost overpowering as we descended into the man pit. We did feel like a right couple of tits waiting for our class to start, still wearing our make-up and nervously eyeing the thirty grunting, glistening men (and one woman, who was valiantly holding her own) finishing up a Brazilian Ju Jitsu class. I noticed that although every single person in the class was clearly exhausted, the levels of focus and discipline were a far cry from those at your average fitness class. This was no Legs, Bums and Tums bollocks, this was the real deal.
Although initially a bit intimidated by the 100% male class of more experienced boxers, we threw ourselves into the warm-up before donning pairs of still-warm (ew) boxing gloves. Our instructor Silviu, a Romanian built like a brick shithouse, did a great job of juggling the three newbies and the rest of the class, who were paired up to practise sparring. He certainly didn’t mince his words directing us: “ladies, ladies, your legs are too close together, you will fall over!” he bellowed from the other side of the dojo. “You must learn to relax and open your legs!”
After ninety minutes we were reduced to sweaty pulp and allowed to go home. Was it fun? Absolutely, but it was also fucking knackering. So knackering we couldn’t even concentrate on all the magnificent men rolling around wrestling each other, which was a bit of a shame. For me, the lack of women was a bit of a problem; no man wants to have to fight a girl, even in a dojo, but I’ll sign up right away if they introduce all-girl classes.
The London Fight Factory offers free trial lessons, full details here, and a range of paid options afterwards.
The London Fight Factory, 19 Ebenezer Street, London, N1 7LU
NB: Pictures are not my own, but used with permission from the LFF.
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in East London and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.