Having discovered the joys of the ring, chef, author and food entrepreneur Domini Kemp says it’s time we all get fighting fit.
I defy anyone to watch Katie, the brilliant documentary about Katie Taylor, and not feel the urge to start shadow boxing with the “Eye of the Tiger” pounding in your head. Her American coach, Ross Enamait, has an Instagram account that is well worth a follow –@rosstraining.
If you’ve ever looked out the window and convinced yourself that the slight drizzle means you absolutely mustn’t go for a run, his account will shame you into defying a hurricane to get off your derrière. But what is going on with the explosion in women’s boxing? Is it the trickle-down Katie effect? Or is there something more?
I can attest to boxing’s addictive nature: I have been doing pads for about ten years now (even whilst heavily pregnant, which was a funny sight), but for the last two years, my best friend and I spar against a male coach doing three-minute rounds that leave us exhausted, thrilled and humbled by the skill, speed and fitness of professional boxers.
Runners talk about the release and runner’s “high”, but I can 100 per cent declare that I have never felt that way about running, regardless of what’s playing on the headphones. I resent every single step and can’t wait ’til it’s over, but it’s fast, cheap and contributes to that golden 30-minute (minimum) target of exercise that we need to aim for each day.
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But boxing is now something I can’t do without, despite the odd bust lip and weekly application of ice packs on sore shoulders.
Identical twins Paddy and Sean Headon (Headon Boxing) agree. “Boxing is such a great way of getting fit, especially toning,” says Sean. “You see guys working out in gyms who want to get ‘big’ and bulk up, whereas women want a toned, leaner look that embodies strength. It’s a high-intensity workout with a lot of movement and is working every single part of you.
There’s no hiding in a boxing class. It’s also incredible in terms of stress relief – punching pads for an hour really improves your mood and self-confidence, and our clients see progress within weeks.” The twins are Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) coaches (and former junior national champions) and have just set up their third boutique boxing studio in South Dublin, where boxing classes of 22-24 are predominantly women.
The pair travelled to LA boxing studios in advance of setting up Headon Boxing, but have created a unique student-to-coach ratio that encourages good connection on the pads. “Everyone loves that sound of connecting with the pads, so our classes of 24 have up to five coaches. That one-to-one attention means you are pushed a lot harder, burning anything up to 800 calories per class.”
They also do private classes particular benefit for children who struggle with other sports, but could do with that sense of community and self-confidence that sport offers us all. The fact that there is no sparring – just training – also means that it doesn’t get too competitive. But in saying that, if a kid shows enough potential, Sean and Paddy encourage them to join their local boxing club, so they can start sparring.
While Paddy Kelly’s Origins Muay Thai club in Stoneybatter could be the next stop for anyone who wants to up the ante and progress to sparring. Muay Thai not only involves incredible fitness, but it’s also a more realistic and aggressive form of fighting known as the “art of eight limbs”. This is because it makes use of punches, kicks, elbows and knee strikes, thus using eight “points of contact”, as opposed to “two points” (fists) in boxing.
As Paddy says, “It’s explosive and really pushes you... plus, we fight together, men and women, as either beginners (where we do classes and pad work) or we have sparring classes where we prepare for fights. It’s like competing in a marathon: the time, effort and dedication required to step into the ring... it’s a huge accomplishment that’ll never leave you. Plus, we compete having huge respect for our opponent – you share the same sense of camaraderie and achievement.”
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Muay Thai fan – Parisian, but now Dublin gal – Kristelle Weil says she “hated exercise” but found herself in a bad place, going through a separation, compounded by back pain, when one day she woke up and decided she had to really do something physical to change.
"I don’t like sport – I am lazy, I lack discipline – but I started Muay Thai, and there is no explanation: I fell in love,” she declares in her beautiful French accent whilst showing me gory photos of her bruises and photos of her beaming with pride, getting ready for a fight... which although “terrifying” gave her such a thrill. “I love the sense of community... it’s not bling, it’s basic... but you feel so empowered, confident... it really changed my life.”
She also loves the fact that it’s a sport her children can learn, and she notices the changes, especially in her young daughter. It’s also a sport that – due to the low impact nature – is something we can all do ’til a ripe old age. “Agh yes,” says Kristelle, “I want to keep doing this when I am in my sixties!”
Tempted to strap on some gloves? Here are just a few starting points...
“Boxing can burn between 500-800 calories per session and raise your resting metabolic rate for hours after,” says Stephen Foy. “A private class can be a great way to get your technique right and give you a chance to see if it’s the right sport for you.” EvolvFitness runs 30-minute one-on-one pad sessions, €40; and 60-minute buddy sessions, €40 each, 01 205 6910; evolvefitness.ie
KOBOX AT THRIVE FESTIVAL
Irishman Shane Collins, founder of Kobox Boxing Club in London, will give Thrive Festival visitors a first-hand experience of his studio, teaching the fundamentals of boxing alongside heart-pounding exercises, at The Convention Centre Dublin, March 30-31, thrivefestival.ie
Boutique boxing classes for workouts, no sparring, headonboxing.ie
DUBLIN THAI BOXING
Run in Kilbarrack with head coach Darren Dowdall, 086 081 5865.