Sport in Lisbon

If you have read this blog a little longer, you’ll know that I make it a habit to live for a short period of time in various places. Boxing is something I don’t want to miss in my daily life. Therefore, I look for new boxing studios where ever I go. I resort to Google first when searching. Sometimes the first place I look at locks me in, sometimes I look a little longer.

Currently, my route has brought me to Lisbon, Portugal.

In true fashion with the name of one of the major soccer clubs, Lisbon is quite sporty. I’ve already found several options just around my neighborhood Rego. There are most certainly many more all over the city.

The first place I tried out is the most professional of them all. That’s probably also why I found it first during my online search.

Kolmachine

Av. João Crisóstomo 51A, 1050-128 Lisbon

This is a modern and compact studio with experienced coaches, offering a variety of martial arts and a few yoga classes. The design is black and red reminding me of my alma mater Legacy Sport near Hamburg, Germany. Boxing is every Thuesday and Thursday:

  • 7:30 – 8:30 PM on Tue + Thu

I trained with Diogo, a good looking, energetic young man.

Monthly membership for these two classes per week is 49 EUR. A normal price. Where it got steep is the 50 EUR admission fee which you have to pay no matter for how long you stay. As I was in town just for one month this immediately doubled the price for me. The other option would have been to pay per class at 20 EUR. Had it not been for price, I would have most likely signed up, because I really enjoyed the high energy I could feel during my trial lesson.

I then went on to research anew. I found a place even closer by my house with a broader timetable:

Ginásio Superstar

Santos Dumont 57C, 1050-099 Lisbon

Coming in and walking down the stairs to the basement floor you find a fully stocked gym, even a sauna and a Turkish bath which I haven’t tried, so I can’t say anything about them. The facilities are a little aged, but functional. Same goes for coach Pavlo Lehonkov, a boxer of the old school, not shiny but with heart.

I was received by name in line with me having announced my attendance via email prior. Next, I was shown the large locker room and after storing my stuff I went to the boxing room. I first felt uncomfortable because nobody but me was there. If the same happens to you there, do not worry, people started to come one by one over the next quarter hour.

Opportunities for box classes are plenty at this gym. Make your pick as best fitting your schedule:

  • 8:00 -10:00 AM on Mon, Wed + Fri
  • 6:00 -8:00 PM on Mon, Wed + Fri
  • 7:00 – 8:30 PM on Tue + Thu
  • 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM on Sat

The monthly of 45 EUR for this wide offer of training times is very reasonable. Gym and spa use would add to the price, but I was spared the admission fee.

When I left my trial class that night, I thought I would continue to go to this gym. After all It was normal priced and close by. Had it not been for the insider tip I got this night from my housemate. Turned out, she boxes, too, and invited me to come to her class which she raved about.

Junta de Freguesia de São Domingos de Benfica

Rua Raul Carapinha s/n, 1500-542 Lisboa

A Junta de Freguesia is like a sports association combined with an adult education center. My impression is that it is subsidized by the municipality. Cost are 20 EUR per month plus a one off admission fee of 10 EUR.

Training takes place in a multifunction gym, meaning it’s not a fully equipped boxing studio. In the same building is a weight lifting room if you want to add that to your membership. Facilities include warm showers and lockers. The boxing gym has 3 boxing sacks. Other than that nothing would tell that three times a week there is boxing.

  • 8:00 – 9:30 PM on Mon, Wed + Fri

GWB Freguesia action

The reason, though, why this is the boxing class is so amazing is the atmosphere. This is truly a group. Diverse people in age, gender and profession, come together to train and spend one and a half hours of unity. The heartbeat of this group is their coach Nuno, a boxing crack for whom his students are at the same time family members. Before the class starts everyone greets everyone personally with a hug or Portuguese kiss on the checks. During class partners are switched after every sequence. After class, there are regular group outings to eat and dance.

GWB Freguesia flower

On International Women’s Day, all women got a flower or a full basket of flowers from the Junta de Freguesia. Another nice touch.

I have been training at the Junta de Freguesia now for a month and feel a part of the group as any one else. I have learnt a lot from Nuno and from the other students. If I come back to Lisbon, I make sure to stop by for a visit.

Bonus:

For an intriguing heritage place, check out Alfama PowerTeam in the old town area of Alfama. I walked through the small alleyways on my first day doing city excursion and walked right passed this gem.

There surely is Sport in Lisbon. It might be around the next corner you turn.

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Santiago de Chile – The winner is…

Lately, when choosing my go-to studio for my current location Santiago de Chile, I found myself faced with a tougher choice than usual. Two top studios gave me a good fight, each with top arguments, but extremely different. Santiago is a widespread city with about 6 million inhabitants. Proximity is an important factor. My home location is the financial sector of Las Condes, slightly to the east of the city center with a metro station close by. There is no boxing studio in the nearest proximity to where I live. At least none that I know of or could find with a google search. Both of the studios available to me are at about equidistant in commuting time: a good half an hour.

Least to say, I also look for quality. These have it as I could experience first hand. Both allowed for a trial lesson. I called in advance, but you could probably also just show up to one of their classes as to schedule. Emailing proved to be a time-lag, but works for who is not firm in Spanish and allows for a one or two day wait. Now, without further ado, let’s see the contestants.

In the right corner we have the young, modern and trendy studio in Las Condes: BXO-Boxing.

In the left corner: established, smart and executive White Collar Club. A gem of the old school. Located on the top floor of an traditional mid-size business hotel in the commercial and city center of Santiago.

Warming up:
Round 1 – Contact
This was a typical case for Murphy. I tried e-mailing BXO-Boxing but did not receive an immediate reply. I eventually got one almost a day after and when I had already visited their studio. Since I wanted to work out without delay I called up. Friendly and inviting they said I could come on by any time I wanted to try out. With White Collar Club the next day, I called up Hotel Panamericano where it is hosted. And what do you think they asked me?? To please email the contact person, Elizier Moreno. My bad, but they were amiable about it. Within minutes I got a reply to a free trial training. Off I went.
We are still warming up, but I would give this round to White Collar Club as for the non-Spanish speaker it is more comfortable and clear to communicate in writing.

Round 2 – Location
Location of course depends on where you are coming from. BXO-Boxing is in the further east part of Las Condes, close to Alto Las Condes, one of the big and elegant shopping malls of the city. A bus station is almost in front of the studio. Driving would make for an even quicker alternative.
White Collar Club is in the mere city center only a few meters to walk from the presidential palace La Moneda. The best gateway is the metro station of the same name “La Moneda” on Line 1.GWB Moneda

Image credit: Davidlohr Bueso
Other than for work, bureaucracy or cultural activities, the city center is not too much of a destination in santiaguino life. Especially at night the center empties out considerably.
If you are not particularly closer to one than the other, the location round is won by BXO-Boxing for its quick accessibility by car and after hours safety.

Round 3 – Price
Which is the better deal for you depends somewhat on how long you plan to stay and how often you go. BXO-boxing charges an admission fee of CLP 15,000 (that’s USD 21.00 for you) with a monthly of CLP 40,000 (USD 56.00) for two sessions per week CLP 46,000 (USD 64.00) for unlimited visits.
White Collar Club is more expensive, but offers interesting discounts for women and for the long run. While a regular monthly without commitment goes for CLP 85,000 (hefty USD 119.00) with a CLP 25,000 (USD 35.00) admission fee, for women it is CLP 50,000 (USD 70.00) flat, no admission fee.
This round goes to BXO-boxing, though White Collar Club has its fist clenched for a comeback in round 5.

Round 4 – Schedule
Offering classes around the clock between 8.00h (some days even as early as 7.00h) and 21:30h from Monday to Friday and with a more limited opening time on Saturdays, BXO-boxing has a broad and varied course schedule. Most classes are straight boxing classes, some though focus heavier on body workout. There are even aerobic box fitness classes for women, if you want to go down this path. More options let you plan your training around your personal schedule. Don’t forget to make it a point to go, though. I have noticed that if there are too many alternatives, I tend to be less duly.
White Collar Club has a straight forward easily memorable plan. Monday through Fridays you can train for a good hour at 8.00, 13.00, 14.00, 18.00 or 19.15h.
In this round, BXO-boxing almost gives White Collar Club the knock-out.

Round 5 – Facilities
A boxing gym does not imperatively include a ring, but these two do. A decent amount of around 5 to 10 punching bags hang firm from both ceilings.
BXO-boxing is an ground-floor edgy colorful gym with graffiti on the walls. All equipment is new. The recent investment made is clearly visible. Bathrooms are functional, simple and clean. GWO BXO Boxing Santiago

White Collar Club is on the bright top and 13th floor of the hotel with a large window bank. The room itself exists for as long as the hotel is in place which can be seen in the wooden paneling. The ring and sports equipment was added later, but date to about ten years ago. Wear can be seen here and there without stunting use.
In terms of amenities the hotel manages to unveil a first hard punch and trumps the gym-only with ease. Bathrooms are elegant, hotel clean and include towel service, convenient for the executives on their lunch break to be office ready after their workout. An additional facilitation at White Collar Club is the possibility to store gear safely in the gym ready for your next workout. I have not asked if this possibility exists at BXO-boxing but neither have I seen a spot where the fellows could do it. My guess due to the more fluctuating crowd that gear is better taken home and brought to each session.
White Collar Club hits precisely in this round.

Infighting:
Round 6 – Workout-Intensity
After all we are here to exercise instead of merely enjoying the scenery. BXO-boxing starts with strengthening exercises like push-ups and crunches. Then it’s partner up for technique and punching bags. I’d give the workout a medium intensity level. White Collar Club starts with easy flowing gymnastic movements, followed by more heavy weight punching bag or sparring. These in fact are at a higher intensity level.
Both are workouts, but I found White Collar Club more true to the concept of enduring several rounds of boxing.

Round 7 – Workout-Variety
Variety can only be seen through repetition. One of the studios mentioned here, I visited only once, the other one I signed up and went to 3 times a week.
I will say this as not to give a way my evaluation just yet that both seem repetitive. With BXO-boxing it’s the variegated course plan which will bring about variety. With White Collar Club it depends on being partnered up with different people to use your skills.

Round 8 – Workout-Application
We train boxing, not just exercising. Corporal fitness is a goal as is the effect quick reaction and coordination has on the brain. The best training is doing because no situation requires a higher reaction rate than with a non agreed punching sequence of another boxer.
White Collar Club is the clear winner of this round as sparring is an integral part of training there. After warming up with physical exercises and hitting the punching bags if you are in for it, you are paired up for partner practice. It’s plenty of fun as it is strengthening and keeping fit. Be sure you are able to take a few hits in your stomach or sides. Your good looks and face will be spared.

The knock-out
Round 9 – Trainer Character
Boxing is a personal sport. Ultimately, it comes down not to beating our opponent, but to self-conquer our perceived limits. The only team-mate who is exclusively on our side is our coach. If we spar or consequently compete our vis-à-vis wants to win against us.
Besides being experienced in the sport, a trainer’s character can make and break the fun and engraving part of training. A good coach in my opinion is someone who clearly sees our capabilities and improvement opportunities, someone who looks, listens, speaks and responds to us, someone who pushes us over the perceived limit and not last someone who we are not discouraged to see over and over.
At BXO-boxing two young guys teach collaboratively in a casual and lively atmosphere. They do a solid job, nevertheless the personal touch was less. At White Collar Club experienced amateur boxer Belisario coaches every class personally. He is a real character who engages in cordial and joking conversations with his students.
White Collar Club‘s Belisario sticks out with his old-school almost Rocky’s Mickey worthy coach character.

Round 10 – The Comrades-in-arms
Boxing is fun. While everybody is concentrated throughout training a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere is possible. It’s part of what makes you come back.
I have found in basically all the gyms I have been to that we are a team. Nobody is there to hurt any one. We train together, correct each other, support each other. Before, after and sometimes even during training we chat.
In BXO-boxing everyone was friendly though felt not exactly close or engaged. White Collar Club truly grouped together. It’s a group of executives working in the area. You find many interesting characters in this group and a light-headed joke was quickly on everyones lips, including the trainer. Occasionally, the group would get together in a close-by tavern on Friday nights. Sounding like a closed shop they are extremely welcoming to new additions. That’s why White Collar Club goes the full distance and wins the audiences’ favor as well as the judges’.

We made it through 10 full rounds. I made my choice. And the winner is: White Collar Club.
GWB White Collar Santiago
What made the difference for me in the end was character, old-school coaching, applied boxing. Secondary decision factors were price, travel convenience and change of scenery.

What do you opinion? Would you have come to a different weighting?

Santiago de Chile

After my stay in New York I am now in Santiago de Chile. By the way, New York distracts massively from focused training. There is just so much else to do. I went to classes on a more or less (rather less than more if I am frank with myself) regular basis. Now, I am ready to take on the challenge again and punch hard.

Fittingly, Chile is the home to the current bantam-weight world champion in women’s boxing: Crespita Rodriguez. This is where I’ll be looking up to.

Already done the research I have decide on a studio to train which is essential and warm. Usually, my decisions on a studio have been heuristic and straight-forward. This time it was a bit more tricky. I was between two, both with great features speaking for them. And both quite different from each other. The one has what the other doesn’t and vice versa. Tough choice, neither would have been a bad one. Made up my mind and didn’t look back since. It’s the old-school type of training with lots of applied action. Read next how I compared.

Note from the author: It is a hassle to constantly find new studios, doing the research, having some training down-time in between. Nevertheless, training in different studios and with different coaches, gives the benefit of improving a variety of techniques, fitness and areas for each coach has his particular expertise, style and focus. Plus, you get plenty to read about.

New York New York

Some short summer hiatus, as I have been on a short trip to breezy Iceland to hike.

And already I’m embarking on another journey. I will be in New York City from July onwards. Of course my boxing gloves will join me.

I am looking for a gym or boxing group I can train at. Which do you recommend?

Once I have found it, you’ll be reading about my experiences here. Stay tuned!

Hamburg: Legacy

In a different place on a different continent: A boxing gym in Northern Germany.

When you leave a place it is comforting to take a few pieces with you. Habits are such pieces. Boxing was mine. I have been hooked since day one at Ipanema Fight in Rio de Janeiro.

Then I spent time at my roots in Hamburg, Germany. I hadn’t known about a studio in my area. As fortune wants it, a week after arriving and still settling in I walked through the pedestrian precinct of downtown of German suburbia Pinneberg and saw the sign. A poster for a martial arts gym close to home!

A few days later I checked the homepage, called and announced myself for a test training. I didn’t need to check out any other place because the Legacy is a fantastic gym with excellent trainers and a welcoming crowd.

The Legacy has several classes with different time slots. There are also classes for children, for teenagers and several other disciplines. As far as boxing is concerned you have the choice of three classes all with two sessions per week each.

  • 6:00 PM on Mon + Fri
  • 7:00 PM on Wed + 5:00 PM on Sat
  • 9:00 PM on Mon + Wed

The management is friendly and accommodating. If for example only one day of one class suits you and another of a different class you can probably mix and match according to your personal availabilities.

The first two on the list are regular box classes which include sparring. The later one is a business boxing class without sparring. Business boxing doesn’t imply wearing a suit. It rather takes out the eventuality of a black eye from direct if friendly combat which many people in their day-time job would want to avoid risking.

As I arrived for my first test training in the big black and red hall with a ring to the left back corner and six black and red punching bags on the right back corner, a wide open area for free training in the front and an equipment corner to the front left, I was impressed. Everybody greeted each other with a fist bump signalised unity and openness. A nice touch is the wide use of coded T-Shirts.

I started my first day with the regular box class which was good and a tough as can be. This was already a tougher crowd than I was used to. All of them kind, many of them quite advanced and most with a focus on training for actual fights. I managed the session well, but I still wanted to compare it to the business boxing class before signing up. Already at the following opportunity I was there and I have stayed true ever since.

The instructor of Business boxing is Babak. He is a sports science major in his mid-twenties. His primary disciplines are BJJ and Allkampf. At Legacy he trains us, the non-fighting adults, and the youngsters as well. His expertise from his studies shows and he knows to illustrate the science behind it all.
Babak does an exceptional job at keeping training diverse and effective. Did I mention exhaustingly intense and us on our toes?! When we start off lightly with rope-skipping we know we are in for a 60+ min. session that has it in it. Soon he’ll tell us to drop the rope and get down. Push-ups in its various forms or a series of sprawls or burpees (be sure to find an article on this beast some time soon) are the consequence. And up again continuing to jump.

After a good 15-30 min. warm-up and strength training we partner up for technique. Versatile sequences keep our mind sharp and transmit movements which become second nature. Every now and then we do circle trainings in always novel formations. Babak’s training always ends on a high note punching into the sack as hard as we can. If you hadn’t given your all before, here you turn into a force of nature.

On rare occasions Pascal or Clemens fill in for Babak. Independently of how good your trainer is, switching up the routine and having someone else train you every once in a while is an alternation to make use of. It lets you learn something new or exercise slightly different muscle groups. All for improving yourself.

GWB Legacy 042015

Credits: Pascal, Legacy

The group felt super approachable from day one. Many times I’m the only girl, but every other session a fellow female fighter joins. Sessions vary in numbers and many don’t come every single time, but after several week I have seen everybody of the roughly 15 members of this group.
Here and then we welcome newcomers who have a hard time catching their breath during the first couple or more sessions. Many come with some kind of previous box experience, but it is not a prerequisite. In fact for beginners the business boxing session is probably the best choice as it introduces to technique if needed slowly. One can increase the intensity with increased fitness.

Situated in an industrial park in Pinneberg, the Northwestern corner of Hamburg. The studio is easily accessible by car from the Autobahn A23, exit Pinneberg-Nord. It’s in the rear building on Flensburger Str. 5. The front building is a tire supplier. Lot’s of parking space is available.

For two sessions per week the monthly fee is 45 EUR for a 6 months period. It get’s cheaper the longer you sign up for. If for any reason you move away the contract can be cancelled from the date of your move as is customary in Germany. As in most gyms, there is a sign-up fee, here it is 24 EUR.

With your membership you can additionally train on the equipment during opening hours given it doesn’t interfere with an ongoing session. Usually it won’t. For anyone on a more sporadic regiment or short term stays they Legacy offers a 10 session card as well which.

As comes through from my description, Legacy has definitely left a legacy in me. Excellent gym with intense training and familiar atmosphere.

Go ahead. Schlag zu!

Rio de Janeiro: Ipanema Fight

The sun and fun seekers of you who travel to or maybe even live for some time in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, your best choice is to check out Ipanema Fight. Internet presence in Brazil is not always the sleekest. Facebook is a good alternative for current information.

The studio is located on R. Visconde de Pirajá, 151, in Ipanema as the name fittingly suggests. Chances are you stay in one of the neighborhoods Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon or close by. It’s just a short hop from Praça General Osório, in between R. Teixeira de Melo and R. Farme de Amoedo. Through a small entrance the staircase leads up to the first floor where Ipanema Fight appears in bright yellow in front of you.

Ipanema Fight is my alma mater of boxing, my home if you so will and I will always hold it dear to my heart. It is a compact studio mostly consisting of one training room laid out with blue and yellow tatami mats overseeing the busy main street. They offer several martial arts, here I focus on the boxing class only. What makes it special is the mixed group and most importantly Elli, ruthless and equally precious trainer. Of course, Elli is tough, just as probably any trainer in martial arts is, but he cares a lot about his protégés and gets you in shape in no time.

Credits: Chris Brown

The group being heterogeneous is another asset of this studio I personally liked very much. Men, women, Brazilian, foreigners, young and older, experienced or newbie, every one is welcome and trains side by side.

As I said, I had never really boxed before. Here at Ipanema Fight it’s dive right in from the beginning. The first half hour is getting in shape in all its forms. After that a quarter of technical training followed by extensive sparring. In my experience this seems to be the approximate routine of most sessions in box training. Being new, Elli gave me an intro into the basic punches and movements. Everything else I learned together with the group as we went on.

You can always show up for a free class at Ipanema Fight. If you don’t have gloves yet, they always have a few spare community sets (Ew!.. but it’s doable for a few times). If you decide to stay you have have three time slots, one in the morning and two at night:

  • 7:00 AM on Tue + Thu
  • 6:00 PM on Mon, Wed + Fri
  • 9:00 PM on Tue + Thu

I went with the three times a week class on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. This is the one Elli teaches and I can highly recommend it also because if you need to miss one class you still have two per week to go to.

After the free class you can join for monthly or more long-term plans. Prices in Brazil vary due to inflation and exchange rates. Additionally to a small inscription fee, I paid R$ 185 monthly at the end of 2014, that was about US$ 75 back then.

Pronta para lutar!