Second Leg, Monday: Boxing has been part of my life for a long time and I love Mondays with Mischa. 7.30 pm on the third floor of an old warehouse in Kensington, now converted into boutique and diverse creative endeavours. Apart from the top floor which is dedicated to multi-discipline fighting.
On Mondays, about a dozen of us share the space with a bunch of wrestlers, or “grapplers” as Mischa calls them. They grunt and writhe, snaking limbs around each other’s bodies in a way that makes you go straight back to Roy & HG setting the whole thing to a Barry White soundtrack at the Sydney Olympics. Ohhhh, baby.
Last night, as we skipped (the first two rounds are skipping. Death to calves after The Bang) a pretty big kickboxer also wandered in and spent some time pounding into the heavy bag with his legs, threatening to shake the floor under us. It’s never a boring setting.
Mischa, AKA “The Sweetest Thing”, is an old journo friend of mine who got into boxing quite a few years ago, which gave us a whole new level of conversation because she was now training with boxing identities I’d written about for years in one of my many incarnations (boxing writer for The Herald newspaper, and briefly, freelancing, for the Sunday Age).
Then Mischa got further into it, and won an Australian title and fought overseas, training at Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, NY (of which I’m endlessly jealous), and has written several excellent books on the subject of being a female fighter. These days, she mixes her time between training fighters, running boxing fitness classes like the one I attend, and journalism.
Our group is pretty diverse. There’s Zoe, who is in training for an actual fight, even though she might have broken a rib sparring last week. And there are a range of guys and women of varying motivation, fitness and skills. On Monday, I paired up with Bree, who works in a fabrics shop and told me she has a side business involving Eighties sewing machines or something. She told me all this while throwing left and right combinations at my padded hands, centimetres from my face, so it was hard to pay full attention.
After the skipping, we split into groups and either move and throw combinations at the air, or run and do mounting numbers of push-ups, which is where the day before’s Bang session starts to hurt before I’ve even started. I hadn’t realised how many Bang punishment push-ups I’d obviously done because my shoulders and chest almost immediately complain about raising and carrying my weight. I sprint 10 times, then push-ups, which means 55 push-ups spread out, and I’m wondering if I’ll survive the hour.
But then thankfully we’re on the matts, throwing combinations, left jab, straight right, left hook, straight right, then step under phantom blows and countering with straight right, left hook, straight right. A cheer goes up from the Grapplers. Maybe somebody finally scored? We pair up and move onto pads and gloves, throwing combinations into the pads, dancing around one another, changing direction, changing direction, footwork, footwork, then a two punch combo, or an eight punch combo, or a six punch combo, and move, and change and change and change and one jab, and move and change …
By now, I’m sweating hard but my body has loosened and The Bang is behind me. As I wail into the heavy bag with jabs and hooks, and the occasional uppercut combo, my shoulders are working hard but my legs feel good and all the dancing and directional changing will channel directly into my skating, once I’m back on the ice.
The session finishes with a gruelling abs workout, with a bunch of crunches and other stomach-busters.
And we drift into the night. I’d felt seriously stressed and heavy when I arrived. Now I feel fantastic.
Monday (and Wednesday), 7.30 pm, 10 bucks for the session.
Seriously, hockey people, you can’t go past it. You might even get to punch me. What’s not to like?
Address: Level 3, 10 Elizabeth Street, Kensington.
(Facebook: ‘like’ Mischa’s Boxing Central)