Australia · My MMA Journey · Permaculture

Sydney through its Locals

With a little over two weeks remaining in Sydney, I’ve decided that I’d like to pick the brains of a couple of interesting locals for the inside scoop of everything from live music and the martial arts scene to permaculture and proactivism before I leave.

For one, I’ve gathered lots of interesting snippets about pro and amateur combat fighting here in Australia and I’d love to go beyond my own speculation here on my blog and hear straight from the guys at my boxing and martial arts gym who founded it some eight years ago. With any luck, I’ll make it to an upcoming MMA bout myself–though it is the night before my flight out of Sydney–to see the most badass girl in the gym have herself a fight.

In addition to training at Darkside Gym five or six times a week, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing a number of great live music acts during my stay here in Newtown and in Central Sydney. In addition to catching bands like Valen, White DogZeahorse, and Snape, I’ve seen Bad Absalom on stage a good couple of times performing original songs and always putting on a great act.

Last week the Bad Absalom boys recorded their first EP and I’ve been looking forward to a sitdown with the some of their members to talk both about their experience as musicians in Sydney as well as chat about some of the other great acts one can walk in on in the city.

Finally, I’m eager to revisit permaculture–which I’ve written about once or twice in the past–and now also proactivism. I’ve talked to some friends who are involved in all sorts of great causes and initiatives but I learned recently that they don’t call themselves activists. Instead, the term proactivism came up because it is, after all, about taking action to prevent problems and now about protesting the ones we already have.

Don’t quote me on this; I’ll soon be talking to Lance Lieber of Transition Bondi so let’s wait for his word on the matter. I was introduced to him by a friend who I’ve already been meaning to gain insight from on this and other subjects. For one, I’d like to know how she stays so very involved in such a myriad of activities, from African drum and dance groups to growing vegetables and learning natural dye and, more fascinating yet, how these interests connect her to her environment.

Now that my intentions have been made officially clear I’m nothing if not tied to them; feel free to look forward to a series of hopefully compelling interviews in the next few weeks. On a side note, if you are a Sydney local and you have something remarkable to share about this city, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Australia · My MMA Journey

My Amateur MMA Journey, Part 16: One Month at Darkside Gym

No martial arts gym I’ve been to has given me a full of as valuable an experience as Darkside Gym in Sydney.

By the way, if you haven’t read Part 15 of this series, check it out for my introduction to this and other gyms in Sydney’s inner west.

In my first month at Darkside, I managed to fit in 24 classes–many in their convenient midday slot. (Check out the timetable.) Of the various fight forms offered to build up the full MMA experience here at Darkside, boxing classes are the most abundant.

I’ve done the most training in boxing because it was the first fight sport I started training in nearly two years ago at Elorde in the Philippines. As such, I might have thought I’d be coming in with at least a decent foundation.

However, in more than one area, it has felt like I’ve been starting from scratch since coming here.

Many of the things I wish I had learned from my trainers in six months of boxing at Elorde, I have been learning here.

That’s not to discredit my Pinoy trainers at all: Elorde gave me an excellent introduction to the sport by building fitness, toughening up my knuckles, and starting to put some power in my punches.

In a way, my experience at Darkside is best compared to the short time I spent at Team Lakay in Baguio in that they train people how to actually fight and, when you’re sparring, you and your partner want to hit and get hit.

It comes down to the difference between a fitness gym and a fighters gym and that is, in fact, something I like quite a lot about Darkside: you can walk in here–curious to try a new way to get fit, indifferent to actual fighting–and fit right in.

However, you won’t be going through the motions; you’ll be learning proper footwork, good form, and pertinent punching sequences.

Depending on your level or how badly you want to get fit and/or want to get hit, there are a variety of boxing classes you can join, from Fitness to Fundamentals to Advanced.

The Fitness class is full of conditioning drills and bag work and has already become somewhat dreaded as it will wipe you out physically. You won’t be getting hit but your knuckles might feel a little sore after the pounding you give the bags.

Fundamentals is a great entry-level boxing class; you’ll be learning basic moves and sequences and mostly practicing with a partner on focus pads. The likelihood of getting hit is fairly low.

In the Advanced class, we’re full contact: this is where the sparring happens. However, how hard you go at it is entirely up to you and/or your partner. Regardless, you will be getting hit and you’ll learn quickly to keep your guard up.

From there, you might progress to Muay Thai and finally MMA, in which case you can add getting kicked and strangled, respectively, to getting punched.

After my six months of boxing at Elorde, I switched to Muay Thai at the same gym and I can make similar comparisons here as I did earlier with regards to the boxing classes there and here.

Where at Elorde I learned the basic movements and conditioned my body to kick and throw knees, I’ve started covering better footwork, more targeted kicks, and–the most neglected of my skills–blocking, at Darkside.

I have found the Muay Thai sparring, and leg sparring in particular, to be decidedly fun and helpful.

I’m always excited when my teaching schedule allows me to make it to one of the MMA sessions–probably because I have the most to learn in this arena. Plus, because it covers so many styles, you can look forward to something different in every class.

On a final note, Darkside also offers Brazilian jiu-jitsu classes. I haven’t tried any of them but I’ve watched out of the corner of my eye while doing Muay Thai and it’s basically boys in pajamas taking turns watching each other roll around in intimate pairs.

You know I’m kidding. I love BJJ and I the only reason I haven’t jumped in on these classes is that I don’t have a gi to use here in Sydney.

Before coming here back in December though, I did three months of jiu-jitsu at Fitness Unlimited in the Philippines and enjoyed it immensely.

By the way, Darkside Gym has a new look and now features an elongated cage area and a full-sized boxing ring. Come check it out.

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What’s next for me?

For one, I intend to get in another solid month of training before I head back to Manila and then Europe for a stint.

Additionally, I’m intrigued to learn more about the Sydney fight scene from the bits and pieces I’ve heard of it here at the gym.

I certainly hope to attend an amateur fight while I’m here and maybe find out how long I’d have to train here to be ready for one of my own. (I’ll only know after the fact, obviously.)

On a final–somewhat related, somewhat unrelated note–you may care to know that I am no only martial-arting at the gym; I have also officially begun my, training in Ninja Writing.

In all likelihood, there will be more on this to come.

 

Australia · Day Trips · Travel Reviews · Travel Tips

First Swing at the Sydney Surf

Summer is slipping away here in Sydney and I realized that I’d been here since December and had yet to have an Aussie surf.

Back in November, I went surfing for the first time in Baler, Philippines and it was an unforgettable, totally affordable experience. Of course, a one-hour lesson here in Sydney costs nearly seven times as much as a lesson over in Baler.

Fortunately, board rentals are more affordable.

As far as city beaches go, I’d only been to Manly and knew that it was good for surfing. However, both Manly and Bondi beach tend to be insanely crowded on sunny weekend days.

I found this Beginners Guide to Surfing Sydney’s Beaches, which has a brief and helpful overview of beaches in the city, listing the pros and cons of each.

We ended up opting for Maroubra Beach because it’s only an hour from Newtown and the bus drops you off right in front of Let’s Go Surfing. (Check out their website if you want to book lessons.)

Board rentals here are $15 for one hour, $25 for two, and $40 for the day. The shop guy was super chill about us being able to start off paying for two hours and extend if we wanted to surf longer.

He told us to take whichever board we wanted and said we were welcome to come and switch it out for another one if it wasn’t quite right.

We showed up around 1pm and went straight for the waves; when I wandered back to the shop to check the time it so happened that he was ten minutes from closing up.

What I enjoyed about Maroubra:

  • It wasn’t particularly crowded. The surf guide I mentioned earlier said it’s always crowded on weekends and to watch out for locals but I found the crowds fairly sparse and the locals non-threatening.
  • The waves were both fun and manageable at more or less a meter high–similar to what I was used to from Baler.

Surfing setbacks:

  • Later in the afternoon, blue bottle jellyfish swarmed the beach and everyone pretty much had to clear out of the water.
  • Although it was a nice hot, sunny day and the water temperature was initially great, it did get quite cold when the wind set in. If you’re used to a place like the Philippines where you can stay out in the water till the sun sets and hardly feel a chill, you might find that your hands are starting to feel numb and your teeth are chattering come late afternoon down under.

If you’re in Sydney, what are you waiting for? Catch a ride to a beach, pick up a board at a shop, and give surfing a shot.

Even if you don’t catch any waves the first time around, it’s an excellent arm workout and exercise in salt-water tolerance.

Seriously: if you’re a beginner, you’re going to have to work hard for a wave. When you catch it, though, and manage to get yourself upright on the board, the momentum of the ocean below your feet will make you forget every preceding hour spent struggling and want to spend every successive one trying to have that again.