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.
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.