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How To Start A Fight Club

Fight Club is 10 years-old, and this week marks the release of the Fight Club Special Edition Blu-ray. To celebrate we decided to answer an important question raised in the film;

How much can you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?

We shuffled from behind our ergonomic desk, out of our climate controlled office and chronograph-measured existence, and went to get advice from a group of guys who know their hooks from their crosses – The Real Fight Club.

Founded in 2000, The Real Fight Club has pioneered boxing training and boxing evenings for white-collar professionals – exactly the kind of place to have the corporate, consumerist mentality beaten out of you.

With that in mind we subjected ourselves to a training session with Spencer Fearon, ex-Professional boxer and co-owner of The Real Fight Club…

“This is your life and it's ending one minute at a time.”

Step One: Why fight?

In the film: The Narrator (Edward Norton) plagued by insomnia and the banality of his consumerist ‘90s existence, starts Fight Club with Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) to give his life purpose.

In real life: The Real Fight Club’s website says ‘Boxing is a complete body workout that combines aerobic and anaerobic exercise with calisthenics, a combination that is rarely found in any other sport. 

Boxing is more than just a work-out, it's a change of lifestyle. You will want to work harder and to live a healthier life. It is the ultimate stress buster.’

Total Film is no stranger to exercise, but boxing? We’ve never so much as thrown a punch.

“It’s a different level,” fellow pupil Lee tells us. “I started five weeks ago and I can’t get enough, I train two hours a day. I’ve got my first fight coming up next month.”

Total Film is sold. If boxing training can offer that kind of inspiration, motivation and 
attitude, then there might be something to this Fight Club thing after all.

Next: Find a location [page-break]

"Just let us have the basement, Lou!"

Step Two: Find a location

In the film: The Narrator and Tyler fight in a cark park before moving into the cellar of a local bar.

In real life: The Real Fight Club have a warehouse facility a minutes walk from Liverpool St.

The 5000sq ft gym includes a personal training studio, and a dedicated boxing floor with two training rings, 16 punch bags, floor-to-ceiling bags, speed ball, mirrored skipping and shadow boxing areas, chin up bar, Olympic rings, step and cycle machines and free weights.

This is no amateur set up, a million miles from a bar cellar. If we’re going to start our own Fight Club, the trick is to think big.

Next: Spread the word [page-break]

“The first rule of Fight Club is, you do not talk about Fight Club.”

Step Three: Spread the word.

In the film: Tyler’s rules famously forbid discussing the secret group, which only serves to encourage discussion seeing numbers swell every night.

In real life: The Real Fight Club have done things a little differently, spreading the word through their ‘White Collar Boxing Events’ – real bouts for amateurs designed to give pupils a goal to work towards.

The club has seen numbers increase consistently since they opened their doors in 2000, so keeping schtum is not the only tactic for promotion.

We get the feeling if we’re going to start a Fight Club, we’re probably going to have to tell people about it – though we doubt Lennox Lewis will agree to come and give a master class at our lame effort, he has done so at The Real Fight Club.

Talk about publicity. As we suit up for our session with Spencer Fearon, a quick chat with Lennox would go a long way to settling the nerves.

Next: Learn to throw a punch [page-break]

“I want you to hit me as hard as you can in the face.”

Step four: Learn to throw a punch

In the film: Tyler Durden asks the Narrator to hit him, and after some debate, receives a fairly lame shot to the ear.

In real life: Total Film is being coached in the finer art or throwing a fist, and the keyword seems to be repetition.

With our hands wrapped and gloves strapped on, we step up to the bag.

After checking our stance was correct (it was), and throwing a few punches to check our technique (lame), we started a circuit of 60 seconds of bag work, followed by 60 seconds of push-ups or burpees.

It wasn’t long before we were pining for that ergonomic desk…

Next: Training [page-break]

“I ran. I ran until my muscles burned and my veins pumped battery acid. Then I ran some more.”

Step five: Training

In the film: Fresh from the office, white-collar types eagerly remove their shirts, shoes and belts and jump into the ‘ring’ without so much as a few stretches or a lap around the block.

In real life: Boxing is hard work, it’s one of the only sports that combines anaerobic and aerobic exercise, which means if you’re going to take part, you’ve got to train.

It doesn’t matter how fit you think you are, or how much training you’ve done before, Boxing is a wholly different beast. Total Film was learning this the hard way.

After a few minutes of circuit training, our muscles were screaming, sweat was pouring off and breath was in short supply. We felt sick and light-headed, but we weren’t about to be shown up by a group of city boys.

No, we were about to be shown up by a girl, a 5’1 dynamo who was sharing our bag and attacked the training session with boundless energy and a solid one-two combo.

We tried to force a smile through our grimace as Spencer told us to man up.

Forget what you saw in the movies, Fight Club is no casual undertaking, no drop-in centre for the soul-searching city boy – it’s serious business.

Next: Learn to fight [page-break]

“A guy who came to Fight Club for the first time, his ass was a wad of cookie dough. After a few weeks, he was carved out of wood.”

Step Six: Learn to fight

In the film: The part-time pugilists all seem to handle themselves surprisingly well, despite no coaching in any fighting methods.

In real life: “The boxing ring is more like a chess board” says Alan Lacey, co-owner of The Real Fight Club. “As physical a sport as it is, it’s more to do with the mental aspects.”

Total Film step in the ring to try out some sparring. Our partner is Lee, the recent Real Fight Club convert and future amateur fighter.

“You try and hit me, and I’ll do some counters.” He tells us. When we inquire as to whether we should put decent force behind the blows, he smiles, “Don’t worry, I’ll move out of the way” - and to our surprise, he manages.

His counter-punches come out of nowhere, were he trying to, he could do quite a number on us. We’re thankful this is just practice.

Next: Reap the benefits [page-break]

“When the fight was over, nothing was solved, but nothing mattered. We all felt saved.”

Step Seven: Reap the benefits

In the film: The Narrator takes hold of his life, free from the bonds of his Swedish furniture, downtown apartment and white-collar job.

In the real world: Lee and the rest of the white-collar pupils at The Real Fight Club are confident and fit, sharp and enthusiastic.

From city workers to keen amateur boxers. From casual gym members to regimented workout fans.

The effects of boxing training on lifestyle are almost immediate - once you get over the initial muscle-soreness, something TF are not looking forward to over the next week - the long term benefits on health and physique are hard to argue with.

We set out to discover how one might go about starting their own Fight Club - the answer? Don’t. Get yourself down to the The Real Fight Club.

As for how much we know about ourselves after getting in a fight? We know that we enjoyed the training - but the fighting we're more than happy to leave onscreen.

For more info on The Real Fight Club, click here.

Ever tried to start a Fight Club? How about joining one? Let us know!

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