I remember getting my ass kicked in junior high school.
A new girl from a scrappy town had moved in next door, and we were the ultimate frenemies. One week, we’d be hanging out; the next, fighting on the school bus with kids egging us on until we were rolling around on the ground. She fought dirty – hair pulling, kicking my forehead, scratching – but she taught me how to fight. But I had to relearn everything at my first boxing lesson at Joltin’ Jabs in Manayunk.
Owner Joey DeMalavez started training at 14 years old, was in the ring at 15 and fighting professionally from ages 38 to 41, which is almost unheard of. From the so-called Henry Ave. Farm School, he has that “Roxsh-buruh” accent and looks younger than he is at 51. Today, he is a boxing coach, fitness trainer, life coach and motivational speaker, and he wants to get out of training people and into television. He’s currently training Charles Barkley, and he wants to keep helping retired athletes and overweight people stay in shape – on TV and with exercise videos.
But for now, he gets to train a newbie.
Half the class was strength training and cardio. And there was no air conditioning. There’s no air conditioning – ever, even if it’s 100 degrees.
“I train in a wool cap and long sleeves. I don’t believe in it,” said DeMalavez.
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The first rule of fight club is to stay slim, with your hands in fists up around your face, always tight, protecting yourself with your stance to the side. The first two knuckles (pointer and middle fingers) are the strongest and the last two are the weakest, so always hit with the first two.
We jabbed, then jabbed forward and back in a shuffle exercise that we learned for our warmup like a Mr. Miyagi lesson. Throw in some uppercuts and then a full-out assault on the punching bags tied to the wall (my favorite part).
We had to do our Rocky workout with the speed bags in a trance, like a 1-2-3 rhythm, in a small circle, with our fists, then the other side. My ginger friend who has been training for eight months and who boxes to stay in shape was going at those speed bags like a beast.
Boxing was almost meditative at points when it started flowing, and I can see why it’s addicting.
For good measure, the instructor threw in some crazy exercises like the crab, the bear and the beloved burbies.
Punching the moving bag was a lot harder than expected. Then we got to punch Joey and his hand pads.
His classes are half men and women, as it’s a great workout and tops for letting out aggression. Even though Joey looks intimidating with his tattoos and stellar shape, he was always encouraging and didn’t laugh at me once, bless his heart.