London Chessboxing

I’m always keen to try new and exciting exercise experiences for you guys but, Chessboxing has to be one of the strangest!

Yep, it’s exactly what you’d think it is…you play a round of chess, then a round of boxing and the winner is the first to either checkmate his opponent or get a knock out.

I’d never heard about the sport until a pal mentioned it to me and I discovered London Chessboxing.

Intrigued, I went along to have a go myself…

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Chessboxing dates back to 1978 when two brothers decided their boxing matches needed a little something extra, so they added a game of chess into the mix!

Since then the sport has been featured in comics, films and even been the subject of art exhibitions. It’s current incarnation in London – London Chessboxing – was founded by Tim Woolgar.

London Chessboxing has staged over 50 chessboxing events in the last six years, all under the watchful eye of the sport’s international governing body, the World Chessboxing Association.

It’s run out of Islington Boxing Club in north London and holds classes, which run for an hour and a half, every Saturday between 10am and 11.30am. (Adults £8, students and under 18s £5)

Anyone is welcome and all you need is your normal gym kit, flat soled shoes and hand wraps, which you can buy at the club for £5.

Arriving I realised I was the only girl there among four men, however, this was the last class before the club broke for the summer holidays and took the month of August off, and Tim assured me that usually there are at least two or three women taking part.

After Tim had wrapped my hands, I warmed up with five minutes skipping, then grabbed a pair of gloves and headed over to a punch bag.

With a punch bag each we started off throwing jabs and crosses, then added in some hooks, before working on our blocking technique.

Then it was a round of sprinting on the spot while punching the bag before we were panting hard, whipping off our gloves and heading over to the chess boards.

Don’t worry if you’ve never boxed or played chess before, Tim and his team are on hand to show you the moves.

I’ve boxed, but chess is totally foreign to me so, while regulars to the class partnered up and started playing, Tim ran me through the names of the different pieces, how to set up the board and in which direction each piece was allowed to travel.

You’d think it would be a lot to take in, my heart pounding and sweat dripping into my eyes while I tried to remember the difference between a knight, bishop and rook, however, Tim says that the adrenaline pumping round your system from the boxing actually helps your brain retain information quicker and more easily.

With the basics mastered, it was time to take to the ring for the first time – Islington Boxing Club has two – and try some shadow boxing and foot work.

Then it was back to the bags to master uppercuts before another round of chess.

While other members of the class continued their games, Tim explained to me what a checkmate was and some of the ways it could be achieved.

We were all panting hard, but within a minute of concentrating on the board I found my heartrate had slowed – it appears Chessboxing has an almost HIIT element to it, with aerobic peaks and troughs. Plus, it’s mentally challenging too as the chess games become ever more taxing the more physically tired the boxers get.

Finally, we ended the session with some floor work circuit training – burpees, jumping jacks, crunches, squat jumps and sprints.

I was pooped, soaked through with sweat…but buzzing!

It was such a great session. I never felt like I was the odd one out being a woman, Tim was great at correcting my technique and we had fun. Plus, I learnt how to play chess.

Classes restart at Islington Boxing Club on Saturday 3 September 2016 and I can see why people keep going back – not only do you get to flex your muscles but your mind too!

Until next time, stay happy and healthy…

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