t’s a Monday evening and there are thirty adults bobbing around in Maria Fidelis’ school sports hall. We are springing left foot to right foot; fists clenched and raised to our cheekbones, on guard, ready, to punch the bejesus out of the air in front of us.
On the left hand side of the room stands a troop of uniformed – black jogging bottoms with red stripes and black vests – kickboxers, regulars to the KB sessions.
They ‘hi-yah!’ as they sting the air with razor-sharp jabs and move in synchronicity as they swivel into acrobatic sidekicks. Collectively they look like extras in a kung fu movie, standing in formation on the verge of starting a street brawl in a neon-sign-lit alleyway in Beijing.
Then there’s the rest of us, ten or so newbies, wearing our own (mismatched) clothes – some in trainers, others bare foot – flailing our limbs with the harmonisation of a swarm of bees. We spend the next hour attempting to emulate the pros as best we could.
Despite the varying degrees of skill in the hall, the atmosphere is jovial, fun and welcoming. We warm up as one: as we stretch in pairs we are encouraged to join with a stranger; handy seeing as most come to the class alone, handier still as Euston’s answer to the cast of Kill Bill show our motley crew of foot-flingers how to stretch our hamstrings.
It is a no-Frills gym experience, with no strobe-lights or quality speakers, just a small stereo in the corner of a brightly-lit school hall. This however adds to the relaxed atmosphere, the drive to work on technique, to talk to your neighbour and to have a laugh, whether it is lesson one or fifty-one.It is a unique and notably ego-less environment to workout in, and an atmosphere intentionally curated by KB, a company led by Kelly Bunyan, who have been running weekly classes in central London for two decades now. They also have Kung-Fu, Self Defence and Yoga courses too, but yes, one thing at a time.
Tonight’s instructor, Dee, is the lead kickboxing instructor and one of five (all-female) teachers. She kicks high above her head like a Tekken character and somehow manages to speedily shuffle around a room of thirty-odd adults, making each feel like they’re in a one-on-one lesson, or so we discussed in the changing room after class.
As the session goes on, we all visibly feel increasingly empowered, each noticing an improvement in our technique. This is partially thanks to Dee’s instruction, partially due to our ability to mimic the pros in the opposite corner.
In the last ten minutes, we’re hi-yah’ing with the rest of them: feeling energised, very out-of-breath and like there are muscles popping out of our thighs and ribs that have never seen the light of day before.
On our way out, the lesson ends with the martial arts bow of respect; clenched fist meets open palm. This is admittedly the only move we successfully mastered during lesson one.
Making my exit, smiling, I know full well that I’ll be back the following week.