At some point, almost every man is inspired to learn a pugilistic art form. Whether inspiration comes from seeing Bruce Lee’s elegant performance in Enter the Dragon or the beautiful brutality that was the real-life Gatti-Ward boxing trilogy, there’s a time when that inner-Rocky story burns with raw-egg desire to be told. If you’ve decided that the ringside bell tolls for thee, here are some recommendations for getting started in your martial arts quest.
Mike Miles Muay Thai & Kickboxing Ltd.
If you’ve been in Calgary for a stretch, you’ve likely heard of Ajarn Mike Miles. In a time of McDojo’s and hair metal (the ’80s and early ’90s), Miles was traveling the globe, racking up muay thai and kickboxing world titles and perfecting his devastating striking system for student consumption. A life-long teacher, Miles’ gym has grown from a small studio in 1977 to a globally recognized brand, responsible for training many current and former fight stars, all the while keeping his program beginner-friendly and non-threatening. 6041 6 St. SE and four other locations
Gracie Barra Calgary
November 12, 1993: Royce Gracie appeared on the scene as nothing more than 170-pounds of not-gunna-win-this-thing, at the start of the inaugural Ultimate Fighting Championship. What most onlookers didn’t know was the Gracie family (starting with Royce’s father, Helio and uncle, Carlos) invented a martial art called Brazilian jiu-jitsu — a punishing system of joint locks and choke holds that saw the much smaller Royce Gracie destroy a juiced-up pit fighter, pro boxer, and karate champ with ease, all in the same night. Professor Josh Russell has been entrusted with teaching the sacred Gracie system in Calgary (and received his black belt under Carlos Gracie, Jr. in Brazil). Clearly, he is the go-to for Calgarians seeking to learn the revolutionary fighting system known as BJJ. 234, 1830 52 St. SE
There are plenty of MMA gyms in Calgary, but Independent has been gaining a solid fan base for its non-judgmental (a.k.a. sans-meathead) approach to training men and women of all backgrounds in BJJ, boxing and grappling, as well as offering plenty of strength and conditioning classes. With no registration or contracts to sign, and a free week to try it out, the tight-knit gym is the perfect place to test the combative waters. 5539 2 St. SW
Legacy Boxing Club
With all the new school combat systems to choose from in Calgary, straight-up boxing often gets overlooked. Still, our city has long and proud pugilistic heritage, with legendary trainers like Ken Billinghurst, creator of the Inner City Boxing Club (who unfortunately passed away, last month) bringing hard-knocks tutelage to generations of eager students. Legacy continues the tradition of boxing greatness in Calgary and its team helps many Canadian pro fighters (and amateurs alike) learn the sweet science. Bay 6, 4750-106 Ave. SE
Image courtesy of West Point Public Affairs.