Feel free to imagine your preferred "Fight Club" reference here.
But if it involves the obligatory first rule — don't talk about "Fight Club" — the rules don't apply at Jefferson City's new boxing club.
"This is for the community," said owner Mario Antonio. "It's not for me to get rich; I just need to keep the lights on and keep the doors open for people to feel like this is their home."
Antonio wants to spread the word as much as possible about ElmSt. Boxing Club, which opened last Monday at 512 Ellis Blvd., Suite O, in Capitol View Plaza.
Obviously, the boxing gym is not located on its namesake street. "ElmSt." is an abbreviation for "elevated mindset," which quantifies Antonio's philosophy toward boxing.
"I first went into a gym when I was 17 years old, and then I just kept training," said Antonio, a Los Angeles native. "What I found, really, was that it is this beautiful representation of life. It had to do with power and fury and grace and intelligence. Really all it is in there is a big chess match; it's all about your mindset. It's all about the moves and counter-moves you're going to make."
Antonio referred vaguely to his "stereotypical" L.A. childhood, far less rosy than the southern California sunset.
But boxing offered him an outlet, one he wants to offer everyone.
"Boxing has a way of putting up a mirror to your own self and showing you that, 'Hey, the biggest fight that I'm going to have in the world is with my own self,'" he said. "It took a lot for me to feel worthy of getting out of that city, of getting out of the darkness."
While he said he'll always consider L.A. his home, he was ready for a change when, after time in the military and finishing a college degree, he brought his self-titled "gypsy soul" to visit a friend finishing college at Lincoln University in Jefferson City.
"I'm thinking, 'Wow, I need a break from this hustle and bustle. I really need a break from the big city. Eight months later, I'm starting the boxing gym," he said. "I really appreciate the old-school, respectable vibe that this city has. People are really quick to say hello; most people in the community would lend a helping hand."
Antonio brings his own experience, plus that of several boxing trainers now involved, to ElmSt. Boxing Club, where he hopes to inspire boxers old and new.
"We're welcoming all experience levels. We're welcoming all ages. We're welcoming everybody," he said.
That's why membership costs start lower for young boxers — $30 a month for ages 9 and under, $50 a month for ages 10-15 and $80 a month for adults.
ElmSt. members have full access to the gym from 8:30 a.m. to about 8:30 p.m. — or until the last boxer leaves — every day. During that time, boxers can rotate to punching bags and other stations while they wait for their three-minute round in the ring — called "The Shark Tank."
"During that three minutes, people are working: it's boom, boom, boom. It's going, it's going, it's going. When the round's over, people are stopped. They're catching their breath; people are getting ready for the next round; people are hydrating. They're just unwinding and getting themselves ready for that next round," Antonio said.
"While that's going on, I'll show them combinations, the one-two, the basic punches and whatnot. I'll show them how to work the bag properly. If it's someone who's never had any experience, we'll show them how to stretch; we'll show them how to warm up; we'll show them how to not hurt themselves on any of the equipment; we'll show them how to use the equipment."
To find out more about ElmSt. Boxing Club, visit its Facebook page or stop by for a tour.
"Even if you just want to come in for a day or something and just learn a couple things, that's totally fine," Antonio said. "If you leave here knowing something better than you did when you came in, then we win."
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