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Grinnell “Fight Club” practices martial arts

By Graham Dodd

Grinnell College now has a Fight Club. Far from the grungy basements of its namesake, the club meets in the Bear’s Dance Studio, and members are encouraged to talk about it. Martial artists Philip Kiely ‘20 and Bogdan Abaev ‘20 decided to found the club when they met one day in the gym soon after arriving on campus.

“Both of us have done martial arts for a long time,” Abaev said. “Personally, it was a little bit upsetting when I didn’t meet anyone doing a club or classes. I met Philip in the Bear and we had the idea for the club at that very moment.”

“The next week we went to the gym,” Kiely continued, “we got out a punching bag and it was really fun, but there wasn’t much equipment. We asked SGA and they gave us around seven hundred dollars of funding for bags, wrist straps, and helmets.”

Grinnell Fight Club unites practitioners of a variety of martial arts.

Abaev has eight years of experience in Judo and five years of boxing experience. Kiely has a third-degree black belt in TaeKwonDo, which he has practiced for more than thirteen years.

“Sometimes I lead some stretches,” Kiely said as he described a typical meeting. “And then Bogdan will lead us through a workout on the bags. We practice various boxing things, then I will show everyone the kick of the week. At the end we do partner drills.”

Other students with their own martial arts experience share their knowledge at the meetings.

“It varies because we have people with different experiences,” Abaev said. “And everyone is very welcome to share. Last time one of our members who does jiu-jitsu shared some of his experience and we had some wrestling matches at the end.”

Describing the impact the sport has on both novices and veterans, Kieley and Abaev made clear that there are unique benefits to practicing martial arts.

“We all live in a stressful environment, right?” Abaev said. “Once you learn how to deal with the pressure through punching the punching bag, through workouts and physical activity, you just begin to consider it as a way of relieving the pressure inside your mind.”

“I’ve tried all sorts of new physical activities since I got to Grinnell, like rock climbing, weight lifting, running, but nothing gives me the same feeling that TaeKwonDo does,” Kiely said. “For people who don’t have practical experience, you learn how to use your body in a different way, you learn some practical defense skills, and you also just get a really good workout.”

Kiely and Abaev stressed that beginners are encouraged to attend meetings if they are interested.

“The club is free,” Kiely said, “so it really is a welcoming way to get into martial arts without having to worry about not having experience.”

“For people who have never done it before, we want to introduce them to the sport, see if they are interested, and we are happy to give them the opportunity to develop their skills if they do,” Abaev said.

Abaev hopes that the club will establish a lasting tradition.

“Once you workout with the same people for a long time, you feel a connection, a kind of binding to the group and community of fighters,” he said.

The club meets in the Dance Studio in the Bear on Mondays from 4:30 to 6 p.m., although Kieley and Abaev suggested that they were considering alternate times and locations, as well as meeting twice a week.

“You should definitely come try it, it will be a lot of fun. And if it isn’t you’ll definitely still learn something!” Kiely said.

Editor’s Note: Philip Kiely is Features Editor for the S&B

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