Author: Gabriel Dunatov
The Occidental website describes the Eagle Rock community as one filled with “critically acclaimed restaurants, cozy coffeehouses and vintage boutiques [which] share the boulevards with Mom-and-Pop markets and no-nonsense boxing gyms.” Yet beyond the acknowledgment of a boxing community, details are scarce, and most boxers train in anonymity. The Co-Presidents of the Occidental College Boxing club, Earl Park (senior) and Whi-Inh Shirley Bae (junior), hope to change that.
This year, the club will be partnering with Los Angeles K.O. Boxing Club (L.A.K.O) a new boxing, kickboxing and personal training gym at the intersection of Eagle Rock Boulevard and York Boulevard that opened July 8.
Park and Bae aim to establish a close relationship with L.A.K.O. They plan to organize a coalition of Bengal Buses and private cars to ferry members to and from the gym. Though students will pay for membership independently, they will train as a group and interact with boxers from across Los Angeles.
Park’s desire is that the club will expose students to a side of boxing that is rarely shown in the media.
“People should check [boxing] out, because it’s like poetry in motion,” Park said. “I feel really blessed, even though I didn’t get to compete, I feel blessed that I was able to dedicate myself to boxing up until now. It taught me a lot of life lessons, in and outside the ring.”
Park began boxing during his senior year of high school. He trained and worked at the K-Town Boxing Club, where he first observed the sport’s power to bring people together.
“You get all ranges of people [in the gym],” Park said. “You get people who were affiliated with gangs and also doctors. You get … people from different worlds coming together, [and] all those differences were set aside, everyone is just encouraging each other, trying to push each other to become better.”
When he created the club during the second semester of his first year, Park hoped he could use boxing as a means to bridge a divide he perceived between the on-campus and local communities.
The co-owners of L.A.K.O., Ian Cooper and Yuichi Ohi, share Park’s dream of bringing the community together. Cooper’s background in the fitness industry is as a trainer and manager of small gyms. Ohi, whose father was a Judo trainer, was involved in boxing from a young age. He has trained actors on movie sets for the last 11 years, for films like “Transformers” and “The Great Gatsby”.
The longtime friends and co-owners have a distinct vision of what a boxing gym should be.
“We have a very similar view on fitness even though we come from slightly different sides of the business, which is working with all populations and ages … everyone should have fun and get a good workout,” Cooper said.
Cooper and Ohi said they are excited to see more Occidental students come to their gym and will offer them special rates. The first class can be sampled free of charge, and loaner gloves and wraps are available for first time boxers.
Both owners strive to create a comfortable yet challenging setting. Though students interested in sparring can take the appropriate class at L.A.K.O., it is by no means required. Safety is a priority, and there are plenty of challenges to be had in shadow boxing, bag work and partner drills.
“It’s not like an old school boxing gym that you see on TV,” Cooper said. “It’s not like Rocky’s gym, as you can see for yourself.”
The gym fosters an inclusive, laid-back atmosphere without any overly-competitive pretense.
“There’s no ego here,” Ohi said. “Just relax. Enjoy yourself. No stress.”
Though the gym opened barely two months ago, it already has over 300 members. Lessons follow a regular but challenging structure, with the first 10 minutes devoted to warming up and shadowboxing. Members then move on to eight-to-10 rounds on the heavy bags, working on technique and cardio endurance. Sparring drills, where students break off into pairs and train together, follow bag work. Classes end with a punishing session of calisthenics and a cool down.
Bae enjoys the fitness aspect of the sport the most and appreciates its value as a stress reliever.
She acknowledged that some students could be nervous about boxing. However, she emphasized that students do not need experience to join the club and can train hard without ever stepping into the ring.
“If [students] are at least interested, it’s better to experience it first than to regret not experiencing it later,” Bae said. “Just come and enjoy punching things, and hopefully take some stress out.”
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