◊ THE CLASS: KickBox, PowerBox, and CoreBox ◊
WHAT YOU NEED
Boxing gloves – if you don’t have them, they have spares
Hand wraps – you can purchase, or not use but that’s gross
Clean runners, barefeet, or socks – your preference
Giant water bottle
The fan following of this boutique boxing brand is intense. Anyone who knows Big Hit Kickboxing Studios LOVES it and are dedicated, tough, focused fighters who know how to throw a punch and knee a groin. So, we’ll only say nice things and they’re the kings of all reviews for eternity forevermore.
But for realsies, these guys are great and we’re bringing you an updated review to highlight more instructors, different classes and their new location at Fort York. Big Hit believes there is “something in our human nature that makes it gratifying when we hit things”, but they also know that it can be challenging to find a way to do so without getting into trouble. And thus BHKS was born – bc the owners
have anger issues, are experienced ex-pro fighters and want to help all regular people safely punch things and experience maximum gratification. We’ve now taken a number of classes at the Queen West and Fort York locations and have given a lot of crossjabs, upper cuts and fly kicks to Bob – our punching bag substitute and husband-size man doll – so we have earned the right to say that this is ONE OF THE HARDEST CLASSES WE’VE TAKEN IN TORONTO. So much sweat, so much full body, so much release of gallons of pent up frustration and that’s all in the first ten minutes. Actually. An hour feels like an eternity, and you’ll feel so good afterwards, you’ll probably buy the expensive membership and your own boxing gloves bc you’ll be sure you’ll be back every day thereafter.
This powerhouse brand has expanded ambitiously over the last few years to a new total of four locations in Toronto with a fifth on the way. We’d previously reviewed a class at their Queen West location, and we’ve now scoped out their latest studio to open, Fort York. In addition to these two, they have locations in Oakville (178 Lakeshore Road East) and Park Lawn (80 Park Lawn Road), with a fifth coming to the Danforth which is great for the northerners considering all existing locations are in Toronto’s southwest and western suburb. For the two locations that we’re reviewing though, they’re both easily accessible whatever your mode of transportation. The Queen West location is actually in between Queen and King Street west, tucked away on Sudbury Street across from Liberty Village. Easily walkable for lots of communities nearby and streetcars run constantly along King or Queen Street. Street parking is available in the front and surrounding side streets. The Fort York location is damn close to the Gardiner being right on the corner of Bathurst Street and Fort York Blvd kitty corner to Garrison Common Park. There are plenty of bus and streetcar options at this intersection but parking is a bit trickier with street parking only so it’s best to go closer to Cityplace.
CLASS SCHEDULE + PRICE
There are eight styles of classes at Big Hit that range from 30 minutes to an hour. Most are 45 minutes which is more than enough to get your ass substantially, brutally, insanely handed to you. Trust. We’ve taken KickBox, PowerBox, and CoreBox all of which had us grasping for air, our water, and a sign from someone upstairs that we would survive the next 40. They also have BallinBox, CrossBox, Roundbox, the shortest class Revbox (30 min) and the longest one, Smartbox, at 60 minutes. The schedules range a bit from location to location but Queen West and Fort York pump out the classes in a big way considering there’s only one studio at each location. Classes run almost every hour with 7-9 classes available throughout the day Monday to Friday, and 5-6 on the weekends. They have an early riser slot at 7:00am or 6:00am Monday to Thursday and weekend classes wrap by 2:30pm. Important to note, it’s pretty necessary to sign-up ahead of time as weekend classes and after work slots, in particular, fill-up supa fast. The 10:30am and 12:30pm Saturday classes, for example, are usually full a few days before, a FEW DAYS, and after work 5:30pm and 6:30pm classes have ~2 spots left if you leave it to that morning to sign-up.
As far as pricing goes, these guys are quite pricey for a drop-in situation at $30 pre tax. There’s no doubt they’re trying to encourage you to commit long term, which is very enticing when a) you try the class and b) you see the steep discounts they give for packages and memberships. They have a sweet new member trial that includes two weeks of unlimited classes, a pair of boxing gloves, hand wraps, and a glove bag for $59 which is pretty amaze considering buying boxing gloves alone can be $40-$100+. In addition to that, there are three pricing tiers; unlimited memberships, punch pack memberships and pad training, which is mono-e-mono private boxing training. The best deals are the 30 class passes, that drop per class rates to $14 per, and the six month “Ultimate” membership that is $13.25 per class if attending a minimum of three per week. Memberships include free towel service, can be used at all locations and include the new member boxing glove pack. There’s also a thing called “Family Packs” and “Corporate Packs” that allow memberships to be shared between families or employees. Smart guys, v smart.
- One Month Membership (Pro): $199
- Three Month Membership (Athlete): $179 per month
- Six Month Membership (Ultimate): $159 per month
Punch Pack Memberships
- Drop-in (or “One Hit Wonder”): $30
- 10 Class Pass (Lightweight): $180 ($18 per class)
- 20 Class Pass (Middleweight): $320 ($16 per class)
- 30 Class Pass (Heavyweight): $420 ($14 per class)
- Family Pack: $600 for 40 classes ($15 per class)
- Corporate Pack: $750 for 50 classes ($15 per class)
Pad Training (45-minute sessions)
- Single Session (Lite): $75
- 10 Sessions (Pro): $70 per
- 20 Sessions (Athlete): $65 per
The vibe at Big Hit is all about the work, the sweat and the Bobs. Both locations have the same on-brand black, white and red decor but the Queen West location is a smaller space than the Fort York one. The Queen West studio has a wee little foyer/sign-in desk and the main boxing room is behind the front desk with basic change rooms and washrooms on the other side of the boxing room. Their class capacity is 20 people and classes are full 99% of the time, which can make the front area crowded, especially during the changeover of classes. Queen West’s big open gym is lined with 10 Bob’s on each side, a padded floor, and mirrors on each side of the room. The Queen West location doesn’t have a ton of amenities, i.e. there are showers but no extras to assist in the getting ready process like hair dryers, hair ties etc., and there aren’t any lockers, you’re just expected to leave your bag beside your Bob in the main studio. This isn’t our favourite thing considering you DEFINITELY get sweaty during these classes, so you either need to pack a bag with all the things to shower after or plan to go home immediately after. The Fort York location has a bit of a better flow and more room to move around that the Queen West one. The foyer is larger, there are a few hallways and benches to chill before and after class, they DO have programmable lockers, and they also have unisex individual washrooms and showers (with a few more amenities like blow dryers). The boxing gym is roughly the same size with 21 Bobs in total, a padded floor and mirrors lining each side of the room and classes aren’t AS full as QW but about 75%. What’s great though, is with both studios having a class capacity of about 20, there’s plenty of space to go for your life and swing big and kick hard. As far as equipment goes, people tend to wear bare feet or clean runners and if you don’t have boxing gloves, you can borrow them for free. BUT it’s highly advised to bring handwraps, or purchase them if you don’t have them, so you don’t have to fully expose your hands to the grossness inside the communal boxing gloves. Which defs smell bad. So, also, maybe just buy some gloves.
The crowd at Big Hit is a really inspiring, healthy, impressive mix of body shapes and sizes – probs one of our favourite things about this studio, actually. One of the classes we went to at Queen West was all women, but the other two have had an almost even split of males and females. Ages sway a bit younger, say teens to 30’s, and about 95% of the fighters are regulars and had a good sense of what to do. That said, all classes are open to beginners and because it’s such an independent experience, nobody cares or even notices if you’re doing everything totally wrong since everyone is so lazer focused on themselves and kicking the shit out of their Bob.
- Two showers in mens and womens change rooms at QW, two individual showers at FY
- Free gloves (but communal)
- Wraps can be purchased
- Wet cold towels at the end of the workout (YAAAS!)
THE TEAM AND THE INSTRUCTORS
Big Hit was born and raised in Toronto in June 2014 by Gidon Gabbay and his fellow founders. The no-effing around but still approachable for all levels balance is what BH has successfully achieved and it shows in the massive fan following they’ve accumulated, which has now reached over 2,000 members. Their loyal fan following can also be attributed to the incrrrreeeeeddddible instructors. There are over 24 coaches across the four locations, with a 50/50 split of male to female coaches who are all so goddamn motivating and fiercely dedicating to you and the art of kicking ass.
Usman Sadar – KickBox, Queen Street
Usman is awesome. As soon as he found out we were new for the KickBoxing class, he gave us a special tutorial beforehand that went like this;
Usman: “Do you know your right from your left?”
Us: “Pffff, obvi. We got this. Step off Bucky” (just kidding we weren’t that rude, but we were overly confidant)
(10 minutes later, we are seen continuously punching left when he says right, etc.)
Usman: “LEEEFT, RIIIIGHT” (stays beside us the rest of class and speaks in slow-mo)
Cool. Cool. Anyway. All of the instructions from him throughout the class were fast, loud and to the point. He would demonstrate combinations once, sometimes twice, so you had to pay attention to keep up. He yelled at us, in an inspiring and motivating way, and constantly pushed us for the full 45-minutes. Usman was at our side multiple times (er always) correcting us in the moment on our form, or reminding us of the combinations as they grew more difficult as the class went on. He was cool, clearly a kick-ass fighter himself because his form was bloody perfect, and you found yourself wanting to impress him with how tough you could be. This guy, pffff, full fruits.
Martin – Powerbox, Fort York
Ok, how do I explain Martin? He’s like Jackie Chan with just the same impeccable fighting technique and incredible glossy black hair but with 0% body fat (as opposed to Jackie’s 2%, I fact checked) and about four more feet of height (also fact checked). He is also a super fast teacher. Each combination he taught us, he showed us only two or three times and then it was go time (even if we were a bit bewildered) and he left absolutely zero breaks in between each set. He worked our full body, taught us some new moves like jump kicks, and had us doing a LOT of cardio in between combinations like punching for thirty seconds straight or holding in plank as a “break”. Which is bullshit. Who planks as a break?
Lauren – CoreBox, Queen Street
Lauren, our girl. Miss Lo with the sweetest smile and the most intimidating biceps, led us through the CoreBox class and it was fabulous. She would often build on combinations so we could get comfortable with the first three moves and then she’d add the next three, or four, etc etc. We’re into that. She knows her shit and she has hawk eyes for incorrect form so she’ll be over to you in a heartbeat if she sees that your technique is off. Lauren also genuinely cares about you enjoying and getting the most out of every class and she will somehow manage to push you harder and get more out of you even when you think you’re done. She has a cheeky sideways glance that’s like an evil smile so consider yourself warned if you see that smile, something terrible is coming. Like Bob planks. It’s a thing, keep reading.
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY
WAY HARD | HARD | MIDDLE OF THE ROADSIES | CHILL | HELLA CHILL
Without a shadow of a doubt, we’re rating all three classes Way Hard. We were completely wiped after ten minutes of punching for dear life, and also shocked it had only been ten minutes and we still had another near hour to go. UGH. Because of the independent nature of the classes you can push yourself as hard or as fast as you like, but if you’re anything like us, you’ll give it your all and then want to die. At the end of the day, this is not just a physical workout that will push you hard, but a mental release that feels good somewhere in the soul.
The class structure for PowerBox, CoreBox, and KickBox are all super dynamic and a full body workout. For the KickBoxing class, the combinations started out simple with versions of the four basic punches; jab, cross, hook and uppercut. As the class progressed, combinations become more difficult and started to incorporate kicks and different kinds of punches. Nearly every ten minutes we broke from punching to drop to the floor and do rounds of planks, soldier planks and abs for 2-3 minutes straight. Then back at it, to build on our previous combination. The PowerBox class was more focused on boxing, hence the name. We didn’t drop to the floor to do rounds of planks every few minutes, we only did that at the end as a “cool down”. WTH, We spent a lot more time in between combinations doing “power jabs” and “power upper cuts” which means as many power jabs and upper cuts as you can to Bob for thirty seconds straight, or whatever time frame the instructor was feeling in that moment. This is a high cardio class, and within the first ten minutes we had done 140 kicks. Actually. The CoreBox class was a similar structure to the others in terms of starting with combinations to kick the shit out of Bob, that we would build on, but the class ended with a core section, which was also crazy hard. We spent the last ten minutes doing ab sequences that includes holding your arms out directly to Bob (BOTH ARMS) like you were in plank but ON BOB. Do you get it? Like straight planking, on a person. Anyway, it was terrible and I may have landed on my face. But my abs felt great so that was worth it, I guess.
The thing to know about all classes is the pick-up is fast and you have to pay attention to know what’s going on. Some combinations are 6-8 movements long, like one of our favorite; left ribs, left face, right kick (with shins only, not feet), right punch to the chest, left punch to the face and knee to the groin. Take that Bob, you dead. The key is to keep your hands up to always protect your face and punch with all you got. It goes without saying that these classes end up being a full-body workout that leave you super sweaty and crazy fatigued. We were sore days following, particularly in our shoulders and abs and these are, most definitely, some of the hardest workouts we’ve done to date.
To try this class or anything else on their schedule, see Big Hit’s schedule here.