We Talk About Fight Klub
Jamie links up with Troy, the man behind Fight Klub – a scene that has been causing a storm via social media over the last few years by mixing drum and bass with high energy workouts. This isn’t the beginning though, far from it! Read on to find out more.
The workouts have exploded all over social media in the last few years but that’s certainly not been the start of your journey. Considering you have been in the business for over 20 years now must mean that this is more of an end result of plenty of hard work. Can you tell us where it all started?
“At 17 years old! I started my teaching career around the Hackney and Islington areas and there were some amazing instructors to learn from and be inspired by. I had great mentors and people to look up to that influenced my teaching style in the early days. But in a nutshell over a period of time I’ve combined everything I enjoyed at the time – fitness, boxing and raving.
I love being creative and have always had a flair for coming up with original content or unusual ideas. My competitive nature means I either do something first, do something remarkable or challenge myself. For example, when I was 7 or 8 I was good at athletics, soccer, gymnastics, however, I took up swimming because I was getting whooped by others and because I heard numerous people say “black people can’t swim”. I mean, come on!
Big up to my fellow mixed-race competitors Michael Fielding and Darren Fox. Darren now runs our Fight Klub Brixton branch.”
Creating a business and a brand on your own is no easy task, how did you deal with the early years and the struggles it would have presented?
“It was harsh times, think I’ll save that for my autobiography! Let’s just say it was very much the good old ‘create something, lose it and start over again’ story, only a few times over.
I wouldn’t wish it on anyone if I’m honest! Would I do it all over again? Yes 100%. It makes me smile when I hear people say “oh have you seen that new thing” or “oh it’s just a fitness trend that will be gone in two minutes”. We are celebrating our 15th year in September and have built a very solid foundation to ensure that Fight Klub is here to stay. All of the biggest brands that I admire have taken years to build, for instance Les Mills (originally Body Training Systems) started off in the 80’s, Zumba (of which I was the UKs first certified instructor in 2004) started early to mid-90’s in Columbia (originally Rumbercise). We are a baby really, but we are on the same trajectory as many of the big brands that have been around for decades.
Moral to the story – if you believe in something enough and stick at something for long enough and you’re prepared to sacrifice everything and I mean EVERYTHING, then anything is possible.
On top of that surround yourself with amazing people who are on board with your vision, combine all of the things you love, be original, challenge yourself and don’t listen to nay sayers! Go all in, take some risks and as my grandparents used to say “be single minded” (in other words do your thing). Sure it’s been tough at times (and still is) but I have never had a doubt in my mind that this wouldn’t work out.”
Was the initial aim the same as the outcome?
“We haven’t reached our final outcome yet, but things are definitely going in the right direction. The energy and atmosphere surrounding our brand is exactly what I’ve visualised from day one and it just keeps accelerating. Hopefully we can continue to make it a global movement. We’ve made a great start, but I feel it’s always important to stay grounded, stay humble, get focused and learn from the mistakes you’ve made along your path. We have lots of milestones which we are ticking off one by one, but I always leave the outcome open so as not to limit what’s possible.”
Establishing Fight Klub in 2003 and including drum and bass in your workouts must have been quite a challenge in some respects, especially considering most workout classes shy away from music that’s assumed ‘too hard’. What’s your thoughts on why it works so well?
“The great thing about drum and bass is that it is so diverse. It constantly evolves and has so many different sub genres. The popularity has gone through the roof in recent years and now appeals to such a wide audience. Fans of jungle are now at an age where they are more health conscious and the more upfront stuff appeals to millennials. Boxing as a way of keeping fit just gets more and more popular and the tempo of drum and bass is perfect for a boxing style workout, it really gets people going and creates such a great energy.
Fight Klub itself is very visual, you have to see it or even better, try a class to feel that buzz afterwards to understand. It is a very difficult thing to explain. Until now people haven’t really associated fitness, drum and bass and raving as a combination that works well together. We are proving this to be far from the truth. I think all of these factors have converged and are contributing to Fight Klub’s growing popularity.
The great thing about Fight Klub is you don’t have to be a fan of the music to enjoy the class. A very common thing that so many people who go to our classes say, is that drum and bass is certainly not their first choice of music to listen to but they absolutely love working out to it, especially the way we teach to it. I’ve also had lots of others tell me that they were not into it before coming to our classes and now love it!
We don’t limit our instructors to using drum and bass music, one of our formats is based around house music but it is our jungle and drum and bass formats that packs the numbers in.
To be honest I think we’ve had more challenges with the name of the class than the music policy. People tend to assume that a workout called Fight Klub must be something to do with sparring, full contact fighting or you have to be fit or have some experience in combat sports to participate so automatically they think it isn’t their cup of tea without looking into it further.
Just have a look at our videos, Fight Klub is for absolutely everyone!”
Combining the art of an MC with that of a fitness instructor is certainly a unique concept. Where did this idea come from? Did you or do you still take inspiration from any particular jungle MCs?
“I was initially a hip hop MC, big up the Schizophrenic MCs Kingsley and Anthony! Artists such as Rebel MC and Ragga Twins certainly influenced the music I listened to at the time, this got me more into acid house and jungle. I remember hearing ‘Original Nuttah’ in Labyrinth and though “What is this!” I loved hearing MC Det, GQ, Skibba, Shabba and Stevie Hyper D (RIP) when out raving, on mixtapes and radio stations such as Kool FM.
I did the UK garage circuit for a while and remember when I first heard MC Creed and thought “wow this guy is amazing”. I was also good friends with MC Onyxstone and Mega who were both from ‘the endz’ so respect to both of those guys.
This might sound weird, but the atmospheric style of my class was originally inspired from watching a choir perform. One of my best friends growing up was DJ Trend (RIP), his family are Born Again Christians and I accompanied him and his family to a church convention when I was around 16.
What I witnessed there was an amazing scene, the choir was singing, then the crowd started clapping in time to the music and then other people started clapping at alternative timing but still in time to the beat and then others started adlibbing over everything! It was just layers and layers of different sounds in sync that gave me goosebumps. In my mind, what I witnessed that day is what I try to create in my classes. It’s the music, saying something over the music and the crowd saying or doing something over the music, others doing things at an alternative timing and some people just doing whatever they feel like. When it all comes together it’s magical.
All of the instructors I looked up to seemed like they had the ability to touch people’s soul and fill them with joy when they taught. As I started raving again I noticed all of the best DJs, MCs, musicians, producers and writers also have this ability. It fascinated me and still does.
I remember clubbing back in the days and sometimes looking around at everyone going off to a song and thinking “I want this to happen in my classes.” Initially I didn’t really think about it, it was a very natural thing to motivate my classes vocally in an MC call and response kind of style. It was actually when I started to travel abroad to teach that people from other countries would come up to me after class and say “wow, I love the way you teach, you are rapping and singing.” As time went on I just kept developing and eventually took it to the next level and started dropping a few 16 bars and 4-8 bar hooks which, at the time, made peoples jaws drop!
On a positive, it definitely set me apart from other fitness presenters but on the flip side people began thinking you need to be able to rap to teach the class, which is untrue. We have hundreds of locations running classes and only about 10 instructors who teach the class actually rap as such. We are beginning to shake that off and over a period of time I’ve now taught an army of instructors who motivate using our very basic call and response style and their classes are mobbed, which is amazing to see.”
Stage presence is an obvious bonus when taking instructor led classes, do you have any pre-workout ritual to get your mind in the zone?
“Good question, yes I do funny enough. Until aged 20 I was a professional swimmer. I used to visualise my races before they took place and that’s carried through into my teaching. I also have a thing about being the last person in the room. Before teaching I always tend to wait until everyone is in the room and ready to go, so I can just walk up to the stage and execute my vision. In hindsight apologies to all of the poor event organisers who were panicking because they couldn’t find me two minutes before I was supposed to hit the stage and then I appeared out of nowhere, now you know why! I treat it like a competition, go off on my own, focus, don’t talk to anyone, hit the stage with a vision, the music comes on and I execute.
I like being the person to press the play button on the music system to start the first track (god I sound weird!). Anyway, obviously this process is not suitable for every situation, but in general that’s the way I like to do things.”
Growing up in an area populated with some of the scenes greats must have been really handy when it came to networking. Bumping into MC Det at the barbers, personal training sessions with Shy FX and being good friends with Frost and Bryan Gee for starters. It all sounds like a dream situation for any die hard junglist. How did the links start to form with Fight Klub and these live acts?
“For sure, growing up in East London certainly helped initially. I have my original DJ Trubalsom who played for me since the beginning. I used to bug him for music tapes for my classes back in the days when he used to work in Rhythm Division in Roman Road. Bow, DJ Caspa and Masterstepz were all from my area. In 1999 I ran my first fitness event in Hackney with live DJs. I invited DJ Spoony to play and Masterstepz who later became a good friend. I ended doing some one- to-one training with Shy FX and T-Power for a while which was cool. When I had hair I would occasionally bump into Det at my former Barbers who is also an artist called Perry Morgan. I also ran a few club promotions called Night Life and Box Party where I started collaborating with DJ Jayson Smythe (who I later found out was Spoony’s cousin). I met Jumping Jack Frost through a mutual DJ friend of Jayson’s called John Dubya at a club night in Angel.
Frost asked me what I did and when I told him I did a martial arts based fitness programme to jungle and drum and bass we just connected as Frost has practiced Wing Chun for many years. In the middle of the club he went down into the splits and then kicked the top of a door frame standing on one leg!
In 2011 I organised an event at Ministry of Sound and invited Frost to play alongside Trubalsom and Jayson. Frost introduced me to Bryan and Gareth from V Recordings, both of who have been amazing to us. Bryan linked us with Kenny Ken, Rat Pack and Ray Keith, who I now do boxing pad work with every Wednesday at our Fitness Studio. Ray introduced us to Navigator who is now a certified instructor. One of our long term loyal supporters and class members, Esta introduced me to Brockie when I told her that he was one of my favourite DJs back in the day.
My business partner Claire is also a drum & bass DJ so she has been able to reconnect with lots of people such as Bailey, Magistrate,Callide and Cabbie, DJ Rogue and Vince from Garden of England, who also arranged for Harry Shotta to visit one of our sessions in Thanet and spit some bars which was fun! M-Beat has also been amazing. He was cousins with Trend and we became close after he passed away. He hooked up the General Levy PA which led onto the General doing a remix of his ‘Shape of You’ track for us. M-Beat also introduced us to Kele Le Roc, Nay Nay and Elizabeth Troy who we hope to work with this year and also Nicky Blackmarket which lead to us collaborating with promoters Bridge and Elliot from Definition and Breakin Science on Nicky and Fatman D’s Birthday Festival and Boxpark Croydon. Our Instructor Support Manager Ellie introduced us to MC Kie who invited us to perform on Get Darker TV and is now one of our go to people for lining up Live PA’s, we’re also in discussions with Kie about supporting his on his ‘Help The Homeless Project’ which is amazing!
Our viral videos have led to meetings with Hospitality, Viper and Shimon about hopefully working with us in the future. The girlfriend of our now ‘Fight Klub Mixologist’ and Rough Tempo Resident Sam ‘DJ Crabby’ Crabb goes to our classes in Colchester. She invited Sam to come and watch the class and after seeing it he approached our team about doing a live set on Rough Tempo and introduced us to TQ, the owner of Rough Tempo. Now Rough Tempo live stream our events and we do quarterly takeover shows on the station. Other artists such as Randall, Serum, Fabio and Grooverider we just approached directly and have built a great relationship with.
So as you can see, who you know has some luck initially and degrees of separation make this a very small world, but as time goes on I think a lot of it has to do with principles, integrity, ethics and reputation. For instance I’m not really a beg friend type of person, I believe if you are supporting something, you pay for it. Obviously I don’t turn my nose up at an invite, but I’ve tried not to be that person always bugging for a guest list. I find that being supportive of others means you are more likely to get some support back. If I am invited to perform somewhere, I do my best to ensure I put bums on seats, be professional and am easy to work with. This tends to lead to repeat collaborations and referrals. As well as being a very talented DJ, my business partner Claire (DJ Delta-X) is an accountant by trade, so she ensures everyone is paid in full and on time without fail.”
Bryan Gee is quite a regular these days I see! I can imagine he smashes out some wicked tunes to exercise to. One thing I am gutted I missed though was a Shy FX set at Fight Klub in 2013. How do you choose what acts and PA’s perform at Fight Klub?
“As you can see it’s all pretty organic. We are certainly doing our best to try and do things in a very chronological order. Initially by paying our respects to many of the people who were there right at the beginning and then over time introduce current artists into the mix. However, it doesn’t always work like that, therefore most of it so far has been about who you know and recommendations. But we also listen to our fan base and try and make it happen.
Other times it’s about a vision, For instance in the future I would love to have Jenna G performing with me, maybe even with a live band like the G’s playing with the music live, I’m not even entirely sure if that’s feasible but it’s certainly on my bucket list. There are other things like doing an event with an all-female DJ line up featuring artists like Lady V, DJ Dazee and of course our very own Delta-X.
Most of the time we don’t even announce the DJs, live PA’s until the event is either sold out or close to it. We sort of add it in as a nice surprise or the ‘icing on the cake’. It’s important to us that people support the brand and we reward this support by doing special things. The more support we get the more ambitious we are.
Our brand is all about passion and determination, so when it comes to selecting a DJ, MC or live act, we prefer to work with like minded individuals who love what we do, as that’s when everything comes together. What we have is a fitness class based around drum and bass with a huge audience of dedicated fans turning out week in, week out who love the music.
We run 200 plus events annually and provide a great platform for established and up and coming DJs and MCs, music labels and brands to promote their products and services to an entirely new audience.”
Talking of artists, what can you tell us about the ‘Healthy Rave’ concept? The events at Indigo and Boxpark both looked great, especially with the likes of Baby D, DJ Spoony and M-Beat performing.
“A lot of the things we do have evolved from our participants. It was actually a Fight Klub veteran (and now friend) Donna who one day said to me ‘Troy my friends were trying to drag me along to your classes for years and I just thought it was some boxing thing and was not interested. Then I saw you advertising a session in Ministry of Sound with Jumping Jack Frost (one of her favourite DJs) on the bill and I thought wow Frost and Ministry of sound I have to go just for that’ She said she was nervous, unfit and anxious, but during the event though OMG I have found my fitness heaven. She then went on to say for her it’s more like ‘Healthy Raving’. I said to her that would make a great t-shirt. I printed some up and gave her the first one off the press. That t-shirt has led to branding some events Healthy Raves and then running an all-day event called the Healthy Raving Festival with a stellar DJ lines up, Live PA’s, heathy eating, world class fitness presenters in really cool locations such as IndigO2, Boxpark Croydon, and very soon the new Boxpark Wembley.”
A quarter of a million ravers combined with fitness enthusiasts each week is incredibly impressive numbers, some that any rave promoter in the UK would be envious of. Why do you think the Fight Klub brand has become so popular? How do you see the future?
“I think it is mainly because many of the people who used to listen to jungle, drum and bass, garage and funky are now at an age where they have other responsibilities other that just going raving. They are starting to think about getting healthy and staying active while younger people are becoming more health conscious. Many people who come to our classes can’t stand sterile gyms or bog standard fitness classes with cheesy pop or commercial music. I spotted a long time ago that people are looking for a multi-sensory experience and connection. Fight Klub provides this in abundance and even people who are not fans of the music still love the vibe, the motivational style of our instructors and welcoming, friendly, family atmosphere in classes and being part of something, it really is a community. This is the main essence of the class and I see this continuing to build and grow and spread into other countries and becoming one massive global community.”
The ‘finale track’ before the class ends is all about skanking out and letting your hair down. Has there been multiple instances of reload requests when the DJ is dropping some absolute bangers? If so, does this lead to cries of “one more tune”?
“Absolutely, every single event. Whenever we have DJs we have reloads just like in a rave. It’s part of our DNA. Yep, we regularly get the evil eye from technicians and managers at venues we use. We are always respectful and will not play one more track if refused, but most of the time they always let it roll as they are enjoying the event as much as the participants. Plus because our stuff is in the morning or afternoon they don’t have to go to bed so I suppose that helps. The ‘Ready or Not’ bootleg by Logan D and Dominator (RIP) absolutely goes off every time. The finale track is all about people letting their hair down and is also a great way to promote new bangers and make them popular with our members. We also have intro or warm up tracks which are usually a dubplates that has been made for us by artists like Virgo Don who did a remix of his ‘Time Fi Dance’ track and reworded the lyrics ‘Time Fi Fight Klub’. Eventually we would love to be in a position to use our growing popularity to send a track into the Top 40 or even to number one in the charts through introducing it to our army of fans or maybe even produce our own tracks.
Recently Levi Roots and Jumping Jack Frost performed their new track ‘Unstoppable’ at our Boxpark Croydon Event. We shot the music video for the track at our event and we paid for 300 downloads so that everyone who bought a ticket was allowed to download the track for free. We would like to build this with labels or perhaps even with companies such as Juno or Beatport.”
If people are reading this article and want to know more about training to become a Fight Klub instructor, can you tell us about the options? Do they need any special qualifications beforehand?
“You need to have a dance or fitness background. We also accept Gym Instructors, Personal Trainers, former competitive Boxers or Senior Graded Martial Artist are also welcome but we make it clear you must have the ability to punch in time to a beat. We are also trialling a new apprentice scheme where class members who have done 100 hours of Fight Klub can attend a course and team teach with the main Instructor. We are also looking for DJs from all over the UK to play for our local instructors so get in touch.”
Any shouts or big ups?
“I think I’ve done enough name dropping above to be honest! I would like to give the most important people in all of this a mention. First and foremost I would like to sincerely thank my business partner Claire who gave up a high flying career to get involved in my vision. She is definitely the unsung hero in this whole story. Claire started off as an event participant who really enjoyed our events. She has brought stability and structure not only to the business, but also to my life in general.
I would also like to thank Claire’s daughter Naomi who is now 19 and has no doubt also sacrificed a huge amount while we have been growing the business. Also shout going out to our amazing elite trainers office team, events team, and local instructors all over the country.
Finally I need to thank all of the Fight Klubbers and DNB Workouts Massive across all 5 countries, both newbies and veterans who support our brand, events and classes.
Thank you for following the first rule of Fight ‘Klub’ (with a K) which is ALWAYS TALK ABOUT IT!”
Find a class: www.fightklub.co.uk/classes
Launch FK or Become an Instructor: firstname.lastname@example.org
Facebook: Fight Klub HQ
If participants want to experience the whole #FitnessMC thing, then come to one of our Boxpark Croydon or IndigO2 Events, where our Elite Instructor Team: Chrissy Harper, Daniel Duckett, Patrick Sinclair, Hugh Harper, Ross Mathieu, Marlon May, Mitch Harper and I take it that extra step and put on a spectacle accompanied by some legendary drum and bass DJs and artists from the music scene.
Events not to be missed: Fight Klub World Record Attempt in May 2018 and 15th Birthday September 2018, plus Boxpark Wembley opening end of 2018.