It’s a typical Saturday at FIST Gym and the place loaded with people. On one side, there’s a man deeply engaged in a one-on-one muay thai session with his coach. On another side, a mother and her young daughter are doing warm-up exercises for their boxing class. At the center, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) class is in full swing, with the students practicing the day’s drill.

It could very well be a scene at any ordinary gym, except at FIST Gym, there’s also a baby crawling nearby, a toddler bouncing about on the fitness ball, and a couple of tweens curiously observing the sparring going on at the BJJ class. Yes, family is welcome. The children’s presence gives the gym a homey feeling, which, to some extent, is quite disorienting, considering how the gym is actually the training ground of some of the best local fighters who break bones and make people bleed and inside an arena. But that’s a part of its charm, and it’s exactly how its owners envisioned the place when they started conceptualizing FIST Gym in 2011.

“We wanted a gym that wasn’t intimidating, where enthusiasts who simply want to sweat it out would feel welcome. At the same time, we wanted to be known as a fighting gym which molds homegrown fighters who would make waves in local and even international competitions,” shared Rosenberg Rosete, one of the four founding members of FiST Gym. “We wanted to build a community that was in touch with its clients.”

Four years later, that’s exactly what they have. The gym has its share of weekend warriors and fitness enthusiasts, and is also home to ONE Championship heavyweight fighter and former URCC heavyweight champ Igor Subora, King of the Cage Philippines veterans Jerry Legaspi and Michael Bunag, URCC veteran Melchor Cases, PXC fighter Nilo Vidal and rising stars Jovan Galarosa, Chow Garcia, Neil Larano, Ramon Nabong III, Ken Menia and Jose Enrique Villasenor to name a few.

A rough start
FIST Gym marked its 4th year this October and its current success shows no indication of the rough start it had. “We had a tough time getting clients at first,” Rosete admitted. “It came to a point where I’d get up at 4 a.m. in the morning, talk to newspaper vendors, and pay a certain amount so they would distribute our flyers to their customers. My business partners Loretta Ramirez, Dakila Pajar, and Rumel Gabarda would also hand out flyers during their spare time.”

Eventually, with digital marketing, membership did pick up and FIST Gym started widening its reach. Also, the gym started to groom its own set of homegrown fighters, which prompted FIST’s participation in amateur mixed martial arts (MMA) competitions.

Gaining momentum
One of these competitions is the “Academy Fighting Championship” held in 2013, which would turn out to be instrumental in helping FiST make a mark. The gym fielded five fighters, all of whom won. “What made me proud was how FIST fighters won in a very technical fashion. The fighters executed their respective gameplans impeccably,” Rosete recalled. “The judges saw that, and so did some big names in the scene. That got the ball rolling, and FIST started getting invitations to competitions left and right.”

It also boosted the gym’s reputation further. MMA was starting to get popular then, and it became an attraction for clients that they train alongside the fighters whom they see on television.

Spreading the movement, keeping the culture

Today, the FIST is doing very well that it’s expanding – literally and figuratively. The membership has exponentially grown, and this has prompted the owners to acquire additional space. Also, the gym now offers fitness programs to corporate accounts including schools and call centers.

What ensures the quality of the programs offered despite the growth in numbers is the fact that FIST Gym’s pioneer coaches are still around, closely monitoring the classes. Striking is handled by the Espinosa kins (Eduardo, Jovan, and Fernan) whose skills are of world-class caliber, just like that of their brother, boxing champion Luisito Espinosa. Muay Thai is handled by veteran fighters Mike Bunag and Nilo Vidal. On the other hand, bemedalled fighters Jerry Legaspi, Rosenberg Rosete and Alan Permelona handle grappling. These coaches, who have been with FIST Gym since day one, lead the talented new ones who join the team.

As for the maintaining the culture in the gym, it’s the members themselves who are propagating it – proof that what FIST Gym set out to establish has successfully been embedded. “They hang out even outside the gym and have developed close friendships with one another. Going beyond fitness, many bonds over other common interests that they have,” Rosete shared. “And that’s exactly how we envisioned it. We want to be more than a place that offers services; we want to build a group that could be a positive influence in the community and a catalyst in community-building.”

With its focus and commitment to its vision, FIST Gym is well on its way to becoming just that. No wonder even the kids felt right at home.

Posted by: Len Arboleda

Date Posted: October 4, 2015

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