A Checkmate is as Good as a Knockout

In the Harry Potter books, characters take part in an invented semi-contact sport named Quidditch. Rabid Harry Potter fans who couldn’t get enough of that make-believe world, took it upon themselves to make the fictional game into a real thing. Similarly, Chessboxing is an actual sporting event that, like Quidditch, began as an invention of the literary world, later brought to life by enthusiastic oddballs.

Never heard of Chessboxing? It's pretty much what it sounds like: a mash-up of toe-to-toe stand-up boxing with head-to-head sit down chess. Chessboxing rules, as laid out by the World Chess Boxing Organisation (WCBO), are pretty straightforward, although due to the complexity of each activities own regulations, there is room allowed for on the spot judgement.

The action switches off between a round of chess play, followed by a round of boxing; with a match consisting of 11 three minute rounds, beginning and ending with chess. In between rounds there is a minute break, in which the opponents’ corners can give counsel on boxing, but may not advise on chess. 

 World Chess Boxing Organisation

World Chess Boxing Organisation

The chess play is essentially a version of fast chess with a total of 18 minutes; 9 minutes per player spread out over six rounds. Each contestant gets “an adequate amount of time” for each move, determined by the event rules, and any player who exceeds this time will subsequently be given a standing ten count to move a piece or risk disqualification.

A Chessboxer can win by knockout, technical knockout, checkmate, time disqualification or if the opponent resigns.

The idea behind Chessboxing was first introduced as a plot device for a late 20th century French post-apocalyptic sci-fi graphic novel, titled Froid Equator. The comic, created by Enki Bilal in 1992, featured a chessboxing tournament as a major part of the story. Later, the Dutch performance artist, Iepe Rubingh, inspired by the idea, developed the concept of chessboxing into an actual exhibition sporting event. 

Some may also attribute the invention of chessboxing to two brothers from London, James and Stewart Robinson, who, in the late 1970’s, would reportedly enjoy a chess match after sparring together at their boxing gym. Strictly speaking though, that is participating in two activities consecutively and not actually combining those activities in competition.

The first official Chessboxing match took place in Berlin in 2003 between Rubingh and Jean Louis Veenstra, with Rubingh winning by time disqualification. In the next year the Chess Boxing Club Berlin was established, the world’s first, ultimately marking Berlin as essentially the de facto birthplace of Chessboxing.

While the sweet science and the game of queens are certainly strange bedfellows, there's no denying that in each pursuit the master will calculate each attack carefully and avoid opening themselves up for bold counter moves. Conversely, the rookie is compelled to advance with abandon up and until they have to eat a power punch or lose a vital piece. Of course, success as a boxer and/or chess player takes an honest balance of offense and defense. Success in Chessboxing absolutely requires a mastery of controlled aggression.

There is also an interesting dynamic created by marrying the two disciplines since pumped up adrenaline and exhaustion are not a good mix when trying to concentrate. Therefore conserving energy becomes paramount strategy in order to keep one’s head clear, especially in the later rounds when chess play gets more intense and requires focus.

Chessboxing’s certainly not for everybody, but if you love a good game of chess as much as you enjoy sparring, it’s possible you may be cut out as a potential contender. Likewise, if you like riding brooms and playing polo, then perhaps you may love Quidditch.

Posted on May 12, 2016 .

Boxing is the New Black

There appears to be a movement afoot. Supermodels, no longer satisfied with merely conquering the world of fashion and beauty, are training to fight... they are stripping off the gowns and strapping on the gloves, clambering off the catwalks and climbing through the ropes, apparently setting out to put the entire world on its backside with a stiletto boot on its throat. Should we be worried about a veritable army of boxing beauties out there?

Haute designers have long had a fashion-ation (yep, we went there) with the sweet science, especially as a backdrop to show off their latest not-workout-clothing collections on the runway and in print. Name a design house and most likely at some point they’ve dabbled in placing a beautiful, un-athletic model in a boxing ring, complete with gloves and/or wraps in order to show off clothing or jewelry that normally has no place in a sweaty gym.

 Alexander Wang, Karl Lagerfeld and others are apparently somewhat obsessed with the sport. Wang came out with a boxing-inspired collection, including leather boxing gloves - albeit only for those with deep pockets - and Lagerfeld produced a special boxing trunk with heavy bag and gloves for Louis Vuitton, complete with the ubiquitous LV monogram (presumably ludicrous price upon request). Not to be outdone, exotic bag and accessory designer Elisabeth Weinstock recently introduced some fabulous python skin boxing gloves that will go perfectly with an ermine trimmed heavy bag. Yours for just $1,500. But we digress…

In recent years, boxing (and kickboxing) have become more than just a clever way to display skinny models in clothing - the models are staying after "work" to put in some real work. Yes, the new fitness trend is old school boxing!

Willowy Warriors

While there’s something that seems almost comical about rawboned and hollow-faced figurines taking on a grueling sport, the crazy thing is they’re killing it. They’re being formally trained in real boxing techniques and they’re vocal about their love of the sport, at least as their preferred method to get runway ready and print prepped.

You know the faces and some of the names. Adriana Lima, Doutzen Kroes, Kendall Jenner, Gisele Bündchen, Gigi Hadid, Irina Shayk, Miranda Kerr, Cara Delevingne… it’s really become a craze among the beautiful people.

Lima is most notable as a true boxing enthusiast. She was never a fan of exercise until she became a fan of boxing some 13 years ago. She even credits boxing training for allowing her to continue her modeling career after having children and recently turning… gulp… 34! A very ripe age for her job title, to be sure.

Gigi Hadid, not typically a fan of hanging out in a gym, loves boxing and enjoys constantly training to improve her skills. She explained one aspect of training that supermodels take to naturally, “…you want to keep your hands up by your face, obviously, to protect the gold.” Good advice.

Gisele showed off her kickboxing skills last year in an ad for Under Armour. Someone please tell her to get some Machina boxing gloves and to stop hitting the heavy bags in her bare wrapped hands!

Ms. Jenner, while arguably not a supermodel just yet, can regularly be seen taking selfies at her gym when she’s not ducking punches or paparazzi.

Okay, we poke fun, but really it’s admirable that these lovelies are out there making boxing fabulous for the rest of us. We’ll be interested to see how many stick with it and which ones move on the next fitness a la mode

Posted on September 10, 2015 .

Namibia Flores, A Dream Diminished

If you thought it was difficult to be a female boxer where you are, imagine training to fight in a country where the sport is wildly popular and yet women are banned from competing. That's how it is for Cuban boxer, Namibia Flores.

 Namibia Flores strapping on her... yes! those are Machina boxing gloves!

Namibia Flores strapping on her... yes! those are Machina boxing gloves!

Despite hailing from a country with a tremendous and proud boxing heritage, Flores has been unable to fulfill any dream of fighting for her beloved homeland. And while Cuba boasts more Olympic boxing gold medals than any other country, there's fading hope for Flores to be among the first Cubans to compete for women's boxing medals.

Recently, there have been discussions within the Cuban Boxing Federation to possibly allow women to compete, however it may be too late for Namibia to be an Olympian outside of Rio in 2016, as she is fast approaching the Olympic age limit of 40.

Six years ago, Pedro Roque, former Cuban Boxing Director (and current US Boxing Coach), spoke on the subject of women in boxing, saying "Cuban women should be showing off their beautiful faces, not getting punched...” This would seem to be the kind of sexist mindset that may be feeding the lingering attitude towards female boxing on the island nation.

Still, even after a recent visit to the US to support a documentary on her story, Boxeadora, Flores declined offers to fight in the US and returned to her home with faint hopes of Olympic glory. Even if she never makes it to Rio to compete herself, she is determined to do what she can to help future female Cuban fighters pursue the sport they love.

Posted on August 3, 2015 .

Boxing Gloves for Women - Buying Guide

Shopping for your very first pair of boxing gloves you’re probably at a loss as to what to look for and what factors determine the best choice for you. You need a starting point and, ideally, a way to do some testing.

Buying boxing gear at a sporting goods store is usually not ideal because these stores typically have an overpriced and limited selection. You may be able to try on a couple pair and form a basic idea of what you’re looking for, but read on before committing to purchase gloves from a generic store.

 How to Buy Women's Boxing Gloves

How to Buy Women's Boxing Gloves

If you’re boxing or kickboxing at a gym you can always ask around for recommendations. These terrific folks are often more than happy to share with you their suggestions on gear. Many women will let you try out their gloves, but please let them offer rather than asking - remember proper etiquette! Or maybe your gym offers “loaner” gloves that you can use. This can be a serviceable way to test out some brands and styles. On the downside, you’ll likely be using well broken in gloves that may be lousy with bacteria and smell like old gym socks!

As it is with car buying, the last thing you want to do is buy a pair of gloves based solely on their color so save that for last. In this article we will discuss four main concerns when it comes to buying boxing gloves:

1. What style of glove to get
2. What size of glove to get
3. What materials and other details to look for
4. What price to pay

You could also add ‘what brands’ to this list, but the brand is largely unimportant compared to finding a quality glove that works for you. Some brands specialize in low cost gear - just say no. Some brands have been historically high end, but even these guys nowadays have a broader array of offerings. In short, most boxing brands have a range of good and not so good gear. There’s actually only one brand we recommend for women (full disclosure: this article is written by the co-Founders of Machina Boxing - yes! the one and only boxing brand dedicated exclusively to women). We can’t claim to be completely unbiased, but our goal here is to help you make an informed purchase so we’ll move on and try our best to be objective.

1. What Style of Gloves to Get
Okay, so what is the right style of glove for what you want to do and the level of protection you’ll need? You don’t need substantial gloves for just speed bag or light work, but if you’re hitting heavy bags you better make sure your hands are fully protected. If you’ve spent any time browsing online you may find yourself more perplexed than when you started due to all of the options. 

Bag Gloves are the type that usually have relatively light padding on the knuckles and little other protection. Many bag gloves will leave the thumb open and offer minimal wrist support. Bag gloves are an okay choice for working speed and agility bags, but keep off the heavy bags unless you want busted up knuckles and banged up thumbs. 

“Aerobic” or “Fitness” Boxing Gloves are intended for those who just want a nice cardio workout without doing anything resembling real boxing training. If your gloves cost less than $30 and have zebra stripes, you may have bought fitness gloves.

Ladies or Women’s Gloves are typically nothing more than unisex gloves that have been dyed pink. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with these, although many times they are a cheap fitness glove posing as a training glove. The reason why we mention them here is that many online stores will have “Women’s Gloves” as a separate category and we want to be clear that you are in no way limited to this gear nor should you feel obligated to use pink gloves just because you happen to be female.


Training Gloves are kind of like the all-purpose boxing glove. These are usually what you want for heavy bag work and they’re versatile enough for most everything else. You could get away with using your training gloves for sparring, but check with your trainer first (as well as your sparring partner). Also, we do not recommend using the same gloves for sparring and bag work. Your opponent will appreciate it if your sparring gloves are not worn down by months of heavy bag abuse!

Professional or Amateur Fight Gloves are for those who know what they are. If you don’t know if you need them, you don’t need them... yet.

Sparring Gloves are pretty self-explanatory. They’re meant for sparring practice with an opponent. These gloves are usually heavier weight and many trainers will demand a minimum of padding, most often 16 ounces. With sparring gloves it’s of equal importance to get gloves that you like and your partner does not hate!! Not planning on sparring? You don’t know what you’re missing!

MMA Style Gloves are intended to offer just enough protection while allowing the wearer to grip an apple, also known as as grappling*. These are okay for speed work. Definitely not for heavy bags! No.

*Just kidding! Grappling is actually another name for wrestling. But you knew that.

2. What Size of Glove to Get
Boxing gloves, rather than being classified by conventional sizes, mainly come in different weights, and this fact can be confounding for newbies. The weight refers to the actual weight of one glove.

The weight differences of boxing gloves has to do primarily with the amount of padding that exists in the glove. The foam padding of the glove covers the entire outside of the hand, from the wrist to the fingertips. Thick padding goes over your knuckles and it’s thinner everywhere else (although some “puncher’s gloves” will have the padding more evenly dispersed). So you can expect maybe 20 - 30% of the overall glove weight to come from the area of padding that protects your knuckles.

Many trainers will suggest that the glove weight used by a fighter in training should correspond to their body size and weight, but this is pretty flawed logic. Meanwhile some folks propose that pros can use a lighter weight and rookies should use heavier weights, but in the end it has more to do with personal preference and protection needs rather than any prescribed methodology.

What you really want is the optimum protection for your hands and wrists that corresponds to the power of your punches. It makes sense to err on the side of safety, but at the same time you don’t want to be burdened with extra, unnecessary weight - a couple ounces doesn’t sound like much, and it isn’t, but it does make a difference and it could mean fatigue setting in quicker.

There’s no easy way to determine the best glove weight for you without trying some out. If you’re a smaller person it does make some sense to maybe go with a 12 ounce glove while a larger person might be happier with 14 ounces. Like finding the right bowling ball, you have to field test some gloves and see what feels right. Again, this is a case where being able to try out someone else’s gloves first is very helpful. 

When using gloves to hit a target you should ALWAYS wear hand wraps - no exceptions. One of the benefits of hand wraps is that they can compensate a little for small wrists and hands. You want your boxing gloves to fit comfortably snug. Gloves that are loose are an injury just waiting to happen. Your gloves should feel… just right. Got that, Goldilocks? If your gloves fit awkward it’s simply a matter of time before you throw an awkward punch and suddenly you’re having a very bad day.

3. What Materials and Other Details to Look For
The best gloves are usually skinned in genuine leather and the price you'll pay corresponds to the superior material. Think of gloves kind of like shoes: if the material is cheaper and the price is lower there’s a good chance the construction is going to be subpar. There’s also good reason why sporting goods are historically made of cowhide. The natural skin is supple, yet durable and breaks in very nicely. Polyurethane Vinyl gloves are easier to clean and will get the job done, but there’s nothing as beautiful as a pair of well-distressed leather boxing gloves! 

For most training, a velcro strap is a better choice over laces simply for the reason that you can get them on and adjusted pretty easily by yourself. One disadvantage is that there could be some limit to how snug you can get them secured (but that's why you have armpits and teeth!). A longer velcro strap will allow you some extra torque, but then the velcro can get snagged on things when they’re undone, including hand wraps, which can cause damage.

Laced gloves are old school cool, but you’ll likely need assistance getting them on and off (although that could be a benefit if there’s someone special at the gym you’d like to ask for help!) For sparring, laced gloves are preferred by many trainers because they can be secured a bit more snugly than velcro. Just make sure the laces are contained so as to not fly up and hit you or your partner.

Some pretty standard features that your gloves should have are thumb locks (tip of the thumb is attached to the body of the glove) to keep your thumb aligned and a fabric lining to limit the amount of moisture that comes into contact with the glove’s padding and leather.

Some other options that are available are open mesh palms and gel lined padding. We don’t have a strong opinion of these. We prefer our boxing gloves to be as classic as possible and these options, while not without merit, seem to be primarily marketing features. Additionally, some brands have incorporated some very silly sounding glove “technology.” You’d be smart to be somewhat wary of these premium extras. Just sayin'.

4. What Price to Pay
It’s important to not lose sight of the fact that we’re talking about protective equipment here. You needn’t go overboard, but you also shouldn’t skimp. If you’re literally just starting out then maybe it makes sense to pick up some inexpensive gloves to test the waters, but if you start getting serious about boxing don’t be surprised if you begin seeing why your cheap gloves were so cheap.

Leather training gloves that sell for under $40 are somewhat suspect and you may start getting into diminishing returns once you go beyond about $80. That is to say, a $150 pair of gloves probably isn’t $100 better than $50 gloves. 

Hopefully this article was useful for you. We hope you will at least check out Machina in your search for boxing gloves. There is a good deal of info on our website including many unbiased customer reviews. 

Posted on July 14, 2015 .

Maintaining Your Gear Like a Boss

Taking care of your training gear is a nuisance, but… wait, you do take care of gear, right? Okay, we know that many of you finish your training day, tear off the gear, toss it in the bag and forget it. We understand - you worked hard and it’s oh so satisfying to pull off the equipment and simply stash it until next time. Well, if you love the smell of mildew and like replacing your gear often, by all means keep up this unsanitary practice.

Care for your fight gear doesn’t need to be an arduous chore. For starters, remember the saying, “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” While you may not want to keep your gear outside, do try to keep it outside - of your gym bag - as much as possible. Wipe everything down and air it out. If you do nothing else, at least give used gear an old fashioned Ben Franklin “air bath” so that sweat can dry completely and not give bacteria an ideal place to live. Moisture can also damage the foam padding in your equipment, so the longer your gloves are allowed to sit in the sauna that is your gym bag the shorter you can expect the padding to last.

On the other hand, leather is natural skin and, like your own skin, thrives with moisture. But that doesn’t mean keeping it wet. No, in fact, water will only evaporate and end up drying the leather more, causing discoloration and potential cracking. When it comes to genuine leather, distressed is distinguished and shows off all your hard work, but “distressed” is a short distance to “destroyed.” So while there’s no botox treatment for your gloves, as your leather gear starts developing creases and wrinkles it’s not a bad idea to apply a little leather lotion now and then to keep it supple, repel water and prolong its life.

For your boxing glove interiors, ideally you’ll want to clean the insides periodically with antibacterial wipes to eliminate bad smells and prevent fungal development. Same goes for your head gear and any other leather gear. Don’t use the wipes on the outside though, unless the gear is artificial leather, as the alcohol will dry out leather. There are glove dogs (fabric pouches filled with cedar chips or the like) you can buy or possibly make yourself, that can help draw moisture from the interior of the gloves. If Martha Stewart was a boxer she’d probably stuff in sachets of lavender, but for a tough mug like you, you'll want to forego the use of any perfumed products!

Hand wraps are challenging to deal with due to their length and unruly nature. Don’t bother respooling them post-training, simply wrap them up loosely, or better yet, get yourself a gym bag with a mesh outer pocket and toss them in there. But don’t abandon them in your bag. We recommend rinsing and hanging them up to dry thoroughly at home and launder them after every one or two (or three) uses. Wraps easily tangle with everything so use a lingerie bag to keep them contained. Be aware that wraps can sometimes bleed color so for at least the first couple washes only put them in with dark colors or else you could simply hand wash. Dry your wraps on low heat inside the lingerie bag or simply hang them to dry once again.

Clothing and towels should be washed as soon as possible after a workout. If you’re particularly fastidious you might give workout clothing a quick pre-wash as soon as you get home. And don’t forget the gym bag. Every once in a while you’ll want to empty the thing out and give it a good spring cleaning. By the way, if you’re carrying snacks in your gym bag make sure they’re sealed air tight, because, well… yuck!

Your training gear won’t last forever. It takes a beating, and you should know, you’re the brute that beats it up! Yep, seams will burst, leather will crack, foam will break and bacteria will flourish, but you can extend the life of your gloves and wraps and such by simply taking a little care. And it begins the moment your gym day ends. 

Posted on June 9, 2015 .