Walk through the front door and you can smell what Pow! is all about: serious and sweaty workouts. There's no luxury spa or the latest craze in the health club scene here, but you will find intense members and instructors passionate about teaching martial arts and boxing. The layout of this West Loop gym revolves around the large floor space where most of the classes take place, but there's also a large boxing ring, a handful of cardio machines, a few punching bags and a smaller studio off to one side. The scene here is definitely male-dominated, but the women don't seem phased at all—everyone comes eager to learn.
Classes: Pow! makes up for its lack of flare with a variety of martial arts and toning classes not found anywhere else in the city. Find everything from boxing basics to Brazilian jiu jitsu (a popular pick at the moment, thanks to ultimate fighting). But Pow! originally made a name for itself by being an official krav maga (the reality-based street fighting style of the Israeli military) training center. Memberships to Pow! include a choice of over 50 classes a week, but mouthguards, handwraps and other necessary equipment are sold separately.
Extras: The ladies locker room is small, and the "complimentary toiletries" consist of a hair dryer and a metal basket filled with cheap products that other members probably left behind. What you will get from Pow!: real, self defense tips, the discipline needed to complete a black belt program or instruction to take your boxing or ultimate fighting goals to the next level, skills that will outlast any Q-tips or fancy shampoo you score at another gym. Also, because most of the classes require partners for sparring, many of the members here become friendly. After my krav maga class all the ladies (varying in age and body type) chatted openly about how they weren't the yoga types and loved hitting things after a long day's work.
Centerstage Reviewer: Maya Henderson