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Quinn

First Month's Free (IC)

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February 29th, 2012

12:00 Noon

Gourd's Gym, Southside Premises

Freedom City, New Jersey

Grand Opening!

The banner hung high on the repurposed warehouse, on the edge of Southside's residential area. Above it rose a neon sign, blaring two words over the street - Gourd's Gym. The rebuilding and repurposing of the new athletic centre had been a hot topic on local newssheets since the franchise decided to expand - the local manager, one Robert Ball, having said that the new place would serve as a prime location for health programs, youth groups, a wave of expansion that would hopefully see the revitalization of several other areas in South Freedom. A wave of expansion bringing good health and clean living.

There was actually a pretty healthy turnout to the gym's grand opening - locals curious about what the place had to offer, attendees of other gyms coming to scope out competition, hired performers showing off what new members could learn at the gym itself, health experts, the works. One attendee in particular was looking about rather curiously, a duffel bag over his shoulder and a windbreaker with "Master Li's School Of Self-Defense" embossed on the back. Ezekiel Irons munched on a sandwich he'd purloined from the buffet table, and listened with a rather interested demeanor as a man in a fairly sharp suit stood in front of a placard, explaining the ins and outs of cardio training to a few interested parties.

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Mali was not stupid. She wasn't especially bright, but she was not stupid. She walked towards the building, having taken the bus. She wasn't going to ride her bike out here, not if she was going to leave outside. Additionally, she dressed inexpensively and discreetly, a black hoodie and jeans. She carried an old, worn out bag filled with gym clothes and other assorted gear.

She did not want to be marked as a rich girl, that could be bad, or at least, annoying. She grinned up at the gym. Why not go to a new gym opening? Maybe she could see somebody spar, give her a glimpse of other styles of combat.

She kept her head down and walked into the building.

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Zeke meandered away from the cardio enthusiast, finishing off his sandwich and stuffing the wrapper in a handy pocket. Almost idly, he ruffled a hand through his dreads, looking about the gym. It was a pretty well-built place, a warehouse converted into a wide open space for all kinds of fitness enthusiasts. Treadmills, exercise bikes, one-piece gyms, lots of punching bags, a few boxing rings, even an octagonal ring in the centre (though that was mostly for flavor). And mats all over the place, of course.

The Fastest Fighter Alive actually had a slightly difficult time keeping his adrenaline in check - all the energy and vigor in the air. His head was looking in several directions, and finally he made a beeline for a nearby bag, taking a few shots at it. One, two, high kick...hm. Adjust the stance a bit, feet too far apart. Two-punch combo, toe kick, twist leg to heel strike...much better.

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Within moments, Mali found an open, unused heavy bag that was part of a larger clump. She spotted at least one other person using one, and figured that at this point, it was open to just start using the equipment.

She reached into her bag and fetched her hand wraps. She carefully wrapped them around her hands and wrists. She didn't want to trust the floor of the gym to her bare feet, so she switched shoes to a pair of lightweight martial arts slippers, for maximum flexibility, so she could still practice her kicks.

She unzipped her hoodie and stuffed into the bag beside her, setting it within reach. There was nothing of value in it, but she still didn't want it getting stolen.

She started with a few warm-ups and stretches, having been taught since childhood never to work out before doing so.

With that done, she began to work the bag. She was careful not to look too tight or too controlled. If she looked too good, people might notice. She wanted to blend in.

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Ezekiel, on the other hand, wasn't exactly being subtle.

Three-punch combo. Left-right-uppercut. Knee strike to toe kick. Rising kick to heel strike. Right punch to right elbow strike to reverse left elbow strike to spinning heel kick!

Irons worked the bag with a vengeance, a positively gleeful grin on his face. It was a good minute of work before he caught himself and hopped back, shaking his head. Tooo much adrenaline, whoa. And it was at that point he noted that the bag had gone from looking pristine and brand new to...well, new wasn't exactly an applicable term anymore. Fortunately, it didn't look like anyone was watching...

Looking innocent, he slung his bag back over his shoulder and meandered away, whistling.

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Mali glanced over momentarily and spotted a viciously beaten heavy bag. It's abuser was, apparently, walking away trying to appear innocent. She was confused. Whoever this guy was, he was very, very good. She grinned. Maybe she should go talk to him. See what style he used, if any. If nothing else, talking to another passionate fighter would be really cool.

She grabbed her bag and threw it over her shoulder and walked over to him.

"Pretty cool place..." She said, nonchalantly as she eyed the various machines and gear around her. This was the perfect place for someone like her, someone who liked to work out and fight.

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Zeke resisted the urge to jump a foot in the air when he heard a voice behind him (man, I'm all over the place today...). Turning, he looked somewhat quizzically, and noted with some curiosity the girl who'd been beating on one of the other bags a few rows down. Why - oh, right, she's talking. He blinked.

"Uh...yeah, yeah, it's pretty cool. Bigger than the gym I usually go to, but they've got a lot more amenities."

Light cough. Don't look at the bag, don't look at the bag, don't look at the ba-crap, looked at the bag.

"You been here before?"

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"Nope, first time ever being in an outside gym. I have most of my stuff at home. I heard this place was opening and decided to check it out."

She glanced around the room. "By the way, I know what you did with that bag. You must hit really hard. Don't worry, I won't tell anyone." She smiled and looked around.

"They have a lot of cool equipment here..." She mumbled something about getting a few of the machines for home, but kept it under her breath. She was really, really trying not to act like a rich girl, last thing she needed was attention.

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If Zeke noted her comment about buying a few home machines, it didn't show. Still, he did stiffen a bit when she mentioned she noted what he did to the bag, and slumped somewhat in relief when she said she wasn't going to spill the beans. He had to resist the urge to chuckle a bit, though - hitting hard was putting it mildly. He really had to start wearing gloves more often...

Then he did the little wavy-handy thing, looking somewhat askance at the machines themselves.

"Eeeh...yeah, it's cool. Master Li's doesn't really have a lot of those machines, it's mostly outdoor runs, hitting the old-school bags or the mu ren zhuang. And sparring. Lots of sparring."

His mouth quirked slightly. In his case, the outdoor runs were usually -between- sparring matches. Cool-off jogs. And snacktime. Calories, his mortal nemesis. He shook his head, trying to get his thoughts back on track.

"You got a basement gym to work out of? Niiice...setting your own pace's pretty cool, but don't you sorta miss the crowd element?"

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"Not really, my dad's been training me since I was a kid. It started with games and such, work out routine to keep me in shape and teach me how to defend myself. When I got serious about the training, so did he. Once I got old enough to regulate my own training, he sorta let me do it myself. He still wakes me up early sometimes to keep my skills sharp, but I know if I ever stopped wanting to do it, he'd let me."

She glanced around. "So, what style do you use? I didn't get to see what you could do..."

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Zeke tilted his head slightly - Master Lee was very close to him, but a father figure imparting wisdom like that was something to be treasured. At least in his eyes. And that she kept going with it was pretty impressive to him. The musician-cum-martial artist relaxed, leaning back on a handy wall. The style question was a bit awkward, though...one advantage of moving very quickly was the ability to compress a lot of training into a very short period of time. So how to field that one...

"Sorta a mix. Mostly different styles of kung fu, though." Okay, that sounds harmless enough...still working on zui quan, tho'; bloody hard to relax my movements when I'm amped up...

He tapped his chin for a bit, pondering. "And a bit of tae kwon do and judo, mostly for the kicks and throws. Good to throw in a bit of variation, throws people off like nobody's buisness."

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"My style is Muay Thai, national sport of Thailand. I'm trying to branch out a bit. Never let another Thai boxer hear this, but I want a bit more variety, like with some grapples and such."

"Are you familiar with Muay Thai?" She asked. "I mean, enough to recognize it if you see it?"

Technically, she was here to train, but, she could afford to lose a day of training, especially if she ended up comparing notes with someone who used a different style. It could further her education as a fighter. After all, martial arts aren't just of the body, but the mind as well.

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He rubbed the back of his head, looking through his repository of martial arts knowledge. Muay Thai was one he hadn't seen, at least not often - most of what he'd learned was really in the classic wushu vein, and the school whose emblem he wore on his back didn't get a lot from others. Zeke shrugged somewhat helplessly.

"Don't think I would. I mean, I could probably see it like a martial artist - spot openings and good spots to strike from...oh yeah, and where to duck so you don't kick me in the head." Grin. Then he looked her up and down and placed his chin into his hand, appraising. "Hmm...what kind of grappling styles were you thinking?"

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Don't know, really. I'd have to think about it. Muay Thai is a style based on lots of knees, elbows and clinches. You hit hard, you hit fast, and you that's pretty much the style." She shrugged.

"The stance looks like this." She said. She brought both hands up, fists loose and facing him, elbows near her midsection. She brought one leg up, balancing that leg on the ball of her foot. "It's actually a really, really easy style to spot. Kinda like some styles of Kung Fu. I mean, you see some guy go into mantis, and, well, you know exactly what you're looking at, right?"

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Zeke nodded, although a somewhat mischevious smile creased his face.

"Well, okay, I'll give you that one. Mantis's a bit of a giveaway, but here's the trick - half the time when I go into a stance, it's a feint. Case in point?"

With practiced ease he dropped into a mantis stance, his arms up in the trademark stance and balancing on the balls of his feet. "Pose is real aggressive, see; hooked fingers and hands in easy position to strike. But here's the thing..."

He aimed himself towards a bag, let out a breath, and lunged; but halfway through, his hips shifted and he switched from the hooked fingers to a clawed hand, striking with an open-palm slap onto the bag. "It's also real easy to switch if you're fast enough. Mantis to tiger."

Letting his arms go slack, he gestured to her position; he didn't recognize the stance, but it didn't take a genius to note that-"That stance though...I dunno, wouldn't say it's that easy to read. You also heavy on feints?"

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"It's all part of the rhythm. Most Muay Thai strikes hit fast and hard, so it's really, really easy to feint..." She brought her elbow out for a split second, fast enough for most fighters to expect to block. Suddenly, however, her right foot came up for a snap kick to the leg of her invisible foe. "For that moment, they go for the wrong block, and you make them pay for it."

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Zeke grinned. And mimed hopping up and down, clutching a wounded shin.

"Pay in spades, pay in spades. That'd be a right pain if I was in tiger form there - lots of low stances; catch me right on my open leg. Pain central, right there."

Not to mention the move was crisp, damn crisp. This girl was good, no question about it. And man, it was good to talk to someone who knew the game - shame she wasn't a superhero. Then they could really talk.

"So-" He blinked. "S-...So..." Then facepalmed. "So, person-whose-name-I-don't-know...yeah. Really should've asked that at the start, shouldn't I."

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Mali laughed and slapped her forehead. "Name's Mali...'Em' 'A' 'El' 'I'. What's yours?" She asked.

She watched his stance. Kung fu wasn't Muay Thai, but it was indeed awesome. She'd seen enough kung fu movies to know that. Obviously, a lot of that stuff was just stunts, but she could tell the difference between the fake and the real. She could ignore that nagging part of her mind that picked the movie apart and enjoy it for what it was; a solid action movie.

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"Huh. Mali. Maaaaallliiiii. Good name, that." He grinned, holding out a hand. "Ezekiel. Just call me Zeke. 'Zeek'. Everyone else does."

Some movement out of the corner of his eye attracted his attention, and he noted that a couple of boxers had just finished going a couple rounds in one of the rings. An idea started to germinate in his head...and then a tiny bit of adrenaline started to hit his system. Calm down, caaaalm down. Easy, Z.

"So, what's your training routine like?"

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"Wake up, eat breakfast, do some stretches and warm-ups. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are about weights, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays are about cardio. After lunch, I start on my katas, work the heavy bag, etc..." She said.

"My dad sometimes intervenes and works out with me. He's still got it, too. I have to watch myself." She spotted the same empty ring and had to stifle a grin. She was curious if he had the same thought. Then, she remembered her friend, Shrike, and she stifled that thought.

Then again, this guy wasn't a robot, and she learned her lesson after that fiasco. She'd never do that again, ever.

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Unfortunately, he noted that she noted that he'd noted the ring. Though the progression of that connection made his eyes spin for a moment. Musing on how to approach it, Zeke idly rattled off his own training schedule.

"Ditto, ditto, ditto, then a nice long morning run (around the city...); then I've got work until late afternoon. After that, it's same routine each day though, first go through katas, then hit the bags, obstacle course after that, and then sparring until dinner. With runs between sparring matches."

At that point, though, he threw caution to the winds. And thumbed behind himself at the empty ring, grinning.

"Okay, I gotta ask. Want to go a few rounds? You look like you can handle yourself pretty damn good."

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"Sure, but, I don't go all out in spars. I just don't, okay?" She said, calmly and coolly. She did not want to seem harsh, but after what happened to Shrike, she could never allow herself to do that again, under any circumstances. She would never hurt another friend again.

"I pull my punches, I don't hit. We don't need to see how hard we can hit to see how good one another is, right?

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Zeke resisted the urge to let out a breath in relief - keeping it to feints and light taps was perfect. No chance she'd notice a distinct lack of bruises or the like before the end of the spar. Still, best for a bit of bravado so she doesn't suspect anything...he grinned and tapped his chest with a thumb, winking.

"Eh, I'm tougher than I look." And the understatement of the year award goes to? "But it's your show, Mal; gloves and light taps only?"

He slung his bag back up, leading the way over to the vacant ring. Almost idly he started crisscrossing and stretching his arms; he could hit the bags quite a bit without it, but something told him a good stretch would serve him very well before hopping in that ring.

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Mali nodded. "I recently hit a friend too hard during a spar. Kinda freaked me out."

Wit that said, she began to shuffle and jog in place, getting her heart rate up a bit, warming up a bit. She was excited. She had no idea how good this guy was, and she was eager to see what he could do.

She walked over to the rings, grabbed the ropes to test them, then flipped herself over the ropes and into the ring. "Never been in a ring like this before. Just hop on in when you're ready." She said.

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A very mischevious expression crossed Ezekiel's features, and he backed up a few steps before running towards the ring; whereas Mali had simply hopped over the ropes, Zeke bounded up, hopped on the apron onto the ropes, and bounced off of those into a front flip, hitting the mat in a clean three-point landing. Ignoring some rather surprised glances from some of the other gym attendees. Laughing, he dropped his bag and opened it up, winking at his new sparring partner.

"Well hey, you did say hop on in. Need a pair of gloves, or you got-oh yeah, you got your own pair. Sweet."

He facepalmed, and pulled out a pair of light gloves, shucking the coat and putting them over his hands. Underneath the windbreaker was a fairly plain gray sweatshirt, and he started shuffling his feet and stretching in earnest.

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