I think it’s safe to say that my desire to do things where I may be punched and/or kicked in the face has lessened since my school years. Since then I’ve happily avoided any activities that are likely to result in any number of cosmetic facial injuries or unnecessary bruises. But that’s not to say I haven’t shown an interest. I’ve stood at the side of the ring at Gymbox on occasion, frequently nodding a knowing approval when someone gets kicked particularly hard, before wandering off to pick up a foam roller.
Unfortunately however, like Marty McFly, when someone calls me chicken I’m bound as a gentleman to take them up on whatever challenge I’ve been set. In this case it was a Muay Thai training session at Gymbox in Holborn.
For the last year, as I’ve wandered in and out of the various HIIT classes or back from the weights area, I’ve seen the Muay Thai sessions going on in the ring. I’ve noted on more than one occasion that, unlike a spin class, the things going on within those ropes seem pretty serious. This isn’t body combat, the people in the ring aren’t just trying to burn off calories, they’re actually training to fight. I know this because I can hear them speaking about tactics for their next bout it in the changing rooms. Normally whilst I’m talking to someone about the difficulties in deciding what lunch to get from Abokado.
Our session takes place with trainer Ryan Li, a professional fighter and trainer for Team Tieu. Just to prepare myself for this I checked him out on Youtube and found this video of real, bona fide fighting:
Ryan sets our group off with a skipping rope each. Already I’m out of my element. The last time I skipped was probably at school, although I’m not entirely sure whether this is actually true as I can’t remember ever owning one and I’m fairly certain it was only girls that did any sort of skipping back in the days of gender-defined PE classes. As soon as I attempt it I realise it can’t possibly be true as I can barely manage one skip. Within about two minutes however I’ve worked myself up to the point where there’s some sort of rhythm, albeit one that must have appeared to passers-by like I was in slow motion.
The next stage was to take us through the various moves of Muay Thai and the correct stances. In the mirror we ran through the correct footwork and movements, learning to combine punch, kicks and blocks together whilst maintaining balance. So far, so good. Everyone managed to pick up the movements pretty easily, all looking noticeably pleased at the intimidating reflections in front of us.
But that was just the warm up. Now it was time to put on our mits, pick up some pads and start using our newfound skills against an actual human being. Working in pairs, one wearing the pads, the other performing the punches and kicks, we each took it in turn to run through a serious of drills. It was at this point that beads of sweat began to appear on people’s faces. Unlike shadow boxing, making contact with the pads and throwing weight behind it uses up a fair bit of energy, especially when you’re trying to quickly react to a series of commands from your partner as they move the pads into various positions.
With the addition of press-up and kick drills added between each sparring block we soon began to realise that Muay Thai was, as we’d rightly assumed from seeing people in the ring every day, a substantially tough workout. Not only does it demand a high level of cardio fitness, your going to end up with a number of aching limbs afterwards, not to mention a bruise or two. Although if you’re planning on starting Muay Thai and worried that you might get hurt it’s probably not going to be your best decision. If however you’re looking for a challenge and subscribe to the no pain, no gain mentality, Muay Thai is is one hell of a workout. It’s also a bit cooler than telling people you do Zumba.
Muay Thai classes take place across the week at various Gymbox locations as part of the membership plans. Click here to find out where.
Picture credit: Tom Wheatley