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Pulling no punches
Publication Date : 25-09-2012
We all know that the best and fastest way to lose weight and get into shape is to hit the gym but what happens when you get tired of the treadmill and disillusioned when hours of aerobic dance fail to melt away the kilogrammes?
The answer may lie in muay thai - and not just because celebrities have been uploading pictures of their slim selves undergoing pugilist training to Instagram.
Thai kick boxing not only gives you a good cardio workout but turns fat into muscle, firms the abs and has you burning up energy as you dance around then strike the big punching bag.
One of the most popular venues with downtown office workers is Petchyindee Muay Thai Academy. Opened in 2010, it's operated by Nuttadaj Vachirarattanawong and his brothers, heirs of well-known boxing promoter Petchyindee.
Located on the second floor of a shophouse on Rama IV Road, it's a friendly gym, well equipped with fitness equipment and a boxing ring. Modern in design, it features a huge mirror and glass walls that overlook the bustling Bangkok street and a jigsaw-like floor in red and blue.
"My family has been in boxing for 36 years and we have a boxing camp on Soi Charan Sanitwong 34. Two years ago, we opened the gym to offer training and workouts to the general public though we also reserve space for professional pugilists. We want to promote muay thai as a sport that everyone can learn," Nuttadaj says.
"The gym is designed to look modern and friendly. We have four coaches, who teach the basics of boxing, which is better than a short class in a fitness centre."
Former boxer Petchpayao Chovigo designs the lessons and is in charge of the trainers. The 75-minute class starts with a warm-up that has us jogging and doing easy exercises to a medley of dance numbers.
Petchpayao then takes us through the basics of punching, kicking, elbowing and kneeing that are key moves in muay thai. He teaches us to walk and stand in the right way before demonstrating how to throw a straight punch, jab and elbow.
"We emphasis exercise with muay thai skills, because you have to use all parts of body. The fat will be burned off and become muscle, so your body will become fit and firm," Petchpayao says. "And it's not just exercise; muay thai can help you protect yourself too."
Next, we are shown the different techniques involved in each move. Petchpayao demonstrates some kneeing and kicking tricks.
Also taking part in the class is Jeanne Beth, a French exchange student at Chulalongkorn University. She started learning muay thai last week and says she loves it.
"It's an international sport and very popular in my country. It also lets me learn more about Thailand. The trainers here are good and very friendly," Beth says. "I think exercising at a fitness centre would be boring in comparison to muay thai, which is fun and effective. It helps strengthen the body too."
Raweeploy "Oyl" Nuangjamnong, a 29-year-old office worker comes to the academy with her colleagues.
"I wanted to find a sport that I could play everyday. I suffer from knee pain and I also wanted to lose weight. I've been doing muay thai for three months now and it's fun. My body is fitter and firmer and I've lost almost seven kilos! I feel much more energetic and healthy too." Raweeploy says.
Another office worker, Phatarinee Sookumnuay. 34, quit her contemporary dance class to learn boxing. "I used to play basketball and I loved dancing. When I tried the first session here, I liked it. Muay thai improve my concentration and reduces stress. All in all, it's been very good for both my physical and mental health."
Also doing a roaring trade on the east side of town is Fairtex Muay Thai Fitness in Samut Prakan's Bang Phli district.
It belongs to noted promoter Bunjong Busarakamwong, who's been running a boxing camp and thriving export business for more than four decades.
Located on a large plot of land, it's a fully functional fitness centre complete with swimming pool, exercise equipment of all types, four standard-size boxing rings and an entire corner devoted to punching bags.
"Eight years ago, I turned some space on my boxing campus into a fitness centre. You can come to work out on the exercise equipment and also learn Thai boxing with our trainers, all of them former fighters," Bunjong says. "The past years have seen a big increase in membership, particularly women. They want to improve their figures muay thai a great way to burn off fat. I want to promote muay thai as an international sport."
Bunjong's Fairtex now has branches in the US, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore with one in China scheduled to open soon. Both group and private programmes are available and each session starts with a rope skipping session to warm up the muscles.
"You come here, you'll learn muay thai from veteran fighters. They'll teach you the basics of punching, kicking, kneeing and elbowing as well as the different techniques you can apply to protect yourself," Bunjong says.
Sasiwimon Temcharoenkit, 24, a master's degree student at Assumption University, is taking a private course with boxer Anawat Songmanee.
"I'm learning to use every part of my body when boxing. It's hard work and very sweaty but lots of fun," Sasiwimon says.
Entrepreneur Ormkwan Channin, 36, has been boxing for the last two years and she's far more active not to mention firm.
"It's a great cardio workout and I feel so much healthier. I've taken up scuba diving too," Ormkwan says.
While Siripa Maneetham, a student at nearby Huachiew Chalermprakiet University, says she was inspired by watching muay thai on the TV. "I like boxing. It's fun and can improve my shape too," she says.