Make a Discovery with Muay Thai

In case you didn’t know, Dalang is not only known for the ancestral hall, but for dragon Muay Thai as well. Why not try something new? Get fit, make friends and learn self-defense.

One winter’s night, wandering past a restaurant in Dalang, I stumbled upon some bright lights. The open-plan gym with a roof, but no walls, was certainly intriguing. Perhaps it was just another factory out-building? I strode to the fore and spotted several men and women kicking the living daylights out of some overly elongated beanbags.

If you’re in the east of Dongguan, make your day different with a Muay Thai discovery. This place hosts Muay Thai (Thai boxing) classes in the morning, evenings and the weekends. There are English-speaking coaches and support for English, Chinese and various other language speakers. I noticed that two regulars, Kami and Haruhi were deeply involved. I found out later that Kami is actually the boss, but his modesty would make you think otherwise. Their son Leon explained a dozen types of kicks to me. I was lost. And, that is before he continued with various knee strikes. He told me, “I feel very happy doing this.” Leon’s teachers told me that he is very disciplined in his attitudes at school.

The supportive community of this club get involved and bring their children and families often. There is discipline instilled by years of coaching and leadership.

My knowledge of Muay Thai was zilch. On talking with Kami, it became clear that his passion for the sport is extremely deep. Admirably, his son follows in his footsteps, and I can safely say that the average child under 10 years of age shouldn’t be able to kick that hard. Yet, he can. Not only that, but I noticed that every youngster training was full of belief and strength of mind. The supportive community of this club get involved and bring their children and families often. There is discipline instilled by years of coaching and leadership.

With a mention of Muay Thai being in a few other locations around Dongguan, including Nancheng and Hengli, it seems that there are people living among us that enjoy a good thrashing. Them doing the thrashing that is. And no doubt that it’s a pretty intense and exciting watch when two people are sparring in front of your very eyes, especially with fierce contenders. After all, a competitive and agile sport that focuses on mental grit and speedy responses makes for a great audience, whether just training sessions, sparring or competitions. Of course, this is a friendly contact sport so don’t be put off by the fact that things can get heated. If you fancy trying a new hobby, you can go as easy as you like. Getting fierce may come further down the line after learning the basics.

The arty style of Muay Thai is quite compelling. It is far from simple boxing. There are combinations of fists, elbows, knees and shins. Strikes are made stood up. Elbow slashes, reverse horizontal elbows and the mid-air elbow strike are certainly one for the photographer. The angles of attack are ferocious! The Thai bit implies it is from Thailand but in the last several decades, it has impacted globally and been continually evolving to its current entertaining form.

Here in Dongguan, Muay Thai offers opportunities for physical, personal and social developments, including self-defense, slimming, friendship, fitness and community for all.

In training, they work you hard. Larger men and women change figure in a matter of weeks. I guess that the best imported equipment helps. The self-effacing Kami tells me, “Kids can join in, providing they’re over four years of age. This sport is for everyone. How far you choose to go, is your choice.” A trainee doesn’t necessarily need to invest in clinches or neck clinches to train. The beginner’s courses feature 15 minutes to warm up, 30 minutes to punch, 15 minutes of basic skills and then 10 minutes of intensive exercise.

Muay Thai carries a lot of honor—tipped to finally get an Olympic berth in the coming decade. Soon enough, a combo of crosses, jabs, hooks, overhands, spinning backfists, uppercuts and Superman punches may advance from the World Games to the Summer Olympics. Kami tells me, “Our gym in Dalang has three trainers who have fought more than 170 fights.” Experienced teachers are always to be respected. They treat the children’s classes with care and consideration. Protective equipment is supplied and safety sandbag training features heavily. Training camps, swimming, parties and barbecues reward their hard work. Perhaps Dongguan will be where the next World Games Champion comes from?

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