So, as previously mentioned, Tiger is probably the biggest and most well-known gym in the area, with thousands upon thousands of wannabe Chuck Norrises flooding through the doors every year. Along with a few real life MMA fighters, who have chosen to set up shop (or fight camp as the case may be) there for a prolonged period.
There is also a third group of folks – those who have chosen to literally sweat off the pounds and attend the camp for weight loss.
Anyway, the point that I’m making is that it’s a very mixed bag. Which is doubtless reflected in the lower level Muay Thai classes.
Now, Andy and I have a bit of “kicking and punching” experience behind us. I did a couple of years of kickboxing/JKD about a decade ago, and Andy spent his teens and early twenties doing Shorin Ryu Karate. Both of us have dabbled in various Muay Thai and MMA classes since.
But as our first Tiger class held a very real potential for getting smashed in the chops, we pegged ourselves low and went to the Beginners session.
The class was big, very big. And whilst some folk might be more physically blessed than others, there’s literally no way of telling who can do stuff properly, and who’s a distinct liability to themselves and others. Or is just there to work off the last chocolate bar they ate at Christmas.
So they’ve come up with a format that collectively covers off all bases:
1) Running. Sweet baby Jesus, these folk love to make you run. 30 minutes at the beginning of each class, round and round in a circle. Ditto sideways galloping, running with high knees, running whilst punching and anything else that gets the heart rate up.
2) Stretching. Partially to limber up, partially to stop people having a cardiac arrest after all that running.
3) Copying moves in a mirror. Rows upon rows of students doing jabs, crosses, slips, elbows and blocks like the instructor at the front.
4) Partner drills. Trying out a couple of combos with another person.
5) Bagwork. Trying out some of your new moves a bit harder on something that shouldn’t smack you back.
6) Padwork with the instructors. Depending on which one you get, this might involve three rounds of flirting and “I’ve been to England” type chat, or someone trying to punish you for all the sins of humanity.
7) Sparring. Largely split into three groups – people they think can be trusted to fight together, women and then stragglers that don’t fit in either group.
8) Strange half hour break where chief instructor Mr Miyagi forces everyone to introduce themselves and their country of origin, before telling a story about his wife’s infidelity. Allows everyone to get their hopes up that the physical pain is winding down, whilst simultaneously getting eaten by mosquitos.
9) Getting our asses up and doing endless (well a few hundred) jumping knees, front kicks and elbows into a bag.
This is a shot of Mr Miyagi during a quieter, more pensive moment - admittedly it's a lousy photo, but I didn't want to risk incurring his wrath.)
11) Watching someone get beaten with a stick.
12) Three hundred situps and one hundred press-ups. Sometimes the trainers will simultaneously hit you in the stomach with medicine balls or pads for extra misery.
In total, the whole shebang takes 2.5 hours, and is offered six days a week, morning (8am) and afternoon (4pm). Overall it’s a bit like a kilogram of pick n mix sweets – there’s something for everyone and most people feel thoroughly sick by the end.
The downside is unless you get a particularly diligent instructor (more on this point later) there’s no real chance to polish the finer technical elements – the onus is on movement (of all kinds, particularly running) and entertainment (the “authentic” Muay Thai experience, complete with beatings) perhaps more than finesse in execution.
I’m not going to claim to have the “key” to this class – suffice to say by the end of it I had drained the bottle of water, and was bright red with two ripped up toes (tip: tape them before the session) and everlasting cramp in one calf.
Now if only they’ll promote me to the Intermediate level…