Muay Thai, MMA & Fitness in Malaysia

I have always been drawn to martial arts:  there is something about the discipline, the awareness, the practice and a certain sense of spirituality about Eastern forms of martial arts that has intrigued me. All of these, I have found in yoga. But the fascination for martial arts is still compelling to me.

So when I was contacted to be the fitness and conditioning coach at a newly formed Muay Thai gym, Sparta Muay Thai, I was pretty excited. Sparta Muay Thai was supposed to be affiliated with Tiger Muay Thai in Thailand. Many of the members had actually gone to the Phuket and experienced Tiger Muay Thai.

With Sparta, I had in fact made an enquiry online about the place, thinking I would go down one day to find out if it was the kind of place that would appeal to me. Instead, I was given a chance to do fitness and conditioning for them! Excellent!

Working with this bunch made me more aware of the MMA scene in Malaysia and how it was affecting the fitness scene. From my perspective, this facet of Malaysian fitness was kicked off by the folks at MuayFit.

MuayFit & MMA in Malaysia

MuayFit, to my mind, fused Muay Thai, kickboxing and fitness into a nice package for the masses. Of course, before MuayFit, there were a few smaller kickboxing studios, such as TNT Kickboxing, but I suspect MuayFit’s marketing was far better. Before they opened at Dataran Three Two in Petaling Jaya, I saw their banners just about everywhere, including by the spaces near the Taman Aman, a great place to advertise because it has the correct target market right there.

MuayFit has a pretty cool logo too!

MuayFit started business in 2010 in Petaling Jaya, pretty near my parents’ house actually. I even took a visit one afternoon, and I was pretty impressed with the facilities, even though it was pretty quiet (it was a non-peak time, in any case). The company expanded to four shoplots within 18 months, which is pretty impressive.

I also noticed that MuayFit began to start offerings more than just Muay Thai. Aside from the usual fitness and conditioning palette, they began to bring in other martial arts disciplines, including Krav MagaBrazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). From what I can recall, MuayFit opened its second outlet shortly after and now has a few outlets around the country, and in the region.

My Experience

When I was a fitness and conditioning coach at Sparta Muay Thai (which later changed its name to be more inclusive all the other forms of fighting it brought in, including BJJ), I did go for a few Muay Thai classes whenever I could.

Me with KRU Tam at Sparta

Firstly, the warm-up, which was supposedly “gentle” (“gentle warm-up, gentle warm-up”, KRU Wat used to say, while I was near the end of my tether, and I was pretty fit then!). The warm-up was the Wai Kru, which has deep meaning for the fighters and is a sign of respect for their teachers and family. Don’t knock it, it is not easy!

Secondly, a lot of mind body work is involved, including coordination. The left / right and movement (upper cut, knee, elbow etc.) and combination of leg and arm movement was pretty challenging for me. I did some tae-kwondo when I was young and I don’t recall it being this tough! Or maybe it is a sign of age…

My Rip:60 class at Sparta Muay Thai

Thirdly, the participants loved it! The tougher it was, the better it was for them! I thought boot camp was brutal but nothing reaches the intensity of a two-hour Muay Thai practice. The punching and the kicking really gets the heart rate up and I found that the kicking practices especially was loved by women!

So when it came to programming for the outdoor fitness conditioning classes and the Rip:60 classes, it could never be a gentle class, otherwise you would find the next class close to empty. As an aside, it was during this phase that I began teaching yoga to replace the yoga teacher there.

My outdoor fitness class at Sparta Muay Thai

When they later introduced BJJ to the gym, I didn’t try it, even though I watched. I knew it wasn’t really my thing (and the proof of that was how everyone ended up getting ring worm after about two months). It was an interesting discipline to watch though, and over time, I have watched quite a number of BJJ demonstrations. But I know it is not for me.

In time, Sparta Muay Thai shut down and I moved on, but it was definitely an interesting nine months of my life, and I met great people there, a lot of whom I am still in touch with. But back to Muay Thai and MMA in the Malaysian fitness scene!

Fight Explosion

Soon, other gyms and MMA studios began to mushroom all over the Klang Valley. In addition, those already established began to flourish and I suspect there was an outflow of members from regular gyms into the fight scene.

Getting personalities like Peter Davies to represent also boosts up MMA’s profile to the greater public! Photo courtesy of http://www.benjaminfoo.com

In fact, Malaysia soon began to play host to fights and MMA camps, creating practically a whole new industry offshoot; including a slew of online media as well as TV programmes, the latter usually revolving around becoming an MMA fighter.

Because I am not involved in any MMA or fight clubs anymore, I am not too sure about how matured the scene is from an insider’s viewpoint. From the outside, it looks like the Klang Valley is close to maturity, if not matured.

Klang Valley residents definitely have a great choice of fight and MMA clubs to join and train with, and I know many who work with a number of trainers around town. It’s great though, because it means people are active, keeping themselves healthy and strong, and also working towards a goal, considering how many of them are actively participating in fights.

What are your experiences with MMA, Muay Thai or other forms of martial arts? Let me know in the comments!

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