It’s a good way to get the wind knocked out of you while getting in shape. It’s Muay Thai! Illustration: Christine Wang.
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How to fight and beat your friends (safely and legally)

This week, Fulcrum managing editor Savannah Awde managed to really tick me off. So, I invited her to go boxing with me.

We met Sacha Hijazi, owner and head instructor of Muay Thai at Ottawa Fight and Fitness, on Saturday morning. From there, we promptly began the warm-up, which consisted of intervals alternating between skipping and pushups, sit-ups, and squats.

After 10 minutes—by which time I was already sweaty and out of breath—we started learning technique. Our instructor went over the basics of Muay Thai, showing us the proper form for punching (thumb wrapped around the fingers), stance, and how to throw a jab and cross. Once he was satisfied with our form, he handed us gloves and pads, which is where the fun started.

I started with the gloves while Savannah held the pads. The first time I landed a solid punch, I felt a sense of euphoria rush through my body. After a few minutes, we swapped positions and I learned it was just as tiring to hold up the pads as it was to throw the punches.

We took turns throwing punches at each other, eventually progressing to jab, cross, kick combinations throughout the hour. By the end of the session, my arms were so sore from holding up the pads that when Savannah kicked them, I lost control and punched myself in the stomach, knocking the wind from my lungs. I guess you could make the argument that karma is real.

Thanks to the safety instructions and the equipment provided by the class, neither of us came out with injuries. We’re back to being best friends after commiserating together about how sore we became from that one-hour workout.

As for the sport itself, Muay Thai started off as a set of simple and effective techniques that were taught to the Thai army, and now it’s Thailand’s national sport. It is currently a growing sport in this region under the sanctioning body Muay Thai Ontario.

“When they got their PSO (Provincial Sport Organization), they took the ball and ran with it. Now, there’s a lot of shows in Ottawa, Toronto, and all across the province,” Hijazi said.

There are four classes in Muay Thai competition: C-class for those with under three fights, B-class for those who have had four to nine fights, A-class for those with 10 to 20 fights under their belt, and finally open class, which is 20 fights and above. Each class has multiple weight divisions.

Multiple gyms around Ottawa, including Ottawa Fight and Fitness, provide Muay Thai training, and most have free trials for the first week or the first class. As it is a growing sport, this is a great time to get involved.

In fact, a sanctioned event for high-level Muay Thai—Art of War 3—will be held this Saturday, Feb. 23 at the Canadian War Museum for anyone who is interested in checking out what competitive Muay Thai looks like after years of training.

What should you bring to class?

“Just show up ready to learn,” Hijazi said. “Respect and humility are very important coming into a combat sports gym. It’s an amazing workout, an extremely efficient form of self-defence, and if you want to compete, pretty much all the gyms offer that avenue. So I would just say show up, work hard, have fun, and bring a good attitude.”

Ottawa Fight and Fitness provides Muay Thai and boxing classes from Monday to Saturday and offer a free trial for the first week. Tickets for Art of War 3 are sold on Eventbrite and at all participating gyms, including Ottawa Fight and Fitness, for $35.