I limped into work last Thursday morning — not from a fall down the stairs or a car accident. Rather, my leg was aching from my first Muay Thai workout the evening before.
In Muay Thai, a form of martial arts that originated in Thailand, the entire body is used as a weapon. Last Wednesday afternoon, I headed to Memphis Judo & Jiu-Jitsu at Highway 64 and Stage Road to make the transition from reporter to full-body fighter.
I was greeted by Josh Roberts of Empire Fights, a company that sponsors mixed martial arts (MMA) cage fighting around the region. Roberts has been practicing Muay Thai for nearly four years, and he wanted a journalist to participate in a Muay Thai training session in an effort to erase any stigma that cage fighters are heartless, bloodthirsty, and violent individuals.
Roberts assured me that I wouldn't leave the session with any black eyes or broken bones, and then he gave me a quick tour around the place, which he said was one of the largest MMA facilities in the country. Aside from Muay Thai, the school also offers classes in judo, jiu-jitsu, boxing, mixed martial arts, submission wrestling, and kickboxing.
After the tour, we walked to a large mat where about 14 other people stood around waiting for the class to start.
Roberts told me to lose my shoes and then added that I might want to lose the socks as well. I was extremely happy that I clipped my toenails the night before.
We began with a 15-minute workout that included jumping rope and shadowboxing, and then we broke into groups of two to learn some defensive techniques for kicks and punches.
One technique we learned was jab counters. Roberts would block my jab and return fire and vice versa. Another technique involved the same jab, but it was countered with another jab and a straight punch.
Roberts accidentally tagged me in the eye during this portion of the training. I "accidentally" popped him with a straight right to the forehead shortly after.
We also learned the clinch, a technique that involves one person throwing a knee while clutching each other's necks. That's followed by a counter knee from the other partner.
Since there didn't seem to be any air-conditioning inside the gym, my shirt was drenched with sweat. It was also covered in marks from Roberts' kicks to my midsection.
After a short water break, we got back into the groove with some conditioning techniques. I was worn out, but the hardest move was yet to come: an exercise technique known as the "10 up, 10 down." Starting with the number one, we had to match the number called out by our partner with that amount of kicks all the way to 10. We then had to repeat this in reverse.
By that point, I'd miraculously managed to avoid injury. But that moment was just around the corner. The reason for my limp came in the last part of the workout, which involved us sparring.
While trading jabs and kicks with Roberts, my foot collided with his knee, bruising the top of my foot. But hey, no pain, no gain, right?
Despite the minor bruise, my Muay Thai experience was eye-opening and physically rewarding. I can now vouch that mixed martial arts fighters are not all heartless, bloodthirsty, violent individuals — at least outside of the cage. Empire Fight's next MMA fight is Saturday, July 28th at the Agricenter.