I’ll admit, I only had a vague idea of what thai boxing was before we got an email from Carina at Krudar inviting us to try out a class for the blog (thanks, Carina!). This was months ago, but between marathoning and yogaing and book writing, I put off responding. Also, because I was scared. This looked like the kind of workout that would kick my ass.
And it did.
After chatting with Carina, we decided that the Wednesday beginner class was our best option. It fit our schedule and she promised that the instructor, Ryan, was great. We arrived at the gym and already were intimitaed. It was hot — Toronto summer heatwave hot — and people were already skipping, punching and jumping around. Carina showed us around (she was the first of the many lovely, lovely people who helped us out in this class), then we got changed and waited. I was surprised by the number of girls in the class — in a good way. There were probably 25 people in the class overall, and 7 or 8 or them were women — including an adorable young girl who was no more than 12 years old and knew what she was doing. If we had fought, muay thai style, I would have gone down immediately. Many of these lovely ladies assured me and Jill that we would not die. I did not believe them.
We got the breakdown of the structure of the class from Carina: 45 minutes of cardio and conditioning, then 45 minutes to work on fighting. Okay. We can handle this.
Then Ryan came out and started yelling. This was scary. He was a yeller. He reminded me of my first basketball coach, the one who believed the season wasn’t a success until he made everyone on the team cry. (He never made me cry. I’m not bragging — I was so low on the totem pole that I don’t think I mattered. But he once yelled at our star player during a time out, then called a second time out just to continue yelling at her. It was intense.) Ryan yelled. And yelled. We weren’t going hard enough. Our arms weren’t high enough. We weren’t counting out the reps loud enough. This was one intense instructor.
That said, Ryan was very, very good at addressing technique for a lot of the stranger cardio moves. After skipping for 5 minutes, we went through a cycle of jumping jacks, squats, planks and kicks and some boxing-inspired moves — jumping, punching, kicking and jabbing. Ryan worked the room, demonstrating each move. All while yelling. We got a 30 second water break every 5 minutes. About 30 minutes in, my calves were on fire. (I need to skip more.) But the pace was rapid-fire, so I didn’t notice I was dying, expect during the later planks.
When the 45 minutes were up, we were told to “wrap it up.” Not knowing what this meant, Carina got the next nice person, Sean, to help us out. We got to wrap our hands up and it looked and felt badass. If you’re planning to take a class, watch the video on thai handwrapping below so you are not as obviously clueless as Jill and I were.
After wrapping it up, we shadowboxed for about 10 minutes. This was when we realized Ryan was not crazy, but a thoughtful, helpful instructor. Everyone who was a regular got to freestyle at the front of the room. Everyone who was new (me, Jill, another girl and 2 guys) got a shadowboxing tutorial at the back of the room. The boxing stance does not feel natural at all. You’re always moving, but always relaxed, but always ready to punch. It’s exhausting just being ready to punch something. But Ryan went over the technique with us, walked us through how to move around the ring and where to hold our hands. And because we haven’t done enough upper body work, this was interspersed with push-ups every few minutes. On your knuckles. (Which is actually easier when your hands are wrapped up.)
Finally, it was time to punch things.
Punching things is really, really fun.
Everyone partnered up “based on size and experience level.” Jill and I paired up, natch. Hooray for both being tall and clueless. We got some pads and some gloves. The rest of the class worked through a jab, punch, jab-punch sequence, but Jill and I took our time. The pads are super heavy and we were still absorbing the technique lesson we got during shadowboxing. Again, everyone around us was so helpful. Ryan’s assistant (whose name I think was Howard, but I’m not sure) repeatedly came over to review our technique and offer us feedback. He was encouraging and helpful and truly great. Ryan came over a few times too. Considering how big the class was, the ability to give everyone this much individual attention was a nice perk. (Or proof of just how clueless Jill and I were.)
What I found the most interesting thing about this process was how much yoga and golf helped me understand what do to. Yoga is all about balance and inner strength, and muay thai boxing is the same. You need to be strong and find balance before you can do anything else. And, like golf, the movement is all about your entire body, not just your arms. Your fist is a guide for the punch, nothing more. The power comes from your legs. After 15 minutes, we switched it up and it was Jill’s turn to punch things.
I left the class completely spent. I was soaked. My legs were exhausted from the cardio work and my arms were exhausted from holding the pads for Jill. Muay Thai is a full-body workout. And I highly recommend it, if you’re looking for something high-intensity and/or something different. Don’t let the yelling men, shiny shorts and bright red room scare you. Inside is one of the friendliest fitness communities I’ve ever been to. And one of the hardest workouts I’ve ever done.
Amen, to everything Erin said and more! I also have to say, thank you Krudar for your amazing hospitality and patience. Although it was very clear Erin and I were new, I did not once feel out of place. Okay, that’s a lie I felt totally out of place! But I didn’t feel as though I should be there or that I didn’t belong – and that is really hard to find in a gym or fitness centre anywhere.
Krudar is proof you don’t need the gym to feel like you belong to something. I don’t know too much about the sport of Muay Thai, but I am intrigued to learn more and will be back to give this another go! But this will be after my half marathon. I can’t do too much at once… now where have I heard that before??
Boxing is one of those sports where just saying the name is scary. However, for me, thought of punching people and being able to throw a punch is one of my ultimate fitness goals of life, but I am also terribily afraid of getting a fist in the face or the possibility of breaking my nose or teeth (I know, this may my sound very sissy, but having teeth fall out is a big fear of mine). Fighters, I don’t know how you do it, but no wonder you are totally bad ass!
When Erin told me we were invited to a Muay Thai boxing class I was beyond excited. As Erin mentioned, we had a lot going on this spring, but I was getting impatient and kept insisting we go. And soon! I wanted to go boxing before it was too late – although I don’t really know what the hurry was.
I new Muay Thai was going to be a killer work out, and again, I would get to punch things. But unlike Erin, I’ve had some boxing and some fighting experience, so I wasn’t that afraid. Okay, that’s another lie. And by some experience I mean one beginner boxing class at Totum and one taekwondo class with my black belt, world wide fighting champion friend, Jimena. Many, many months back I took advantage of Totums’s free introductory week and tried boxing for the first time. And I really do have a black belt, taekwondo, fighting friend. At George Brown a teacher of ours called her Triceps. At both these classes (and again at Muay Thai) I too discovered the hip rotations and body coordination from golf really helped. This is also where my visions of me being the next Laila Ali came to surface. I really do just wish is was just good at everything. But maybe I could have been an amazing fighter! Again I will never know. Just like my dreams of being a dancer.
Erin did an excellent job of covering, well, every single detail of our class. From the skipping to the yelling to the super heavy pads, I can attest to it all. But the most important piece everyone must take away from our time spent at Krudar was how nice everyone was. I really respect a teacher who makes the personal gesture to help and assist the entire class. Thank you Ryan. And Carina, and Sean and everyone!
I even made a new friend in the locker room – the little 12 year old girl who put Erin and I both to shame – she even asked me if I would be back next week. How cute! I’m sorry to say I won’t be there this Wednesday, but I will take advantage of the 30 day for $30 deal (at least I thought I saw that somewhere). Regardless, I am excited for Krudar’s big move to Kensington Market (on Augusta) this summer. Carina promised a bigger and a more conditioned studio.
I advice everyone else to go as well. There is also a $10 intro class special for first timers. A guaranteed solid, total body work out is totally worth that price. But be warned, Muay Thai is highly addictive and you will want to go back. And don’t be scared when you first arrive, as Erin and I discovered, boxers have a tough outside and are genuinely nice on the inside. Oh and make sure you’re not doing any heavy lifting for 2 days afterwards. Where Erin couldn’t walk the next day, I couldn’t lift my arms!