“I don’t want to, I’m afraid I’ll hurt you!” I laugh.
“You no hurt Khun Bee. Bee Lumpini champion. No hurt.”
Oh yes, of course. My matchstick shins are no match for a world champion Muy Thai boxer, who is very graciously taking a wimpy woman through the basics of this violent, sweat-inducing and highly addictive sport at The Siam Hotel’s state-of-the-art boxing gym.
“Leb, li, leb, li” Khun Bee instructs, holding up his pad-protected hands in case my jab sends him flying. It takes me a minute to realise he’s actually saying ‘left, right’ ... and ‘gar’ means guard, the most essential part of any form of martial arts. If you don’t protect your face, you’ll lose it. And in the case of Muy Thai, that’s usually in the most spectacular fashion.
|me giving Bee hell|
This most deadly of martial arts dates back at least 700 years to the Sukothai period, when it was refined in the royal courts of Ayutthaya. It is often referred to as the ‘art of eight limbs’, a marriage of grace and savagery that involves punches, kicks, knee and elbow strikes and head clinches. It’s incredibly physical - trust me, it’s an amazing aerobic exercise - but also requires speed, lightness of foot and nerves of steel.
Thailand’s first boxing ring was built in 1921; it has since become the national sport, with Bangkok’s Lumpini Stadium the headquarters of the World Championships. Anywhere you go in Thailand, however, you’ll find an arena holding weekly fights - and there’s nothing quite like being amongst a crowd of locals and farangs literally baying for blood.
Watching Muy Thai is one thrill - but actually learning the sport is another. I’m having a lesson at The Siam Hotel, Bangkok’s most exclusive boutique hotel, which boasts Bangkok’s first professionally-equipped luxury boxing gym. And what a gym it is - fully air-conditioned, with a full-size boxing ring, mirrored walls and all the training gear you’d ever dream of. Even the lobby of the gym is incredible, with a fantastic collection of Muay Thai memorabilia - old posters, gloves, all very cool.
|memorabilia from Muay Thai golden era|
The gym was installed at the personal request of General Manager Jason Friedman, who is a self-confessed Muy Thai addict; Jason can often be seen training in the gym, taking advantage of its incredible facilities.
After an hour’s introductory session, I was sweating like a pig, dying of thirst and exhausted. I also felt amazing, re-energised by the surges of adrenaline through my veins.
And what better way to relax afterwards than with a 90-minute massage at the glorious Opium Spa specially designed to iron away the aches and pains of Muy Thai. The Muy Thai Massage uses slow, deep strokes and firm pressure to ease built up stress, perfect for recovery after a boxing session. Such a brilliant combination of sport and relaxation!
|The Opium Spa|