Ironfist Article – Alex
On joining a Muay Thai kickboxing gym as an absolute newbie and a self-confessed desk jockey….
I haven’t exactly had the most athletic existence. At 27yrs of age, I’ve spent most of my life in the design and technology space – sedentary and behind a screen. But, like so many people I’ve met, martial arts has always piqued my curiosity.
I eventually worked up the courage to participate in my first class at a dedicated Muay Thai gym. I spend the drive there in a bit of a panic, expecting the experience would subject me to a fair amount of pain. Surprisingly – and quite happily – my preconceived notions were entirely unfounded. Here’s what I got from my foray (and continued practice) of Muay Thai.
When did you join Ironfist? How did you feel when you finished your first class?
I joined Ironfist at the end of January 2019. After my first class, I remember feeling a rush of accomplishment after being exposed to some phenomenal new techniques. But, the biggest highlight would have to be feeling welcome in a team environment. The other members of the gym were all at different levels of experience and were very accommodating. A culture existed where it was clear everyone was there to help each other out.
Did anything strike you as being different about Ironfist?
Absolutely. There is no obligation to compete or fight – just to have fun and learn. Interestingly, this approach seems to be the most successful. After all, Ironfist has produced multiple state and national champions. Furthermore, they have witnessed the rise of two world champions (in two different weight categories). Of course, we are talking about Ben Johnston and Michael Tomahawk Thompson – who both trained under head coach Daniel “Ironfist” Bell.
Did you train anywhere else before?
I had some experience training in some Muay Thai and boxing techniques. This was at a commercial gym for the duration of about a year. We’d do two sessions per week and there would be an average of about 5-10 people in the class. So, it was quite small. There were three punching bags available, a regular light bag, a teardrop bag and a heavy bag for kicking. The facilities don’t even come close to the equipment on offer at Ironfist.
When did you first discover martial arts?
In my early life, I was exposed to Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan movies by my dad and my brother. The films greatly intrigued me, and I’d find whatever videos and highlights I could on YouTube and watch them obsessively. However, I was an injury-prone and clumsy kid. So, I was never allowed to join an actual class because my parents were afraid I’d injure myself. Looking back, it probably would’ve benefited me more than anything to learn martial arts.
Why did you want to do Muay Thai and boxing?
As a big fan of watching competitive fighting – whether it’s Muay Thai, kickboxing or MMA – I’ve always wanted to jump in a gym and learn it for myself. After my time at the commercial gym, I discovered that there’s just something so satisfying about hitting the equipment. I’ve found that if I’ve had a less than average day at work, I’ll always leave the gym feeling a whole lot better. It gives me the opportunity to resolve my internal frustrations in outward physical form.
What was it like the first time you entered the gym at Ironfist?
Prior to Ironfist, I had never stepped foot in a genuine Muay Thai/boxing gym before. So, I didn’t really know what to expect. The very first thing that you see when you walk in is the boxing ring and the hanging heavy bags. This really gets the excitement levels pumping!
How long have you been there for?
I joined soon after the reopening of the gym – aka Ironfist 2.0 (as head coach Dan would like to say). I haven’t participated in a single class that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed or fully benefited from.
How fit were you when you first started?
When I first joined Ironfist I wasn’t a particularly fit person. But, after a few months, I could definitely gauge a visible difference in my general fitness, sleeping patterns and overall mood.
Can you tell me a memorable story about the first time you trained?
I have to admit that jumping into my first Muay Thai class there were a lot more people in the class than I was used to. However, it was rewarding to train with a bunch of diverse people and to learn from everyone. The class environment and vibe is really positive and the trainers adjust to your skill level. For example, if you want to slow the pace down you can, and if you don’t feel comfortable sparring – well, you don’t have to! There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to join Ironfirst as a full-member after completing my 7-day-free trial.
What has the journey taught you so far?
My time here at Ironfist has been phenomenal and I have grown so much in the process – both in terms of physical gains and personal confidence. I’m loving the energy and the emphasis on mutual respect. Honouring the art, the gym, the instructors and all of the other members is what it’s all about. Although training by yourself hitting the bags has its benefits, there’s nothing more valuable than doing it in a team environment. I look forward to classes every week and I am very eager to learn more!
If you have always wanted to learn martial arts but have never made it a reality – then now is as good a time to start as any. Ironfist Muay Thai is absolutely the right place to begin what will no doubt become a life-changing experience. The best things require discipline. Dare to be different!