Muay Thai is the newest class on the Six Senses Spa schedule so we went to speak to instructor, ex-chef and nutrition guru Haitham Khalid about why we should test it out.
What exactly is Muay Thai?
Basically it’s an ancient martial art that used to be used by the armies actually. It originated from India but the Thai people used it in combat through war. Muay Thai translates to Thai boxing but it’s the art of using all eight limbs so knees, elbows, punches, kicks. It’s a very, very physical sport but the classes that I teach are more for fitness and pad work. I try and teach it in a form of self defense.
What are the benefits?
There are so many. The health benefits are massive. You’ve got cardiovascular benefits... When you’re doing your actual moves as well you’re using the big muscle groups. Your muscular endurance improves massively because you’re doing repetition of the movements. Also your coordination because you’ve got to think about the moves; a lot of it is your stance and your footwork. Just those three things alone improve people’s daily routine. I’ve had people who come and train and weeks later they say they’re more focused in their job and all-round really feeling a lot more energised and focused.
Also, I think it builds discipline – sometimes people have a lot of stress and they let things build up and they don’t always release it in the best way. Some people like to go out and have a drink, some people smoke.
I’ve had people that come and they’ve actually cut down their smoking when they start to feel really healthy and one or two people have actually stopped. That’s a big thing that I want to try and tackle – I want to help people stop smoking through the power of Muay Thai.
There’s socialising as well. People come and most of the time I have to shout at them to get started because they’re just chatting with everybody. It’s a great way to meet people.
How did you get started?
Basically I was a chef for ten years. I worked in good restaurants (including Gordon Ramsay’s), French mostly, in London up until 2009 then I got a back injury. I was forced to take a lot of time off and in that period I started doing a lot of training and started realising, the more I was training and living a normal life – because working as a chef you work ridiculous hours – that there is more outside of the kitchen…
I left London towards the end of the year and I decided to take a trip. I went to Thailand. I’d done Muay Thai before a few times but it’s a bit like when you learn a new dance or when you take yoga up for the first time – certain dances only become enjoyable when you get the basic steps. It’s the same with Muay Thai – it’s very good in terms of that you release a lot of endorphins and you feel really good after your first session, but once you’ve been going for a little while, and you know the basics, it just gets so much fun. You keep learning and improving your technique.
So I started travelling around South East Asia and Muay Thai is obviously everywhere in Thailand. I wanted to do it some more and I just fell in love with it.
Tell us the truth. How hard are your classes?
I wouldn’t say they’re impossible to get through. I put in something for everybody really. I know if there are beginners I let them work into it – I teach them the basics, I don’t push them too hard.
I look at people and I know their progressions and I push them to where I know they’re ready to go. Ideally, soon, we’re going to be starting separating the classes.
The all-important question: how many calories do you burn?
On average between 350-550 but it depends on how hard you push yourself. If your cardio is really bad, especially if you smoke, I could be setting 20 kicks at the end of every round but if you’re sitting there going [pants] and you can’t breathe then obviously you will burn less calories. But that will obviously improve with time so once you get your cardio up to scratch you’re burning 400 plus calories a session.
What’s the best thing about it?
It is a lot of fun. The facial expressions on people especially when they learn the basic stuff… I tell people to calm down because I’m a bit of a stickler for technique. I’d rather people slow it right down, learn the right form first and then start speeding it up. But everyone just comes in the class and thinks it’s great fun to just smash things!
It takes a bit of conditioning but it’s definitely addictive.
Muay Thai classes at Six Senses Spa run every Saturday from 8pm-9pm for QR60 per lesson. Call 4425 6999. Haitham is also a personal trainer and nutrition expert. You can contact him through his website www.fitnesswithfood.com.
Three more to try
Haitham teaches two versions of his Muay Thai classes in eforea: spa. Pad work and fitness lessons run every Sunday and Thursday from 7pm-8pm for QR70, while pad work, conditioning and sparring classes run every Wednesday from 6.30pm-8pm for QR70.
Call the hotel spa on 4423 3441.
There are two classes taught in the fitness centre at the Ritz. The first is on Sunday at 9am and then again on Thursday at 8pm. Classes are QR50 per person.
Call the spa on 4484 8000.
Over in JBK Villas’ clubhouse, on Salwa Road, mixed classes in Muay Thai, kickboxing and boxing are taught to both beginners and pros. Lessons are every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday from 8:30 pm for a monthly fee of QR 550. You can come along for a free trial session.
Check out Doha Kickboxing on Facebook or contact coach Ahmad 6633 1499.