AGAWAM – When Vakny Chonmany opened Harnessing Muay Boran in July 2014, he wanted to bridge the gap between Western boxing and traditional Eastern styles. Now, more than a year later, he is doing that and more, including offering women-only self-defense classes.
A resident approached Chonmany about offering self-defense classes, and initially, he did not want to do it. He said traditional self-defense classes focus on the short term and thought his students would not gain from a weeklong seminar.
Then one woman came in and suggested that training does not need to be a short term.
“I said ‘Wow, I never thought of that.’ It blew me away,” Chonmany said. “What I usually see, when people teach self defense, it’s only for a week. You’re not going to learn anything. You’re not going to condition your body in a week. Even though you’re paying $300 for a week class, but I feel like I don’t want to gyp people off.”
Chonmany, who is from Thailand, is using his knowledge and practice of Muay Thai to his students, including the classes for women.
Muay Thai is a full contact, striking sport, and the women who take the class will learn a cross of the art and kickboxing.
His goal for his studio is to break down the stereotypes of martial arts and educate his students. Especially for the self-defense classes, Chonmany said he wants to instill his students with confidence, even if they are hesitant to sign up.
“I would say observe first. Find the strength to make a change in your life and have courage because a lot of women are just scared, deep down inside they’re scared, they don’t have confidence because they’ve never been taught,” he said. “Take that step and come and talk to the instructor. That’s all. You don’t have to sign up. Pace yourself. Do research. I’m trying to educate the women here. I’m not here being really aggressive saying get in here, it’s going to help you. I want them to learn so they can help themselves when they get here so they can see the value of it. I’m going to be here.”
Though classes run just two days a week, Harnessing Muay Boran is open seven days a week, and Chonmany said he is hoping to eventually expand the self-defense classes.
The women who sign up may only be in class twice a week, but when they leave, they have “homework assignments” they must complete. This goes along with Chonmany’s philosophy that education is key.
Because the sports is “self-reliant and you don’t play as a team,” he said it is crucial for his students to work outside of the studio to grasp what their bodies can do.
Chonmany said that women who have walked into his studio and felt intimidated before by the intensity of the sport, which is why he felt it was best to make the classes women only. It allows them to be more comfortable.
The self-defense classes run on Mondays and Tuesdays from 7 to 8 p.m. Those women who are interested in learning more about the class can call Harnessing Muay Boran at 301-5077 or by visiting http://hmb.club.