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Staying Fit: Meet kick-boxing instructor Rafat Shawe

If weightlifting is not your style, here’s how to kick your way into fitness via Muay Thai classes

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  • Modern gym facility in Bangkok, young athletes training for a Muay Thai class, women and menImage Credit: Getty Images
  • Female boxers training together In a gym, one throws a punch with aggression, her fist full view but not the fImage Credit: Getty Images
  • Modern gym facility in Bangkok, young athletes training for a Muay Thai class, women and menImage Credit: Getty Images

There isn’t any one entrance into fitness. Ways of working out are as varied as ever. And what used to be sport disciplines accessible only to trained athletes have now become mainstream. Supporting this pattern is an endeavour by MMA fighter Rafat Shawe, who’s launching his latest Muay Thai Kick-boxing Classes on October 14 at Bodylines Gym Rose Rayhaan by Rotana.

Gulf News tabloid! talks to Shawe ahead of his new course:

Who is Rafat Shawe?

Originally from Iraq, I’m a professional MMA fighter, international karate champion, advanced personal trainer and nutritionist. I’ve been in the UAE for the past 17 years.

When I was 12 and living in Iraq, being a big fan of the Jean-Claude Van Damme and Bruce Lee movies, I started doing karate as a hobby — and realised I was quite good at it. In no time I got my black belt and was invited to join the Iraq National team, which culminated in me winning a gold medal at the International Karate Championship in Jordan.

I moved to Dubai in the 1990s and was already a fan of MMA when it finally launched in Abu Dhabi in 2010. I’ve now been fighting professionally in MMA for the past six years and have been part of fighting organisations in the region including ADFC, DFC and Desert Force.

What are the differences in training between competitive kick-boxing and recreational kick-boxing?

Competitive kick-boxing and a professional fighting career is a total lifestyle choice and it’s always with an end goal — be it a fight, new belt or progression within the sport. When you are a fighter competing professionally, in addition to your martial arts training, the level of cardio fitness you require is very high. Not many people realise how tough it is on your body, and you have to be at peak cardio fitness to make sure you can get through all the rounds of a fight. When I have a fight coming up, I train two or three times a day, six days a week. You also have to make a lot of sacrifices when it comes to food and diet and you have to give up time you may otherwise spend with your family, friends or just by yourself relaxing.

Technique-wise however, there is very little difference in the training between competitive and recreational kick-boxing. In my classes, you will be learning and applying the same techniques that I learnt in my professional training and use every time I get in the cage to fight. While the goals of a recreational kick-boxing class may be a little different and we aim to have more fun with it, I ensure all my students learn accurate technique and leave skilled, confident and able to defend themselves should they need to.

There are many boxing and kick-boxing programmes in Dubai, what makes yours different?

There are so many classes and fitness options in Dubai that I can understand why it is so confusing for those looking to choose a class to try. I think ultimately kick-boxing and martial arts has literally been my life! You will be learning from someone who has not only taught kick-boxing and martial arts, but who has been a professional athlete and fighter for over 20 years now. I love what I do and I live and breathe it 24/7 and that shows through in the way I teach my classes and the passion for what I do. While we’re there to get fit and learn kick-boxing, I can also answer any questions you have about nutrition, overall fitness and give you plenty of moral support too!

What can participants expect from your classes in terms of training and results?

My promise to anyone who comes to my classes is that no class will ever be the same! I spend time changing things up and making sure that every class is different and so it’s challenging and fun for regular attendees and first-timers too.

Training-wise, every class will combine a good warm-up, the learning of specific fighting techniques and combinations of moves, some practice with a partner and then an abs section as it’s essential to have a strong core in kick-boxing.

In terms of results, where do I begin? Kick-boxing workouts not only make you fitter, but there are so many benefits. It’s a high intensity workout and you will burn a lot of calories each session. The good news is that you will notice results quickly. My classes are demanding and many of my students say they notice changes within a couple of weeks — they lose weight, feel more toned and many of my female students say they see big improvements in cellulite too!

The physical effects are obvious, but there are some amazing mental and social effects too. You will leave the class in a good mood. You will also feel less stressed, which we all need these days in the demanding environment we live in.

Ultimately it’s a fun way to get moving, keep fit and offers a fantastic way to relieve stress and improve your overall well-being, while also teaching you a great skill and the ability to defend yourself, should you ever need to!

The details

Rafat Shawe’s classes are on every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday at 7pm at the Bodylines Gym at Rose Rayhaan by Rotana, Shaikh Zayed Road Dubai. The classes are open to members and non-members of Bodylines Gym with single classes starting at Dh90 per class. Packages of 10 classes start from Dh700 and 20 classes from Dh1,300. Emirates Face Card members get discounts.