Fists, elbows, knees, will fly

By Hannah Norton

Bar fighting is often frowned upon - but not for some youngsters.

Up-and-coming Muay Thai kickboxers from across the North Island are set to fight next month in a Whangarei bar instead of in a ring.

It's an organised event - Roundhouse Kickboxing's Rise of the Champions Novice Wars VII at Malba's bar in Whangarei on March 2.

"It's an environment where it's a little less stressful for young fighters, where they can train for being in the ring," said Roundhouse instructor Simon Haenga.

"It's especially for our younger girls and guys to have a fight without the ring and the huge crowds which can be quite daunting."

Roundhouse fighters will be paired up with other novice fighters from Auckland clubs ETK, SMAC and Lee Gar, and Bay of Islands Lee Gar, to name a few.

Mr Haenga said the fights would be modified Thai rules - meaning no elbows and knees to the head.

"In this show fighter's safety is paramount," said Mr Haenga, who also noted that fighters would all wear headguards, fights would be over-refereed, and the Red Cross would be on site in case of injury.

Each bout would involve three one-and-a-half-minute rounds, with decision fights being three two-minute rounds.

There would also be a coaches tag match.

"It'll be interesting watching all us old boys at it," Mr Haenga joked.

Muay Thai is a combat martial art that originated in Thailand that is characterised by the combined use of fists, elbows, knees, shins and feet, and is known for requiring a high level of physical and mental discipline.

Awareness and popularity of the sport has increased in Whangarei since Roundhouse opened, Mr Haenga said.

"What it has done has introduced our community to the beauty and fitness aspects of Muay Thai," he said.

"We've got grandmothers, young kids and everyone in between - 200 people walk through [the front door] each week to train."

- Northern Advocate

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