Being hit by someone wearing boxing gloves is like being on the losing end of the worst pillow fight ever.
I know this because I’ve been punched a fair amount. When I was young, my father thought he could turn me into a boxer. I had the thick neck for it. Quick hands. What I didn’t have? The legs. I stood there like a tree, flat-footed, slugging it out. I didn’t bob or weave or duck. I just got hit. A lot. I stopped boxing before it became dangerous—before someone bigger, faster, maybe just a little bit older came along and knocked my head clean off. But I always told myself that one day I’d try it again. And today, apparently, is that day.
“You’ve got to breathe! Come on—jab, cross.”
I jab and cross—bad left and a strong right—straight into the training mitts worn by Phil Lopez, an instructor at Nak Muay Gym, the second-floor Mixed Martial Arts training center in King of Prussia where everyone from complete amateurs (like me) to professional MMA fighters (like Tim Carpenter, Sam Oropeza and Aaron Meisner) comes to work out.
Phil is encouraging, slapping the mitts into my gloves a little to make it sound and feel like I’m hitting harder than I am. He shows me how to throw a hook, then shows me again. I can’t get it right until he comes in with a high hook of his own, forcing me to cover—by wrapping my right arm around my head—and then fire one right into the mitt with all my weight behind it. It feels good.
Nak Muay is owned by Eric Karner, a former competitive Thai kickboxer, born and raised in Solebury. He started boxing at nine years old (which was about when I started), but kept at it where I quit. He has the heart of a coach: Even when he was young, he’d go home after his lessons and show the neighborhood kids how to move, how to throw punches.
Out on the mats, I step back, take a breath, pull my hands back. Phil has me adjust my stance, move in a slow, loping circle while he mirrors me. Then the mitts come up.
“You ready to go again?”
Thirty-day free trial; average class price $150 a month for boxing lessons. Nak Muay Gym, 970 Pulaski Drive, King of Prussia, 215-622-6725.