By Pablo Jaime Sáinz
Like many traditional Latino families, Gina Reyes’ family at first didn’t agree that their daughter would get into martial arts.
“I’m not supposed to be here,” said Reyes, smiling, during an interview at American Boxing, the mixed martial arts training center she owns with her boyfriend Dave Nielsen. “My mom was really shocked when I told her I was training. She’s always telling me, ‘Put more make up on.’”
But Reyes said that by being Latina, she had the perfect cultural characteristics to train in Muay Thai, a type of kick-boxing very popular in Thailand.
“We have the fire in our blood,” said Reyes, a 26 year old who is originally from Orange County. “We are loud, we are passionate. You need that to become good in Muay Thai.”
Muay Thai is referred to as “The Science of Eight Limbs”, as the hands, shins, elbows, and knees are all used extensively.
Although some people perceive it as a violent sport, Nielsen said that Muay Thai kickboxing is much more than throwing kicks and punches.
“It’s a combination of physical and mental intelligence. In a way, it’s like a physical chess: They move, they have to counter,” said the 32 year old champion.
Both Reyes and Nielsen train other people at American Boxing, which is located in Pacific Beach and has been in business for a year and a half.
American Boxing’s Muay Thai kickboxing classes are designed for men and women, from beginners to competitive athletes.
“Anybody could do it,” Nielsen said.
Their techniques and training style allows each person the ability to achieve the best cardiovascular, strength, flexibility and overall conditioning possible.
“We’re very family oriented,” Nielsen said. “We don’t have a corporate environment like at other gyms.”
Whether for competition, toning, weight loss, or just fun fitness, Thai Boxing at American Boxing is unparalleled and for everyone.
“I liked it because it was a competitive sport. Besides, I was already doing fitness anyway, so it made sense. It calmed me down in a big way. It humbles you right of way,” Reyes said.
She also said Muay Thai can be a good source of self-defense for women and children.
There’s a diverse group of trainees at American Boxing, Nielsen said.
He added that the sport is especially popular among Latinos. A Mexican flag in the background testifies to that.
So much, that Nielsen has had to learn Spanish phrases, such as “guantes arriba,” to train some of the Latino trainees.
“We have no language barriers,” said Nielsen, who’s originally from Seattle but has lived in San Diego for seven years.
Another advantage of Muay Thai is that, at the same time, you learn to dance, said Nielsen.
“When two fighters are competing, they’re dancing, in a way. It’s like exaggerated salsa. Your body responds to it. It’s fun.”
If you’re interested in finding out more about American Boxing and its services, please call (858) 733-5269 or online at www.americanboxing.net. It is located at 2710Garnet Ave., in Pacific Beach, one block and a half from Interstate 5.