By: Athylia Paremski
“Please line up tallest to shortiest” is a command that our youth class is far too familiar with. It is usually followed up by muddled grumbling and conversation that are all silenced by further directions from Coach Charlie. The children are then generally split up into groups and are given a coach to work with, and as the newest of the youth coaches, I have grown accustomed to working with the youngest children in the class. In this little crew, like other groups that work in class together regularly, there is a level of trust that is built over practice and repetition of basic combinations and movements. In my group of little ladies, gentlemen, and humans, we work on mainly having fun, but also respecting the foundations of Muay Thai, and learning the extent of each other’s power and patience. As their coach, being able to witness firsthand their improvements in self-esteem, confidence, and skills, while building their trust, was, and continues to be, a real privilege. Right when I started as a youth coach for 8 Limbs Academy, the space we practiced in was lost due to a terrible fire which destroyed the building. Despite this tragedy, Coaches and Owners Charlie & Kate Cottone held classes for us in the basement of a church while they searched for a replacement facility. In that transitory time, being there for the youth classes and my petite posse was both a blessing and a reminder that the benefits of Muay Thai training are undeniable.
It is widely accepted that Muay Thai and martial arts have increasingly beneficial effects physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually. At all levels of practice, a series of positive feedback loops is perpetuated across a number of body systems, reinforcing muscle memory and so much more. It is an exciting honor to be a part of such growth in the smallest of humans, and to give them a place to display all of the strength, determination, agility, power, balance and all they have been cultivating within themselves. To watch a student start to hit pads harder, or begin to grasp combinations faster, or simply to have a chance to let loose with you in a controlled environment is everything, and I am lucky to get small doses of that multiple times a week. At 8 Limbs Academy, our students are coming to class and growing their understanding of Muay Thai while simultaneously learning and relearning how to control their own growing limbs and power. It is a journey that exists independently but also collectively amongst those training.
Having worked with children in different environments, there is a quote that I return to now and then, “To take children seriously is to value them for who they are right now rather than adults-in-the-making” (Alfie Kohn). I truly believe that using that idea as a guiding practice can yield great results through giving the youth more responsibility for themselves, and in Muay Thai practice, it continues to ring true. Our coaches regularly remind us all of certain ideals to keep with us, not only for our training but our lives, and lately it has been to relish in small victories and to work towards what you can accomplish right now in this very moment. Each youth class is truly an example of that present living, with each new day and all of the incredibly different present feelings brought in by each child and their respective days. We start each class by greeting all of the children and chatting with them about their lives, and that simple reset not only grows our connection to our students, but it also makes them feel valued and clears their minds before they train. Muay Thai offers everyone the chance to work on self-regulation, self-discipline, self-esteem, confidence, control, courtesy, focus, power, agility, and more. That is all part of the appeal of this beautiful sport.