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Last week, one question I asked Dangerous Dave Zuniga went unanswered.

That question was, “What do you like the least about muay thai?”

Well, I don’t know what Zuniga doesn’t like, but I can tell you what the worst part has been for me: the thug element.

Muay thai can be a beautiful martial art, steeped in tradition and culture. But it is also one of the most brutal martial arts, and that attracts a certain unsavory personality type. The kind of guy who loves to pick fights with people who are smaller than he is, and who owns a vicious dog because he thinks it makes him more masculine. This guy may think it’s cool to hold a gun to his wife’s face or to join a gang, making a little extra cash by selling drugs or beating the crap out of people. Remember that nasty karate gang in the original Karate Kid? Well, the people I’m talking about would have laughed their collective asses off at blond Billy and his skeleton-suited cronies. And then they would have pulled out their guns and blown them away.

It’s not just men, either. Muay thai also attracts aggressive, unhappy women with severe anger issues. These women also think it’s cool to start fights in bars and hurt those who are smaller or less well-prepared. I’ve had women rush at me, attempting to headbutt me in the stomach, during a sparring match. There was one who repeatedly kicked me in the lower back, right where the original fractures were. And no, it wasn’t an accident.

Thankfully, this thug element is the minority. But, as with so many things, a few bad apples can really spoil the bunch. I was completely naive until one of my old clubs was overtaken by thugs, which resulted in a rash of drive-by shootings and arrests. Now I know a thug when I see one, and if one of the Bad Guys shows up at a gym and the owner welcomes him like an old friend, it’s a bad sign. That club will automatically lose me as a member.

What I love about my current dojo is that it’s pretty much thug-proof. My kru Kelly doesn’t stand for that kind of nonsense, and he knows it when he sees it, too. He’s one of the most moral people I’ve ever met, so he isn’t going to be swayed if someone waves a fist full of cash under his nose. This makes a huge difference, not only in the safety of his club, but in the attitudes of the people who go there. KWest is the friendliest dojo I’ve ever seen. People greet each other instead of scowling. When there’s an upcoming fight, everyone helps one another instead of letting jealousy and bitterness get in the way. Nothing’s perfect, so it’s possible you’ll encounter a bad attitude now and then, but those people don’t tend to stick around. Like attracts like, so KWest is full of happy, positive people who just want to have a good workout and make some new friends. And that’s a wonderful thing.

For, as much as I’ve glorified the “good ol’ days”, it’s nice to be able to go to a gym without being worried that you’re going to get shot. No one should have to worry about that, ever.

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