Photograph: Pha Lina/Phnom Penh Post
Paddy’s Fight Club on Street 294 is a proper boxing gym. No frills, no mucking about.
A line of punching bags against one wall, a pile of skipping ropes, some pads and pounding dance music are all the basics needed for a seriously hard session.
Paddy Carson reckons that it’s the fact that everyone trains together that creates such a good atmosphere. He set up his gym a decade ago and after several changes of premises it now boasts a dedicated mix of professional boxers, local Cambodians and ex-pats boxing both English and Khmer style. His customers come here to get fit and to learn self-defence.
Carson learned Muay Thai while living in Thailand and when he moved to Cambodia he started teaching his skills to street kids in Phnom Penh. He dreamed of giving Cambodian fighters the opportunity to compete for international recognition and in 2008, thanks in great part to his efforts and a partnership with CTN, the International Sport Kickboxing Association held two world title fights here.
Paddy’s regular Mun Sophea, a professional Kun Khmer fighter, is training in the corner ahead of a weekend fight at CTN. Ten million riel (US$2500) is up for grabs, and he’s looking in good shape. After his session, he takes a set of pads and helps coach some young expats who have turned up for a work-out.
Bo, a regular at Paddy’s, explains what makes Kun Khmer (Cambodian kickboxing) unique: “You use all parts of your body, including the elbow, knee and chin. It’s a combination of the ancient Cambodian Bokator martial art and more modern techniques.” Then he demonstrates how you can kill someone with only a blow from the point of your chin.
Sovatha, a student living in Phnom Penh, says that he leaves a session at Paddy’s “feeling more fit and agile. I was going out and drinking a lot. Keeping up the training here gives me more balance.”
Paddy is evangelical about the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Diagnosed with cancer two years ago, he believes that it’s thanks to his level of fitness that he’s still here today. “In today’s world, you need to exercise; it boosts your immune system and gives you a better quality of life.”
At only US$6 a day, and with the option of group classes or one-on-one tuition, Paddy’s is great value for money and a great opportunity to work off the stresses of the day while getting seriously fit in the process.