Inside of Paddy’s Fight Club, the thunk of fists on leather echo off the mirrored walls as a group of two dozen expats sweat to the shouts of Khmer boxing combinations.
“There’s no better way to keep fit, lose weight and get toned than Khmer boxing,” says Paddy Carson, owner of Paddy’s Fight Club and Gym.
Khmer boxing — a style of kickboxing that uses the hands, feet, knees and elbows — is more than just a highly effective fighting art and form of self-defense. Training in the art is great for strengthening muscles and cardiovascular conditioning, Carson says. And there are other health benefits, such as strengthening the immune system and reducing cholesterol.
“It’s the number one medicine without taking medicine,” Carson says, as regulars filter in before a recent Monday evening class.
Students are mostly Phnom Penh-based expats, although tourists occasionally drop in to train with Carson and his fighters.
Claudio Feo, a native of Italy who works for a Norwegian NGO, began training with Paddy in 2007.
“Two and a half years ago,” Feo says, “I was eleven and a half kilograms heavier and a lot slower. It’s a lot of fun.”
Tara Dermott, an expat from the U.S., started coming to the class in February. “I love it. I’m a little addicted,” she says. “It’s really empowering.”
The gym consists of two full-sized boxing rings, several heavy bags, speed bags, some cardio equipment and a weight room. Boxing gloves are available for those who don’t have their own gloves.
The class is non-contact, so the risk of injury is slight. Students work through a circuit, hitting focus pads, held by Carson and his Khmer trainers, or heavy bags in 3-minute rounds. The workout wraps up with stomach crunches and push-ups.
The class is suited to men and women of all ages, Carson says, adding that a person is never too old to train in kickboxing for fitness.
For those with more serious intent, the club’s real fighters train Monday to Thursday at 5:00 pm, and all are welcome.
Paddy’s gym is also home to the Angkor Youth Boxing Club, which teaches Western-style boxing to underprivileged Cambodian youth.
“My dream when I first came to Cambodian was to create a world champion in Western boxing who is Khmer,” Carson says.
The youth train for free and some of them come from an orphanage near the gym. Carson is always looking for sponsors for the young fighters who he wants to have a “better life.”
Carson has been in the fight game as a fighter, trainer and promoter for 42 years. He started boxing as a kid in Durban, South Africa, and went on to train in two different styles of karate before eventually moving to Thailand in the early 1990s.
He moved to Phnom Penh eight years ago and opened his first gym near the Japanese bridge, but he has since moved.
Paddy’s Fight Club is now located at No. 46, Street 428. The kickboxing class takes place on Mondays and Wednesdays from 7 to 8 pm. The cost is $5, which includes use of the weight room. People can use the gym, which is open every day, at a cost of $2.