Rey Aquino, owner of the Sain Dae Muay Thai gym in Ely, admits he wasn’t the best kid growing up in Eugene, Oregon. By the time he was 10 years old, he was already headed down a dark path. That all changed when he discovered martial arts.
“I was a troubled kid growing up. When I began practicing martial arts, it changed my life,” Aquino said.
Though he trained with many instructors learning different styles, Aquino said he was drawn to Thailand’s aggressive combat style, known as Muay Thai. Calling it “the art of the eight limbs,” Aquino said Muay Thai utilizes attacks with elbows and knees in addition to more traditional punches and kicks. But behind all the attacks and defensive maneuvers was something deeper.
To perfect his new art, Aquino needed to become disciplined and respectful. Those concepts have become the core behind each and every lesson at Sain Dae.
“The culture of a martial art is just as important as the art itself,” Aquino said. “We are all about respect and discipline. If you have discipline to keep going through life’s toughest challenges, nothing can stop you.”
Mike Shillito, a student at Sain Dae, said Aquino’s lessons have helped him through “tough times” and said he has learned that Muay Thai is a “way of life.”
“Rey has been a good example of showing me how to live life productively,” Shillito said.
It’s stories like Shillito’s that give Aquino the motivation to keep going with his five classes a week.
“There isn’t really money to be made in this. I do it for the return I see in my students. Seeing them progress is what makes this enjoyable for me,” the owner said.
There is more to Muay Thai than just respect, however. It’s a physically grueling style of hand-to-hand combat. Aquino said the main draw for most adults to his classes is the intense workout it provides. And while he admits it’s a great way to get in shape, Aquino cautions it’s “not for everyone.”
“Everything that I teach here in the gym I have used in the ring,” Aquino said, referring to his time spent on the international competitive kick boxing circuit. “I have around 30 active students currently. I’ve probably lost more than that from people dropping out. It is a very tough art.”
For those looking for something less exhausting, Aquino also teaches a cardio workout class at the Pure Talent Dance Studio. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, his gym holds classes for children.
Aquino encourages those interested in learning self defense, getting a workout, or wanting to become more disciplined to stop by the gym for a free first lesson. For more information on the Sain Dae Muay Thai gym or about the different level classes that Aquino teaches, call 775-293-0955.