MMA? A-OK: First authentic Muay Thai school in western Mass. reopens in Millers Falls
Recorder Staff/Paul FranzMike Shanahan of Sunderland defends himself from head coach Aaron Snow during sparring at Sitmangpong martial arts studio in Miller Falls.
By AVIVA LUTTRELL
Wednesday, March 02, 2016
MILLERS FALLS — Those who frequent Millers Falls may have noticed a new tenant in one of the downtown buildings — Sitmangpong Thai Boxing and MMA (Mixed Martial Arts), located at 27 East Main St.
Aaron Snow of Shutesbury opened the private club last month after closing his previous location in Greenfield last May. He said he ran the gym out of his home for a while, but when he realized that plan was not viable, he had to find a new location.
“The town had some specific regulations which put our gym on pause for a while, and then I happened to be driving by and I asked about the space and they needed someone to fill (it), so we just got the space,” he said. “We’re the first and only authentic Muay Thai kickboxing school in western Massachusetts.”
Kru Snow (Kru means “head teacher”) said he plans to expand the club to the space next door by the first of January, where he’ll install a boxing ring and a locker room. Snow added the club is something the Montague area has never seen before.
“We’ve grown too big for our space already, which is nice,” he said.
Snow has been boxing since he was 6 years old and his grandfather, father and brothers were all boxers. He said he found Muay Thai martial arts 16 years ago and “fell in love with it,” training with world champions and fighting across the country.
The rules of Muay Thai are very similar to MMA and boxing, according to Snow, and the sport is full contact and nonstop. It was developed in Thailand 4,000 years ago as a self-defense system for warfare and utilizes striking, clinching and grappling.
“It has evolved into the sport that we know and love today,” Snow said.
After working as a striking coach at several MMA gyms in the area, Snow said he decided to start his own club with a friend, Nick Valentino, which was only for fighters at first.
“We got together and started fighting together,” he said. “There was just a small fight team of three. … We would fight in New York, New Jersey and we would train under a small pavilion even in the winter time in Shutesbury, outside in the snow.”
He said as more people started seeing what they were doing and interest grew, he decided to open up a school in February 2014, which was located on Chapman Street in Greenfield, before finding their current location in Millers Falls.
“The space didn’t fit us very well … and then we were lucky enough to find this place recently, and the rest is history,” he said.
The club currently has 32 members ranging in age from 6 to 63, according to Snow, as well as an eight-member fight team that travels for matches. Out of its eight fights this year, he said the team has only had one loss.
“We’re doing really, really well,” Snow said.
The club also offers the only women’s-only kickboxing and MMA class in western Mass, which is taught by a female.
“People have this bad image of you have to be a fighter, you have to be a real tough guy to do this sport, but the way that we run our gym is not like that,” Snow said. “People can train here and never, ever do full-contact sparring.”
He added the club is a close-knit, supportive group of people who often spend time together outside of class.
“It’s like a second family,” Snow said.
Sitmangpong Thai Boxing and MMA is open six days a week and offers a free week of classes for potential members, by appointment only.
“Ever since I started teaching, my goal was to open up my own club and make everyone love the sport and art that I fell in love with as much as I did,” Snow said. “My heart belongs in fighting and teaching.”
Find the club on Facebook or at 413mma.com.
You can reach Aviva Luttrell at: ?firstname.lastname@example.org ?or 413-772-0261, ext. 268?On Twitter follow: @AvivaLuttrell