When Michael Corley broke away from owning a Muay Thai gym in downtown Houston four years ago, he did so with the intent of bringing the concept to kids and the community in a way he couldn’t in that location.
Corley is the owner and head coach at Heritage Muay Thai gym, located at 1604 W. 34th St., and a former athlete who fought on the highest platforms of Muay Thai with over 30 professional fights in eight countries. Muay Thai is a standing martial art recognized as a provisional Olympic sport that is known as “art of the eight limbs” due to its focus on the knees and elbows as well as punches and kicks.
Though he grew up in Spring, Corley said he had previously lived off of 18th Street in the Heights while working at other gyms in the Houston area. So, when he so happened to need a spot to set down roots in the area, he already had a vision in mind.
“I saw it as being a rising, growing neighborhood. It’s diverse, and I thought it would be a good fit for this type of gym, because Muay Thai is for everyone, young and old,” he said. “To me, it seems like this area doesn’t really have that martial arts/boxing fit here yet.”
Heritage Muay Thai, which opened its doors in the area in July 2018, offers courses for fighters of all ages and experience levels and age groups. From novices to world-class fighters and from children on up, there is something for everyone.
Heritage Muay Thai offers classes for children as young as 5 years old and has had a participant as old as the late 60s. Classes are Monday through Thursday and Saturday, costing $100 per month for children and $150 per month for adults, and participants can come as often as they please. There’s also a fitness/kickboxing class running simultaneously with the kids’ classes where parents can hit bags and work with the gym’s six trainers.
“Our classes are controlled environments – they’ll learn the proper techniques, perform them on each other with the proper equipment,” Corley said. “For a lot of people, it’s been good for their fitness, and it also gives them empowerment.”
Of particular interest to Corley is ultimately reaching the community with the sport, and teaching them from a young age the traditions and essence of Muay Thai for the benefit of their fighting and their life.
“We don’t want them to just participate. We want them to learn and get something out of it,” he said. “I do it because I want kids in martial arts. I want them to do it because it’s good for them and good for the community. That’s what it’s all about.”
A large part of Muay Thai, Corley said, is respect – and he said nobody tries to pull the intimidation factor at Heritage. Corley and his trainers have all trained, fought – or both – in the art’s birthplace of Thailand, which he feels sets the gym apart from its predecessors and counterparts.
“That’s not the culture of Muay Thai – even the people who look intimidating have been great in helping everyone out and grow in their craft,” he said.
Heritage Muay Thai is open Monday-Thursday from 11 a.m.–9 p.m., Friday from 4-6:30 p.m. (Open Gym), Saturday from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. (Open Gym).
For more information on Heritage Muay Thai, visit the gym at 1604 W. 34th St., call 832-326-6453 or email the gym at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We have some of the most high-level athletes in our sport, but we’re also down to earth,” Corley said. “People need to see what Muay Thai is about – it’s a respectful, tradition-based martial art, and we try to be welcoming of people, not some scary fighter gym.”