Getting kick out of Muay Thai

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 Messenger photo by Mike Munden

Ryan Huckaby (right) works out with his Muay Thai instructor Tony Mosley in a gym on the westside of Columbus. The West Jefferson High School student has been involved in martial arts training since he was 4 years old.

West Jefferson High School senior Ryan Huckaby was always jumping around his yard like a Power Ranger when he was a little boy until his parents, Jack and Kim, gave him the best birthday present ever at age 4.

First, they tied a blindfold around his eyes, put him in the car and drove him to Scott Bivens’ Kempo Karate studio in West Jefferson.

"I remember walking in, opening my eyes and then I saw the punching bag," Huckaby said.

For his birthday, his parents had enrolled him in karate classes, which began his journey through the world of martial arts, including seven years of Taekwondo and now Muay Thai, better known as kickboxing.

During his journey, he earned a black belt in karate and 16 competition medals in the three sports. His most recent win was Nov. 10 in the National Kickboxing Tournament at the All Star Sports Complex in Columbus, which drew more than 100 participants. Huckaby won the gold medal in his weight class.

His interest in more forms of martial arts started when he was in sixth grade while he was competing regularly in Taekwondo.  He remembers his parents driving him all over Ohio, to Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee.

"My mom was my biggest fan," he said. "She’s always telling me that."

He remembers sitting in the car’s back seat with his headphones on, listening to Rush, Staple or AC/DC, getting pumped up and ready to compete. It made him nervous, but he liked it.

Taekwondo is fast-paced, he said.

"You could blink your eyes and when you open them up, you have a foot in your face," he said.

"I was nervous, but somehow I love that feeling." He knew he wanted more.  

"I started doing research and looking for things on the Internet," he said.

That led him to a desire for Muay Thai training when he was 16 and he started searching for classes.

He found what he was looking for about a year ago at Ohio Muay Thai Academy -West Side, owned and operated by Tony and Jane Mosley.

Literally translated, Muay Thai means "art of Thailand" and is the country’s national sport, according to Tony Mosley, an instructor and certified personal trainer.

The Mosleys have been involved in Muay Thai for 15 years. Muay Thai is to Thailand what Kung Fu is to China and Taekwondo is to Korea, Tony said.

Although it is commonly called kickboxing, Tony explains a significant difference: Muay Thai, also known as the "art of eight limbs" includes full-body contact, whereas American kickboxing allows contact only above the waist.

A full-contact sport, a one-on-one fight, "the real thing," is what Huckaby was looking for.

"I love to sweat and get beat up," he said grinning, "but it’s more than that."

It’s the study of history, culture, respect and personal development, according to the Mosleys.

Huckaby, like all gym members, had to be interviewed and accepted by the Mosleys to make sure they had the right mindset and purpose.

"Ryan is a good kid," said Jane, also an instructor. "To be in high school and not have the attitude is saying a lot."

Huckaby attends classes, runs track, stocks shelves at the Galloway Kroger store to pay his gym fees, and works out for an hour, two or three nights a week. When he is preparing for competition he runs 10 to 15 miles a week.

"Jane and Tony are unbelievable trainers," Huckaby said. "I would not be where I am without them in my corner."

He has hopes and dreams of becoming a professional fighter, but until that happens he plans to pursue a career in law enforcement.

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