Muay Thai dojo opens in Old Town

Atlas Muay Thai Gym at 215 N. Payne Street in Old Town (via Facebook)

There’s a new outlet to get your kicks in Old Town.

Atlas Muay Thai Gym opened two weeks ago in the former CrossFit gym at 215 N. Payne Street. The location is shared by The Link coworking office, and is owned by Muay Thai world champion Amine “The Lion” Ballafrikh.

Ballafrikh fought his way out of Moroccan slums to be a U.S. citizen, and his gym is named after Morocco’s fabled Atlas Mountains. He moved to the U.S. more than a decade ago, opened his gym in 2017 in Fairfax County and became a two-time North American champ and lightweight World champion.

“I competed all around the world with the dream of becoming a champion,” Ballafrikh told ALXnow. “I want to teach this new generation of kids to dream, too. I’m here to help you make that dream a reality.”

It costs $115 to attend a single one-hour class per week, $190 to attend three classes a week and $230 for unlimited classes.

Ballafrikh says people can be intimidated by Muay Thai out of fear of being injured.

“You’re not going to get punched in the face on your first day,” he said. “One of my clients is 74 years old, and I create individualized workout plans for my clients. We are very patient and work closely with each individual.”

The gym has changed Omar Elfertasse’s life. The 14-year-old started training with Ballafrikh when he was 11 years old, and weighed upward of 250 pounds. Now he’s about 150 pounds and earlier this year won the WKA U.S. National Championships for his age and weight class.

“Before I had very few friends and I was very unhappy,” Elfertasse said. “Now I’ve gotten bigger, I’ve gotten taller, but now I’m fine. I’m happy. I go school happy, come back from school happy, go out with friends and train. Everything’s been so much better than it was before, which I’m really pleased about. It wasn’t an easy process, but it was definitely worth it.”

Photo via Facebook