Shield, duck, punch: At a municipal sports hall in Chile’s capital Santiago, dozens of members of the LGBTQ community gathered to learn Thai boxing self defense moves in a climate of rising homophobic violence.
For two hours on Saturday, 50 eager pupils were taken through their paces by three champion Muay Thai practitioners showing them how best to block an attack and how to hit back: aiming with the elbow or knee at an aggressor’s neck, ribs, genitals and thighs.
“It’s really good that they offer this to LGBT people above all, because we are the ones who need it the most,” said Ignacio Gomez, 23, who admitted being “a bit scared to walk in the street at night.”
The free class, one in a series, was an initiative of Thailand’s ambassador to the South American country.
That envoy, Chanida Kamalanavin, was inspired by a homosexual friend being able to defend themselves in a late-night attack thanks to Muay Thai.
“This ability can help save your lives,” the ambassador told those who turned out for Saturday’s class.
Organized in collaboration with Chile’s Movilh gay rights body, the class was initially meant to accommodate 20 people, but due to high demand, organizers welcomed 50 of the 150 people who had managed to get their names on a shortlist.
Other classes are planned for Santiago and Punta Arenas in Chile’s south, but the champion teachers will also take their training to Brazil, Peru and Mexico.
For Safka Vivanco, a 25-year-old psychologist who attended the most recent class, it was useful “not only because I am part of the LGBT community, but also to protect myself from gender violence… It is always good to have this kind of basic tool to be able to confront these situations.”
According to Movilh, hate crimes against members of the LGBTQ community doubled from 2021 to 2022, with six recorded killings — a tie with 2020 for the deadliest year.
The NGO also recorded three police assaults on members of the community, and 40 other cases of physical or verbal assault.
Muay Thai is Thailand’s national sport.
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