Bloomington-Normal is an area abundant in American
history, tradition and culture. It is also home to Dave Rogers, one of the
country's premier instructors in Muay Thai.
Muay Thai, also known as Thai Boxing, is a
martial arts form that originated centuries ago in Thailand. It combines
aspects of boxing and traditional martial arts and utilizes punches and
Muay Thai originated as a form of hand-to-hand
combat before officially becoming a sport. Today it is the national sport
of Thailand and it stands as one of the many symbols of the nation's rich
With the rise UFC and Mixed Martial Arts
fighting in the United States, Muay Thai has become one of the most
popular forms of martial arts in the country.
Dave Rogers' path to Muay Thai began with taking a Karate
class in the early 1980s. He quickly switched to Kung Fu and then Kali, a
Filipino weaponry practice. For Kali, Rogers trained with Dan Inosanto,
who had trained with the actor Bruce Lee.
Through Inosanto, Rogers met Arjan Chai, founder
of the Thai Boxing Association of the USA. Chai took a liking to Rogers,
though Rogers was originally apprehensive to Muay Thai.
"Thai Boxing scared the hell out of me," Rogers
said. "It was tough. I'd hide behind the bags to stay away from Chai, but
that didn't help."
After daunting persistence from Chai, Rogers
began his training in Muay Thai in 1984.
Chai would begin to push Rogers toward becoming
an instructor-a notion he was also hesitant toward.
"I just wanted to train," Rogers said. "I'd have
training partners come over and they'd bring friends so I'd teach them and
through a period of time I went through all these people and learned to
become a teacher in the process."
In 1996, Rogers became an Apprentice Instructor
Level in Muay Thai under Chai's training.
In 2001, Rogers started teaching boxing in
Bloomington at the Twin City Boxing Center. His son-in-law joined the army
after September 11 and Rogers was invited to visit him at Fort Benning.
Rogers made such an impression on the people at
Fort Benning that his teachings were adopted as part of the US Army's
hand-to-hand combat curriculum.
The training Rogers adapted for the Army would
become crucial to his career as a Muay Thai trainer.
"The monster I built was something that I could
teach in an hour," Rogers said. "I could teach anybody that walked off the
street boxing in an hour."
Since June of this year, Rogers has been
teaching Muay Thai sessions at the Academy of Mixed Martial Arts in
Bloomington, a place he calls, "the best training facility in the area."
Rogers' work-out sessions are more than
rigorous. They feature tough calisthenics and training in the art of Muay
Thai. Like most martial arts training, the sessions involve a workout that
is as tiring physically as it is mentally. Students walk away beaten,
bruised, and satisfied.
Rogers' sessions are tough, but he allows his
students to make the most of the opportunity to walk out in better shape
and feeling empowered.
"That's my philosophy," Rogers said. "Get people
in the ring, make them breathe, make them move, make them sweat."
Bethany Hargis of Bloomington has been taking Muay Thai
training for the last eight months and noted Rogers' sessions to be her
best experience by far.
"This is the best Muay Thai class I've taken,"
Hargis said. "Dave's sessions are the most intense and the most
Jason Smith of Springfield has also been
training with Rogers since he began teaching Muay Thai at the Mixed
Martial Arts Academy in June.
"Dave is not only the best teacher in the area,
but he's also one of the best in the country," Smith said.
Smith has been training in mixed martial arts
for the past three years and began his amateur career about a year ago.
Rogers' training, he said, has been vital to his success.
"Muay Thai is the main form in MMA (Mixed
Martial Arts) right now," Smith said. "A background in [Muay Thai] is
absolutely necessary and I've learned a lot in the past eight months."
Dave Rogers teaches at the Bloomington Mixed
Martial Arts Academy Tuesdays and Thursdays. The Academy is located at 401
Bronco Dr. off of Oakland Ave. They can be found online at