Muay Thai is a martial art that originated in Thailand in the mid-18th century and is traditionally practiced using the fists, elbows, knees, and shins during combat. Like any martial art, it’s as much a physical sport as it is a mental exercise. As much as that ethos pairs well with any grueling work out, Muay Thai has not typically been placed in the same category as, say, boutique studio fitness behemoth SoulCycle. That is, until now.
Enter Hit House, located in Manhattan’s Nolita neighborhood. Combining the lap of luxury with the indisputable benefits (both physical and mental) of Muay Thai, the owners of Hit House have set out to create a new path for the sport not just as a martial art, but as an effective, on-trend workout. Just imagine the force of a skilled kick’s strike meeting the beat of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” remixed by co-founder Tyler Scott, who per his Instagram bio is “½ of @hithouse” alongside his wife, Dana VanPemelen.
Scott, a former actor and hospitality professional, graduated from the University of Idaho with a theater degree, although the college football player ultimately found his starring role competing in Muay Thai when he moved to New York City. 60 pounds lighter, Scott established the sport as not only his competitive hobby but also his go-to workout. Having done the workout myself, I can attest to this: it’s a killer sweat session and worthy of many Instagrammable moments.
Opened in March 2018, Hit House’s 1,600-square-foot work out studio is complemented by an additional 3,200 square-foot zen-like lobby and an even more impressive locker room. Impressive, to say the least, since the space was designed by Hyphen & Co. who is also responsible for the ClassPass HQ and Rent the Runway HQ. The studio was inspired by a “modern, boutique hotel with industrial finishes, clean lines and Thai-inspired greenery,” a concept those privy to the ‘business of fitness’ accept as commonplace in the world of burgeoning luxury fitness studios.
As much as design concept is key, hospitality in the world of luxury fitness is just as critical, particularly when it comes to instructors. “All of our instructors trained and grew up in a Muay Thai gym,” Scott explains. As a former man of the stage himself, Scott reveals that there’s a bit of showmanship required to become the new “it workout.” As a result, he constantly reminds his team that “it’s like they’re on Broadway—there are eight shows a week.”
Below, Scott shares the idea behind him and VanPemelen’s studio and why they think Muay Thai is the hottest new workout to hit the Big Apple.
What is the Muay Thai community?
The Muay Thai community that I experienced was such an eccentric group of people from every walk of life. And I had loved that same quality, in a way, spending time in a football locker room growing up.
What inspired you to take your Muay Thai training and apply it to the boutique studio fitness trend?
When my wife Dana took me to my first SoulCycle class in 2015—she knew about classes way before me—I was just blown away. I don’t like pedaling a bike and I initially had no interest, but when I took the class I was blown away by the environment, the community, and the instructor was on fire. I saw the appeal, it’s not for me, but I got it. I thought if people were willing to pedal a bike for 45 minutes, they might be willing to train in Muay Thai.
Upon entering the studio, one’s eyes are immediately drawn to Hit House’s custom bags—they aren’t the same boxing bags seen in other studios. Why separates them from typical contact heavyweight bags?
Group boxing usually has you shadowboxing or working on a partner, which can be tedious and discouraging if your partner is more trained than you are. That’s where The Bishop (Hit House’s custom bag) comes in. We had to eliminate the swing of a bag because traditional heavyweight bags take a lot of practice before they are actually efficient to practice on—45-minutes isn’t enough practice. I always like to say this when it comes to studio fitness: “People that are going to a cycling class aren’t looking to compete in the Tour de France.”
How did you come up with the design for The Bishop?
We worked with world’s largest supplier of martial arts equipment, Century Martial Arts. I hounded them and finally their head of research took the project on. Instead of a bag that swings or that has sand or water in the base of it, it connects floor-to-ceiling, and we named it The Bishop because it looks like a Bishop chess piece. But it’s still trial and error. Yesterday I spent four hours disassembling a Bishop and putting it back together!
As a former college football player, you understand a good workout when you see one. So, how good of a workout is Muay Thai?
You get what you put in, like anything else. I’m not a registered sports nutritionist, but when I moved to New York from playing college football I weighed around 255 pounds and I dropped all the way down to 185 pounds fighting. It’s a different type of cardio and fitness regimen than I was used to.
What are the mental benefits of this workout?
That’s something that I personally preach out. The only way to overcome being physically tired is mental toughness. You may be physically in a room, but if you can mentally challenge yourself—like playing hot lava when you’re doing a plank—you gain a stronger sense of achievement. That’s where fighting is unique because it’s just you against your opponent.
How important was choosing amenities that would be available at the studio?
I’m a hippie, but I realize when you’re going to make a capital investment like this you have to give the people what they want. Fitness now, people want to be involved. You need amenities. (Amenities like a washer/dryer in the Ladies Locker Room and Skin Spa beauty products). That being said, we know people love the club atmosphere and the dark room, but where we thought there’s room to improve in this market is that people can actually get good at something—like Muay Thai. Developing a skill set is also part of our brand.
Hit House is located at 2 Spring Street in New York City. Classes are $31 each with additional pricing available for first-time classes and personal training sessions. Gloves are available to rent for $6, and Hit House quick wraps are available for purchase for $2. See here for the class schedule.