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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Martial arts law rules Dubai's Kite Beach 

Magnum Fitness Beach in Dubai turns into a lyceum for Italian fighters and students

Michele Verginelli practices his moves at Kite Beach. Leslie Pableo for The National 
Michele Verginelli practices his moves at Kite Beach. Leslie Pableo for The National 

An outdoor martial arts gym on one of Dubai’s busiest beaches has become a hotbed for homegrown talent and has lured regular beach goers to join in.

Pass by Magnum Fitness Beach on any given Saturday and there will be fighters training in the open air, athletes performing calisthenics and international champions sharing their wisdom.

The gym takes its name from a Rome-based MMA (mixed martial arts) fighting event and has been brought to Dubai’s Kite Beach to provide a stage for Italian fighters to show their skills to the world, said Patrizia Marin, co-founder and managing director.

“When we started promoting the Magnum fighting event in Italy, we realised that we need a king of house for our fighters,” Marin said. “But what was important for them was not just to train in Italy but also to have challenges and events all over the world.”

Inspired by the outdoor gym of Venice Beach in California, Marin and her partner Klebanoff found Kite Beach to be the ideal venue last December.

The gym opened its doors on March 10, thanks in part to the support of Sheikha Maitha Al Maktoum, who was keen to have the gym in the winter pop-up market Be You Land, which she founded and operates.

Magnum club members work out at Kite Beach in Dubai. Leslie Pableo for The National 
Magnum club members work out at Kite Beach in Dubai. Leslie Pableo for The National 

“Sheikha Maitha always wanted a fitness and yoga and meditation aspect to the market,” said Vivek Thomas, the chief operating officer of Be You Land.

“When Patrizia approached us, they said this is the perfect opportunity to combine Magnum and fitness and a healthy aspect of the culture. Everybody wants to be fit so why not partner with them?”

Even in summer, the gym will continue. Its champion trainers include the actor, stuntman and boxer Bruno Verdirosi, who has appeared in Hollywood blockbusters such as Quantum of Solace.

“Don’t let health problems that come with age stop you from being a hardcore athlete,” said Verdirosi, 58. “If you train well throughout the years, you will have less of those problems.”

Michele Verginelli, the first and number one MMA champion in Italy, has drawn children to the gym.

“I have been holding several training sessions since I arrived 20 days ago, so far I have trained 10 children,” said Verginelli, 45.

Armando Neri, a instructor from Sardinia, has trained about 20 people a day in Muay Thai over the past six weeks.

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“Most are passers-by. They see the live show or punching and kicking when I am training someone, and they come and say we want to train too,” Neri said.

Estate agent Waqas Ahmad, 25, was showing houses in the area when he came across the gym by chance.

“I have my own transformation story,” Mr Ahmad said. “I used to weight 123 kilograms and without any surgery I worked on losing weight until I am now 83kg.”

The gym tempted him to start boxing lessons.

“I used to run on Kite Beach every morning after fajr [prayers] and all of a sudden they got the gym here, so I started training for boxing every day,” Mr Ahmad said.

Women have also been showing an interest, with about 15 having trained there for fighting skills in the past six weeks. There are plans to hire female trainers soon.

Magnum Fitness Beach’s training team has been selected as the official trainers for the athletes participating in the Dubai Gov Games competition, which begins on May 9.

Luca and Ahmed exercise at Kite Beach. Leslie Pableo for The National 
Luca and Ahmed exercise at Kite Beach. Leslie Pableo for The National 

“I can see professional fighters coming out of this gym. Next year, we will hold the fifth Magnum fighting championship here,” Neri said.

Previous locations have included Rome and Verona.

“We will definitely have enough fighters to participate from Dubai and Abu Dhabi and other parts of the Emirates,” Neri said.

This is thanks to open days on Saturdays, when the public can join and practise for free.

“The concept of the open day is for everyone to join the family here and getting to know one another before joining it,” said Ahmad Al Jnaibi, 20, an Emirati student and a Magnum regular.

“People are reaching to it themselves because of the good vibes and the experience of demonstrating your skills in front of an audience.”