Shah Evans has stories for days.
Just ask him about anything and he’ll give you the perfect story, the most timely anecdote, all the while keeping it as real as can be. That’s because he’s as genuine and authentic as anyone you’ll speak to. He’s had to be that way to get to where he is in each of his many and successful ventures.
ShaH has been Vice President of the Urban Community Arts Network for the better part of a decade. During that time he has done a little bit of everything to further the platform in Madison for hip hop. He’s been a booking agent, social media specialist, partnered with The Frequency to bring talent there, and tried hard to use hip hop as a vehicle to empower and educate people.
Empowering and educating people. That’s what ShaH’s passion really comes down to.
But in his hustle to empower musicians and the Hip Hop scene around Madison, he found himself neglecting his own health and fitness.
“While I was building up my music businesses and touring or booking shows, I did probably the worst thing someone could do and just worked and worked, but didn’t work out,” Evans tells Madison365. “Most people just eat bad food while they’re working but I didn’t eat at all because I wasn’t hungry. My body didn’t like that very much. So I decided I needed to do something to get in shape. I boxed for 10 years, I did some MMA. I don’t like traditional training like weightlifting. I knew if I just went to Princeton Club or someplace, I wouldn’t hold myself accountable.”
Instead, five years ago, Evans learned Muay Thai and couldn’t believe the impact that doing a martial art could have on his life. The discipline from the martial art helped him have more discipline in his everyday life, his business ventures and, most of all, taking better care of himself.
Evans started training kids at a gym in Waunakee and quickly found success. Now, after two years of training kids there, Evans has taken over a gym on the South Side of Madison and begun a program for anyone who wants to join.
Evans says people from age 7-60 have joined the Muay Thai gym. Everyone has their own story or focus or goal for why they joined. The biggest thing for Evans is helping provide them with a place they can throw away the stresses of life.
And nothing blows off steam like just hitting something.
“You can run all the marathons and lift all the weights in the world, but that’s not gonna relieve as much stress as just hitting something,” Evans says, laughing. “If you’re kids are driving you up the wall, if someone pissed you off at work, you have a class here where you can go and do martial arts and you’re going to feel better by the time you leave. We want you to just feel better. Everyone here is the same the moment they walk in. The biggest thing is you walk out of here and feel great.”
The hitting and kicking isn’t just about, well, hitting and kicking. Everyone at the gym has a different story in life and a different reason for being there. It’s not about learning violence, it’s about achieving whatever the person’s goals are. Some people need cardiovascular exercise. Some people want to relieve stress from work. Some people want to fight. Some people want to become more confident or not feel as vulnerable to those who have or might victimize them.
“Nothing beats punching a heavy bag or kicking a heavy bag,” Evans says. “I know it sounds violent, but you end up bringing something out of men and women when you work with them. Like, during a private lesson I’m asking you if something has happened, how you’re doing, how you can focus on that and hit the bag and let it out. Sometimes people get emotional and you see tears coming out. You see the tears because they finally let it out. And then they feel great. We want you to be better and I really want you to get the stress out so you can go home or to work and function the way you should.”
ShaH does both large classes and private lessons for all age groups. The kids class in Madison is typically 5-6 pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
His Phase 1 class, meant for beginners, runs from 6-7pm Mondays through Fridays. In Phase 1 students learn techniques and get a lot of cardio exercise.
Phase 2 is Mondays and Wednesdays from 7-8 pm and is an intermediate level class. Evans is also starting a hip hop cardio kickboxing class as soon as next week.
Kids groups are generally split up into groups of ages 7 – 10 and 11 – 15. Depending on the skill level of certain kids they might be allowed to be mixed in with the adult groups. ShaH wants to bring them along in the kids class and if he thinks they are good enough or if they’re about 16 or 17, they should be okay working in the adult class.
Students in the adult classes are generally 18 all the way up to mid-60’s. ShaH says he had a student last year who was 53 years old and wanted to fight. He wound up winning two bouts in less than a combined minute and a half!
When ShaH took over The Blast he decided he wanted to keep the traditions going that he had learned under when he started training there years ago. The biggest part of that tradition was passion, which he has in abundance.
“I want everyone to feel like they’re family here,” he says. “I talk to a lot of students when they come here and on Facebook. And that’s how I want it to always be. If you become a member of the Blast, you’re part of the Blast family. I don’t do anything in business or anything that I’m not passionate about. I’m passionate about music and the artists I manage. I’m passionate about UCAN. I’m passionate about hip hop being taken seriously. I’m passionate about teaching people martial arts and confidence and making them feel better.”
That confidence is something ShaH loves fostering in other people. It’s all about doing things the right way with the right attitude.
“I love the fact that I can work with a woman who’s dealing with a lot of abuse in life and teach her confidence so she doesn’t have to deal with that anymore and also learn how to defend herself,” he says. “It’s all about taking Muay Thai and making it your own. If you think you have a big ego, you can leave. Here, we’re all the same. We’re all learning, we’re all growing.”
The Blast Muay Thai boxing gym is located at 703 Post road and offers cardio exercise, kickboxing, and and self-defense. Anyone interested in joining could call 608-620-4744 or follow the Blast on Facebook.