Why DCS Is A World Class Facility, by Riley Maggs

This past winter, at the ripe young age of 30, I realized I was at a crossroads: either lose some weight, or buy some bigger shirts. Although the first, healthier option won out, I’ve never been too fond of certain forms of exercise. I am, however, a massive fan of combat sports and have dabbled in various martial arts at various points in my life. I figured there must be someplace to train martial arts in Vancouver where I could put those interests to work for my body’s benefit.

As a recent transplant from Alberta, finding the right gym in Vancouver was somewhat intimidating. The hours I keep working nights don’t often align with the 9-to-5ers who make up most of the population. I needed a place with a broad range of class times from morning to late evening. Despite a few years of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu experience under my (forever white) belt, the cathartic intensity of Muay Thai kickboxing captured my curiosity enough that I decided to give it a shot. Plus, if I could bring these two disciplines together and try my hand at mixed martial arts…well, what would be the harm? Basically, I needed a place I could train Muay Thai in Vancouver — or whatever else I wanted, whenever I wanted — without having to compromise on quality of instruction. In DCS I found a gym, and community, that exceeded my expectations by bounds.

The Diaz Combat Sports facility sits at the edge of Chinatown, occupying a pair of spaces that bookend the block of Gore Avenue from Union to East Georgia street. Both spaces house plenty of amenities for a comprehensive martial arts and fitness experience. The first, near the corner of Union and Gore, welcomes the adjacent park with open floor to ceiling windows. It boasts an elevated, fully-equipped boxing ring, heavy bags, an MMA cage setup from UFC cage provider Throwdown, two private shower spaces, and plenty of storage for personal effects. Jump ropes, heavy bags, and high-quality Fairtex pads/focus mitts are all available for member use during and outside of class times, and handwraps, gear, and gloves can be purchased at the front desk.

The two-story second space sits at the corner of Gore and East Georgia — steps away from Vancouver’s legendary Vietnamese-Cambodian eatery, Phnom Penh. Heavy bags hang and kettle-bells soar on the main floor, home to DCS’s world-class boxing, strength, and conditioning programs. Rowing-machines, resistance bikes, squat racks and heavy chains are all regularly employed to break you down and build you back up, stronger each time. Upstairs, the high-quality padded floor plays host to regular Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, and wrestling classes. No matter the workout, the air conditioning here is a glorious, life-saving luxury.

DCS’s robust program schedule offers a variety of classes to students of all skill levels, numerous times a day. Further, the main facility is open exclusively to women for 90 minute durations Monday-Friday evenings, with both striking and grappling lessons available. Personally, I had no trouble fitting several classes at DCS a week into my unorthodox schedule. My shirts all fit again, for the record.

That DCS has the space to offer such an array of classes is all well and good, but what about the instruction? This is where DCS truly shines – the people, their staggering degree of knowledge, and their commitment to maintaining a friendly & positive atmosphere. DCS instructors are world champions, Fight of the Year recipients, and trainers to some of the combat world’s biggest stars. While the accolades these people have accrued over the years are too many to recount in full, I can’t help but share a glance at some of them:

Owner Ryan “The Lion” Diaz has a lifetime of martial arts experience and well over two decades experience in professional competition. His knowledge base extends to cover every aspect of MMA, and his striking acumen are particularly noteworthy – Ryan is currently the head striking coach for Bellator great and former UFC lightweight champ, Benson Henderson.

Muay Thai expert Adrian Shead honed his skills during a 15 year stint in his native Thailand, a period that saw him lead both the AKA Thailand and Tiger Muay Thai fight camps as general manager. When he’s not teaching kickboxing in Vancouver, Adrian serves as coach and manager to featherweight world champion Petchpanumrung in Glory, the premiere kickboxing organization on the world stage.

Skipper Kelp is the architect of the DCS boxing program. A former pro welterweight with a boxing record of 24-4-1, Skip remains infamous for his bombastic, highly-entertaining fighting style. In 2006 he coached the boxing team he founded at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, to a collegiate-level national title, and has since gained recognition as UFC president Dana White’s personal boxing instructor.

Thanit “Boom” Watthanaya splits his days between Canada and Thailand, his enthusiasm inspiring students on both sides of the Pacific. Along with his wife – British Columbian and fellow professional fighter Frances Watthanaya – Boom maintains the Wor Watthana Muay Thai Gym, which they opened together in January of 2015. Located in Thailand’s poverty-stricken rural Isaan regain, on land that once served as a garden for Boom’s father, the gym acts as a community hub and safe haven for the area’s chronically under-supported children. There they are provided shelter, access to resources, and the chance to thrive in a positive community while learning the art of Muay Thai. Don’t let his caring nature and generosity fool you: Boom’s nickname is no coincidence. Among his 46 wins in 60 professional fights, nearly half of them are by knockout – a true feat for a competitor in the lighter weight classes.

Stuart Cooper, former BJJ instructor at Evolve MMA in Singapore and Tiger Muay Thai in Thailand, recently brought his world-beating level of expertise to DCS’s grappling mats with the founding of his Stuart Cooper Jiu-Jitsu program. Stuart’s arrival announces that there has never been a better time to train BJJ in Vancouver, as his program understands and is built upon a truly global perspective of the art.

Six-time Muay Thai world champion Lamsonkram Chuwattana is an absolute icon of his sport. Lamsongkram’s understanding of the nuances of striking, and particularly clinch work, is unparalleled. He represents the art at its highest level. All-time MMA great Georges St-Pierre’s coaches at Tristar gym have a well-known reputation for seeking out only the most exceptional teachers, and Lam was the man they hand-selected to instruct GSP in the art of eight limbs. You can now find him right here, teaching Muay Thai in Vancouver and helping students of all levels sharpen their skills at DCS every single day.

Impressive as these things are on an individual level (the world-class trainers, the breadth of programs offered, the variety of times to attend, the quality of the space), none of them would mean half as much if not for the DCS’s relentlessly positive atmosphere. Learning at DCS takes place under the careful tutelage of experts who want to see you improve your technique, your physical ability, and your overall well-being. They share your triumphs, however small – I still remember how pleased Adrian was once I finally managed to throw an upward elbow strike with more force than a gentle nudge. The room constantly buzzes with positivity.

During my first class, I could barely stand following the warm up. Jonathan, an irrepressibly good-spirited instructor, took myself and a couple other first-timers to a corner of the gym to work the very basics of striking while we whinged and wheezed. Had he scoffed or seemed even a little annoyed that an out of shape amateur like myself had turned up, I would have promptly turned tail and hunkered down at the nearest bar for another ten or so years. Instead, he laughed when we laughed, encouraged us when we needed it, and made me feel like I was welcome – even if I couldn’t do more than five push-ups at a time.

The gym I was searching for had a pretty long list of boxes to check. As it turns out, Diaz Combat Sports offered not only a spectacular place to learn martial arts in Vancouver, but held it all together with a positive environment and world-class instruction. On any given day, you can pick the brains of several people who have trained champions about any number of martial arts. Adrian will tell you about the importance of kickboxing fundamentals. Ryan will remind you that even top level-MMA fighters need to follow the most basic rules of escaping an opponent’s guard. Lam, a one-in-a-million Muay Thai talent, will gladly help wrap your hands for you if you show up late. It’s preposterous.