A MARTIAL arts club in Southend has shut for good after 28 years as Covid-19 takes its toll.

Mungkorn Dam Sityodtong, a Thai martial arts gym in London Road, Southend, closed because it can’t meet social distancing requirements as the UK lockdown eases.

Owner Chris Rawlings spoke of his sadness at the closure and added gym-goers had been like family.

Mr Rawlings, 56, said: “It’s really not going to work with the gym we have.

“There are narrow corridors which aren’t two metres wide, it’s not like a Fitness First gym where they have masses of open space.

“It is a contact sport, so I really can’t see how it would work like that. It’s just going to be impossible.”

Mr Rawlings has been practising the martial arts of Thai boxing, old style boxing and Krabikrabong, which involves the use of Thai weapons, for the past 35 years.

The gym, which up to 25 classes most days, had been part of the famous Sityodtong Muaythai camp in Thailand, one of the most successful training camps in the history of the sport.

Mr Rawlings’ gym was one of only eight gyms with this privilege around the world.

While his gym will be closing, he intends to start up one-to-one sessions with clients once the Government says it is safe to do so.

He also plans to pursue other income options outside of martial arts.

Mr Rawlings added: “It’s been my life for 35 years and the people who have come to train are like family.

“We will still see each other and maybe organise more trips out to Thailand when the time is right.

“It’s been a social life as well as a business.

“I will miss everyone, and the atmosphere in the gym.”

He added: “I would like to thank everyone for being part of it and for making the gym what it has become.”