Striking with all 8

Whether in a classroom wearing jeans and a t-shirt or in the gym with his royal blue Muay Thai shorts, covered in yellow accents with red trimming, his intensity is always the same.

Focusing on Muay Thai for the past two years, Omar Suarez first gained interest in martial arts at the age of 10, following his enrollment at World Tae Kwon Do, a studio in Winnetka, California.

Suarez has earned his second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, also earning a second Dan Kukkiwon certificate, which is recognized worldwide

“I’ve been doing [Tae Kwon Do] since I was 10,” Suarez said. “My dad just kind of enrolled me into a regular class to try it out and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Suarez has continued to practice Tae Kwon Do, eventually changing gyms to Kings Combat Sports, were he would pursue Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Simultaneously, Suarez balances being a full time student at Pierce College, taking 18 units, as well tutoring in sociology.

An economics major, Suarez said, “I want to get published, I want to do my own research and do articles.”

Training for the past two years, he has shifted his focus to Muay Thai, a combat sport consisting of stand-up striking with 8 points of contact, hands, feet, elbows and knees.

Suarez has utilized his skills to become a semi-professional fighter, making his debut March of 2015, in a losing effort.

Despite his early career in which he has developed his skills, Suarez sometimes struggles with finding a reason to continue and “keeping at it.”

“Sometimes I just feel like man f*** it,” Suarez said. “I’m just going to drop everything. I really don’t need to fight. I have enough self defense to go against anybody in the street. Keeping at it is the hardest part.”

A fellow Muay Thai classmate, Benito Mendez said, Suarez is “Always willing to compete. He has fighting spirit and is always down to roll.”A fighters diet must be monitored carefully, as maintaining weight is a priority in the sport. Prior to his last fight, Suarez was nine pounds over the designated weight class.

He was forced to use a sauna and shadowboxing in the sun to dehydrate his body to make weight.“Cutting weight is the worst part,“ Suarez said. “I’m addicted to food.”

In preparation for his fights, Suarez also uses sensory deprivation tanks, a light and sound free environment of water and dissolved Epsom salt heated at body temperature, deigned to help mediate and relax.

Prior to a match, Suarez focuses solely on the task at hand, eliminating distractions during the week, to “make sure nothing gets in the way.”

“I relax and do a lot meditation, vizualizing and imagining what I’m going to do in the fight,” Suarez said.

“The only thing in my training that changes before a fight is I do a lot more pad work with my trainer. It’s basically to get me as technically sharp as possible.”

Luis Reyes, Suarez’s Muay Thai instructor, is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt and 2004 U.S. National Tae Kwon Do Champion. Suarez said, “It takes about 8-15 years to receive that level of achievement.”

“First you have to put yourself out there. You have to get noticed by the promoters. It’s just like MMA,” Reyes said.

Aware that his martial arts lifestyle depends on the wear and tear his body can endure, he understands it is nothing to be taken for granted. A personal goal of Suarez’s is to fight professionally, and he would, “be satisfied with a few wins in the UFC.”

“I want to become a professional fighter. I have been doing martial arts for over half my life and it would satisfy me so much to know that I am able to go at it with the very best of fighters,” Suarez said. “I want to be able to do martial arts for as long as I live.”