Not just another Tay Ho Kickboxing centre! header image

Not just another Tay Ho Kickboxing centre!

by STAR Kickboxing and Fitness on 26/04/2020

STAR Kickboxing and Fitness opened its doors on the 28th February 2020 to a great reception despite the current economic climate. In its prime location on Xuan Dieu lots of curious people popped their heads in to look at the transformed basement underneath the K Market, the former location for CrossFit Tay Ho. 

Owner and Business Manager Gemma tells The Tay Ho Times that she was surprised by some of the comments and questions, the main one being why open in Tay Ho when there are already so many Kickboxing Centres? However, Gemma believes STAR Kickboxing and Fitness has something special, the Head Coach and co-owner – Mai Ngoc Phu, also known well in the area as Peter. 

The Tay Ho Times met Phu to find out more about him and what makes him STAR’s not-so-secret weapon in the Tay Ho’s battle of the Kickboxing Centres!

Phu, tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Phu, some people know me as Peter. I have been a trainer in the Tay Ho area for the last 4 years, and I just opened my own centre with my partner Gemma. I have lived and worked in Hanoi for 12 years since graduating from university and I am originally from a very small town in Nam Dinh. 

How did you get into training? 

When I was younger, I practiced Karate, but then after being inspired by Bruce Lee I began studying and practicing Wing Chun Kung Fu. This then became a wider passion for martial arts and I started to study and practice in boxing, Muay Thai and Kickboxing. I have trained in centres all over Vietnam and have also trained in the home of Muay Thai – Thailand. I think it is important no matter how good you are to always keep practicing and developing your skills to learn and improve, especially as a trainer yourself. I really love training others and sharing my knowledge with them, it is exciting to see their progress every week!

Have you always been a trainer?

No, I graduated university as an engineer, it wasn’t until a few years later that I discovered that I could turn my passion into a job. Before I became a trainer, I competed at a national level in Kung Fu, representing Vietnam. I was also a presidential bodyguard; you know the famous story about President Obama eating Bun Cha in Hanoi? I was part of the security team standing outside the restaurant!

Do you just train people that want to become competitive fighters? 

No! I have customers from as young as 5 years old to my oldest customer who is 61 years old. Everyone comes with different goals and motivations; I really focus on adapting my sessions with them to help them achieve their individual goals. Some people come because they want to learn martial art techniques, others come for fitness goals. I really enjoy training children because it helps not just with fitness but also co-ordination, confidence, discipline. I have customers who have health problems and I must work with them in a very personalised way to keep them safe but also to help them develop their weaker areas. I even have one customer whose goals are to be able to do a handstand, splits and a pull up – so we are mixing this up with Muay Thai training which includes a lot of flexibility and mobility training when done properly. 

How do you get over the language barrier with your customers?

When I first started training customers in Tay Ho, I couldn’t speak English. It made me so sad that this was holding me back from sharing my knowledge and experience with them, this was my motivation to teach myself English! I am not perfect but I can confidently communicate with my customers now and I know this helps to make them more comfortable with me. 

So there are already so many kickboxing centres in Tay Ho, why did you decide to open STAR there too?

First when the location became available, we knew it would be a great opportunity. Yes there is a lot of competition here but after my experience of working in other centres, plus what I hear from other people I decided I wanted to open a centre that teaches everyone properly and really focusses on helping them achieve their own target, not just treat everyone the same way. I train my customers safely, listen to their feedback and I keep my own records about them so I can follow their progress properly. Me and Gemma also decided that we will not push people to sign up, that we will focus on quality and customer service so that when people come in for a free trial, they don’t feel pressured or uncomfortable. My job is to make every customer feel amazing every time they come to STAR!

Tell us more about STAR, what can people expect when they come to centre?

We have a mixture of equipment, including weights, functional training equipment, cardio plus all the latest Muay Thai and Kickboxing equipment. The centre is small compared to our competitors but this means that we focus on small groups and personal training, you will never walk into our centre and feel intimidated by lots of trainers and customers sharing the mat with you. I think it is great that we are smaller because we can really focus on our customers individually. We have a mixture of services to suit different budgets from daily pay as you go group classes to 1 to 1 membership. One thing I am excited about is the family-friendly offer so parents can watch their children train and enjoy free drinks, we have a camera stand set up so they take their own photos and videos, we even have an offer where the parents can train with their children! 


You can find out more about STAR Kickboxing and Fitness at or just pop in and say hi to Gemma and Phu at 77 Xuan Dieu!

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