Gloves off: The inner lives of South London martial artists

Muay Thai enthusiast Aneesa Dawoojee wanted to challenge stereotypes about fighters. Photographing at her local gym, she discovered a mixed cast with their own stories to tell

Minutes away from the centre of Croydon – a town in the south London borough of the same name – lies the SN Combat Academy, a martial arts school run by coach Sam Nankani. Amateur and professional kickboxers from varying backgrounds gather here to train in Muay Thai. Nicknamed the ‘art of eight limbs’, the full-combat sport focuses on kicking, punching and clinching techniques to strike an opponent for points. The practice requires an unbridled commitment to its intense, discipline-led training. It is here, between the centre’s sweaty walls and boxing rings, that Aneesa Dawoojee began to create her latest series, The Fighting Spirit of South London.