Ok - Day 4 found me at a new gym, right in town near the Night Market and Kalare Boxig Stadium. Why did I make the switch? A few reasons.
1- I slept about 2 hours last night. I woke at 4:45 and knew I wouldn't get back to sleep and dreaded the 5:45am alarm.
2- Mornings at Hongthong are slow, and it's mostly focused on conditioning as opposed to technique, which I do not prefer.
3- I thought it would be good to check out a new gym to compare, should I come back this way again
I picked Sit Thaharnaek for a few reasons, not of least is their start time of 9:00am! When I finally woke and was feeling ok it was about 7:30 and most gyms are already in full swing by then. It was actually closer to 8:20 when I found this on Muaythailand and saw the start time at 9:00 so I brushed my teeth, double checked my gear bag and took off!
I have been to this area many times as this is where the Night Market is (where I got my sweet shorts last night, pictured right), but navigating the one way streets on my motorbike was a just wee bit of a hassle so I got there right at 9:00. Which, to be honest, doesn't really matter. Everyone here is on Thai Time, which means everything starts/ends 20 minutes later than stated.
So I arrive and I am greeted by Kru Hua's young son, who I think is named Fah Baet. He showed me the lockers and asked me my name, then asked me if I would like some nam rawn (water, hot) to make some coffee, which of course I did! I then talked to another falang named Matt from Philly and we chatted about the gym, what I should expect and how freaking hot it was in there. "IN" being the operative word, as this is one of the few indoor gyms I've seen/heard about here. Kru Hua showed up and got us to do the warm up (skip for 10 minutes, then stretch) then we started the workout.
It was just Matt, me, Fah and I think his sister, who's name escapes me. Fah is 9 years old and his sister is 15. They have over 100 fights between them, but you wouldn't know it to talk to them. They are both very friendly and happy kids, and the sister was very sweet and a bit shy as we spoke as she doesn't speak English well, but she got a good chuckle from my crappy Thai.
Training went like this:
1 Minute Rounds Straight Punches for 10 Minutes - I usually reserve this for finishes in my classes, but when in Thailand ...
We would throw straight 1-2's for 1 minute, speeding up at 40 seconds (20 seconds left, FASTER), 50 seconds and 5. The cadence was probably around 2 punches per second at the start and about 6-7 at the end. Hua had a big yellow stick with him and I know enough to keep my head down and just punch when the trainers say to punch! We would then rest for 1 round which also included 10 situps and 10 pushups. Whatever was left was your rest time (so about 30 seconds). Then we did...
3 x 4 minute rounds on the bag
3 x 4 minute rounds on the pads
And... that was pretty much it. It's up to the fighter to work or not after the main training so other than a few more rounds on the bag that was it. Doesn't seem like a lot but I did get a TONNE out of the Pad rounds. Not only is there a longer break (2 minutes) between to talk and ask questions, Kru Hua showed me a LOT of cool stuff during the rounds and would get me to repeat it a few times to make sure it stuck. I really appreciated this and found it was the one thing lacking at the previous camp.
Checking kicks with opp hand outstretched to prevent follow up Punch
Turning/inside pivot to avoid knee, clinch and knee.
Turn/Trip in clinch.
Clinching Arm bump to throw elbow over top
Round kick to check, no foot down between.
Teep, rope bounce, flying elbow (or punch, many options here!)
There was a few more but those were the ones that were new to me. Kru Hua's English is very, very good and we spoke a bit about my previous training. He asked if I knew Andy from Lanna because we're both from BC, and when I said I did and had trained with him he said that I should come and fight for his gym instead! I told him I had no plans to fight and he said that I should think about it and maybe come back if/when I want to. Pretty flattering coming from #2 ranked Ratchadamnoen fighter!
As we were finishing up I noticed the kids doing their finisher. 100 Situps while their mom hits them in the belly with a focus mitt! While, of course, holding their youngest sibling. It's definitely a family affair at Sit Thaharnaek!
Alrighty, despite some initial malady Day 2 went pretty well. I woke at 5am, pretty awake (got about 6 hours which is amazing even at the best of times for me) and headed off to the gym around 6. It only takes 20 minutes but I wanted to get some real food and not keep Claudia up. I was feeling really good which I attribute to drinking tonnes of water and taking some Amino Acids before and after training. I am not one for supplements anymore (I used to use a LOT) but I find BCAA and some glutamine are essential for dealing with soreness and recovery.
However, my good health soon changed shortly after arriving to the gym. The gates were locked but there is a food vendor out side who grills bananas, taro and other goodies inside banana leaf with rice. Very tasty and not too filling but gives some good carbs for the 2.5 hour session. Right after eating I started feeling really, really off. Probably from food the night before but possible from accidentally using sink water too - not sure, but I am really glad I learned some Thai before coming here. Simple things like "Where" (tee nye ee) and "toilet" are good things to learn when going to developing countries. Well, any country really.
Anywho, I started training shortly after (around 7:00am). I was the only one there so I just skipped and shadow boxed on my own. A few others showed up later and went for a run. I am doing my best to stay out of the sun, especially as I was still feeling a bit nauseous but now that I am acclimatized somewhat I'll be running with them tomorrow. I continued on my own for about 45 minutes when I was then called into the ring by Joe. We did 3 x 4 min rounds then I went and hit the bag for about 30 minutes on my own, finishing with 200 knees and 100 teeps. I was feeling a bit dismayed as I had been there for 90 minutes and had yet to learn anything new or have my technique corrected. If I just want a work out, I can stay in Canada and do that, right?
That changed quickly enough though. The other Nak Muay finished their rounds and then we geared up to work on technique. I was paired with Eddy, from Switzerland. He's really good and we're roughly the same size, which was perfect. We started off on kick techniques and were coached very thoroughly by Joe (mostly) and Gen. There was a LOT of techniques taught from blocking and catching/returning. Some cool tricks involving misdirection and changing hands before landing a counter. I'll try to get video tomorrow. The cool part was the ideas behind what to do and when, and of course why. Strategy and Tactics. Perfect.
Here are a few things that were taught:
Eddy fights similarly to me - lots of low kicks. Joe calls this Farang kicks (pronounced "falang" = foreigner) . He said if Fighter A lands 10 Leg kicks and Fighter B lands 10 Body kicks, Fighter B wins. Even if he only landed 8 to 10, he would still win. They also admonished us (well, Eddy mostly) for moving back to much. Again, according to Thai rules, moving back too much is a sign of weakness, or lack of conditioning. This will lose you a fight if it goes to the judges, who judge the fight as a whole. He said that when you're at the fights you'll hear the trainers screaming out "Strong!!" to their fighters if they look like they're evading too much or getting tired. Basically, keep your poker face on and keep pushing forward.
As for the kicks, he said it's better to block in the first 2 rounds and start catching in rounds 3, 4 and 5. I am not completely clear as to why. From what I gathered, the first 2 rounds are to keep it simple and low risk and to ascertain if your opponent is going to try some sneaky stuff. Basically a feeling out process. The 3rd round is when things start to get serious and the real dangerous techniques start to come out. More catching, throws, elbows and such. I watched a few fights last night at Tae Pha Stadium (I use stadium very, very loosely here) and the legit fights did indeed seem to follow that protocol.
Joe and Gen taught all this in very good English while demonstrating and, of course, joking around and making us laugh. Joe kept pointing to Eddy and then would do these funny dances to remind him not to back up and such. Good guys these two, getting your ass kicked by the heat and hard work is much better when you get a good laugh in here and there. I feel this is pretty typical of most of the Thai trainers I meet (they don't call this the Land of 1000 Smiles for nothing), but you can tell these guys really enjoy teaching us and having some fun, too.
Today (Sunday) is a day off so I'll just be chilling before going to get some custom shorts made (very excited) but I really wish I could train some more. I was wide awake at 5:20 and ready to go! Looking forward (sort of) to tomorrow - Going to try to do the late session and get some clinch work in!
Day 1 of Training at Chiang Mai
Finally! After 4 months of planning and three days of traveling I finally made it to Hongthong gym, home of trainers and twin brothers Gen and Joe.
We (my wife Claudia and I) woke at 5:30 after about 4-5 hours of sleep. I was groggy but excited to go, and a lack of sleep was not going to stop me. Besides, caffeine and a bike ride is enough to wake me up! We quickly ate a quick breakfast of croissants and amino acids at the ubiquitous 7-11 then rode our motorbikes about 30 minutes south and arrived at 6:40am, 20 minutes before training started. We were greeted by Christian, a friendly and experienced New Zealander (who now trains/lives in Sydney), who took us through a quick run down of how our 2 hour session was going to go. I have trained here (Thailand) before and know the basics of Thai style training, but I just let him take us through the basics and try to learn and absorb as much of that as possible. I am a big believer in mastering fundamentals so I would rather focus on that then act like I know it all and miss out on some simpler but effective stuff. And I am glad I did!
He took us through some simple drills with a focus on elbows, stance and defense (all of which I need!) before we started our bag and pad work with the twins.
For those who do not know how it works here it goes something like this:
Skip or run (I opted to skip with a HEAVY rope today)
Pad Work (4 minutes work, 1 minute rest, 3 Rounds)
Clinch or Spar
100 Teeps (front/puch kicks)
I will get into the details of each later but the Pad Rounds - man, that was tough but fun! Learned some cool elbows techniques (involving the body, if you're reading this Tom - I'll show you when I get back) and lots of knees and kicks. Nothing to technical or new, but I don't expect them to show a brand new guy off the street all the cool stuff right away. That needs to be earned, which I plan on doing! Probably by training from 3-5 in 42*C heat when "it's more fun" according to my pad holder, Gen. I don't think I have ever wanted to do something so much while at the same time dread it more than this.
Dan Slobodin -