Well, I just got back from Milwaukee where I spend the last few days training at the Roufusport HQ. I only had 3 days there but man, I learned a LOT. I got 5 sessions in and in each session there had so much content and attention to detail it felt like a weeks worth of training.
A lot of the stuff Duke teaches is pretty similar to what I teach as well, but he has a lot of insight into the "small" things, and like they say, the Devil is in the Details! I'll go through some of my thoughts on what was taught to me personally, and some of the ideas and concepts and tactics that make Roufusport one of the best Striking gyms in North America.
1. Extension and Snap
One of the many things Duke had me (and everyone else) working on was getting more extension on the punches. It's something I often have to tell students as well but at Duke's they really take it to the next level. The basic 1-2 (with footwork) is practiced for about 5 minutes EVERY class with a focus on proper hip rotation and extension. This is for everyone from White Belt to Black Belt. I also made a point to shadowbox my right cross for 5 minutes, twice a day to help drill it into my head and make it a natural part of my behavior.
As for the snap, everything from punches to kicks to even parrying punches is done with smaller movements followed by a defined "snapping" or bouncing of the technique at the end. This made a big difference in my defensive parry and especially my lead hook. I couldn't believe how much more power I got from it, even though I wasn't winding up or over committing on it. Still need a lot of practice, but man... does it have some kick now!
2. Guard and Stance
This was another small but significant adjustment Duke got me to make. He advocates more of a "hanging" guard, where the hands are a little further out. I have gotten used to keeping a tight guard which I keep my hand close and tight. With the hanging guard you don't get as much power from the distance traveled, but with the proper "snap" of the strike at upon contact, you don't really need to worry about loading up. The basic idea is that the punches travel less distance so you can get more in, and the proper technique (snap) will help with the power. He also got us throwing punches in bunches (along with quick kicks) -aka Machine Gunning- and looking to fit our strikes into the small openings that are created when volume striking. I could write a whole essay on this, but if you want to really learn it from him I suggest checking out his online University/Striking Formula - Duke Roufus Striking University. (that's the link to the 1 Week/1$ Trial)
It seems I have gotten into the habit of trying to breath out on every punch or kick. That's fine if you're only throwing a few at a time, but Duke would often get us to throw 8,9,10 (or even more) strikes at a time. If you try to breathe in and out on each one you'll probably start hyperventilating! And then the speed of your strikes is limited but how quick you can breathe in and out. Instead we'd breathe one continuous breath while throwing a combo, then using our breath to help with the Broken Rhythm. It's nothing crazy, concept wise, but it was one of the little details that just makes things flow so much better.
"What do we teach here -Offense, Defense....Strategy?". Duke asked "We teach Behavior!". This one isn't so new to me, as I pretty much say the same thing almost every class I teach. The idea is to make your training as realistic as possible. Doing a defense drill? Well, the person throwing the attack should make it as true as possible - as if they were sparring. Hitting pads? Don't just walk up and throw a 1-2 and stand there - use footwork and feints before you start, and bring your guard back and use proper footwork at the end of the attack as well. Make every attack, defense, every movement meaningful, EVERY TIME, and you'll make the proper way of doing things a natural part of your behavior.
So those are just a few of the things I picked up there. There was a LOT more, and if you're interested in learning more then I highly suggest checking out the Striking University. There's a 23 week curriculum to work on, Member Only Videos (whole classes at his gym being recorded, behind the scenes stuff at Glory and TUF) and an Ask Duke section in the forums. He replies quickly and has even made videos lessons to answer specific questions posted there which is pretty awesome.
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 -