Here I am in Pai on Day 7 of training. My wifi and access to proper computers has been quite limited so I will try to get everything I remember from my notes in one post. It will be long. And now with VIDEO! YEAH!.
Coming to Pai was very high on my list both for personal reasons (this place has a very special place in the hearts of my wife and I) as well as for training. Pai is home to Charn Chai Muay Thai and famed trainer/fighter True Bee. He has fought over 300 times and on top of training Thai Champions he has also had a hand in training K-1 and Glory Kickboxing Champions out of Mike's Gym in Holland. This is where fighters like Gokan Saki, Artur Kyshenko, Badr Kari and Alistar Overeem have gained their skills to become world champions. This is perfect for me as it has the best of both worlds in traditional Muay Thai and Dutch Style Kickboxing!
I took the 762 turns up from Chiang Mai to Pai on Wednesday morning, checked into a Bungalow and then after a quick nap went straight to training. It's even hotter here in Pai then CNX and I was sweating buckets in the 40C heat on the way to the gym. I got there right before 3:00pm thinking I'd have a few minutes to get siturated. Nope. Unlike most gyms here this one is run on a very punctual clock. Bee saw me, asked if I had shorts, and when I replied yes said "get changed and start skipping in 1 minute!" There was about 30 people training and when there's that many the trainers need to keep everything flowing and organized well. No mucking about here.
After a quick warm up we got right into sparring. Bee asked me if I knew what I was doing, I said yes, and that was it. Gear on and go! I sparred with quite a few people - from Chile to Australia, Holland, Thailand, Hungary, America... everything was very cool, even though the mats were packed. The best part was sparring with Bee though. Man, this guys is very good, very quick and has some tricks. He was throwing leg kicks and I was doing a typical Thai style check. On the third one he quickly changed the kick to an ankle hook and sent me flying to the mats. This would not be the last time he tossed or dropped me with barely an effort. I got him to show it to me and I will definitely be practicing it and trying it out when I get back to Vancouver!
After that we clinched for awhile and that went pretty well. Sabai Sabai for the most part, with one exception. With a group this big you'll always get that ONE GUY. I won't get into it too much but let's just says those that go too hard are soon shown the floor.
Typical finisher was next. 50 round kicks on each leg, 100 knees and then pushups. Then came the abs....
We sit in a circle and each person counts to 10. Not ten reps, just count to 10 fast. Probable about 3 reps per person Keep in mind that's still about 90 reps. We did about 8 or 9 exercises (including planks, side planks and superman) so somewhere around 500 reps and then isometric holds. This is done everyday, 2 x a day. You can try to slack on it but be careful, Tree (another trainer there) was walking around with a stick wacking people who got lazy. That stick is pretty much used whenever you slack, do something wrong, or just happen to be walking by a trainer who's feeling in the mood to whack someone. It's not super painful, just a bit of a sting (to go along with the Bee name?) but it definietly keeps you on your toes! After that, we stretched and that was it. For 50 THB you can stay and eat with everyone or just hang out and talk.
Very tight community there with people just hanging out between sessions playing chess or cards or relaxing.
Day 2 at Charn Chai went pretty much the same, only with a lot more pad rounds. I did 3 x 4 minute rounds with Phone Det (No idea how it's spelled, but something like that). He didn't really seem to into it and didn't show me much, but I got a good workout. He was super helpful in the clinching that came after. Unfortunately he was more helpful to my 230lbs training partner who went from being manageable to beastly very quickly, which my sore neck will attest to!
After that was a S&C Circuit with Bag rounds and weights as well as some calisthenics. 1 minute work with a 10 second rest to get to the next station. Pretty well organized and though not super taxing definitely complimented the rest of the training session. More kicks, knees and abs followed and then stretching with Tree. He also led a "bow out" but in a very comical and entertaining manner. I haven't worked with him much but I hope too because he really seems like he's having fun but still taking the training seriously.
Day 3 - Today was technique drills taught by Ben. These were very, very similar to what I do in Canada and more along the lines of the Dutch Style as far as the fast hand combos and low kicks you see in Glory and K-1. Claudia was my training partner and other than a few questions we had everything flowed really well, except that the mats were a little too packed. Here's a quick video I took of one of the combos. If you've done my class I am sure this looks really familiar:
After that we (Claudia and I) started on Pads. She got my trainer from the day before (and like me, was not overly impressed) but I got to go with Bee! And man, what a treat. He made so many little tweaks and showed me some very simple ideas to help with my movements and really get some good power in my kicks. He advocates leaning back and to the side while throwing a body kick as opposed to coming up and in. He also had me throwing my hand out to the side even more, as opposed to "reaching for the back pocket" like I am used to.
He also threw me on my ass again. Sorry, no video for that.
After that it I was pretty much on my own. I caught my breath while talking with Claudia for a bit then joined in on the S&C circuit. I didn't feel like I need to go too hard on the weights but I did push myself on the bags when I had a chance, doubling up on them a couple times if there was an open space.
Kicks/Knees/Pushups and Ab finisher then stretched. Also, Bee broke his stick on someone who was slacking so much - he must have hit that guy like 15 times while doing abs.
Tomorrow: More Sparring!
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!
First video of the instructional series is up and running. Audio is a bit low but otherwise it turned out ok. Will definitely make a few tweaks to the rest of the videos though!
Any comments or questions, feel free to post or contact me firstname.lastname@example.org
If you'd like to see any topics or techniques covered I'll be more than happy to oblige.
Dan Slobodin -