On December 9th I arrived in Ao Nang Thailand for my 3rd adventure in training Muay Thai. Still suffering the effects of a 12 hour time change I made the pilgrimage to Emerald Muay Thai on the morning of December 10th. I was greeted by owners Eve and Wil warmly and introduced to the new trainers and other students / fighters. Wil and I had discussed via email before that I was going to take a Muay Thai fight during my stay. He confirmed with me a Dec 24th fight. We both felt that 2 weeks of training in the heat and humidity would suffice to acclimatise me to Thailand. It also takes about a week to get over the jet lag.
Training started with a short run. Emerald Gym is known for having well conditioned fighters and part of this is due to the coaches making everyone run 5-10K each morning. After the run we all met to do three rounds of shadow boxing.
Bong, one of the Thai trainers, liked to lightly spar with us during this. Bong had been fighting Muay Thai since he was a kid and didn’t think anything of going bare shin to shin during these friendly exchanges of kicks, punches, kness, and elbows. Like many Thais I have trained with he loved to scream the technique at me as he landed it and laugh when I was unable to block or counter it. If he landed a particularly good technique he would bellow “KO – KO!!”.
After light sparring with Bong, Wil would take over for more light sparring. Wil is lightning fast and amazingly accurate. Like the Thais he also enjoys yelling the names of techniques he hits me with. His favorite is to kick to the ribs and say “Oh, broken ribs!”.
Between each round of shadow boxing we stretched and did push ups.
After shadow boxing we would do three rounds on the heavy bags. Often we would be matched up with one or two others working on the same bag. We are typically matched up based on ability so it becomes a bit of a competition.
After bag work we worked pads with one of the coaches. Wil is very good at selecting very high quality instructors for his camp. Over the following weeks I was able to work with each trainer and they were all superb.
After pads we would either boxing spar, clinch spar, kick spar, or do full Muay Thai sparring. The worst for me was clinch sparring with Wil or Bong. I rarely managed to stay on my feet for more than 20 seconds before I was tossed to the ground. It was frustrating but my clinch greatly improved.
After sparring we would work round kicks on the bag with a partner, then do 100-200 knees or theeps, 100 push-ups, and several hundred abdominal exercises.
We trained like this twice a day.
On Thursday Wil told me to take Friday morning off. I decided to go out to eat and get a pizza since I wasn’t training the next morning. Big mistake! I woke up feeling a bit off and went to go get a massage. During the massage the masseuse told me that I felt very hot and might have a fever. I ate lunch and my stomach started feeling terrible. My fever was getting worse and I was starting to feel nauseous. I decided to take the evening off. Saturday was much worse. I went by the camp and spoke with Wil and Eve and they recommended that I get some OTC food poisoning medicine. I woke up Sunday feeling much worse and the hotel staff told me that I needed to go to the doctor immediately based on how I looked.
I went to the doctor and he ran some tests. I had lower intestinal bacterial infection. He said if I had waited a few more days he would have had to sent me to the hospital. He put me on 500mg of Ciprofloxacin twice a day for 5 days, some pain/cramp medicine, and another pill to settle my stomach. 6 pills per day total. The doctor told me I could return to training on Tuesday.
On Tuesday morning I returned to the gym. Wil knew that since I was 6 days away from my fight and on antibiotics that my stamina would be greatly reduced and we didn’t believe I would be physically able to fight 5 hard rounds. We changed my fight strategy to being very defensive for the first two rounds only throwing theeps and the occasional hard kick. The goal was to spend as little energy as possible in rounds 1 and 2. Starting in round 3 I would work elbows. In round 4 he told me to start using spinning elbows.
We drilled elbows and spinning elbows all week. He pushed me as hard as I could go until Friday evening. I took Saturday and Sunday to recover. On Monday we drove to Phuket for the fight. I was 71KG and feeling good. We arrived at the stadium at 8:45PM. While getting ready to fight we saw my opponent. He was much larger than me. 10KG larger! Wil had warned me that in Thailand anything could happen so I was prepared for this possibility. It was very intimidating to know that I was fighting a guy that much larger than me. Wil downplayed his size advantage and said “Maybe he just likes to workout”. In my pre-fight mindset this seemed like a reasonable statement and I continued to get ready for my bout.
Wil told me that he would most likely be a good boxer and would have very hard leg kicks. He also said he wouldn’t be a good clincher based on his body type.
The fight started and I tried to stick with the game plan. He hit me with his hand wrapped in a 10oz glove. My vision went black for an instant and I could feel every bit of his size advantage in his punches. He walked through my kicks as if I wasn’t throwing them. In clinch I was able to dominate him and score many points. In between the rounds Wil gave me advice for the next round and told me I was doing great. It was a very tough fight for me but I was doing my best to stay composed. My opponent liked to brawl. In round 3 I took a lot of damage from his hands. He knocked me down with a hard right. I was down only for 2 counts and we continued our match.
Between rounds three and four Wil told me to use the spinning elbow when my opponent was putting a lot of pressure on me. Early in round four I did just that. I connected hard with his nose breaking it and his orbital. The ref stopped the fight and I got the victory via KO.
On the 27th I left Thailand and went to Tokyo. I met up with my friend Kay who is a professional adventure racer. She told me about a 35K shrine run that her friends we doing on New Years Eve. My legs were still bruised and swollen from my fight but I agreed. Mainly because I wanted company for NYE! The only running I typically do is 5-10K runs for warm ups and interval sprints.
On December 31st I met up with Kay’s friends. It was about 4 degrees Celsius and we were all bundled up. We each had a backpack with a full change of clothes and a towel. Her friends were a group of endurance athletes some of whom run sub 2 hour 50 min marathons and others that had run 250K races. They were all vastly superior runners to me. Before this run the longest I had ever gone was about 10K. I have always believed that the way I trained would make it so that I could at least complete any sport I was interested in doing.
We ran to each Shinto shine and prayed. Then ran to the next shrine. Max, the only one in the group that spoke English, acted as my de facto tour guide. We finished the adventure in just under 5 hours. After we went to a hot spring and sprawled out in the hot water.
Finally we made it to a restaurant where Kay and friends decided to play lets see what we can get the American to eat. Two servings of raw 2nd and 3rd cow stomach, cow tongue, raw horse meat, and various other culturally inedible foods later they were satisfied that I would eat anything and told me I was a the American Samurai.
All in all I am very happy with my holiday adventure. I was able to fight Muay Thai in Thailand on Dec 24th then run 35K (about 22 miles) on the 31st. For the most part I do the normal training that anyone at Unit 2 can choose to do. Anyone that has known me for a while can attest that I am not a naturally gifted athlete. Training hard all year made it so that I was able to make a bunch of new friends, experience and country and culture in unique and amazing way, and have a truly epic adventure. I turn 34 in a few weeks and I am glad to start my mid-30s in better shape than I started my mid-20s.
In 2013 I look forward to more adventures and hope that YOU will join me on some of them! See you in the gym!