A couple weeks back, before I left Thailand to relocate permanently back to the US, I finally did something that I have been promising myself I would do for at least a year: took a Muay Thai class.
This was actually my second muay thai session while I was in Thailand. A few months ago I went to a little local muay thai training facility after work and did an hour session. The facility was run by a former professional kickboxer, a Frenchman of African descent. His gym was very local, meaning that it was open air, the walls were mostly cinder blocks and chain link fence. There was one boxing ring (muay thai ring, I guess), a handful of heavy bags of various manufacture and design including one upper-cut bag and at least one long bag. There were few fans, jump ropes, hand wraps, gloves, kick and punch target pads and that’s about it.
I got there about five forty-five (I had been told the session started at six). There were a couple of Thai’s there and an equal number of farangs. Two Australians and a Frenchman, I believe. Plus me. There appeared to be a mixture of long time students and new folks, dilettantes who were there for the fitness aspect and others who were seriously training for actual fights, which they run in Pattaya a couple times a week.
The term session is perhaps gives what happened a greater sense of structure than it deserves. There seemed to be trainers there – the owner and two Thai instructors – but no one gave any instructions or guidance. No one told me specifically what to do and all the other guys just kind of did their own thing. So I jumped rope for a while and at some point the owner told me in broken French-English to start hitting the bag. So I grabbed a set of wraps off a rafter where they were hanging and drying, wrapped up and started warming up by shadow boxing and hitting the heavy bag. After a while the Thai instructor who had been working with one of the experienced farang fighters with pads in the ring dismissed him and indicated to me that I should get in the ring. I wasn’t sure he knew I was a newbie but I got in and we went about five rounds with him using the pads to lead me through some punches, elbows, kicks and knee strikes. He did a fairly decent job of instructing considering he knew only a few fighting specific English words, but in that context brief demonstrations and lots of repetition work pretty much as well as language.
He was pretty impressed with my limited Thai skills, another sad testament to how little effort any of the foreigners in Thailand put into learning the language. Anyway, after we went our rounds in the ring he sent me out and brought another guy in. I was again left without any guidance so I went and practiced some of the tips I had gotten in the ring on a long bag and when I got bored and irritated at the lack of organization and instruction I packed up and went home.
Next post I’ll talk about my second and more satisfying muay thai session . . .