Guest post by Daniel Filipe
I, like most red-blooded guys my age, am definitely not a stranger to combat sports. If there’s a big fight on Saturday night you’ll likely find my friends and I packed around a table with our eyes glued to the big screen. So as a fan, I’ve become fairly knowledgeable of the various disciplines that make up mixed martial arts. On occasion, I’ve joined in on the odd jiu-jitsu or kick-boxing class, but I was floored when I had the chance to take a Muay Thai class in the country where it was born. I’ve watched fighters plenty of times from my living room couch but nothing comes close to experiencing it in Thailand.
Bowing to your opponent is a sign of respect. Teachers are especially highly respected in Thai society.
I wasn’t quite sure what I was in for. Watching too many Tony Jaa movies are likely to blame, but for some reason I envisioned rope hand wraps, sand rings and bamboo kicking posts used to numb the nerve-endings on your shins. I couldn’t have been more wrong. A large ring, open mat area and rows of heavy bags. Equipment is modern not old-school Thai as I thought and the atmosphere was nothing like a gym I had been to before – training in an open-air gym surrounded by rural countryside. They even have an organic vegetable garden on site.
After a good warm-up of skipping, dynamic stretching and shadow boxing, I went head-to-head with a former Northern Thailand champ. Chun was short and lean but don’t let our dramatic size difference fool you, this guy has years of 20 pro fights under his belt. I wondered, if I accidentally missed the pad and hooked him instead, would he cut me down in a dozen different ways with powerful leg kicks, knees and elbow strikes faster than I could ever react?
Actually, Chun was patient (and tough), never letting me cheat on any area of the technique and kept the session high-energy, brutally tiring but fun at the same time. He trains right along with you, first with basic drills, a ton of pad work then multiple rounds of combination striking. There’s no room for wavering.
The Muay Thai sport is usually noted as the “art of eight limbs” because it makes use of punches, kicks, elbows and knee strikes.
Getting in the Ring
When you take Chun’s class in Chiang Mai the hardest thing to prepare for might just be the heat. Most of us Westerners are used to training inside, so going round after round melting in the hot and dry temperature of northern Thailand adds another tough element to the experience.
The only disappointing part of my visit to KC Muay Thai was that it was an optional day for trainers at this gym so we didn’t get to watch any Thai fighters in action or take part in any sparring sessions. On the other hand, maybe it worked out better that way, likely saving me from a few broken bones.
A nak muay is a Muay Thai student. If you’re not Thai, you’re a nak muay farang (or foreigner).
Before the invention of punching bags or kicking pads, they used to kick trees (ouch!)
Do not stamp your feet in your opponent’s corner as this is a signal that you intend to kill them!