So we’re more than halfway through our trip here, and it seems like a good time to sit down and plop out some specific thoughts on the work I’ve done here so far. This will probably interest maybe 3 of you. For the rest of you, who probably come here to read about me dodging open sewer covers and giant piles of elephant poop on my morning run, you’ll have to wait until the next entry. This one is going to get into the bits that happen while I’m hitting pads and praying for death or the end of the round, whichever comes first.
I might as well start at the beginning with Yut, the trainer at the sports college here in Suphan. He speaks pretty much zero English, but as I’ve mentioned in previous entries, I managed to get by pretty well. Due to our area being pretty much foreigner-free other than the teachers, I didn’t really get the kind of technical work I wanted. I mean, it’s not his fault that he hasn’t got a plan for teaching people other than his Thai kids, but there’s only so many days I can take of whacking the bag while he holds for them, and maybe get one or two rounds in, where he has me throw stuff seemingly at random. I still go here when I’m not at one of the camps in Bangkok, but it’s not really where I get my real work in.
This led me to Fighting Spirit Gym in Bangkok, where I worked with a trainer named Chao for my first visit. No real tweaks to my guard, but he drilled me repeatedly on things like making sure my foot came back down up on the toe from a kick, and to not pull it back all the way behind my front leg(sorry, Primo and Brian). He also decided my technique was decent enough to show me a few tricks, the main one of which I hung onto being something he called the monkey. Fake a leg kick and halfway through, pull it back up and turn it into a push kick. Not a bad idea for me, a habitual leg-kicker, to be able to land both the push and the leg kick with more frequency. I liked working with Chao, but he seems to have vanished as of my most recent trip down to Fighting Spirit. From what I’ve noticed, it’s fairly normal for a camp to have one or two trainers that are solidly with the camp, and the rest come and go. Especially here, where the owner shows no hesitation in sacking anyone who he feels like isn’t doing a good job.
Satisfied with my original experience, I went back the week after, which turned out to be the unfortunate birthday weekend, where my wallet got stolen, our bank account got frozen, AND I didn’t even get my damn cheeseburger. I also seemed to hit a valley in my energy, considering I didn’t make it all the way through my last two sessions. This time I worked with a younger trainer named Tak, who I’m pretty sure still fights. He was active as hell as a padholder, and he focused less on drilling technique and more on making sure my defense never slacked. That is, he was smacking me with the pads pretty constantly, and if I got hit clean, he generally seemed to think it was hilarious. I wouldn’t mind working with him again, since I’ll never turn down at opportunity to practice getting hit less.
Because my attention tends to wander when I don’t have a regular schedule, my next trip down to Bangkok was to Watcharachai Gym. Watcharachai, the head trainer and owner, worked with me for my first session, and oh boy did I get a lot tweaked. First and foremost, he had me lean over to change my balance for his preferred method of defending leg kicks(moving the leg back and out of the way instead of checking). Next came my kicks- bend the support leg, keep the kicking leg bent. This ran pretty much completely contrary to how Primo taught me, which was centered around the idea that I’m short enough as it is, I don’t need to be giving up any more height by hunching or not getting my legs fully extended. But if you’re in someone else’s house, you go by their rules. So that was an interesting adjustment, although I’m not sure how much I liked it. I was finding it a little hard to breathe easily with the stance he favored, but that’s probably unfamiliarity.
Next at Watcharachai’s place was Bun, who I really wasn’t too happy with. Maybe he didn’t really care because I’m not a regular at the camp, maybe he didn’t care because I’m not Thai, or maybe he’s just a lousy trainer. I don’t really know which, but I sure as hell didn’t feel like I’d gotten much out of my session considering he spent half of it looking at the clock. It was bullshit when fencing coaches did it to me as a 14 year old, and it’s bullshit now.
I don’t know the name of the last guy I worked with at Watcharachai’s, but I liked him a lot. He was all about going balls-out and full power all the time, which is impractical for every session, but as a once a week kind of deal, I could see it being really handy. Like Tak, he also beat the crap out of me with the pads, and I was completely winded at the end from all the body shots he nailed me with using the edge of the focus mitt. Also like Tak, he laughed his ass off anytime I got my “gonna barf now” face on from one of them. He also smoked during the break between rounds, which favorably reminded me of an old sabre coach I once had.
Watcharachai’s place was really good, excluding the one session, but I kept having this nagging urge to go back to Fighting Spirit, which I did this past weekend. This time I worked with Dome, the head trainer, also known as the gym drill sergeant. He worked a lot on my teeps and knees, with a healthy amount of slipping during the last round. All while yelling “no, COME ON” if I slacked on either my power or technique. Unlike some of the other trainers I worked with, he pushed me hard from the start of the first round, and I generally feel like flopping over dead when we’re done. Going on the philosophy of “the more it hurts, the better it probably is for me”, I should probably be actively seeking him out for my rounds from now on.
So there we have it, the rundown of everyone I’ve worked with so far. The only consensus everyone seems to have reached is that my kicks are good. Coming from a Thai, that’s pretty much enough to send me home floating. We’re at 8 weeks left at this point, and I think I’ll probably stick with Fighting Spirit for continuity’s sake to make some more legitimate progress before we go home. The bouncing around thing was interesting, but working with the same group of people is probably better for them to learn how I do things, and for me to learn how they do things, and where we can best meet in the middle.
Also, they don’t charge extra for an air conditioned room.