[you can read about how my first week went at Petchrungruang Gym here]
Having learned from our experiences from our first trip down to Pattaya three months ago, Kevin and I decided that we’d have our main focus for training at Petchrungruang Gym and supplement that with the invaluable lessons from working with Sakmongkol. Incidentally, the distribution of hours between the gyms is actually the same as it was the first time around, although we’ve discontinued the private sessions with Mong that we’d attempted our first trip down. Mostly that’s a financial decision.
Upon first returning to WKO it felt like very little time had passed. The building across the street is no longer under construction and now houses a showroom for some kind of expensive motorbike, but otherwise the street looks the same. I still have my membership card, a little laminated piece of paper with my name and a barcode, so it was kind of like a slacker getting back to the gym rather than a big triumphant return after an actual relocation. But that’s not how I was greeted – nobody treats me like a slacker other than my husband -, instead it was a big smile from Sakmongkol’s wife Kob at the door and Kru Mutt, who is often sitting at the “bar” of the counter with a towel over the back of his neck and his cell-phone plastered to his ear. Given the strangeness of WKO, in that it’s not a Muay Thai gym (which is only strange because that’s how I approach it) but is a Karate dojo and martial arts organization with a fitness center in it, there is a lot to be said for the familiarity and “family” feel that it accomplishes via the people who work there.
Perhaps most like jumping right back in where we left off was that Sakmongkol pretty much refused to work with me for a few days. That’s fine in the grand scheme of things – he was pissed at me for some reason when I left last time and so I had to climb back up a hill there anyway, but also because all training relationships have ups and down, ebbs and flows… cycles. I’m not happy about his rejection of me but I didn’t feel like it was ultimate in any sense; it just sucks because I want to learn from him. As it turned out he’s having some issues with me training at two places, which is understandable and I appreciate where he’s coming from. I’ve always had trainers who support my rogue style and starting from the get-go with Master K he encouraged me to learn from many people and take it all in because everyone is different. But that’s also something I was able to get support in because I came to places as an outsider. It’s quite different when those gyms or trainers are within the same city or aren’t also kind of unaffiliated. Loyalty is a huge part of relationships, period, but it’s also a marked theme of martial arts in general. I don’t consider my working with two gyms here in Pattaya “disloyal,” nor does Sifu McInnes who is the head of WKO and a “grand master” personality and figure if ever there was one. But I do understand the difficulty that Sakmongkol has with choosing to invest time and energy in me if I’m not only working with him, just as Petchrungruang is certainly not ecstatic about the fact that I’m also working with Sakmongkol. The reason I’m not bowing to the most obvious formal obligation of choosing one out of respect for this more traditional approach is that I’m not spreading myself between the two of them as an act of disrespect – that’s not where I’m coming from and I’m not shirking my dedication or efforts in either place – but mostly because each has what the other doesn’t… and I need both in order to develop and improve as a fighter. And, as much as Sakmongkol wants me to go the traditional route of giving all my devotion to one teacher in order to be shaped by him, he’s not as willing to dedicate that kind of time as I am (also WKO does not have people my size or skill level to spar and clinch with, which is a developmental must for me…just as Petchrungruang does not have one of the great Muay Thai fighters of all time).
After a few days Mong did hold pads for me. I did my best to color inside the lines of what he’d taught me the last time we were down and what I’ve been working on by myself the past few months at Lanna when I was away. I wanted there to be some evidence for him that I’ve continued working on what he taught me. I did alright in that department and got five glorious rounds of approving grunts and “aaah’s” as I moved around, blocked, didn’t react to strikes and tried to kick through him as best I could. Of course the difficulty with this kind of approval is that it automatically moves the line; he’ll never be happy with that performance again as he’ll expect more from me with every accomplishment. That’s not a good feeling and as students we often seek praise, but it is good for actual growth, regardless of what I’d love to feel. A couple days later he put me through the ringer with six rounds and when his other female student, Mariya from Italy, gave him a wide-eyed stare when he called her into the ring next he assured her, “not for you; Sylvie goes hard because she has a fight.” Indeed, he’d caught a kick of mine and kicked my leg out to drop me on the floor the day prior. I got up and he called for me to repeat the kick, exactly as you would in order to instruct on what I should have done. Instead he kicked my leg out again, only harder, and he slammed into the canvas with enough force that everyone in the gym stopped what they were doing and looked. “I tell you before – remember? – in the ring,” and then he pauses for emphasis and points at himself with his long index finger, “in the ring I mean.” Yeah, I remember that he’s mean in the ring. It’s for my own good and since I’ve worked with him before – cried about all this shit before, too – now I know that my work with him is 90% mental. He teaches the fight, all the kicks and punches and knees and movement is just the noise that plays over whatever your mind is doing.
In the words of Master K: “We need that one.”
I hope to video our sessions together and share them on YouTube, but right now I’m not sure how he feels about that so I’m going to play it by ear.
My Work Out and Living Schedule the last Week
7:00: 6 k run
8:45 – 9:15: arrive at Petchrungruang. 10 minutes of shadow, begin my 5 rounds on the bag (4 min), until Kru Nu calls me in.
9:15 – 9:30: 3-4 rounds of pads (3-4 min).
9:30 – 10:30: 100 kicks monitored by Kru Nu, 100 teeps, 300 knees, a “play knees” round (taught to me by Sakmongkol). Finish my 5 bag rounds (whatever is left). 10 minutes of shadow and 250-500 shadow blocks. Clinch pulls ups, standard pullups, squats, 150-200 situps 11:00 – 11:45: make and eat breakfast, catch up on Internet communications
11:45 – 2:30: nap time 2:30: up to get ready for WKO
3:00 – 3:30: arrive at WKO. 10 minutes of shadow. Start some bag work if not immediately called for pads, sometimes clinch or spar with Noi or Kru Mutt 3:30
4:00: 5 (3 min) rounds on pads with Sakmongkol (or Kru Mutt). These are “energy” rounds.
4:00 – 4:15: 150-200 situps, 200 knees on the bag, a round of play knees.
4:15: Leave for Petchrungruang
4:45 – 5:15: begin my 5 rounds on the bag (4 min)
5:15 – 5:30: sparring with Alex, a 37 kg Italian boy who fights out of the gym.
5:30 – 6:00: clinching, man-in-the-middle with various Thai boys.
6:00 – 6:30: finish my 5 rounds on the bag, 10 minutes of shadow and 250-500 shadow blocks, 150 situps, then squats, clinch pullups, standard pullups, yes-no’s-maybe’s.
7:00: arrive at home then a 7 k run.
7:45 – 9:00: shop for, cook and eat dinner.
9:00 – 11:00: cool down. Catch up on electronic communications, maybe write a blog, watch some shows/movies on the computer with Kevin. Tea or snack if I can muster it.
11:00-12:00: fall asleep.