Day 17 – Mental Tai Chi
Yesterday my trainers were telling me I seemed tired and today I was even more tired than yesterday. Clinching in the evenings with the little kids at Petchrungruang is sure to make me feel like I’ve been in a car crash the next morning, but as always just moving around helps a lot. But the more important thing is to learn from yesterday’s difficulties and try to get my “fight energy” charged for my training; to not show that I’m tired so much.
I felt like I did much better in morning padwork with Kru Nu at Petchrungruang. He gives me more when I’m more engaged, so there are multiple reasons to not be a brat. He keeps correcting my block on the kick but not my leg, instead he really firms up my arms which are in the “figure 4” block with the extended arm out really straight, right in the face of my opponent. It feels good actually, similar to what I wrote about the other day regarding the difference between “receiving” a kick with your check and actually “meeting” a kick and doing damage as a form of defensive offense.
Before I fell asleep for my hour-long nap just after breakfast and before my afternoon session with Sakmongkol I decided that I really wanted to meet him with aggressive energy today. This is like how anyone can plan to wake up early in the morning but when morning rolls around and the alarm is going off in darkness one might have alternate feelings. It’s one thing to make the decision for the future but one has to follow through.
As I was shadowboxing when Mong arrived at the gym I was feeling pretty good, hitting my pacing and movements in a more purposeful way. Then he told me that the promoter had called from Pattaya Boxing World Stadium and asked if I could fight this Friday. Kevin and I considered it back and forth a little bit because my shin is still swollen from my last fight and we’re coming up on two weeks until my Yokkao fight. I told Sakmongkol I’d think about it and tell him tomorrow – he won’t be in my corner for that fight either because he’s going to Bangkok for the final Muay Thai show at the old Lumpinee stadium before they have the debut show at the new stadium later this month. However, I didn’t actually think about it for much longer and told Mong that I like the idea and that I would like to fight this Friday, so go ahead and tell the promoter “yes.” There are a few major reasons for my fast decision: 1) I knew that once the promoter had seen me fight it would be easier to get more fights, so saying I can fight when he asks cements that kind of relationship that I want; 2) it’s more time in the ring before I’ll be facing a really tough opponent on the Yokkao card; 3) there are still 12 days before the next fight, giving me enough time to heal up anything minor, like a shin ding; and 4) I love to fight and adding a fight subtracts pressure from any one fight. Those are all good reasons, I think. More than anything though having just said “yes” to another fight made my mind pop and suddenly I was very happy, very confident and moving around the ring more freely. I like fighting.
My energy felt good against Sakmongkol in padwork and he seemed happy for the most part. I definitely felt stronger than yesterday. Clinching was a little bit of a struggle. Mong’s size advantage is a tricky obstacle in performing even basic techniques, so I feel really ineffective – but today his aggravated grunts of the “come on!” variety were making it clear that he doesn’t care if I do the “moves”, he just wants the energy. He would throw me off and I’d go sailing halfway across the ring and he’d yell, showing he wanted me to charge right back in. Incidentally, later in the evening when I clinched with the kids at Petchrungruang Gym, one of whom is absolutely tiny at about 27 kg, I saw exactly what I should be doing. Joseph, the 27 kg kid, is proportionally smaller to me than I am to Sakmongkol and yet he just came at me endlessly. Even when I would throw him down he didn’t want to tag the other kid in, he wanted to resolve the point against him. I need to be like Joseph. But I did get better in maybe the last 5 minutes against Mong, just jerking his neck even when I made little progress. It’s about the energy, about the effort and the off-balancing of the opponent, not about whether or not the move is technically correct or even works.
Morning Padwork With Kru Nu at Petchrungruang
Afternoon Padwork With Sakmongkol at WKO
Clinch With Sakmongkol
Sakmongkol Demos Low Kick
Alternating Leg Kicks – Mong the Killer
Day 18 – Show Don’t Tell
This morning I trained on my own at WKO and was surprised at how hard it was to get my muscles warmed up. I took my time and gradually felt everything working the way it should – my legs are super heavy from bouncing on the tire, something I’ve never been consistent with in my training but am determined to do now. When I was a few rounds in to my bagwork Sakmongkol walked up the stairs and looked at me with surprise, saying, “Ugh! Sylvie!” I was more surprised to see him, I believe, given that he’s never up in the gym area in the mornings. But he had with him the two people – a couple from Colorado who he used to train – he’d picked up from the airport the night before. Their flight was supposed to arrive at 11:00 PM but with a delay due to snow somewhere they ended up getting in at about 2:00 AM and Bangkok is a two hour drive from Pattaya, so they’d all been to bed only a few hours. They just did a quick tour and we all said hello while a crazy older fellow who plays “musical chairs” with the bags in the morning (one of my biggest pet peeves; I’m a jerk) started setting himself up and making his presence known. The thing with this dude is that I like that he has a routine. You don’t have to be “trained” or “good” to wail on bags at a gym, I like that some people just get their heart racing by hitting things; it’s cool to me. But this guy… this guy, drives me nuts. For someone who is completely agitated by anything that interrupts his routine – I get it, when I’m older I’ll be even worse, believe me – he certainly imposes himself on others in an inappropriate way. It’s rude. Just don’t be rude.
This afternoon when I came in Sakmongkol’s wife, who works the front desk, took my membership card and as I picked up a towel I saw Mong lounging in a chair behind the counter. I leaned over a little bit to see his head and say hello but laughed immediately and without meaning to at how completely zonked he looked. Noey mai? I asked (“Tired?”) He just kind of rolled his head along the back of the chair to look at me, then held up his index finger and with a gravely voice responded that he’d only been to sleep for one hour. Neung chamoong! (“One hour!”) he repeated. I laughed again and said that I was sorry because I wasn’t going to be nice to him today. His wife thought that was funny; Mong didn’t.
I wanted to have good energy for our padwork because I knew Mong was tired, so I couldn’t rely on him to bring the fight energy (nor should I) and it might make it more bearable for him to fight through his fatigue if he was engaged in high energy. Fighters love that. I started out okay but then got incredibly distracted and frustrated by the feeling I got that I was just “standing on the porch,” which is my major problem in fights as well. I just stay at a distance and can’t seem to find a way in other than rushing and grabbing for the clinch. Mong stands with this incredibly wide stance that’s hard to get around – all you have to do is pivot closely and sharply – and I just wasn’t coming in. I was frustrated and he was frustrated because I wasn’t figuring it out. Then I popped him in the face with a hook and he charged me with a flurry of punches, one of which caught me on the right cheekbone and I just went straight back. Total crap. Not a big deal though, just remember to pivot on the next one, right? I was fighting back all the way through the rounds but my attitude, like my facial expression, was pretty shit. As a result, and it’s hard to know for certain, but it seemed that Sakmongkol kind of cut it short. Like, “if you’re going to be upset we’ll just call it for today,” and he put me on the bag and ignored me the rest of the session.
While I was doing my clinch-knees on the bag at the end of my session I saw that Kru Mutt, who never trains me or talks to me but who cornered for me at my last fight and will corner for me on Friday, was watching me very closely from the corner of the ring. Having spent most of the session self-flagellating internally for having such a crap attitude today I took the moment of audience to push my energy up a little bit and finish out strong. If I was sending the message to Sakmongkol that I’m beating myself up or being miserable or whatever, then I’ve got to also send the message that I will use that same energy to work hard. It’s not a “quit” message, even though that’s what it buys me – so I have to keep that in check.
Before heading out the door to go to Petchrungruang for clinching I saw Sakmongkol sparring with his student from Colorado, just playing around. By watching for a few minutes I saw the answers to every single obstacle I’d faced in my padwork with him earlier, like the legend on a map explaining all the symbols. Damnit. I studied and locked them away for tomorrow – remember, Sylvie!
At Petchrungruang I got really good clinching practice with Kru Nu’s son, the strongest little monster in the world. Yesterday I was giving him my neck left and right by not paying attention to keep my shoulders up, so I wanted to be diligent about that today. I was slightly better, but he was also slightly harder on me. The patriarch of the gym, Kru Nu’s father, sat on the edge of the ring and offered me advice, tips, techniques; all of them were great but none of them actually worked against this little kid because he a) had all the counters; b) was holding me so hard and turning me so fast I barely had time to even attempt what was being told to me; and c) he had no interest in letting any of them work. It was incredibly frustrating.
Again, my attitude was not showing that I was enjoying the process even though I was engaged, trying to do the things I was told and listening and responding to all the advice as it was being relayed. But it’s a show, don’t tell type of deal and what I was showing was my frustration. So after maybe half the time we’d normally clinch – 30 minutes at least – and a few times the grandfather telling his grandson to go lighter, to just use technique and not go full-strength (the kid is 12 and probably 15 lbs less than I am and he’s being told to go lighter!) they called an end to the clinching and had the kid grab the “Thai suitcase”, a pad with a handle, for leg-kicks. So I started kicking the leg, which Mong has had me working on too, and I was whipping it pretty well. The patriarch gave “ahhh!” sounds of approval and a Thai guy from just outside the ring encouraged me to step forward more and put my hip into it. I did and there was even more excitement. Kru Nu showed me to stay closer and demonstrated a few kicks, the face of his son holding the pad wincing a little bit, showing that even through 7 inches of padding his kicks are nasty. Then the patriarch told me to use my jab to gauge distance, so I was jabbing the air, close enough to the kid, and then throwing the right leg-kick and everyone was very happy. Then the kid pointed out that my shin was bleeding and I tried to explain I had a scab there before but everyone was super concerned that I’d cut it on the edge of the pad. I hadn’t, but it had re-opened on the edge for sure. But so that was the end of that drill and the grandfather had me go do a bunch of pull-ups (my third set of the day) to make me stronger for the clinch. He was more excited about the low-kick because, as he said several times, I’m strong in the clinch but lack technique. So he just wants me to knock someone out with low-kicks. It’s a great idea, but whether I’m good at clinch or not that’s what I do in fights. It’s a tricky situation because my frustration in the clinch sent the message that I am struggling whereas my comfort with low-kicks on a pad with no pressure signals that I’m comfortable and confident. But I need to train the former, not the latter. Which means the signals are crossed, the messages are wrong. Knowing it and doing it are different things. But I have to get my shit together and make myself more clear, in the non-verbal fighter way.
Padwork With Sakmongkol – Day 18
This is part of a near-daily Muay Thai series Training with Sakmongkol wherein I describe my training experiences with him at WKO Pattaya. For those interested I recount my decision to temporarily leave my training in Chiang Mai to take the opportunity to learn from one of the best Thai fighters of his generation and a uniquely gifted teacher in my post: In Search of Sakmongkol. In these posts I try to include as much extensive video as possible so that others can see in detail how and what he is teaching me.