Sakmongkol Muay Thai – Controlling the Kick – Day 10 – WKO Pattaya

Yesterday was Sunday, so I tried something a little different and did a long run in the morning – got lost trying to do the loop I did last...

Yesterday was Sunday, so I tried something a little different and did a long run in the morning – got lost trying to do the loop I did last time but exploring is fun – and then only shadowboxing and conditioning at the gym, no bagwork.  It felt a little strange leaving without whacking anything but it also felt nice, like the relaxed and fluid shadow was a cool-down of sorts.  Then I took a nap and watched Channel 7 fights, which are always the best.

We met Sakmongkol for training at 3:00 instead of 2:00 and, unfortunately, that meant he didn’t want to work on clinch with me today.  I did trick him into a little bit by imitating something he’d taught me in clinch about two years ago in Colorado when we first met him (video of that clinch instruction with Sakmongkol) and he called my name.  I turned to face him and saw him leaning against the corner of the ring, looking at me with a puzzled expression.  “What are you doing?”  I laughed and did it again and said, “clinch; you teach me.”  He watched me do it a few times before I had to approach him and show him what I meant in the context of how two fighters would engage and then he laughed, shook his head and showed me what it should look like.  Then he kept showing me and kind of free styling off of it as his thoughts turned.  So I got a little clinch instruction that way.  Clever girl. You can see it in the 3 videos below.



As we began padwork I was determined to focus on the things he has been emphasizing over the past few days, which is mainly footwork and movement.  It’s certainly not everybody, but a lot of folks try to hit the pads as fast as they appear, getting all excited and anxious about responding quickly to what’s being presented.  Certainly not everybody, but a lot of Thais don’t do this.  They don’t care about how fast they hit the pad, it’s about being ready to hit the pad.  On balance, good stance, power and speed in the movement itself.  So I decided I’d focus on moving and let whatever opening he was presenting either stay open or disappear and make another one, not worrying about “missing” the shot.  I pivoted to the side, kicked his legs to set up for other shots, shoved him, etc.  He loved it.  Between rounds he looked at me and pointed with his Thai pad for emphasis, “you better!” he said.  This is the first compliment I’ve gotten that isn’t leading toward a criticism.  “When you no good,” he began, then put his index fingers to his temples and made a strained face of thinking really hard, “I think too much why, no sleep; just think think how to make you better.”  Then he smiled, “when you good, I feel good, sleep good,” he said.  For me, the important thing is showing him that I care about what he’s teaching me enough to work on it and get it into my muscles and thoughts.  He complained about a past student who he really spent a lot of time thinking about, who would learn something from him one day and forget the next day.  I’ve been that student.  It’s about where you are in your process – sometimes you’re just not ready to do things; a lot of the things I’m growing in rapidly with Sakmongkol I wouldn’t have been able to absorb even a few months ago – but it’s also about where you put yourself in your process.  What you focus on and spend your time practicing.

I had some difficulty with taking huge steps to cover distance to land kicks when an opponent is running away.  Fighting backwards is called toy in Thai, it means going backwards.  I tried to do what he was doing, although every time he demonstrated coming straight at me as I went backwards it was like being charged by a Silver Back gorilla – just scary as Hell the way he comes after you, even though I knew he wouldn’t hurt me.  Master K was like that when he would demonstrate his elbows coming at my head.  I just don’t need that POV in my life.  But I couldn’t get the footwork right to cover the distance and then kick with power and speed.  I told him gao yao mai bpen (“I’m not able to step far”) and he immediately shot back that when he first tried he couldn’t step far either.  He just kept doing it and now he can.  That was a glorious little nugget of encouragement.  A lot of times when I ask my trainers how to do something there’s either a lack of understanding (albeit, at Lanna I almost always speak English, unless it’s with big Neung because he only speaks Thai) or a “you just have to be faster,” answer.  That’s not incorrect, I do just have to do whatever is being asked, but Sakmongkol’s presentation of the issue as a puzzle, like, “yes, I know it’s hard but you just have to figure out how to make it work for you or else find something else just as good,” really resonates with me.

The big frustration of the day was when he started dodging my kick in padwork and wanted me to control my kicking leg and land back to my original stance in order to attack him.  My control over my kick has grown 300% in the past 10 days, but it’s not where it needs to be for that kind of feat.  It was hard for me and he was getting agitated by my inability to even do it in slow motion.  It was in the foot of the standing leg, the secret of this control.  He doesn’t pivot the foot but instead just steps wide with it already turned so he can control the kicking leg the whole time.  I have a hard time not turning my standing foot unless it’s flat on the ground and that doesn’t work for kicks.  He told me to think, which has become his refrain for me lately.  I tried to explain to him that I don’t know when he’s going to dodge so I can’t think of when to kick differently, but if I kick the same as when I’m wailing on the pads then I don’t have control of the kick to stop it upon missing and place it neatly back behind me.  I didn’t get that point across very well but the ultimate lesson is that I need to learn how to gain control of a kick – any kick – at any point in order to avoid spinning around or landing where I don’t want to be or being unprotected while it’s finishing out it’s intended trajectory.

So I went on the bag to work this in slow motion, hitting the bag hard a few times and then stepping out of range and launching another hard kick that I would have to control.  I can’t fulfill the element of surprise practicing on my own like that, but the repetition helps build the muscle memory.  As I was kicking the bag a maybe-30-year-old Thai guy and a little Thai boy who had previously been in the lobby scrambled up the stairs and talked with Mong for a bit before they both grabbed some equipment and hit the bags a little behind me.  Mong sat on the steps right in front of my favorite bag and assumed a “The Thinker” pose while he watched me practice everything.  I had some nice left hook to right cross and right kick drills going and the little Thai boy stood in front of me for a few repetitions before starting to imitate me in shadow.  You know you’re doing well when you can get a little boy to start copying you.  The adult Thai guy just stared at me like I had two heads; maybe he’s never seen a woman training Muay Thai before?  A little after their arrival Mong’s little daughter clamored up the stairs and started excitedly talking to him.  He loves her; he just sits there looking at her with total adoration while she babbles away, touching or “sniff kissing” the top of her head or holding her long pony-tail in his hand while he makes the Thai equivalent sounds of “uh-huh” to all her talking.  It’s very sweet.  Because Muay Thai is a way of life in Thailand and many gyms are homes and families are built out of the brotherhood of fighters, this kind of thing is also a strong part of Muay Thai.  I’m happy that Sakmongkol’s family is not peripheral to his work as a trainer because they are very much at the center of who he is, of his heart.



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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.

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*********

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.

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A 100 lb. (46 kg) female Muay Thai fighter. Originally I trained under Kumron Vaitayanon (Master K) and Kaensak sor. Ploenjit in New Jersey. I then moved to Thailand to train and fight full time in April of 2012, devoting myself to fighting 100 Thai fights, as well as blogging full time. Having surpassed 100, and then 200, becoming the westerner with the most fights in Thailand, in history, my new goal is to fight an impossible 471 times, the historical record for the greatest number of documented professional fights (see western boxer Len Wickwar, circa 1940), and along the way to continue documenting the Muay Thai of Thailand in the Muay Thai Library project: see patreon.com/sylviemuay

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