Day 19 – It’s About Recovery and Throw It Like You Mean It
This morning at Petchrungruang I was starting to feel difficulty in throwing kicks with full force because I wasn’t breathing properly. Yesterday – most days, really – that would have bothered me and I would have started criticizing myself for it. Today, for whatever reason, I thought it was funny. I was laughing. So I just teeped or moved, then threw when I was ready. Nobody’s going to die in a single five-minute round.
At one point Kru Nu was dissatisfied with one of my kicks. He has told me a few times to not bother throwing a knee or punch that lands too softly – he wants me to be sure and then smash it. I like that; it feels “slow” in my head but it’s not an even perceptible pause when I watch on film. Anyway, I throw this kick that anybody else would just ignore and ask for another one but Nu tells me, “Lang! (“Power!”) This Muay Thai style not K-1 style!” I finished out the round with stronger kicks and as I was sipping water Kevin started laughing at Kru Nu’s imitation of “K-1 style.” I missed seeing it, unfortunately, but Kevin describes it as “really tight, short, muscley punches and a flicky low-kick finish.” Basically, K-1 “looks good” but lacks real power. Muay Thai may look like whatever, depending on the fighter, but you’re hurting someone. It was Kru Nu’s way of telling me no sissy kicks. A little later, after I’d done all my bagwork and clinch knees I was laying my gloves and wraps in the sun while Kru Nu was holding for a big dude in the ring. It was a break in the padwork and Nu points at me while talking to a guy bouncing on a tire near him and the guy in the ring and says, “she train like a man.” He’d told me I look like a man the other day, referring mainly to my arms, and I’d taken it as mostly a compliment because I think he meant it that way, but when I thought I heard him say it again to his father in Thai the next day I felt slightly less positively about it. In retrospect, hearing him say it in English now, I realized he must said I train like a man to his father while they both looked at me and nodded approvingly. That’s only a compliment coming from him – especially being the gym where my favorite fighter Phetjee Jaa O. Meekhun spent two years training with their boys.
Because today is the day before my fight and I have no intention of missing training days here in Pattaya, I had a regular morning session at Petchrungruang and then only my private session with Sakmongkol in the afternoon – no bagwork on my own. I tried to correct from what was so frustrating yesterday and had some success and some repeats from the same mistakes or moments of stalling. But here’s the thing: I’m going to fight like that, too. My shin hurts like hell today but it’s coming to the fight with me, so whatever you do in training is training what you’ll do about it in the fight. So, just like I’ll ignore my shin in the fight, I need to ignore the frustration of whatever I’m failing to do in the fight and instead just keep doing the things that do work. In this case, today with Sakmongkol, it was moving forward. I blasted through padwork and we launched straight into clinch. I was still getting tossed around a bit but every time he threw me clear across the ring I’d bounce right back and come after him. My dog back home – named Zoa – is an Australian Cattle Dog. What I love about this breed is that they “bite first, ask questions later.” They herd cattle, nipping at their heels to move them and keep them in line. They are thus also called “Blue Heelers,” because their coats are bluish (or reddish, alternately) and they bite the heels. If Zoa’s being a bitch and I push her out of the way or off the couch or whatever, she bottle-noses me or jumps right back up before seeing what the problem is. Get even, then resolve the issue. That’s how I was clinching today. I did get upset near the end because I was in a stale-mate of not being able to pull or turn Sakmongkol’s huge frame, but I was in a dominant position and landing knees. He got furious with me for changing position instead of just kneeing until he moved or the imaginary ref broke us or whatever. He’s right, of course.
As I was leaving I wished Mong good luck on his trip to see the final Lumpinee show tomorrow. He laughed and told me the good luck is for me because I’m fighting, but I have this fantasy that Mong will jump out of his seat and into the ring at some point to the roaring excitement of the audience. Or he can enjoy the fights from his seat… that’s good too.
After two hours of rest at the hotel we headed back over to Petchrungruang and I got into the big ring to clinch with Kru Nu’s son (40 kg and crazy strength). My favorite tiny fighter, a Slovakian 8-year-old named Josef who’s 27 kg, tracked to the center of the ring and announced to Kru Nu’s son pom blum duay (“I’m clinching too.”) What’s so cool about this is that kids don’t like clinching with me – I’m a girl and I’m strong, two knocks against me because I can present challenges (even though they always do better than I do) that are embarrassing for boys. But Josef likes clinching with me. He literally hurled himself at me, like, both feet off the ground launching belly-first at me to tackle or land on me like a crazed little monkey when it was his turn. I’m always “it” so to speak and the boys trade out every time I get thrown down or I throw one of them down. I’d just peeled myself off the canvas from a good slam down from Kru Nu’s son and Josef just attacked me before I’d even righted myself. He’s awesome. I was stronger, technically, against Nu’s son – who is really incredible, strong, technical, balanced… everything – and I started allowing him to keep me trapped in a position so long as I could just keep kneeing him and racking up points. Today his dad was watching and giving “oi!” shouts at my dominance, which made me feel awesome and his son feel like he had to get those points back. When Josef nearly took me down and I had to put him in the corner I theatrically threw delicate jumping knees into his body for a few seconds, shouting “oi!” with every strike and the other boys joining in chorus before sweeping Josef and he collapsed in his floppy little heap, completely undeterred. If he’d had a second turn he would have gotten me back immediately. Again, I need to be more like Josef. It was so much fun – another kid even jumped in and I was cycling through three of them. Best 45 minutes of clinch ever.
Josef (27 kg and 8 years old) taking me down while Kru Nu’s son laughs.
Padwork w/ Kru Nu – Petchrungruang AM
Padwork w/ Sakmongkol – WKO PM
Clinch Energy w/Sakmongkol
Just Watching a Round of Pad Work of the Kids at Petchrungruang
Day 20 – N0 Sakmongkol
It’s Saturday and the day after my fight. I took the morning off – I can never sleep after fights for some reason – and went to WKO for my 2:00 session with Sakmongkol and the aim to head over to Petchrungruang for clinching afterwards. I don’t have any injuries from my fight (that I was yet aware of; sometimes I feel great and then kick something and discover a soft spot) so the only obstacle in training was feeling sore.
I waited for a bit and Sakmongkol didn’t appear up the stairs at his usual time. He’d gone to the final big Lumpinee show the night before and I’m sure it was a late night. I wasn’t sure, however, if he had understood me on Thursday when I scheduled for today; maybe he thought training the day after a fight was crazy. So I called him and his wife answered, said he was napping. I explained we had an appointment and she woke him up, his tired voice saying “hello?” while his little daughter babbled in the background. He must just sleep through that by now. It’s pretty non-stop from what I’ve seen and I don’t know where she gets it because neither of her parents are big talkers. It’s cute though. Mong explained he had forgotten about our lesson but he was too tired to come now and wasn’t going to be teaching the regular 3:30 session either. He’d not been able to sleep last night either. So we agreed to meet tomorrow and Kevin and I decided to go see what a full afternoon session at Petchrungruang is like, rather than having a workout by myself at WKO and then heading over.
We were a bit early at Petchrungruang. The kids get out of school and start showing up at about 4:00-4:30 over there but we arrived at maybe 2:30. Kru Nu was lounging on a chair watching TV with one arm folded over the top of his head. He said it was no problem for me to go in and just do whatever I liked – Muay Thai gyms are generally open all day with training hours set as approximate times for trainers to give you attention. So I did some situps and pullups, which sucked because my shoulders are sore from the fight, then alternated every five minutes between bouncing on the tire and shadowboxing in the ring for about 45 minutes. That was actually pretty fun. Kru Nu checked on me once and I just smiled at him because I could keep going like this until whenever, so he decided to keep doing what he was doing and come hold for me at a more regular time for him. That was fine. Just before 4:00 he came in with little Josef and Nu started talking to Kevin about my fight last night, which Nu knew about already but probably had found out after the fact. I hadn’t told the gym because my Yokkao fight is through them and I didn’t want there to be any question about whether or not I can fight 12 days prior to a “big event” like Yokkao. Turned out I fought another world champion named The Star Sor. Klinmee. I lost a close fight but it was fun. She’s 15 years old and slightly bigger than I am (taller and heavier, but damn close) and Josef is 8 years old, but Kru Nu started teasing him by explaining to Kevin that Star is Josef’s “girlfriend.” They talk online, on Facebook, all the time. So during my padwork Kru Nu kept calling to Josef, who was bouncing on the tire, that he was going to have to avenge his girlfriend in today’s clinch session with me. Josef smiled shyly because he’s been teased for this before, obviously, but also a little devilishly because he’s a tiny little man with an ego to boot. He would avenge her, I think.
My padwork felt great. I thought I’d be exhausted after only one round but I felt strong and snappy in my movements. I did get tired in the third round, but happily Kru Nu was more concerned with the little Italian kid not keeping time properly than my slowing down. We did a round of hands, which he hit me in more than before – that’s a very good thing – and then he told me I could take two minutes before I had to get back in the ring for clinch with his son. At our last clinch session Filippo had given me some bag gloves to wear to make all my angles and grabs more realistic for a fight. So I grabbed those gloves again and went to work with Kru Nu’s son (who is fighting on Monday) and Josef, who was avenging his girlfriend against my clinch.
My neck was already crazy sore from the fight, so I had very little strength for resistance against the strong arms and pulls of Kru Nu’s son. I had done well against him two days ago but today I was getting yanked everywhere. The thing to do in those situations is just keep your spirit up, which I tried to do and at times actually got quite aggressive. Kru Nu even told me to knee his son harder. But given the frustration of being caught up and overwhelmed in clinch anyway, it’s pretty well amplified by also not having strength due to weak, sore muscles. No pity party, just much harder to feel like laughing when he’s taking my head down every damn time he tries. The Patriarch of the gym, Kru Nu’s father and my clinch partner’s grandfather, named Bamrung, tried to help me by coaching me to turn when I was helpless, but I was pretty much in such a bad way that I could only make efforts toward his suggestions. Ultimately that was enough for him; he doesn’t care if you do it well – you will eventually – he just wants to see you try. He’s awesome.
After about 30 minutes we finished our clinching and I considered how much worse this feels than the one time I got whiplash as a kid. It feels worse to cry about it though, so I just went back on the bag. Kru Nu told his father that I’d fought the night before and the Patriarch came over to where I was hitting the bag and showed me a framed picture on the wall, explaining this is Klinmee, the gym owner and trainer of the girl I fought last night. He’s “like a brother” to Kru Nu – they grew up together and never fought one another because they were so close. Kru Nu had told this story to Kevin earlier, when I was still bouncing on the tire and he was razzing Josef about his “girlfriend,” which implied to us that maybe it wasn’t “cool” that I had fought their associates under a different gym. (This fight was set up by the promoter calling WKO and arranging it through Sakmongkol and Mutt.) It’s not a problem, but there are layers of “face” going on in that they didn’t know about the fight before-hand (I hadn’t told them and it was short notice anyway) and it happened to be against their close gym friends (Sor Klinmee Gym) and Kevin says he had the impression that I may have been a tough opponent even though I lost the fight. There’s no way to really know for sure if it’s an insult, an embarrassment, a snafu, a matter of it seeming clumsy that more than one gym is handling a single fighter and not in community with one another, etc, or absolutely nothing at all. I don’t know. It’s not a huge deal, but small misunderstandings can become big ones so I’m trying to pay attention to it and find the right balance.
I finished out my work on the bag and took off my gloves to start clinch-knee practice, as Sakmongkol showed me in this video. I finish all bagwork like this without timing rounds because it’s just fun. Kevin started laughing because the little kids were hovering around and then scrambled into the ring to do situps. “You’re setting an example that’s going to make these kids have to work harder,” he said. I don’t know about that, but they will have to keep up with my progress. When my neck isn’t jelly anymore I’m going to crush those gromits in the clinch.
Padwork with Kru Nu – Petchrungruang Gym
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.