Den was gone a lot of the week and I’m still not entirely sure why. He had to go somewhere “off campus” to train privates, I believe, but this was unfortunately during regular training hours at the camp. So, I haven’t been doing my regular padwork with him and much of the padwork I did this week was with Nook, who holds about as opposite from Den as you can get while still doing Muay Thai.
- Landing it
- Faster kicks
Closing Distance – Head Space
There is a lot to learn from how Nook holds pads – more than can be recounted here, but I’ve written about some of his benefits before. In general, Nook wants me to fight how he fought, which is kinda like Robocop: just keep moving in. He doesn’t so much make me “chase” him as capitalize on every inch I gain. If my opponents stood in with me the way Nook does I’d be a monster, but they don’t and I have to close in on a gazillion inches before I even get within striking distance of the person I’m trying to hit.
I was sparring with Daeng in the afternoon and kicked a whole lot of air, as well as punches that went nowhere. It’s infuriating because I’m still trying to reach the target – it’s not which kick or how hard I kick or whether I can do something fancy; it’s just getting my limb to meet the body of my opponent at all. In order to do that I need to close distance and mainly it’s a 90% mental issue. I can stand 10 feet away from the bag and crash the hell out of it with minimal steps at maximum distance, just swallowing space as I fly toward it. Should be able to do that to a person, but can’t because mentally I don’t want it enough. I want to hit pads, but apparently I don’t yet want to hit people with the same intensity and that’s just so lame. So I’m focusing on getting my head there.
When Den did come back at the end of the week I asked him to hold pads for me and he dove straight back into making me work for every bit of contact. He wants me to kick faster and I’ve had a bit of a struggle figuring out the mechanics that result in that effect – is it faster from initiation to finish, between kicks, or just the part between thinking about kicking and actually throwing it? I hit him with a right kick that knocked him a little bit and made a thunder crack on the pads, which he really liked and he said, “yes, again but more relax.” I tried to relax and lost it – had I just actually relaxed it might have resulted in that kind of power but increased speed. Maybe.
So for a few rounds each session I’m on the bag trying to kick the bag quickly. Staying very still in my stance like I’m stalking and then exploding into the kick; pushing the bag and then choosing a moment in it’s movement to attack with as much suddenness as I can muster; and throwing multiple kicks in a row until I notice that they are significantly slower than when I started – then rest and start the other leg.
I had my third or fourth private lesson in boxing from Neung this week. Good Lord, there are so many things to work on in boxing. The point is to get my hands to tidy up and actually start landing. Den looks at me with total bewilderment during padwork sometimes and asks me why I don’t hit as hard in fights as I do on pads. He sees it as a direct face-East, face-West situation where you can just repeat the same action with the same effect in disparate situations. But, for me, hitting a pad and hitting a person who is either hitting me back or trying really hard to not be hit by me is not the same thing. It’s like trying to talk to someone who is making a concerted effort to misunderstand you.
But boxing is supposed to be correcting this. By really working on my hands I should be able to utilize them better and eventually land my punches and give a little credit to my right hand. As of right now my stance is off, my footwork is all kinds of disorganized and when Neung tells me to just relax and keep moving with head movement and torso twisting and ducks and slips like this is something you can just decide to do with ease and flow. It would be like asking me to just rap, freestyle. I can string some words together that form a concept and maybe even get a few rhymes at the ends but there will be absolutely no flow, no rhythm, no confident punctuated turns of phrase. This is how I feel in shadow right now.
So I’m pounding out combos on the bag to learn phrases and trying to relax in shadow to get flow and for the love of God I need to keep my hands up and change levels so that my attacks are a progression and include defense rather than a staccato machine-gun burst that “sprays” the target instead of striking it.
Some Videos From My Most Recent Session With Neung