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Meet the Moderators - Sylvie and Emma

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Hello, everyone! Welcome to Muay Thai Roundtable. 

This forum is Sylvie's brainchild, I am here to help moderate. For those of you who aren't familiar with either of us, I want to offer an introduction, so you know who we are, where we come from, what we're trying to do, and all that jazz. The quick, easy to digest version is in the picture below, which breaks it down pretty succinctly. You can scroll down to see a more detailed explanation.

Meet-the-moderators-Muay-Thai-Roundtable

Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu

This forum is a part of Sylvie's site and blog, 8limbs.us. She's been running the site for 3 years now, starting at the very beginning of her Muay Thai journey since moving to Thailand and sharing its most intricate details along the way. She's from Colorado, US and first discovered Muay Thai while living in New York after her husband, Kevin, urged her to watch Ong Bak with him. From there, she started training with Master K in 2008. She trained with him in his basement and started filming her private sessions with him as a way to study and track her progress as well as to preserve and share Master K's teaching. There, her Youtube channel was born, which now has more than 2,000 videos! The following year, she went to Thailand for the first time to train, with Kevin in tow. After returning, she went on to train at Chok Sabai gym and also with Kaensak while saving and planning to make her way back. The original plan was to be here for a year if possible, but hoping to stay long enough to have fifty fights, but she's still here, has been for three years now, has had more than one hundred fights and is planning to keep going for as long as she possibly can. Her and Kevin sustain their stay here with a combination of income from Kevin's work, personal savings and a Go Fund Me campaign, by which lots of generous supports donated money to help keep her here after following her journey. This allows her to maintain a full-time training schedule. You can see what a day of her training looks like in the video below:

Sylvie spent the first part of her Thailand fight journey in Chiang Mai fighting out of Lanna gym, but now lives in Pattaya, training at two gyms, Petchrungruang and O. Meekun, which are both very Thai. O. Meekun is also the home of PhetJee Jaa, who is quite possibly the greatest female fighter on the planet. To say that Sylvie fights regularly would be a massive understatement. She not only takes fights whenever and wherever she can get them, but is constantly seeking opportunities to fight more, with the best competition she can face. She has already gone up against some of the best women in her weight class in the world, often with a big weight disadvantage. Her huge wealth of experience in fighting along with her insight into Thai culture and social dynamics and her desire to build and share as much as she possibly can makes her invaluable, and I'm grateful that she has created this forum as a way to share more of that. 

Emma Thomas

I'm a 26-year-old Brit, who first dove into the world of Muay Thai at the age of 22 while on a solo backpacking trip through Thailand after graduating from university, having absolutely no previous athletic experience or knowledge of combat sports but a huge passion and desire to get into it, which emerged almost out of nowhere. I was hooked from the start, not only on the sport but on the country, and after a month of full-time training in Chiang Mai, immediately changed my plans, cancelling the last leg of my trip so that I could stay in Thailand long-term and commit to Muay Thai. I then took the steps to be able to work in Thailand as a teacher, getting qualified while training in Chiang Mai before being sent to Bangkok for work. There, I found Master Toddy, the man who turned me into a fighter. I stumbled upon his gym never having heard of him before (which shows how out of touch with the Muay Thai world I was at the time) and planning to leave after two weeks, but have now been living and training at his gym for three and a half years (living in Thailand for over four years in total so far) with no plans to leave as of yet. This is my home now. Meeting him was a huge turning point for me, as he instilled the confidence I needed in myself in order to believe that I could fight. Since then, he's continued to be a wonderful teacher to me and a driving force in my life. I had my first fight after eight weeks of training with him and have now had twenty. Halfway between those two places, I set up my blog, Under the Ropes, which was born as a way to create more Muay Thai content for women as well as to share my experiences. I continue to work as an English teacher, which is something that I really love as well as something that provides a visa and a continued source of income. It means that I constantly have to balance my training and fighting with my work schedule, but it's wonderful.

 

Where our paths cross - Similarities and differences

I met Sylvie for the first time via her blog in 2011 and later on, as mine started to grow and we both shared our stories, we noticed similarities. as well as the obvious factor of both being women carving our places out in a male-dominated space, we both have rather introverted personalities and are feminists who are passionate about sharing and creating as much as we can for the benefit of other women. 

Sylvie and I have rather different lifestyles, and for that reason, our collective stories and experiences here can give a broad view of what it's like here. We also have rather different training experiences, as I train in a very Western-friendly gym which is just generally a very different setting to the one she trains in. We have been able to meet up and train together a few times in the last year and intend to keep doing so. Our difference in schedules means that for the most part, we maintain our friendship and collaborations online (and what better way for a pair of introverts?) Here, we hope to make it possible for others to make similar connections as they continue to share and discover. We thank you all for signing up to the forum and look forward to meeting everyone in it.  

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Is there a place on this forum where you post your "upcoming fight schedule", Sylvie? 

I just got back to Chiang Mai and would be so stoked to see you fight live in your post 200-fights era :)

 

Just answering for Sylvie, there is no one place where Sylvie's schedule can be found. She'll be fighting in Chiang Mai on November 16th as of now though. The best thing to do for really anyone who has a schedule and wants to see her fight is message her on FB, and she can fill you in on what she knows. Fights are always shifting.

m.me/sylviemuaythai/

or

https://www.facebook.com/pg/sylviemuaythai/

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Hi Daz from Manchester UK, been learning Muay Thai from home Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.  Learning from home using online resources plus have an online coach, and just joined a gym for bag work as classes aren’t running.  Here to read up and meet new people.

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    • A question that sometimes is raised is: What is the religion of Muay Thai? Or probably better put: Is there religious meaning in Muay Thai? Sometimes behind this question are the pictures of spirituality within traditional martial arts like Kung Fu or Karate, an idea of self-perfection which is grounded in a deeper spiritual belief. The martial artist is perfecting themselves both physically and spiritually at the highest levels. Many answer this question in the negative, in a way that seems quite accurate at first. There is spiritual meaning to Thailand's Muay Thai. It is a fighting art, a sport, its meaning is in its efficacy. Looking for religious or spiritual beliefs in it would be like looking for them in Western Boxing. Yes, there are important cultural rites & practices which derive from Buddhism and the older form of Brahminism, and even the animism before that, but one does not have to be a Buddhist, let's say, to practice Muay Thai - and often these rites & practices are treated as cultural trappings by observers, a kind of respect paid to the past that could easily be shed without missing a beat. They aren't necessarily active religious practices, some say, while for others within the sport & art treat these as highly meaningful, without which Muay Thai would lose its footing. If one had to give a single religion to Muay Thai it would be its Buddhism, in the sense that it grew out of a culture of Buddhism for the last 1,800 years, and in many respects has the qualities that it has because of its Buddhism. It's traditional treatment of aggression, the way in which its scoring and overall style of fighting has classically handled with emphasis on ruup (posture), balance & self control, its treatment of the affects of anger and fear are quite Buddhistic. And notably within the culture there have been cultural parallels between between monkhood and the path of the young nak muay. You can read about some of those here: Thai Masculinity: Postioning Nak Muay Between Monkhood and Nak Leng – Peter Vail. When we see Thailand's Muay Thai through the lens of Buddhism not only do certain aspects of its scoring and presentation make more sense to foreign eyes, also questions as to how such a violent sport be religious at all finds some resolution. There is an undeniable fabric to Thailand's Muay Thai which seems quite Buddhist, as the dominant religion in region within which it grew. And this is not to minimize that Muay Thai was also fed, perhaps for centuries, by the very high level Muay Thai of the South which has a significant Muslim population. Muay Thai is actually much more of a tapestry than many assume. There are threads in the fabric. We are left somehow with an unsatisfying answer. Yes, Thailand's Muay Thai expresses and comes out of a (largely) Buddhistic culture and holds several rites and practices which are religious in nature - the treatment of the mongkol, the pre-fight Wai Kru/Ram Muay are the most obvious ones - and even we might grant that in the cultural maturation of boys the kaimuay (boxing camp) has stood as an alternative to the wat (temple). Or, we might even imaginatively acknowledge that in its history temples were likely houses that kept Muay Thai and transmitted its form, for centuries (perhaps even in some modest Shaolin sense), a magic-imbued Muay Thai that is likely lost to today (practices outlawed in 1902). But still, what is its religion? Are Muay Thai fighters doing anything religious that is intimately connected to their performance? Is the arduous and obedient training in Muay Thai in any sense a spiritual practice? I believe they are, and there is. "Soul Stuff" and Muay Thai Anthropologists that have studied the history of Siam (Thailand), and Southeast Asian culture in general, have wrestled with thinking about the fundamental nature of its social organization, as it is has appeared throughout the centuries. Mainland Southeast Asia from the 1st century AD went from small settlements and polities to eventual powerful trade centers and then empires, a transformation likely fueled by a connection to India. The great temples of the Khmer, the religious cults to Shiva, the establishment of potent royal figures has largely been credited to what is called "Indianization". The presence of statues to Ganesh, the identification of Thai royalty with Vishnu, even the invocation of the Ramayana in the Muay Thai Ram Muay are all expression of this period of "Indianization" begun nearly 1,700 years ago. This is a very long lineage. A top this layer of pronounced Hindu/Brahminist influence sits Buddhism itself, which transformed the politically Indianized culture further. It's important to realize that these two very strong influences are not (fundamentally) in conflict. The spiritualities expressed in Hindu form, especially in political contexts, were even furthered in Buddhistic devotion. The form of its expression what different, but the fundamentals of power and spirituality remained the same. And this is important to understand. Power and spirituality are bound together. We can see that even at a basic level questions about identifiable religion likely have braided answers.  For anthropologists the answer to why Hinduism, and then Buddhism, were able to powerfully graft onto Southeast Asian culture lies within the supposition of an older belief, something that lies below these historical sedimentations, the receipt of salvation religions which gave voice and form to this older belief. It is this older belief which in a sense glues together the practices, and informs sociability itself, even the secular sociability of today. And this is the belief of "soul stuff". This belief interpretation was first put forward by the preeminent historian of Southeast Asia O. W. Wolters, but for our purposes this summation of it by Michael Charney in his book Southeastern Warfare: 1300-1900 is a very good entry point   Everything in the world has a certain amount of stuff. A potency. And they do not have it in equal portions. Rocks have it, but a particular rock might have a great deal of it. Humans have it, but particular humans may have much more of it than others. Importantly, this is something you can acquire. You can have more soul stuff than you were born with, and it is something that can be transmitted between persons & objects. This can happen through association, physical touch, and a host of magical-religious practices. You can read into Wolter's original discussion of soul stuff here. Because he is investigating the origins of the Indianization of mainland Southeast Asia he is looking at the role of kings, and rulers of polities. For him it was the de-emphasis on lineage, the generational demand for personal performance, proving and acquiring "soul stuff", which kept Southeast Asia from adopting some of the more rigid social forms of Indian culture. Instead, because of the very nature of soul stuff in Southeast Asia political power had a fundamental agonistic quality to it, generation to generation, locality to locality, and (very importantly for our purposes), martial power and spiritual power were expressive of a single thing...soul stuff. He accounts how early kings were defined by their "prowess" and this prowess was expressed into only in terms of martial force, but through religious, aesthetic devotion. Within this underfabric of Southeast Asian culture was a strong, bonded identity between physical prowess and spiritual prowess...and, the braiding of these two was expressed through "charisma". As Wolters writes:   In the beliefs, the under-beliefs of Siam, the "priest" and the "warrior" were not separate. They were brought together in single personage, and this personage could be recognized by their charisma, their aura, which drew people to them. I think its important to realize that this isn't just a description of the rulers of polities. It actually describes how power ("soul stuff") is distributed throughout the entire lived world. Kings are said by historians to have mandala power, which is to say a certain sphere of influence which flowed out like candle-light in a circle. The further away from the center of this mandala power, the less it exerted itself. But lessor nobles, lessor polities also had spheres of power, a function of their charisma. In fact arguably, everything with soul stuff had circles of charismatic power. Some with very little, some with much more. The religious development of Siam can be thought of as expressing this much deeper, older sensibility toward the world and others, something that still persists (quite strongly) even today. It, in a sense, may animate present day Hinduistic and Buddhistic beliefs with a particular logic of personal potency.  Conquerous kings were also ascetic spiritual achievers who used the charisma of their personal achievement - the sign of their "soul stuff" - to glue kingdoms together. I'm now going to race ahead to the subject of Muay Thai and religiosity, in this context, and work backwards from there. When one is training in Muay Thai in Thailand one is training in soul stuff. If you are not from the culture you might not realize or recognized why you are being trained a certain way, or even what qualities are being instilled in you, but if you undergo the process you are training in the acquisition and signification of soul stuff. And this is to some degree a spiritual ascetic practice, even if you approach it from a completely secularized place, and even if your trainers are not consciously expressing religious beliefs. This is the older form of the marriage of the martial and the spiritual, as it has been inherited, and to some degree sublimated, by the culture. And Thais who train in Muay Thai, who are part of the culture, are training in "soul stuff". The art of Muay Thai is developing the "prowess" which will eventually be expressed as a charisma. One of the most subtly cutting criticisms of contemporary Muay Thai that we've heard was in a casual conversation between the legend Karuhat Sor. Supawan and WBC World Boxing Champion Chatchai Sasakul, both prolific fighters in Thailand Muay Thai's Golden Age. "Fighters no longer have charisma today" they mourned. This wasn't a complaint about marketing, it was about the nature of the fighting itself. Fighting did not express the charisma that it once did. The reason why this criticism silently cut so deep is that the development of charisma was actually the point of Muay Thai fighting itself. Charisma is the aura one has, the capacity somehow (magically) draw people to you. It is a certain kind of personal gravity, which directly exudes your "soul stuff". It is your ittiphon, your power. And it can be shown or lies in parallel to your ittirüt, which is your invulnerability. The connection between charisma and invulnerability is what lies beneath classic Muay Thai forms. The emphasis on ruup (posture, visible form), balance, freedom, control, and the fighterly aim of not necessarily "damaging" your opponent, as so much as dominating your opponent in a great variety of ways, including physical damage, is about the cultivation of charisma. This literally is the same kind of charisma of ancient kings, within the same scope of connective beliefs, trained for performance in the ring. Because Thailand is predominantly a Buddhist culture - and has been for much more than 1,000 years, the cultural form of that charisma has Buddhistic expression. In the same way that Buddhist novice monks seek to discipline their bodies, temper the hotter emotions, cultivate a kind of stoicism under travail, the young nak muay seeks to do the same. And great monks, through their ascetic practices, acquire great charisma revealing their "soul stuff". In some sense Thailand's Muay Thai has split off from many of the religious forms of charismatic development, but still expresses the same spiritual reality, even if in practice if falls into a broken, or and much less unreadable state. The ascetic practice, and the hierarchies of respect and rite in the gym are cultural pathways of "soul stuff" development. And arguably, anything you are learning in a Thai gym, whether it's the ability to endless do knees on the bag, or how to stay calm under sparring pressure, or how to properly block, or how to compose yourself under the exhaustion of padwork, are all actually about charisma, a projected invulnerability and magnetic aura, each fighter of which would have their own version. As Wolters emphasized, it is both a physical prowess and a spiritual prowess. The role of magical beliefs in the history of Muay Thai development is likely quite pronounced. If you would like to read an account which exemplifies the parallels between combat prowess and magical capacities, read the biography of the southern Thai policeman, Khun Phantharakratchadet (1898–2006) whose prowess occurred in the decades of Muay Thai modernization, and Thailand's rise as a modern Nation. (to be continued in a new edit)        
    • SJC74 - Here's my recent January 2023 experience training for one-week at 'Santai', and one-week at 'Boon Lanna', both gyms located outside/south of Chiang Mai city center. TL;DR, I'd pick Boon Lanna Muay Thai for one-month dedicated training with minimal life outside of training, eating, recovering, sleeping.  Context: I spent early October 2022 to early January 2023 in Northern Thailand; 2.5-months in Pai, 1-month in Chiang Mai. I learned Muay Thai basics at Wisarut Gym in Pai at a relaxed pace. I wasn't killing myself during that time, but was able to develop a baseline foundation for the sport and improve general fitness. After leaving Pai in second week of January 2023, I went to train at two gyms outside of Chiang Mai, Santai and Boon Lanna. I did not train at Hongthong, but I did stop by in the midafternoon to see it. Here's my two cents as a beginner. First thing to note, and arguably the most important consideration is how far from old town Chiang Mai you're comfortable being. The best gyms in CM are a ways away from the nightlife/tourist action happening in the city. You'll need to plan logistics accordingly. Having a motorbike, accommodation, quick food/grocery options, social life requirements, touristic desires etc. are all considerations that need to be made. There are a lot of gym options in and around Chiang Mai. Hover over the greater city on Google Maps and search 'Muay Thai Gym', and you'll see many of the options. Most have websites and/or facebook pages to glean information from to get general vibe of the gym, while others have a sparce internet presence that requires an in-person visit to get the scoop. I visited four gyms in total, but only trained at two.  Santai: I trained here 6 sessions total, once per day monday to saturday mostly in the afternoon. This was the busiest gym in Thailand that I trained at thus far, with an average 30 students per session, and 6-8 instructors. This is a good gym if you want to sleep, train, and be social with other students and not have too much of a life outside of training. People spend months living and training there together, so naturally the "family" like feelings evolve amongst students and trainors. Everyone was friendly, but I kept my head down and didn't socialize too much beyond basic pleasantries. A months time is long enough to develop stronger relationships if that's what you're seeking. English was common enough amongst students and trainers to make communication easy and clear. Despite the gym being a bit small for the large number of students, it's equipped with three rings and many bags. Because of the many people, it was lacking in the sanitation department; it felt a bit dirty for my personal standards, but keeping in mind that I've been a long time mild germophobe so learning Muay Thai has been an exercise in acceptance for me. Standards and personal comfort vary of course, I'm just saying it could use a good powerwash and mop.   The general class routine was: run/skip rope, group stretching/shadowboxing technique, padwork, bagwork, clinching, stretch/cool-down. While you're going through group stretch, the woman who handles office/paperwork affairs and the two old-head instructors list names on the whiteboard for padwork assignments. Each pad holder had 3-5 names underneath them and each student would get 3 5-minutes rounds with them. It seemed like the newbies were assigned to go first and each day you'd be with a different pad holder who would work you in different ways, while evaluating your skill level. The two old-head instructors would walk around with their sticks whacking stick correcting form of folks working a bag. You're sort of on your own after padwork, so you'll want to come prepared with a few combinations you want to practice on the bag, otherwise you might be a little aimless and unfocused; at least that was the case for me as a newbie. Overall, this gym was a 6/10 for me. I'm grateful I went and experienced it for the sake of gym comparisons, but I wouldn't return here. Keep in mind I'm rather introverted and would prefer to train with Thai's than foreigners. It was 70/30 foreigners to Thai's training there. I stayed 10-minutes down the road from the gym. There's a main street near gym with accommodation, restaurants, and locals-only night markets. Odds are the only other westerners you'll see around that area are also gym goers. I think someone could quickly improve their skill level dedicating one-month to training here, just don't expect to do too many tourist activities outside of training, eating, recovering, sleeping. Students and trainers fight out of the gym and seem to be in different promotions weekly. If you want to fight, that's definitely possible here.  Boon Lanna: The monday after Santai I moved accommodation down the road 20-minutes to a place near Boon Lanna Muay Thai where I also trained for 6 sessions total, once per day monday to saturday mostly in the afternoon. This is the former Lanna gym Sylvie trained at. She mentioned it's a different gym now than it used to be, so I can give an update to what it is like now. This has been my favorite gym to date. The new owner, Master Boon, sponsors Thai fighters from the Hilltribe, so when you train here, you're mostly training with them. It was 80/20 Thai to foreigner ratio and an amazing experience. Sylvie recently wrote about gyms having golden years where there's a bunch of people training/fighting out of a gym an times are good, and other times when the same gym has dried up and it's a shell of it's former self as people move on. This gym seems to be in early stages of new golden period as Master Boon and his female partner seem motivated and have a good thing going. They are currently having new student housing built on the property attached to the facility. The existing facility is very nice, very clean, wide-open-air facility. There was only one non-thai living there, a Canadian, the rest were Hilltribe boys/men. My technique, confidence, and general understanding of the sport improved significantly in only a few sessions as they paid a lot more attention to me. After light conditioning and shadowing boxing, every session began with light sparing where Master Boon selected matchups, randomizing opponents for 3-4 round. Sparing against the Thai boys was very helpful, but at ~185cm (6-foot) felt strange punching and kicking a literal child. These kids were tough and strong though, and I saw in advance pictures of them online bloodied up smiling after a fight. We both knew that I couldn't hurt them, and we both knew they could wreck me any second, which actually helped me feel relaxed in a way I've ever never felt before. After sparing, padwork, then bagwork. Both of which I felt like I received ample and helpful guidance for improved power and technique. Everyone was patient with me which was appreciated. I'm a slow learner. Classes end with 45min-1hour clinching, which I did not do, opting for strength conditioning with a few others instead, concluding with abs, stretch, cool-down. Sit Thailand MT Gym: This gym is closer to old town, next to airport. Has accommodation nearby, I dropped in mid afternoon just to see it, no opinion. Lookup 'joelxthewolf' on instagram. He documents his training/fighting out of that gym and you can get a sense of things from him. Looks legit.  Hongthong: Drove past. A bit closer to old town, but still outside a ways. Fighters often on local promotion. Sizeable open-air gym. No opinion.  Like I said, there are many others to choose from. Get a motorbike on arrival and spend your first day dropping into several to get a feel before commiting. Manop. Buakaw's Banchamek Gym, Chiang May Muay Thai, Santai, Sit, Hongthong etc. Be prepared to be on the road all day for that, Chiang Mai is surprisingly quite big and spread out.  Here is the average weather forecast is for July in Chiang Mai: "This month is known as a warm month. The average maximum daytime temperature in Chiang Mai in July lies at 31.7°C (89.06°F). The average minimum temperature is 24.0°C (75.2°F) (usually the minimum temperature is noted at night). The amount of rain during this month is high with an average of 145mm (5.7in). It rains an average of 19 days of the month. The sun will occasionally show itself with 121 hours of sunshine during the entire month." Something to consider. I should have taken better notes during my training, but didn't, so these are just some of my recollections/feelings. Ask away with any questions, I'll be glad to give my two cents. I am now training at a small gym in Isaan and plan to be more diligent and methodical with documenting my progress and experience. I'd like to post and participate in this forum more. Thank you Sylvie and Kevin for the platform and second hand push to do so, and all the info you've provided over the years- it's been very helpful for me on this journey and I'm having so much fun. 
    • thank you 😃   can you point timestamps? i think you are right and i'm trying to improve it, specially when i get tagged i "panic". It's getting a little better. About everything else, i guess i'll have to try to discover if it's my thing. I don't know if it counts but because we are a bit silly and unskilled i already experienced some damage.. in the end i'm in the rain and ready to get wet, soon i'll see, whatever happens, happens, maybe i'll drown, maybe not!
  • The Latest From Open Topics Forum

    • It is recommended that you should rest 1 month approximately, after having an eye surgery. I know that you are very very keen about your training. That's the best spirit in you. But at this time I recommend you to rest at least 1 month and if you fear that you may not forget Boxing, I recommend you 2 read books and blogs about Boxing. That'll help you keep in touch with Boxing.
    • Sparring was each day, it's part of the training, also each day you go the bagwork and the pads, so i don't know where you got that idea from.  You never go  without hiting the pads or having spar in the Thailand, unless you're in a really bad comercial gym, but the spar there is way different than in other countries, you develop technique there and go sparr without power, by either legs, hands or clinch, depending on the day . As for technique, they always correct you and try to teach it the correct way, they made a good amount of adjustments in my kicking techniques, sweeps and clinch while i was there, i didn't go into such small details because it would take a whole book to write about how much small things they see and try to work on that. Also i don't think you fully read what i wrote in the blogs, because i don't really remember now all the things i wrote, it was a long time ago, but i went on and re-read the first day i wrote, and it already said i did a lot of pads and clinch , knees and elbows , so i don't know where you got the idea that i didn't do pad work. 
    • Hey mate sorry for bumping old thread, im thinking bout going to Manop for 3 months in nov-dec-jan. Everything you described in your posts are what i'm looking for, but there was some things bothering me.   1) From what I read you barely got to spar? Sparring is a huge deal and important for me.. Why didn't you get to spar in the beginning? 2) You seem to spent ALOT of time hitting the bag, why didnt you get more pad-time in the beginning of your training? I really don't know your level and it was hard to tell from the fight 3) (Probably most important) How are they on instructions? Do they correct your technique? how much do they emphesise on that? Do they teach you proper form, sweeps, techniques, tricks, etc? cause from your posts it seemed like you were on your own pretty much the entire stay     Cheers!
    • I'll recommend Elite Sports, Yokkao and Fairtex.
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