Let me say first, the training video below is NOT typical Thailand training, nor is it training that I would recommend in most situations or for long periods of time. But I came to Rambaa Somdet M16 with a unique request: help me prepare for my next fight against Loma Lookboonmee, the best female counter clincher in the world. The hope was that Rambaa, who is pretty close to me in frame but much stronger and heavier, would toss me around every day after my regular morning training at Petchrungruang. The idea would be to build up new tolerances in my balance, things that would help me react quicker to Loma’s throw attempts, from someone as quick and smart as Loma, but much stronger. I wasn’t even sure if Rambaa would do it; grown men often refuse to clinch with women out of politeness, and asking him to clinch with me directly is also kind of “low” work; but he’s an incredibly generous man and I didn’t even know what I was getting myself into. Not only did he agree, but he had something else in mind and I suspect it came from me telling him I’d fought and lost to Loma 3 times, and never beat her. The training regimen he put on me is one that is constantly riding the wave of defeat, but balancing and correcting against it. It’s incredible. It’s intense and it’s painful. But it’s truly generous and I’m grateful for that. [note: this work does not justify the kind of bullying male western coaches sometimes do to female students and fighters to “toughen” them – this comes from a very controlled, teaching place. Just because an instructor is beating on you “for your own good”, does not mean he is not abusing you. This is something you have to judge for yourself, follow your instincts.]
The first day, which is not shown in this video, he just brutalized my legs with his style of lowkicks, slapping the inside of my front leg until the skin turned streaky and smashing my outer thighs until I was limping; he did this to disallow me from taking space for breaks. Teaching me that you have to move toward pain.
He also kneed me endlessly in the clinch, in my thighs, a tactic he favors as a shorter fighter. It’s hard to emphasize how painful his kicks are, you can’t see it in the video at all – not from his body anyway, as they look quite light and are indeed “pulled” from what he could do. He slaps with a sting that builds and builds, and occasionally he hits the muscle, which just buckles you, and leaves you vulnerable for days. The video below shows days 2 and 3, when my legs are already sore and bashed. Rambaa’s mascot is a bee, which is poetically perfect. He stings and stings and stings.
Now, this isn’t easy video to share. Some fighters put up great edits of their work, highlights of looking and performing their best; I try to share it all, especially taking care to show the flaws when I can, showing the work and the process because it’s more meaningful that way, and I’m definitely breaking down mentally under Rambaa’s attacks. This is unique training. The body and mind just get to a place where the pain makes you pull away. I try and try to push through it, sometimes successfully, mostly just treading water.
This also is a pretty boring, long video, more than an hour and twenty minutes. I provide audio commentary, so hopefully it is of interest. And for those following my Facebook page at about the 1 hour and 14:40 minute mark he teaches me an elbow that I’ve never seen before, an elbow he says he invented for himself out of his experience as a shorter bodied knee fighter, punishing his taller opponents. It is full of power when done right. I love it. Due to the angle on it and the definitive, “fuck you” feeling of throwing it, we’ve dubbed it the “Pistol Whip” elbow.
above, and hour and 20 minutes of working with Rambaa covering 2 days
I’m not even entirely sure of the process Rambaa is using with me in these first days, other than that he is absolutely allowing no weakness, and punishing the weakness I do show with more pain. He is making my mind and heart grow, and I completely trust that these lessons, this instruction is going to make me a better fighter, not only for this fight, but in the path of becoming the fighter I want to be.
The Elbow Never Seen Before
My husband Kevin wrote about this elbow and what it meant to him on the Roundtable. I’ll probably devote a full blog post to it once I’m more practiced in it, but it is kind of amazing. Rambaa says he invented it himself, and that he has knocked many people out with it. It benefits a shorter fighter in the clinch. It’s not an “upward” elbow, it’s not an “axe” elbow, or a “fahn” elbow, but has elements of all three, depending in the position it is thrown from. I’m calling it a “Pistol Whip” elbow because of how it feels, whipping across, and a little down. You can see him teach it to me at the 1:14:40 mark above and he discusses it at the end of the video. It may look like it uses the inside of the elbow, but it doesn’t. It hits with the point, and it is driven by the shoulder. Here below is a GIF of it from the video above, it shows it’s fundamental movement, but it varies in the positions it is thrown from.
In the video below, which is from the next day (today, so our 4th day together, so no voiceover), he is instructing me in it further, in clinch context, for the first few minutes, throwing it from inside clinch position. I’ve found that the most power from this elbow comes from the defensive position of holding my hand on my head. This really engages the shoulder. You can see that in both videos, the one above, and this below.
above, padwork showing the pistol whip elbow invented by Rambaa Somdet M16
I feel in a way I earned this elbow from him, suffering through three days of serious pain and and mental endurance. It felt like something of a gift to me. He says he has taught it to other people, but so far I think only he has used it in a fight. I want to bring it into a fight as a point of thank you for these days he is giving me, training me how he wants to, shaping me how he sees fit. I’m downright exhausted by the 4th day, maybe more mentally exhausted than anything else. I’m stretching myself, trying grow.
[edit: Rambaa wrote this caption on a video of us working together (below) – it meant a lot to me because he is indicating what he is trying to show me]
You can see more of my work with Rambaa, of the normal variety, in this Nak Muay Nation private.
Watch more of my privates with all time greats here Nak Muay Nation Features.
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