Be Careful What You (Might Not Be) Ask(ing) For
1. After a really difficult and rewarding (and valuable) session of padholding this morning with Daeng, I was thrilled to tell my husband that Daeng is really the most fight-oriented trainer at the gym. He watches me fight, sees problems or holes in my technique and works to correct it. This morning, after seeing that I don’t block kicks well, he spent four rounds straight just drilling the block-kick-block that left my shin totally mushy and my heart excited that I’m fixing something.
Then, this afternoon while I was shadowing, Daeng comes up to me and says, “how come you don’t like me to hold pads for you?” I actually stopped and covered my open mouth. “I LOVE when you hold pads for me! You teach me so much!” (I’d even made a point to go thank him before leaving the gym just before my last fight for what he taught me about defending against a waist-clinch.) He kept staring at me and continued, “I’m here every morning and you never want me to hold pads for you.” I got a little teared up at this point and said, “I didn’t know you wanted me to ask – I always wait for who calls me into the ring. I will ask for you every day!” (Literally shouting at this point.)
Before I left the gym today I called Daeng over and told him, “I want you to hold pads for me tomorrow.” He smiled and gave me a half hug and nodded in agreement.
I thought Daeng didn’t like holding for me and he thought I didn’t like kicking pads with him.
Lesson: Ask for what you like/want and be sure that your trainer knows how much you enjoy their training. Don’t assume it shows.
Train How You Want To Fight
2. When Den was holding pads for me this afternoon (Daeng was in the men’s ring, so I couldn’t work with him) I got lazy during a back and forth exchange of clinch knees and his Thai pad came up in an uppercut and jammed my nose. It hurt quite a bit, but the blood that spurted out was considerably more urgent than the pain. Den freaked out a little bit and I had to keep telling him, “It’s okay, just give me a second to stop the bleeding.” He poured some ice in my hand and I left the ring for a minute to get the bleeding under control. Didn’t take long and I hopped back in the ring with a nice little bib of blood on the neck/chest of my t-shirt.
Den was concerned because he’d previously thought that the only injury to my nose was the cut, which Taywin had spent a lot of time convincing everyone had come from a tooth. (I don’t know how that would even work. A punch is strange, but angles can work that way sometimes, but a tooth would be hard to get in that location even with a strategic bite, not even a mistake.) Now that he understood that the injury is to the bone and not just superficial, he’s less confident that I can fight on the 17th. I was sure to tell him I feel good about the 17th but we can see as it goes. I wanted to change his concern from “maybe you need to wait longer to fight” to I’m ready to fight right now. I reiterated that the bloody nose was my fault for not having my guard up and told him I’d like to work on correcting that over the next few rounds. He smiled, seemed happy to continue and made sure to make me work for it by throwing to my body in order to try to drop my hands.
Lesson: If you get hurt in training act like you would in a fight and the only outcome is positive and respectful.
If They’ve Told You Once: It’s the 1000 Times That Matter “Sabai, Sabai”
3. Right after my third round with Den in padwork he had to leave the ring to go do something as manager of the gym and I was standing there as the next round started. JR, who is a wonderfully energetic and highly talented/skilled fighter and trainer from Lanna Gym who has recently moved to China to teach and fight (and is back at Lanna for a visit), leaped over from the men’s ring into the women’s ring and held his pads up, “Sylvie!” he shouted. And there we went. He’s a non-stop padholder, moving fluidly between elbows and knees, forcing difference in space and encouraging the kicker to take advantage of an opponent’s aggression by letting him/her walk into short attacks. He’s brilliant and I love working with him.
We had some fun times, working in spinning back elbows. (When I asked him, “do I spin back out?” he said, “Sure you can spin out, or not. Opponent is knocked out, you can do anything you want.” Nice.) Afterwards I told him that I’d paid attention to something he said to another person he was training the other day, that you only move forward, not back. I said to him that I wanted to practice this but wasn’t sure how to balance my footwork with that kind of tactic, since I didn’t want to keep my weight on my front leg as I moved forward and I assumed that 50/50 was too slow.
His response was beautiful and simple: “Relax,” he said. I hear that a lot, so I waited. “Sabai, like you are walking. When you walk, not thinking about weight forward, backward, 50/50. Just walk.” He then tensed up, showing how zombies or Frankenstein’s monsters walk, then shook it out to show how relaxed and easy just walking is. He showed me again, “when you train on the bag, every day not – ” and then he showed very tense knees, fists clenched and face strained; then his face relaxed and he started to flow, taking minute steps forward or back like he was tracking the movement of a bag or a person, changing from a knee to an elbow by the very small difference in space. “Sabai,” he said again.
Lesson: Sabai is not relaxed or easy only in the sense of not tensing, it’s the practice of appearing (and being) effortless. It’s the actual difference between working for perfection and training for adjustment. Don’t deconstruct how to walk well, construct everything to be as simple as it is to just walk.