Daeng as a Trainer
I don’t get a lot of attention from Daeng as a trainer. He’s a fantastic padholder and is very fight-oriented – I’ve often watched him training his 19-year-old son Tor and wished I were receiving that kind of instruction from him as well – but he tends to stay in the men’s ring, where I am not permitted. A few times, after fights, Daeng has climbed from the men’s ring over to the women’s ring and held pads for me in order to work on something specific. When he helps corner for me he is very vocal in his instruction from the corner. I really like Daeng and I take care to listen to him. When he and Den conspire with one another to plot out my training it makes me very excited.
Once, many months ago, Daeng asked me “why do you never ask me to hold pads for you?” I was shocked by the question. I didn’t know I needed to ask as the format of the gym appeared to be that you waited for a trainer to call you into the ring. I did notice a few of the guys would request one trainer over another on occasion, but that seemed to be more than anything a way to skip out on the padholders who really kick your butt. So I started asking Daeng to hold for me and he continued to seem disinterested 90% of the time, so it kind of fizzled out.
Recently, Daeng has decided that he’s sick of watching me flinch. So he’s held pads for me a few times over the past weeks, taking care to make me kick back immediately, answer every strike against my person with one or two or more strikes back – quickly and without betraying any affect on myself from the initial strikes. He likes my knees, he knows I’m powerful with them and he works to foster that, but he complains that I’m not of the right composition because someone with great knees needs to also be incredibly strong in their center. It’s like writing a D&D character – if you have “A’ offense then you must have “B” defense. His solution is to slam the edge of his pad into my stomach at the same moment that I am striking my knee into his belly-pad. If you’re not flexing or if you breathe incorrectly, this is exhausting. If you keep your stomach flexed and breathe out with short, frequent breaths it is still exhausting, but you can work through it.
Training Toughness and the Fight
This is the new drill. I do five rounds on the pads with Den, who does his best to try to break me down in a kind of just-slightly-more-than-you-can-take way, and then do some sparring and bagwork and then Daeng calls me back into the ring to do a 5 minute round of knees and stomach jabs. Today he decided to keep going with simultaneous punches to the gut with alternating kicks. When I asked him “how many?” after we’d done maybe 60 or so he shrugged and said, “I don’t know. I decide.” And he decides by reading my reaction, waiting until I do what he wants me to do or just torturing me to see how long I can hold out. He’s testing me.
His lesson could not be more clear. He’s conditioning me to be able to take knees or punches or kicks to the stomach, sure. That much is obvious in the sense that checking kicks will gradually build up your shins. But what he’s really working on is my response to being hit. He wants me to stand in, to move forward always with the kind of stoicism and fortitude of an iron man. Deflecting punches and kicks and knees and just keep moving forward to deliver my own. I’ve watched Big doing this in padwork against Andy, who is over six feet tall (Big is maybe 5’4″) and it’s amazing, mesmerizing and inspiring. I want to do that, I think… and then Daeng makes me do it.