JR in China
When I first came to Lanna two years ago there was a “new trainer” named JR. He wasn’t new to the camp but rather was a fighter for the camp who had recently “retired” into being a trainer, without really retiring fully from fighting. He was young and confident – he smiled all the time and never said a word to me, but he and a younger Thai fighter named Big hung out like they were brothers. They did everything together.
When I came back to Lanna JR was gone and I missed him, despite not really having interacted with him at all the previous trip. The energy of his presence was notably absent. A few weeks into my return for a longer stay at the camp, however, JR showed up. He is living in China now, training students at a gym and still fighting but for much more money than he’d be making in Chiang Mai. He also likes fighting in China because it’s “very easy,” he says. “No elbows, no clinch; easy.” He smiles as he says this, admitting that he’s always smaller than his opponents because he fights at 70 kg and probably only weighs 65 kg himself. He doesn’t see that as an issue and it sounds like he usually wins.
JR returns to Chiang Mai a couple times per year to renew his visa. During his last visit he held pads for me a few times and gave me advice on my training, telling me I needed to go 100% all the time in training, full power at every moment, in order to build up my strength and “fight easy.” It was a meaningful lesson that I have taken to heart and I think of him often.
Just after New Year a friend at the camp who has been training at Lanna, off and on, for over 7 years posted a link to JR fighting in China online. I was incredibly excited to watch it. I’d seen JR fight here in Chiang Mai during his last visit and it was a short but very impressive fight. He’d started out strong and uses his hands a lot for a Thai, with very clean boxing and body shots. He usually starts out orthodox and then switches to south paw in the 3rd or 4th round to mess with his opponent (he is “naturally” left-handed), so his power is pretty devastating on either side. In the second round JR’s opponent leg kicked him pretty hard and JR didn’t like it, so he went into a quick pattern of left hooks to the head and low kicks to the thigh until the guy couldn’t get up anymore and the ref called it. It was spectacular.
JR in Chiang Mai (video below)
This fight in China is a much bigger production and his opponent is older and more experienced (and heavier). My favorite thing about the fight is that, even though it’s not as quick as JR’s fight in Chiang Mai, it’s the same pattern of his opponent raising the level and JR meeting and exceeding that level with swift escalation. You can hear the Chinese guy’s corner yelling, “elbow! Elbow!” and I was thinking to myself oh God, don’t do that because you’re only going to piss him off! Sure enough; scary.