above, my extended interview with Gary Boyson, someone who plans on coming to Petchrungruang for years now. Listen to what Petchrungruang has been like, and why he’s fallen in love with it (27 min). He’s lost over 40 lbs.
Gary has been training with me at Petchrungruang for the past 5 months. At first it was just in the mornings and he was so quiet and non-intrusive, I didn’t know he spoke English for the first few days, other than him saying “hello” and “goodbye” at either end of training. Gradually, he transitioned to afternoon sessions, which are more intense and involve clinching and sparring with other members of the gym. And we’ve started chatting and keeping up with the stories Kru Nu regales us with, what’s going on with the fighters at the gym, how much we geek out over Yodkhunpon (“The Elbow Hunter”), etc. I really like Gary, which is a happy thing to have in a setting I spend so much time in. I’m not much of a talker, but I like our conversations and I also like that Gary works hard, so chatting isn’t a derailment from the focus – which is training – but rather a lovely supplement. It’s extra curricular.
It just so happens that Gary appeared around the same time my husband Kevin started training at the gym, and they’re pretty similar in build and both come from a Basketball background. Gary was a college basketball player and professional basketball scout for the Lakers and the Knicks for 15 years (you might have heard of them), Kevin has just been an avid fan and park player as a teen. Both Kevin and Gary are very similar in size and build, tall, strong, broad shoulders. Just as you can see these smooth ex-fighters express their years of training despite out-of-shape bodies, you can totally see the athleticism from Gary and Kevin’s younger years. Something in them wakes up when hitting the pads with Kru Nu. Gary’s weight loss transformation has been pretty amazing and, even though it’s been steady over these 5 months that he’s been here, it wasn’t until I had a few days away from the gym and saw him when I came back with a kind of surprised, “hey, you look thin!” It wasn’t really until that moment that I realized that Gary’s weight loss experience has been so striking, and that this is a valuable aspect of training in Thailand that I can’t speak on but is important to lots of people.
I’m contacted by people who worry that they’re not “skilled enough” to train in Thailand. I understand they want to get the most out of their time, given the cost and rarity of the opportunity to travel to Thailand for training, but it’s an incredible question because Thai trainers are experienced in absolute beginners. It’s not about getting “good enough” to train, and often my advice to these people is to focus on their conditioning – run a little and toughen your feet a little. But even if you don’t, come anyway. That’s what Gary’s story is. He understands athletics, he understands sports, and over the years he let himself go a bit and had to start from a point that wasn’t comfortable. But it’s inspiring to see him soaking in the technique, getting excited when he blocks but not getting down when he doesn’t; he gets absolutely drenched during training and it only seems to add to his enthusiasm. He showers and then sits and watches the rest of training, taking that in as well. He goes to fights with the gym, he watches them online when they are streamed. You don’t have to be anything other than curious to be a good Muay Thai student, and that’s what Gary embodies. So I was really happy to sit and interview him on his path to Petchrungruang, which I believe is the greatest gym in the world. But it’s not a gym for everybody – there is no “one size fits all” for gyms or training or teachers – so I don’t recommend it for all, or even most, people who are looking around for a gym. But for people like Gary, it’s a perfect fit. And he’s able to explain why, which is really cool.
If you enjoyed this article you may like my husband’s guest post: The Slow Cook vs The Hack: Thailand Muay Thai Development