I was all ready to have a less-than-hardcore afternoon training session because I’m pretty beat today from not getting enough sleep last night. But it wasn’t in the cards for me, apparently: while doing padwork with Den a police official (police have super high status in Thailand) came to visit the gym because he has a fighter who trains with us sometimes – I call him “swimmy knee kid”.
The police official was interested in what I was doing with Den and he and these two guys he came with were watching me pretty intently in the ring, getting kinda excited and asking Den many times when I’m fighting. I kept hearing Den say in Thai that I fight too slowly, but because this guy was watching I could feel Den amping up my padwork with every round, making me go harder and faster while trying to knock the wind out of me. After six rounds of this I was released and found my way over to the mirror to start shadowboxing to loosen up a bit before hitting the bag.
The PO comes over to me while I’m shadowboxing and tells me that my Muay Thai is good. He tells me in Thai, “kick good, block good” and gives me a thumbs up. I smile and thank him, feeling a bit on the spot because I look much better in training than I do in fights, but I’ve decided that’s a temporary problem. The officer calls his two buddies over to keep watching me and I shadow around for a round before Nook walks over to me from across the gym with a look that means business. I stop, turn toward him and put my hands up, standing my ground and stepping toward him as he launches into a clinch. I just try to get some knees in, which I accomplish, but then he ties me up to the point that neither of us can move because he’s trying to force me to the floor and I won’t go.
Because the PO was still watching me, Den decided more showing was needed and told me to take my wraps off for clinch practice. I unwrap and wash my hands before hopping in the ring with Off, a kid who grew up as a fighter at the gym and left for the 5 months that I’ve been here but recently returned. I’m really happy to have him back – I like Off. He was tiny when I first met him; he was 13 years old but I thought he was maybe 9, now he’s 15 and is still slight in stature (about my weight and a few inches taller) but suddenly has a man’s face. It’s kinda cool.
Our clinching starts out slow. My balance is good and I’m getting some knees in as I work my arms into locks around his. Within 10 minutes, however, Off is throwing three times as many knees as I am – straight knees, right into my stomach, not those slappy sparring knees – and I’m finding myself on the floor more frequently. He keeps building on it and I keep doing the same wrong thing, somehow thinking it’ll work. Eventually he’s dragged me to the mat by my head so many times I decide that’s good for today and I thank him. He smiles and says, “sorry,” to which I tell him it was really good and no problem. Then I ask when he’s fighting and he says he’s not sure, maybe next month. But he’s strutting.
I get some water and sit next to Zack, a guy from Illinois who has been watching my YouTube channel from back in the day and is pretty much self-trained, but packs some great combinations like he’s been hitting folks for years. We’d planned to spar today and after letting me breathe for 10 minutes we gear up and get in the ring. As we’re preparing to step in, Chopper is doing some conditioning stuff over by the ring and just by looking at Zack decides he wants to spar with him, too. I do some back and forth translation regarding Zack and Chopper’s weight – they’re pretty close in size – and then Zack and I climb in the ring.
We sparred for about 15 minutes, Zack tagging my front leg with a whippy kick every minute or so. As a self-trained practitioner, Zack’s main goal is to become accustomed to being hit. He handles it great, no freaking out at all, but my very recent ability to keep my guard tight proves an advantage in our exchanges and some of my kicks go around his guard. For another 5 minutes we work on guard-to-response and Zack picks up the tactic of kicking my ribs on the open side when I’m punching (and even lands a really good knee as I come in, right on my ribs) like he’s been doing it for months.
Chopper gets his shin-pads on and there’s a little discussion about what’s next, ultimately resulting in Chopper and me sparring while Zack takes a break so he can clinch. Chopper takes a few combinations with a little surprise, then starts leaning back to avoid every single kick I throw and I slash air. He decides he’d rather clinch with me than do much striking, so we go back and forth with a few combinations followed by a lot of grappling and knees. After maybe 10 minutes we change up and Zack and Chopper clinch for a while. Being thrown into clinching is a hell of a ride and I was impressed by how steady Zack seemed despite having really no instruction.
After that I clinch with Chopper for maybe another 15-20 minutes and call it quits after downing him with a knee to the solar-plexus. He just gets back up and starts calling both me and Zack out, but Chopper and I end up playing “who’s got better poker face” by punching each other in the stomach for a few minutes. I’m pretty sure he won, but I definitely got punched more than he did, so I win on the badass front.
Call it a day.