November 5, 2014 – Sattahip, Thailand; Loi Krathong Festival – full fight video above
This fight was sponsored by my BFF Nell Geiser. Nell and I grew up together and she’s always been there for me – in fact she came out to visit in Thailand for Loi Krathong a couple years ago and watched a festival fight I had out in Chiang Rai in the north. Nell donated to my GoFundMe campaign to help me travel for fights. Thank you, Nellish!
This was my first fight in a few months with the Petchrungruang gym. I’d fought in Pattaya against a very experienced opponent (my 82nd fight) and “pissed the bed,” as I say. That just means I embarrassed myself and the gym with my inadequate and downright poor performance. It was awkward and I managed to disappoint two gyms at once with that one, since O. Meekhun helped corner for me. O. Meekhun is old friends with Petchrungruang and Phetjee Jaa and Mawin used to live and train at that gym. Kru Nu had given me his blessing to go out and find fights wherever I could from other sources, which is what I’ve been doing, but the last day of training I had at the gym before heading up to Buriram with my parents for my fight on Nov. 1st, Kru Nu asked me if I wanted to fight with Petchrungruang’s kids at a fight card on the 5th. I had to think about it for a second (but only a second) because my parents and I had already planned a little getaway stay in the mountains of Nakhon Ratchasima and we had booked rooms. I planned to be back on the 5th in order to fight with the O. Meekhun gym on the 6th, so this just meant I’d be fighting after the long drive home. Not that crazy. So I said “yes,” and that was that.
The drive back from Nakhon Ratchasima was about 4 hours with all the stops and traffic. We had about an hour to lie down, then get some food and head over to the gym for the drive out to Sattahip for the fights. Pretty rough turn around, but by the time my mom, Kevin, Jai Dee and I were sitting outside Petchrungruang (PRR) waiting for everyone to be ready to leave, I’d completely forgotten how tired I was. I love the energy at PRR – it’s this constant buzz of kids going in and out, the gentle hum of Bamrung – the gym’s owner and grandfather/patriarch of the family – smiling as he meanders around and Kru Nu’s wife and infant son drifting about the store at the front. And then there’s the young fighters, strutting around with confidence that’s short of cockiness, all of them like a wild band of brothers.
When I first arrived I jumped into the store to buy some Vaseline and handwraps for my fight. Kru Nu had an electric hair clipper in his hand, which he was unplugging from the wall as I walked in. There were clumps of black hair on the smooth tile floor and a row of boys sitting, looking at me. None of them looked freshly shaved, so I reckoned they were in line for their turn. Kru Nu told me he’d just cut his 14-year-old son Bank’s hair because it had looked “like Ayutthaya.” That really just means it was too long at the top, but I actually really dig the style of Ayutthaya era hair. It’s not appropriate for the very conservative aesthetic of modern ring Muay Thai though.
The Ayutthaya hair style, from “Yamada: the Samurai of Ayothaya” – Buakaw Banchamek, Saenchai PK Saenchaimuaythaigym, and Anuwat Kaewsamrit (from left to right) all perform in the movie.
While we were waiting outside one of the youngest kids at the gym came out to talk to me. His name is Podee but I call him “Kitten Face” because that’s how my husband and I identified him to each other before we learned his name. He’s about 8 years old and he loves to launch 12 questions at a time at me. Tonight he was very excited and let me know that he was fighting for a championship belt at the fights (ching cham). I was surprised because Podee almost never fights, but he assured me that there would be no fewer than twelve (12!) championship fights this night and then he demanded to know whether or not my fight was for a belt. I told him that Nu hadn’t said anything to me about it, but maybe. He seemed okay with that, then told me I ought to buy ice here at the gym because it’s “too expensive” (peng) at the venue. That’s not so much an 8-year-old kind of qualification, so I figure that’s what Nu tells him to do. So I went and bought some ice for 7 Baht.
8-year-old Podee, aka “Kitten Face”, oiled and ready for his fight.
There were a four of us fighting: Podee (8-year-old Thai), Jozef (9-year-old Slovakian), BBQ (12-year-old Thai), and me. All the kids piled into Kru Nu’s big van that seats about 15 persons and my mom, Kevin, Jai Dee and I followed in our rented car.
The festival was in full swing when we got there and the ring already had quite a number of spectators around it but no fights were going. I think we might have been a little late but they couldn’t start without us because one of our fighters was the second fight of the night. I wasn’t even announced in the first 7 fights that the MC was saying over and over again, although I did catch that Jozef was the “highlight” fight of the night, scheduled for the 7th fight. Kru Nu seemed calm about it all, no rush to get me ready, so I just rolled with his energy and let him tell me when to get ready.
My mom and I had to walk through the entire festival to find the bathrooms, all the way at the other end. All the stalls were along a footpath that rode the bend of a lake, which is where folks were floating their Krathong on the water and an odd fire balloon ascended into the starless sky here and there. Over by the restrooms were two stages, one farther back that wasn’t “live” yet, but later in the night had seemingly younger-directed music; but while we were there, right next to the restrooms, was a live band playing the Thai version of “ho-down” music and a large group of men and women (in tutu-like skirts) dancing. They clearly were way into it and I’ll bet my mom would have jumped in if she weren’t obligated to me.
Alex (13 years; Italian), Jozef (9 years; Slovakian – belt on his shoulder) and Podee aka “Kitten Face” (8 years; Thai) after the fights. I could not love this photo more.
Kitten Face won his fight by a round 1 TKO with just an endless string of knees. He was just really amped up and it was a little sad because his fight was not, afterall, for a belt. Poor kid. Jozef won his fight, which was for a belt, in the last round – he really just pulled it out after a dominant 4th round by his opponent, and his mom just went ballistic with excitement and turned and kissed me. She’s never acknowledged me before that, although we have seen each other at the gym. She was really excited. BBQ fought right before me, literally right before so my cornermen just stayed in the corner and I went up to meet them for my fight. I was the ku aek, or “main event,” and I heard the announcer say that my fight was for a championship belt. Kru Nu had told me this girl was bigger than me and had shrugged at 50 kg, but the announcer was saying the title was 52 kg, so I expected her to be bigger than she ended up looking. I reckon she weighed 52 kg, but she was short. She also was not bpoom bpui (“chubby” or “plump”) as he’d said, but clearly not a runner. She looked strong and well-trained, just not conditioned the way I am.
After our Ram Muay but before we actually fought there were some presentations of gift boxes by a head honcho (inside are some really nice towels; mine was pink with a rose on it and has become my new fight towel), as well as 1,000 Baht bill each. That was nice.
Round 1 she started off evading me and tagging my leg with low kicks. You can hear the guy I call “Fake Chicken Man” (because I confused him with the guy who is actually called “Chicken Man” prior to learning the difference) telling me to punch her. I didn’t hear him in the ring, but I did start punching again a bit. I think that’s because I was using my jab hand to gauge distance and this fighter actually will stand in, whereas most of my opponents haven’t, so I could actually touch her with my left hand and then launch a kick or punch. It felt awesome. Her name, Chalaamlek, means “Iron Shark”, so I guess maybe she’s kind of aggressive in the ring. She does have this very cool stance though, which is heavy on the front leg and leaning forward, but her back leg glides backwards as if on a skate so she can move back incrementally or quickly to dodge strikes. It looks really cool! Near the end of the round I land a leg kick on her that stops her leg kicks all together. I also launched a combination that pretty much all landed after the bell. I didn’t mean to be a dick about it, but it was a good combo.
Round 2 I started clinching more and she was great at neutralizing with that damn “Wall of China” across my hips. I know how to get around this but wasn’t doing any of those things… well, no, I was trying to knee over it and accomplished that enough to score points, but it was definitely not being solved. My corner just wanted me to keep pushing forward and that’s pretty much what I wanted to do, too. I could cut off the ring better.
Between rounds I noticed that this guy in a pink shirt over next to the announcer was coaching my opponent. Like, yelling at her and demonstrating what he wanted her to do with his arms. I thought that was weird because he’s basically sitting at the judges table. I found out much later on that he’s the promoter and her coach. She was definitely meant to win this fight. But I didn’t overthink it while I was in there. I was more irritated by how long it took her to get off her damn bench when the break was over between rounds. I’d be in the center of the ring already and she wasn’t even off her stool.
Round 3 she came out stronger, because now we’re in the scoring rounds. I’ve got more gears, too, so I just turned it up with her. She was trying to teep me with all these strings of pushkicks and I caught one and pulled her into me and right-crossed. I do this in padwork as a kind of “trick” that makes me laugh but I’ve never done it in a fight before. The crowd kind of made this communal “aaah!” sound of appreciation. It was kind of funny. Maybe I’ll clean that trick up to be able to land something nicer off of it. I started catching her kicks and getting a few knees off that way, but mostly I was just stealing a few through her guard. She was pretty good at giving one back, so this fight was close throughout.
Round 4 starts with her tagging me with a string of right kicks, which I don’t answer but that also don’t bother me. I blocked a few of them, but didn’t kick back. Gotta work on that. At the end of the round I started getting her head down in the clinch and the tables were turning to my favor. It was close, but I was performing more strongly, regardless of points.
Fake Chicken Man was yelling at me to yank her head down in the clinch. He was really adamant about it. He’d been yelling at me the whole time but I only really looked at him and paid attention then.
Round 5 I blocked better, which was good because her game was just to score and run backwards. That’s a good tactic – in Thailand going backwards indicates that you’re in the lead, so as the forward fighter the onus was on me to score. Since I do that in close range with knees she could steal the fight by tagging me with a kick (which I was eating the whole fight) and then just running to defend that point. But she was too tired to keep me off, so my forward movement was just draining her tank and her ability to score was waning. I grabbed her in the clinch and landed a few knees, then she turned (which looks bad for her) and the angle of her body allowed me to knee and then push her to the ground. Her gloved touched (that’s a point) and then she went down to the canvas (a bigger point) and I remained standing. You can’t see it on film but her face was this amazing mix of disbelief and offense when she was on the ground. She knew at that moment she’d lost. In the ring it felt like she was on the canvas for a long time but in the film as I watch it she gets up immediately. But everyone already knew that was the fight. You see she starts coming forward and I can back up now. By moving forward after the drop to the canvas she’s admitting that she’s behind. Oh, Muay Thai! You are so complex and interesting!!
And so they called it a draw and the crowd kind of made a sound. The promoter called Kru Nu the next day and apologized, saying he “didn’t know why the ref gave a draw” but that he knew I’d won. I don’t care. Kru Nu doesn’t care. It’s kind of funny because maybe even 6 months ago I would have been pissed and offended by this kind of thing, but I’m in a different head space now. Maybe a year ago something like this happened, but I lost a fight that I’d most certainly won and Den said to me that we didn’t have to go talk to the judges or promoter or whomever because, “everybody see the fight; everybody know already,” he’d said. I kind of feel that way about this fight. My corner was laughing when we came back from the ring – you can see Fake Chicken Man making an “oooooiiiii!” sound when he grabs my glove to start taking it off in the last couple seconds of the video. Kru Nu had a smile on his face when he was shaking his head about it. In a way the absurdity within the experience is part of the joy of it all. It might sound stupid, but because I haven’t fought for Petchrungruang in so long – I was kind of punished by Kru Nu for my last fight with them when I did so poorly by his refusing to get me fights since then – that this outcome is actually better than if I’d simply won. By having this little injustice, I get to have Kru Nu defend me in some way, and I immediately asked for a rematch so in his mind he had motivation to have me fight again. He smiled at me and said, “yes, you fight her again but in Pattaya,” taking the event into our yard, so to speak.
Post Fight Video Update
Complete Fight Record
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