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Tiger Muay Thai – Arrival and Training Day 1

(I don’t expect to update every day of training or have them be this long, but I have a lot of impressions and thoughts to sort through from my first day so this update is huge!)

I arrived in Phuket yesterday a little behind schedule due to a plane delay, but was still met at the airport by a driver from Tiger Muay Thai (TMT), where I will be learning MMA and Muay Thai for the next month.  Unfortunately they had no standard rooms available (in spite of my reservation!), so I have to share a bathroom/shower and have no A/C – the former is actually more annoying than the latter, since I’m fine with a fan.  All good, I may end up moving up the road to a nearby resort as they can be a bit cheaper and have pools and stuff.

My first impression was, I must admit, a little daunting – it seemed like everyone I saw training was completely ripped and knew exactly what they were doing.  I got to talk to a few people and quickly found out that not everyone was as experienced as I perceived, so I started to feel a little more comfortable.  I must admit that until I made it through the first class this morning I was worried I had gotten in over my head – maybe I still have, but at least now I have some confidence I can claw my way out.

At one point last night I was sitting outside reading and trying to mentally stave off my fourth migraine of the last week (it worked, didn’t go full blown!) when I hear someone yell “PETER!” right in front of me.  I looked up, wondering who actually knew my name here and saw Mike Swick standing in front of me.  As my brain processed the reality that while I might recognize Mike Swick, he wouldn’t know me, I realized he was yelling to Peter the Thai Hulk who was sitting behind me.  I’m actually a pretty big fan of Swick (almost cried when he lost his last fight), but if anything adds credibility to a place it’s a pro like that training there (he’s actually sitting behind me talking over his game plan for his next fight right now).

An hour or so later when I was eating, I saw Roger Huerta come by – he’s doing some private training two rings over from me right now.  How cool is that?  There are apparently a number of other very accomplished fighters here that I don’t recognize as well, including a female Swedish kickboxing champion and the like.

Day 1, Morning: Beginner MMA w/ Ray Elbe

Woke up at 7AM, grabbed some breakfast and chilled out for a bit, trying to even out my nerves and find that place where everything was balanced.  At 9AM, people starting trickling into the MMA area for the beginner class and it rapidly became approximately 15 or so of us.  Just looking around it was obvious that almost all of them were fitter than I am, but hey I bet I could drink ‘em all under the table.  ;)

Instead of a blow by blow of the class, let me just put down some various thoughts and experiences:

- I’m not dead.  It was rough, and I didn’t get everything done, and I skipped the last two rounds of rolling but overall I felt all right.  I felt like the heat was ripping me up more than anything and I went through probably too much water.  I hope that I will build up a bit more of a tolerance to the heat so I can push myself in other ways.

- We learned a couple different submissions from rubber guard, including a triangle and a modified neck crank of some kind.  This is the first time in my life I’ve thrown up a submission like this on someone for “real” and I was really surprised both at how good it felt and how much easier it was than I expected from a flexibility/reach standpoint.  I do have very short legs and had to lock it in pretty high and roll to the side to pull it off but it worked! 

- This was the second time in my life I was put into submissions like this (the first being when I showed a woman I was seeing how to arm triangle me – bad idea btw), and I know it was only rolling and slow practice without “bad intentions” but I felt very good about my shoulder flexibility and resistance to a number of triangles and chokes I was put into.  At the same time, I definitely learned there is a point when it doesn’t matter – once you’re locked in and don’t have the right posture, you WILL go out if they squeeze and you don’t tap.

- My wrestling base is still there, even though I haven’t rolled for close to 20 years.  And it felt GOOD.  I completely forgot how good it feels to throw someone around (and get thrown around), the chess match of balance and strength and positioning – and I’m good at it still.  Wonder how much of it is because of the balance and control from training parkour? 

In any case, one of the guys I rolled with for a round was very good as far as I was concerned and clearly knew what he was doing – he kept almost locking me up in triangles, armbars and guillotines (okay let’s be honest, he guillotined me like a mofo once and locked in a pretty good triangle as well).  Aside from stepping into the guillotine instead of away from it like a total noob, I did a good job of matching up the head knowledge of what to do with actually doing it.  I also (mostly on instinct) nailed a few whizzers and takedowns as well as some very good transitions and sweeps – except I had no idea what to do once I had someone on their back.  I kept thinking “pin!  I win!” haha.  I did lock in a top triangle off a sweep once, which felt awesome (it was a bit of luck though since I didn’t really know what I was doing).

- Two hours of rolling has already changed my perspective on MMA.  I’m sure this will continue to undergo evolution over the coming month, but for example I never realized truly how hard it is to posture up when you are in someone’s guard and they are tying you up – let alone doing it without exposing yourself to something. 
I’m definitely guilty of watching a few fights and complaining about someone being “sloppy” about that but it’s obviously something quite different.

After training was over at 11, I hung out for a bit and did some balance work and rolls for around half an hour.  It just felt good to be warm and loose – I’m still scouting the area for somewhere I can practice some vaults and stuff but it’s not looking too great (unless they let me use the picnic tables!).  No biggie.

Day 1, Afternoon: Beginner Muay Thai

After lunch I just chilled out for a bit – got on the internet for the first time, relaxed, etc.  Soon enough 4PM came around and the brutality truly began.  There were around 15 people in the afternoon class and it started out simple – run in a circle, skip, do side to side stuff, blah blah blah.  After awhile of this, they broke off the four first-timers and paired two of us up each with an instructor that showed us the basic moves of Muay Thai: side kicks, leg kicks, jab, hook, overhand, side knees, front knees, side elbows, front elbows, leg blocks and arm blocks.

Oh, BTW, it’s 95 degrees out…

After this we spent some time learning a couple moves in the clinch which basically consisted of grabbing your opponent’s neck and kneeing him and overhooking his arm to pull him to the side to knee him more.  Once everyone had learned these two techniques, they broke us up and had us “spar” with the clinch – wow!  That was rough and tons of fun, I must say I had no idea how hard it really is to keep your hands up so long.

The next step of the class involved about half of us (including me) being paired up with an instructor and hitting pads.  That was awesome fun, first time I have ever done this and I really enjoyed it.  The instructor would call out “right kick!” “left kick!” “left block!” etc. and I’d basically kick/punch him as hard as I could (in the pads he was holding).  Good times, but again very exhausting.

At this point doing anything for more than a couple minutes was just wearing out my muscles, but we then all went to work hitting bags for awhile.  I admit I did not go at it 100% because I just couldn’t, I was so muscle weary.  Once we had hit the bags for what seemed like forever, they told everyone to get on their shoes and get ready to run 6km.

Rut ro, I can’t really run yet, at least not for very long.  I can bounce around on my ankle, jog a little bit, etc. but any sort of extended repeated pressure causes something to grind inside it and the last thing I want to do is hurt it my first day.  Luckily (I thought) a bunch of people had forgotten shoes, so about seven of us stayed behind…   and were punished.

It started with running in a circle, which I couldn’t do so I walked (worse that they run the circle to the left so it’s putting extra pressure on that ankle), but then they made us beat up the bags for ages.  Kick after kick, punch after punch, elbow after elbow…  it was brutal.  Finally we were done – or so we thought.

The last test of the class was upon us: 300 crunches and 100 pushups.  Now, keep in mind that at this point we have worked out fairly intensely for 4+ hours today and I’ve already done over 200 pushups scattered throughout the day as well as all sorts of other stuff.  It was brutal – but surprisingly, doable!
I broke it up into sets of three and ripped off 100 crunches and 33 pushups without much problem.  The second set of 100 crunches and 33 pushups was a bit harder.  The final set of 100 crunches got broken up into much smaller chunks, with the last 30 being done 10 at a time instead of 20…  then the pushups.  Hah.

Let’s just say I fell on my face a couple times during the last 34 pushups as my arms gave out.
I then stretched for about thirty minutes to try to reduce as much soreness as possible, showered for the third time today, grabbed dinner and am now probably going to crash a bit early.

So, in summary, my first day of training here – around five hours worth of intense work – was awesome, challenging, and even longer than this blog post.


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