…begins with one small step. Something of a cliche, but one that I am clinging to this morning after my first proper Muay Thai session in about 3 years.
Having done almost no training at all in the last 2 years, following a skiing incident which left me with not one but two totally shagged knees, I knew that the first session was going to be tough. I’ve done this before though. Many times. At many different camps.
If you’re out of shape, you can simply sit to the side, grab some water and breath and take a break while the trainers are occupied with the other students. It aint that hard….
I arrive at the camp bang on time, and note as I pootle through the gates on my powerpuff girls coloured moped the absence of the familiar grunts, whirl of ropes and dead thwacks of pads being hit.
I am alone.
Except for a young and extraordinarily fit thai guy.
He looks me up and down. I can sense the disdain felt towards my less than Van-Damme like physique.
“Sawat Dee Krap, Sabai dee mai?” I say.
His expression remains emotionless. My half assed attempt at Thai has not procured the response I was hoping for. He motions his head and eyes towards a lorry tyre.
Oh shit. This is going to be hard.
I duly dump my bag and begin hopping up and down on the lorry tyre. The point of the exercise is threefold. It increases your calf strength, cardio and is handily about the right size to enable you to become familiar with rough positions in footwork.
I jump for a good 15 minutes. Perhaps even 30. I glance up at the clock.
It’s been 2 minutes.
It’s 9 in the morning. The temperature is creeping up to 33 degrees. I am outside. There is no fan.
I last another three minutes before my calves begin screaming at me. They let me know in no uncertain terms that they have been quite happy with the atrophy program they have been on for the last couple of years, and that they would be much happier if I left them alone and allowed them to get back to it, thank you very much.
I have to sheepishly leave the tyre and stretch them out a little.
I jump back on, and persevere. After another 5 minutes, a second trainer approaches me, hands me a rope, and says “skipping!”.
I have been in Thailand less than 5 full days, yet already have an infected cut on the top of my right foot, and damage various on the left; donated by the stupidity of barefoot moped riding and the belief that my feet were hard enough to take on 7-11 flip-flops.
I manage to swing the rope for 10 minutes, surprised that I am only occasionally brutalising my wounded feet with the hard leather. I’ve actually never skipped this well. Perhaps it is because I am injured that I manage it, but in spite of the the breathlessness I am pleased with this achievement.
Second trainer, sensing that cardiac arrest is imminent, comes over with a wet towel.
“Ah, this is more like it“, I think.
He places it over my face. It’s not just wet, it’s fecking freezing! Evidently it has been living in the ice bucket. I inadvertently open my eyes in surprise.
Despite my family’s particular penchant for the word, I believe it should only be used when absolutely appropriate. This is one of those times.
I realise as the trainer insists I remove my tank top (I am under no illusions that me training topless is pretty, and not entirely happy with this) and begins to towel down my body, arms and legs, that the towel is not just covered in icy water. It also has boxing liniment infused. Actually, I realised that the second I opened my eyes, but had time to reflect on it as he toweled down the rest of my body while I squinted, eyes watering, trying not to moan like a pussy.
Then the training begins in earnest. And it’s good. VERY good.
Both trainers correct things in minute detail. Slight wrist angle changes, footwork, posture, guard. All are relentlessly dissected. Gradually improved. A third trainer (the owner, “Kob”) arrives. He makes even further tweaks. He goes through “Yang Saam Khum” (three steps walk), a lovely peculiarity of the style which has an enchanting legend attached to it that I may cover in a future post. I have never trained at a club where so much detail has been thrown in in the first lesson. I’m sure it was because I was the only student that so much attention was given, but I am very grateful nonetheless.
We train for about 45 minutes like this. I am flagging badly. The session should be an hour and a half, it’s been about an hour and ten minutes and I genuinely can’t do much more. Very embarrassed, I explain that the heat and my fitness level will not allow me to continue much longer. This is not good. I’ve never had to do it before, and it is not going to garner me an enormous amount of respect.
The trainers understand, I talk to one who is actually very flattering. “Technique good” he says. I am pleased.
“But too fat”.
I am crushed but in accord.
I begin to pack my things to go.
“No no!”, says trainer number two.
He leads me over to the weights area (pics to follow), places a pillow on top of a device which clearly has it’s roots in medieval torture and says “Sit up!!”.
I spend the next 5 minutes painfully and slowly executing contortionist sit ups – not helped by my infected foot. I think that is enough. I sit upright for a second to rest.
“100 more!”, says Kob.
Now the first step is made, I look forward to the rest, and sincerely hope they become easier. Just doing one session a day for now, so bring on tomorrow!