Unique View of Muay Thai Training…

I’m too cheap to pay for the upgrade to allow enough media space for video clips, so instead of simply uploading a video of some of my recent Muay Thai training from the beautiful island of Koh Tao, I thought I’d simply write out what a typical training round “sounds” like.  Plus, I also thought it may also be a bit more entertaining this way 😉

After stretching, several minutes of jumping rope, shadow boxing, 100 front kicks on the bag and my hands wrapped and gloved up it’s time for training.

Before getting into it, I gotta admit a funny on my part.  I would hear throughout the training that the trainers would say “ma” quite a bit.  “Ma” in Thai has several meanings (dog, horse, come) and since I was most familiar with “ma” meaning “dog” from working at the animal shelter, I kept wondering why the trainers were calling us dogs, lol!!  But then I recalled it also means “come” so that made more sense!

Round 1 (written as I hear it from the trainers with accompanying translations and/or my inner thoughts as the round goes along…)

  • Ma, Ma (come, come)
  • Jeb, pap (left front jab, right front jab)
  • Pap (right front jab)
  • Ook ma (left hook punch)
  • Pow-wer again! (more power needed in the punch, again!)
  • Ook ma (left hook punch)
  • Jeb (left front jab)
  • Ubber cut, ma (right upper cut, come)
  • Ook ma (left hook punch, come)
  • Pap (right front punch)
  • One two, pap-pap (front punches, left first then right)
  • Oh-oi! (trainer is taking a swing at my head that I must lean back to dodge quickly or get hit)
  • Jeb jeb (left front double punch)
  • Again ma!
  • Jeb jeb (left front double punch… again!)
  • Pow-wer!
  • Jeb jeb, ma (Ugh, punch harder!)
  • Yees, goud (yes, good!!! Happy day! 🙂 )
  • Ubber cut ma (right upper cut punch)
  • Four ma: one, two, three, foor (4 alternating front jabs)
  • Pap (right front punch)
  • Oh-oi! (whoa, I almost got hit that time!)
  • Pap (right front punch)
  • Oh-oi! (hee hee, missed it!!)
  • Knee!  One, two (thrust right knee twice into the stomach pad)
  • Knee!  One, two (thrust left knee twice into the stomach pad)
  • Elbow (step forward, smack right elbow in the pad)
  • Elbow (remember to step forward first!)
  • Up Elbow (step forward, thrust elbow upward into face)
  • Ehy-uup (trainer is holding pads at his head signaling for a swing kick: right leg)
  • Oh-ehh! or Oi-ish-she depending on trainer (heard if the kick was powerful or good enough)
  • Ehy-uup (another right leg swing kick)
  • Oh-ehh!/Oi-ish-she (yay-yaah!!)
  • Jeb (you get it)
  • Pap (more punches)
  • One-two, pap-pap (pretty much with every hit on the pads the trainer makes an accompanying noise, hence the pap-pap)
  • Block! (trainer is trying to kick my side, so I block his kick with my shin and fore arm)
  • Ehy-uup (swing kick again… Man this is getting exhausting!)
  • Oh-ehh!/Oi-ish-she
  • Sweech keek (this means to avoid his low kick to my left leg by changing my stance of left foot forward, right back to right foot forward, left back so I can then easily kick the pads at his head with my left leg)
  • Oh-ehh!/oi-ish-she (oh man I’m really getting exhausted…  Just gotta breathe!!)
  • Ma, ma ( really it isn’t break time yet?!?!?)
  • Jeb
  • Pap
  • Foor: one two three foor (4 alternating front punches)
  • Elbow ma (strike with elbow)
  • Elbow ma
  • Ehy-uup (oh God another swing kick, BREATHE!!)
  • Oh-ehh!/Oi-ish-she (happy day!!!)
  • Ehy-uup (I can make it, I can make it!!)
  • Oh-ehh!/Oi-ish-she (happy day again!)
  • Front keek, ma (front kick right, come)
  • Oh-ehh!/Oi-ish-she (seriously is he just trying to make me feel better about my dwindling energy?!)
  • Front keek, ma (front kick left, front kicks aren’t so hard really)
  • Oh-ehh!/Oi-ish-she
  • Jeb, elbow ma (left front punch, swing behind with right elbow and strike, then back to original position)
  • Pow-wer, again ma (not forceful enough, more power, dang-it!!! come)
  • Jeb, elbow (Ugh, that powerful enough??)
  • Yees, good (yay!! Happy day!!)
  • Ten: one, two, three, foor, five, seeks, seven, eight, nine, ten (10 alternating front punches at rapid speed… Energy, energy!!)
  • Again! (Phew, breathe, ok, again…)
  • Yees, again! (Seriously?!?!?! UGH!!!  Breathe, I can do this!)
  • Yeeah-pap! (final right front punch… Thank goodness!!!!)
  • Five ma ehy-uup (ok, ok, breathe, just 5 right swing kicks)
  • Five ma Ehy-uup (OMG now the left leg… I may vomit…Breathe, breathe, BREATHE!!!!)
  • Break! (Thank.Goodness!!!!! Can I go die now?)

Nope… 4 more rounds to go….

On to Koh Tao Fight Nights

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Muay Thai Kickboxing Training

Part of the reason I wanted to stay for a month on the beautiful island of Koh Tao, Thailand was so I could dip my toes a bit in the world of Muay Thai Kickboxing.  Though I’m not in perfect shape, I do really enjoy working out and try to get workouts in daily, even when traveling.  As any fitness fanatic knows however, the best way to stay on top of your fitness is to mix up your workouts.  Since I’m in Thailand, I figured why not give their traditional martial art of Muay Thai a try?

I did not originally come to Koh Tao expecting to stay so long.  I had the idea that I would “if and only if” I found a Muay Thai gym I liked.  On the island there are actually two gyms that offer Muay Thai training.  Monsoon Gym and Island Muay Thai.  I checked both places out, dropping by during their training hours just to get a vibe of each place prior to committing to either (if at all).  Dropping by during training hours was purposeful because I wanted to get the sense of two things: first a sneak peek at the training and how the trainers interacted with students (my trainers test) and second to see how I would be greeted during a busy time (my management test).

Blocking a Kick
Blocking a Kick

On the surface, my observations were as follows.  While Monsoon Gym doesn’t have a ring, it has a very impressive workout and training space.  The practice area looks brand new and their gym (to get in weight or extra cardio workouts) is also quite nice!  In addition, they offered a variety of classes such as capoeira and crossfit type classes that you could mix in with the Muay Thai training.  They even offered on-site dorms as accommodation (for an extra price of course) to those training with them.  It was evident that a lot of money was put into the place.

Kicking Away
Kicking Away

By comparison the Island Muay Thai training facility did have a ring but their training area looked rather used and broken in, so to speak.  Their gym area to get in extra weight or cardio workouts really wasn’t anything to write home about as it had outdated machines and not a huge variety of weights.  Whether the gym had a ring or not was not a concern or care to me as I had no intention to fight, only to train for fitness.  So on the surface Monsoon gym had me hands down (especially since they offered more of a variety of fitness classes).  However one huge difference between the two gyms led me to make my ultimate decision.

Gonna Get Ya!
Gonna Get Ya!

They say first impressions are the most important.  And as far as I’m concerned, they can make or break a person or business.  Monsoon Gym, while impressive visually, fell flat on its face when I popped by to check the place out.  It had the feel of where the cool kids and cliques hung out.  I stood around for about 10 minutes waiting to get the eye of someone (anyone) who worked there to ask questions about the courses.  Of course there were posters everywhere giving pricing information and such, and while I technically got all the info I needed just by looking at the posters, my point in going in personally was to get the feel of the place and people.  And based on that aspect, I was not impressed.  I finally struck a conversation with a random person hanging about who had been training there and talked to him about the place.  He was actually very nice and informative and had nothing but praise for the place.  But when he pointed me in the direction of one of the people who worked there (a falang whose exact role I can’t recall) and I went to chat with her, the welcoming was icy and indifferent.  I should mention however that based on my observations of the trainers themselves, I had no negative impression as they seemed very engaged with the students.

Bruised Up_2

On the contrast was my impression of Island Muay Thai.  Again I showed up during training hours and was immediately greeted by someone (who turned out was the owner) with a flyer listing prices and giving information.  And again, while visually the place was lack-luster compared to Monsoon, it felt more serious and more focused.  It had that wholesome “come as you are and let us kick your rear with a killer workout” feel that inspires me to work hard.  Also the vibe felt comforting and made me feel confident to simply show up as I was (even with several extra pounds to lose!) and not feel embarrassed that I wasn’t in perfect shape.  And to boot I was actually acknowledged as I came up to the place!  To me, the vibes between the gyms were night and day and I very happily (after finding a place to stay) signed up with Island Muay Thai for a month.

Bruised Up
Bruised Up

For the past month now, I’ve been going to Island Muay Thai about 4 times a week.  Between working out there and going there for the fight nights (every 10 days!!) it’s practically become a second home to me, lol!  I arrive a little before 8am to get in about 5-10 minutes of stretching, then hit the jump ropes for anywhere between 5-10 minutes, then it’s time to get the hands wrapped and the gloves on for training.  Depending on the trainer, the sessions can go in a variety of directions:  3 minutes on, 1 minute break or up to 10 minutes on and several minute breaks.  Either way the end result is always the same: I leave exhausted, super sweaty and ready for a cold shower!!  What I appreciate most is each trainer has their own focus, or specific set of things that they watch out for, or area of expertise.  What that boils down to is that I learn something new each and every time.  And each criticism from the various trainers compliment each other too.  So learning one specific stance or technique from one trainer compliments what you’ve been taught by another and so on.

Ugly Feet!
Ugly Feet!

I’ve injured myself a bit here and there (blisters, bruises, and feeling like my feet were broken) along the way due to my being exhausted and using improper technique, but I love the training!  They push me to work harder each time and the training is unlike else I’ve done so far.  I sweat buckets during each workout and sometimes feel like I could either pass out (because I’m holding my breath during the punches or kicks) or vomit by the end, but I still show up and am even staying for yet another month so I can train on 🙂  This time it will be 5 days a week just to see how much more fit I can get with it. Let the games begin!!

On to Unique View of Muay Thai Training

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Eating Bat and The View

Many days after my morning Muay Thai Kickboxing workout I’m left exhausted wanting to do little more than just relax with a book or have a massage.  The best remedy for my sore body (especially my feet) however is to walk.  I really have to rev myself up for the task however.  Especially since the walking includes doing so during some of the hottest hours of the day.  Usually I head to Hin Wong for a snorkel or Sairee to just hang about but this time I thought to check out a new route.

My initial plan was to head to Jim’s bar.  Located high up on one of the hills nearby, it seemed like it would be a nice ‘goal’ place to walk to and to be rewarded in the end by a cold drink and hopefully a beautiful view to boot.  Armed with my plan I headed out toward Hin Wong bay but made a turn at the top of the hill toward Jim’s bar instead of heading down to the bay.  The walk there wasn’t altogether unpleasant.  Though there were bits with a 20% or 30% grade to them, the majority was variable enough to cut the monotony of just walking uphill.  Bits of the path were concrete while other bits were only dirt and gravel cut through with erosion from storms.

Though it is possible to make the trek with a motorbike or an ATV, I prefered walking.  First because of the exercise aspect, but most importantly because of the condition of the unpaved bits of the path.  They really were quite treacherous and while during my hike up I didn’t notice any accidents, on my way back down I witnessed 2 rolled motorbike accidents (one with injuries) and heard from another person that he’d witnessed 3 as well!  But I’m getting ahead.

It felt like I had been walking for hours!  No one was in sight except the occasional random passing motorbike and the sun was beating down hard on my skin.  I took appropriate breaks here and there to chill in the shade and have some water or take pictures of the local wildlife (I spotted a water monitor!!) and though I was absolutely dripping in sweat to the point of all my clothes being soaked through, I trudged on having no idea how far or close I was, yet determined to get there.  Eventually (after going up the 30% grade bit of the path) I made it to a little bar.  It turned out to be the Butterfly Garden!  That was good news for me since Jim’s bar wasn’t too far beyond that. I stopped for a sugary tea to replenish a bit of energy then continued up the hill to Jim’s.

I was surprised that Jim’s wasn’t that far at all from the Butterfly Garden since on the map they seemed to be a bit further apart.  It literally was just up the hill from the Butterfly Garden.  While it was a cute little bar, no one was there and the views were simply of the surrounding jungle.  So instead of sitting and staying, I opted to check out a bit further along the path.  There were signs for the Mango View Bar and another place simply called The View Bar.  One was down the path to the right, the other to the left.  I chose the right path toward The View Bar and about half a km later, I’d arrived to one of the most stunning views of the island I’ve seen so far!  You could see just about the entire island including the National Park islands to the South of Koh Tao, a bit of Koh Samui to the SW and even the mainland of Thailand!

So stunned by the beauty of The View’s views, I took a seat on the patio and ordered a drink.  I learned from the owner that the place had only been open for 5 months now, the deck I was sitting on was only a month old and the bar itself is the highest bar on the island!  There was only one other couple there when I first arrived which gave the atmosphere an even more peaceful and beautiful appeal to it.  I met Suay (beautiful), the local squirrel who would pop in every time it was hungry for some fruit.  He ate out of the owners hand but unlike other squirrels I’ve seen, he didn’t live in a cage.  He simply came and went as he pleased 🙂  He did come over and sniff my toes at one point during his search for some more food, but sadly my camera didn’t reload fast enough to capture the shot 😦

I spent hours up there sipping on drinks and chatting with people as they came and went and was reminded just how international Thailand is.  Within the few hours I was there I met people from Spain, South Africa, Norway, Germany and the States.  Quite an impressive mix!  In any event, the day was moving along and it was time for me to start heading back along the 3.5km path back to my place.  As I came back into view of the Butterfly Garden however I was coaxed into staying for “just one drink”.  “Have a beer, kick up your feet!  Free view!” the Thai’s were calling to me.  And though I had been kicking up my feet for several hours I thought, why not?  So I settled in for a beer and started chatting with the locals who owned the place and a tourist from Canada.

It was then that the local said they were going to have a barbecue.  And the main meat of this barbecue??  Locally caught and freshly killed bat… Yes bat!  I LOVE bats!!!  Ok, not in the eating sense but I love those cute little critters!!  I’ve loved them since caving in college and have always adored their little furry faces!  So when he pulled out the bodies ready to be put on the barbecue, I couldn’t believe it and figured there was NO WAY I’d eat a bat!  Alas, after 2 beers (why not have 2 when you’ve already had 1??) I thought, yea, I could try some bat!  The meat was very tough and quite hard to pull off the bones but it was flavorful.  I only had one wing however as I started to feel a bit guilty for having eaten one of the cute critters, but at least I tried something new.

I ended up staying for another couple of hours at the Butterfly Garden having beers (3 in total, I promise!) chatting with people coming down or up the road, heckling them to stay for some bat, doing some Muay Thai play fighting with one of the locals who then invited me back everyday to practice with him for free, and sadly witnessing 2 motorbike rolls (one resulting in a nasty road rash injury).  After my 3 beers however, the sun was really starting to set and it was definitely time for me to head back down (I still had 3km to go!) before it became pitch black.  I thanked my new Thai friends for the bat and conversation, and headed down the quickly darkening path back toward town.  I won’t lie that I kept thinking how idiotic I was to have waited so long to go back down as the path became darker and darker.  But, all’s well that ends well, and my hike down the hill was thankfully without injury!

Sun setting
Sun setting

I made it to the bottom of the hill just in time to see one of the most stunning sunset skies I’ve seen since being on Koh Tao.  I wish the picture I took did it justice, but really it doesn’t.  Unfortunately my camera doesn’t take night shots well at all!! 😦  All in all, it was a beautiful day full of unexpected people, experiences and breathtaking views all around.  And on top of being thankful I’d made it back home in one drunken piece, I was also so very thankful that I’d made myself get off my duff that morning and make that hike in the first place.  I will definitely have to go there again!

On to Muay Thai Kickboxing Training

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Koh Tao Island

After leaving Bang Saphan I headed directly to Champon to catch a catamaran over to the very beautiful island of Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand.  Only 21 sq. Km, Koh Tao (turtle island) has surprisingly a lot going for it!  It boasts 2 of the top diving schools in the world and is considered one of the top spots in the world to dive, has several volunteer opportunities from being a “Trash Hero” to helping at the Animal Clinic and even some Marine Conservation programs as well.  In addition, it has 2 Muay Thai Kickboxing training facilities: Island Muay Thai (where I’m currently training and will write more about in another post) and Monsoon Muay Thai Gym.

The island itself is lush and green with a large variety of foliage and critters all around.  The beaches are breathless with clear blues and greens and abundantly diverse marine life to boot.  Sadly, the island does have a dark past as it is the site of the very unfortunate murders of a young British couple just last year in September that made news world-wide.  There are even websites dedicated to the “dark side” of Koh Tao, but so far I haven’t witnessed or felt any dark side to the island.

Like the two neighboring islands to the South of Koh Tao, Koh Samui and Koh Pha Ngan, Koh Tao also parties it up every full moon.  They call them “Full Moon” parties, which is really just another excuse to do what people do nightly here (party in bars) but apparently kicked up a notch.  Before coming I had heard the Government is trying to put a stop to them because of the drugs that also surface during the parties, but so far all the islands are still celebrating the moon phases.  The other two islands apparently also have half-moon parties and even new moon parties!  I haven’t experienced the Full Moon party here (the first one I will be present for is tomorrow night) but honestly have no interest to join the crowds at the bars for it.  See, while this place does have a huge party scene to it, my purpose here is to train in Muay Thai and get involved where I can in the available volunteer opportunities.  Guess I’m growing up a bit… Just a bit though;)

The expat community here is also huge!  Most are in their early 20’s and have come here originally just for vacation and ended up getting jobs and staying.  I would say honestly the population of people from the UK or Australia is possibly more than that of Thai’s and Burmese.  It is legal to get a job in Thailand as an expat if it’s in an area of expertise that a Thai local wouldn’t necessarily have, such as teaching English or in the case of Koh Tao, diving instructors.  One of the bummers in my opinion about having so many expats on the island however, is that the Thai culture seems lost a bit.  Many of the locals speak better English than most native speakers and while they may view it as a benefit for them, it’s hard to find locals who only speak Thai.  Hence why I wrote my other post on “Talking Thai” so I wouldn’t forget what I’ve learned so far!

As the island does boast some of the best diving in the world, there are dive shops absolutely everywhere!  You could probably throw a rock in any given direction while walking, and within only a few meters (depending on your location) could hit anywhere from 3-5 of them!  They really are everywhere you look, which makes it tough when trying to pick one to go with.  Everyone has their opinion on which is the best, and so far each person I’ve spoken to has named a different one as “the best”, lol!!  Though I do have my open water certification, I have yet to have done any diving as it’s been so long since my certification and I would have to do the refresher course AND for this month at least, I am tapped out financially on my extra-curricular spending.  It’s all about the budgeting!  Perhaps next month I’ll get into it, but for now, I frankly enjoy going to the beaches and simply snorkeling!  It’s free to snorkel on your own (though there are snorkel tours available too) and the variety of marine life seen snorkeling is impressive enough to me to stick with that for now.

Truth be told… while there are several beaches around the island I’ve so far only made it to two!  Sairee beach and Hin Wong beach.  Hin Wong beach is teeny and is privately owned so the owner (Mol of Mol’s beach bar) asks that each visitor either pays 50 baht (equivalent of just over $1.50) or buys a drink from the bar.  The snorkeling is unbelievable there and I keep returning for it’s absolute beauty and range of marine life!  Every time I go I see something new!  There are irradescent clams, blue-spotted sting rays, parrot fish, all sorts of damsel fish, christmas tree corals, anemones, puffer fish, and on and on!  Every time I go I also wish I had an underwater camera so I could share the beauty under the water!

Since I don’t have a motorbike however (the roads are absolute crap on the island and the other drivers are nuts to boot!!) I walk there, which is yet another way I get my exercise.  It’s a literal pain in my rear to scale the wee but very steep hill to get to the other side of the island, but it’s well worth it once there!!  While I do adore going to that beach, I also try to space out how often I go because inevitably I end up having some drinks at the bar then curse myself as I have to make the trek back over the hill, sweating my rear off (and hopefully some of the booze) to get back to my place.  Mol herself is quite the character too!  She is a native Thai but speaks English perfectly and even has a cockney accent when she drinks, lol!!

When I first arrived, I walked my way in the blistering heat from Mae Haad (where the boats all dock) toward Sairee and found very close to the Wat a place called Happy Bungalows.  For 400 baht a night I got my own bungalow with a bed, bathroom and little fridge.  When I first arrived I wasn’t sure honestly how long I’d actually stay.  My plan was to check out the two Muay Thai gyms and if I liked one, I would stay for a month to train.  If not, I would hang about for a few days to a week then head elsewhere.  Within 3 days I’d decided to stay and found a monthly rental with a kitchen through Bua Management.  Now almost 3 weeks in, I’m planning to stay for another month.  There are two reasons I came to that decision: first, I’m really enjoying the Muay Thai training and want to give it another month and second, one of my friends will be popping into Thailand to see me.  Since she is interested in diving, I figured I may as well stay put so at the very least she gets to do some diving in one of the best spots! 🙂

Eating Bat and The View

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Talking Thai

As this blog not only serves as a site for information for fellow travelers, it also serves the purpose of being my memory.  Something that years from now I can read about and think fondly back on.  As the Thai language is a very foreign and tricky, before I forget all the words I know I wanted to jot them down:) You will notice that several of the Thai words seems to be the same, yet have different English meanings.  This is because depending on how the word is spoken (i.e. an inflection or intonation) the meaning changes.  And of course I’m not writing the Thai words as they would actually be spelled, but rather in the way they sound so the pronunciation is correct.  So here we go…

  • Poured: Please
  • Sa-wah-dee-ka: Hello/Goodbye (spoken by females)
  • Sa-wah-dee-kap: Hello/Goddbye (spoken by males)
  • Khob-Khun-Ka: Thank you
  • Mama: Very
  • Khob-Khun-mama-Ka: Thank you Very much 🙂
  • Chai: Yes
  • Mai Chai: No
  • Ka/Kap (female/male): Sure, Yup, ok, uh-huh, your welcome
  • Hong: Room
  • Nam: Water
  • Hong nam: Bathroom
  • Sue-Aye: Beautiful
  • Ma (long A sound): Dog
  • Ma (short A sound): Come
  • Ma (long A sound with voice down): Horse
  • Klap Ma: Come back
  • Mayo: Cat
  • Sah-bye: Good
  • Mai Sah-bye: Not good
  • Sah-bye-dee: Good health
  • Mai Sah-bye-dee: Bad health
  • Tong: Stomach
  • Gai: Chicken
  • Kai: Egg
  • Kai Gai: Chicken egg
  • Tao-Rai: How much?
  • Ah-you-da Rai: How old?
  • Moo: Pork
  • Ooo-ah: Vomit (this one was an animal clinic word I learned and NOT learned because of the next word, lol!)
  • Mao: Drunk
  • Naan Tell-lie: How long?
  • Lawn: Hot
  • Mack: Very
  • Lawn mack: very hot
  • Nit Noi: Little bit
  • Mack Noi: A lot
  • Wah-Nee: Today
  • Prune-Nee: Tomorrow
  • Maroon-Nee: Day after tomorrow
  • Moon-Nee: Yesterday
  • Numb Ken: Ice
  • Toe-Who: Tofu
  • Mee: Bear
  • Mee Panda: Panda Bear 🙂
  • Ko: Beach
  • Tao: Turtle
  • Took-kay: House gecko
  • Baan: House
  • Phone: Rain
  • Non (pronounced like Noni -as in the juice- without the I): Sleep
  • Pah-ah-tea: Sun
  • Sabaidee my ka?: How are you?

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