A few months ago, I spent some time doing volunteer work in Kenya through the volunteer agency International Volunteer HQ. I stayed with a Kenyan family and volunteered at an orphanage, Internally Displaced Persons camps, and with the Masai (warrior tribes in Kenya). It was an extremely moving experience. Read more.

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    Sinbi Muay Thai- Week Two

    Saturday Oct 8, 2011
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    This week started off frustrating, to say the least.

    I felt like I was getting slower, not faster, and indeed I’m convinced that I was.  On Monday and Tuesday it seemed like no matter what I did I wasn’t blocking fast enough, hitting hard enough, or reacting like a proper fighter.  I suspect that’s because the amount and intensity of training had caught up with my body which was now trying to adapt and recover.  I certainly felt a little discouraged, but knew that I could push through this, and by the time Wednesday rolled around I was back up to par.

    I started private lessons this week with instructor Bao V.  WOW.  The hour a day I’ve spent with him this week alone makes this entire trip worthwhile.  The camp has a policy of not letting you switch trainers for private lessons midway through a week.  At first I had intended to try different instructors each day, but this policy proved enormously strategic, as sticking with one trainer allows you to build off what you’ve done in the days before.

    At the beginning of the week, Bao V worked with me on pad work, technique and some clinching, but by the end of the week we spent the full hour sparring and doing sparring drills.  Amazing.  So amazing, in fact, that I’m going to be doing two private sessions a day next week because while I do want to work with another trainer, I refuse to stop training with Bao V.  His vast experience and patience shine through, and he knows how to coax the best out of his students.

    Once you start doing privates with a specific trainer, they take you under their wing.  Bao V often works with me first during group sessions, monitors that I’ve done my hand wraps correctly, sometimes wrapping them for me and sometimes checking my handiwork, and gives me tips and help as needed.  After private sessions, the trainers often give the students quick Thai massages to ensure that our muscles relax and recover properly, and I’ve learned some helpful tricks from Bao V.  It’s actually a mix of massaging and stretching, and you see trainers employing these same techniques on their fighters in between rounds of matches.

    Thursday morning I woke up with a sharp pain in the back of my left heel.  I massaged it as best I could, and trained through it anyways.  Not smart, because Friday I woke up and couldn’t walk.  I wasn’t able to train at all.  When I limped out to Bao V to explain I couldn’t do my private that day, he tended to my heel by massaging a healing cream into it.  Whatever he did made a huge difference, and I felt much better by Friday afternoon, although I thought it prudent to skip the group training session anyways.

    Saturday morning the pain was back, but less so.  I didn’t do either of the group sessions, but did my private with Bao V- hey, I’ve only got a limited amount of time here and I want to make the most of it- but we went lightly.  He again massaged the cream into my heel and this process seems to be working.  Sunday is the day off around here, so I’m hoping everything will be good to go by Monday.  I’m planning to do both privates regardless- training hard, if not smart, if you will.

    I can’t quite figure out what it could be though.  My heel- not a joint, not a muscle, so what?  A tendon?  If that’s the case I’ll have to be very careful as tendons don’t heal easily once damaged.

    Foreigners are encouraged to fight in competitive matches at the local stadium.  All fighters get paid win or lose, and the gym gets a percentage.  There are three Fight Nights each week.

    On Friday night, one of our girls competed for her first time (she has some kickboxing experience but had never fought muay thai).  She lost- by a lot.  Her competitor, also a foreigner, had two distinct strategies she kept reusing through all five rounds, and our girl couldn’t seem to get around them.  The opponent would catch our fighter’s kicks and then throw her to the ground, or if they got close, grab her in a clinch which also ended with our girl being thrown. 

    It was an eye-opener for me.  Training foreigners in muay thai is big business here, and from my understanding, they usually match someone’s first fight with an opponent that although may present a challenge, shouldn’t be too difficult to beat (if you stay and have several fights, the opponents get harder).  I was shocked to see this fairly grim match play out.

    I found out later that they do ask the fighters if they’re ok with the opponent, and despite this opponent being much more experienced, our fighter had okayed the match.

    Of course I managed to squeeze in some beach time with a few new friends, as well as discover some new delicious Thai restaurants.

    On tap for Week Three?  Two private sessions daily, one with Bao V and one with trainer Pot, an extremely experienced and serious coach and former fighter.  Sparring where possible.  More exploring of the island.  Copious amounts of beach time and Thai food, and possibly getting out to some of the islands like Ko Phi Phi, where the movie The Beach was filmed.  I also have quite a bit of work to do for my job back home, a few hundred pages of readings for my Master’s, and must start writing my thesis.  The agenda also includes visiting some of the temples here and taking a Thai cooking class, but those can stretch into next week as well.

    Two weeks down, two to go!

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