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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Out of my element

A lot of giggling.

That’s how I would describe my first day at muay thai training. Is that even allowed in fight training? I guess so. It was tolerated at the very least as I didn’t get kicked out. In my own self-deprecating sort of way, this is how I dealt with my initial awkwardness and embarrassment. If you can’t laugh at yourself…

Though Troy has mentioned many times wanting to try his hand at a martial art, I have never been into any sort of contact fighting. I can’t even watch boxing on tv without my face contorting as if in pain and wincing and turning away every time someone gets pummelled. What can I say, I’m a lover not a fighter. Heck, I could barely even pronounce muay thai apparently as when I told my sister where I was, she thought I was at bar tending school. Needless to say, I had no idea what to expect from this training camp, just that it was located 800m from the nearest beach.

I watched in horror that first day as people shadow boxed their way up and down the gym, let out guttural sounds with every punch and kick and grappled like greased pigs inside the ring. Will this really be me? I am nervous. I know I will feel ridiculous and conspicuous and like everyone is watching and laughing as I fight, of all things, an invisible opponent.

In stark contrast to the gyms of my past, there are no cute little spray bottles of disinfectant or towels to blot sweat from shared surfaces. I share the pink boxing gloves with other gals and ignore the dampness when I put them on. The punching bags are often glistening and the one incline bench that exists is constantly dripping wet and it is not uncommon to see actual puddles on the floor underneath the knee-pit pads. Nope, this is not Club Fit. I am however not deterred, I always thought all that disinfecting was futile anyway.

From the start, I have really enjoyed working with the trainers, learning the moves and punching and kicking their pads. They call out a move, jab, one-two, punch, right knee, front kick, left block, etc., hold up the appropriate pad or make the corresponding offensive move (at a reasonable speed ofcourse) and allow me to respond accordingly. Seeking that satisfying slapping sound of perfect contact with the pads is actually quite addicting. This part of training is called Technique. I could really get into this, I mean throw in a beat, coordinate some movements, paste on some smiles, and we’re practically dancing!

And then we move on to Sparring. I do not love this. This is where the trainer actually wants me to punch him. Did I mention I’m a lover not a fighter? This is also the part where, when I’m not doing any punching, I get pummelled by fists from seemingly every which direction (seriously, does this guy have more than two hands??). Blocking requires a certain speed of reflex, which, if you lack, results in being punched in the head and kicked in the abdomen. In frustration with my lack of defensive moves, the trainer drops his gloves altogether and tells me to punch him in the face. Seriously? I wind up and swing, my glove stopping just shy of contact. I wince. I can’t do it. He returns to swinging at me instead and I hear him remind me to keep my eyes open…

Though I ache in places I didn’t know I had muscles (or maybe I don’t have and that’s why those places ache?) and I have a distinct limp when I try to get my legs moving after sitting for a while, I am really enjoying myself, feeling a little more confident and, dare I say, a little bit ‘tougher’ after each workout. Now, today, as I shadow box my way across the floor, I am suddenly aware of a faint guttural sound being let loose with my every movement. It is coming from my mouth! Barely audible, it is not intimidating by any stretch, but who would’ve thought? I notice that I no longer compulsively look around to see if anyone is watching me or can hear me. In fact, I no longer care if they are. I have become somewhat comfortable (though I have not yet been asked to participate in the greased pig grappling so this could change) in this new environment so out of my element.

Don’t get me wrong, it has not been without missteps. I did have to be told to wear my punching gloves when punching the punching bag (I didn’t know…), I did give the trainer a high five once (and only once) when he raised his hand as a target to be punched, and there was the one time that I may have interfered with his ability to father children when I delivered a front kick that slipped off the waist target I had been directed to aim for.

Contrary to my worries of looking stupid or feeling ridiculous, it has occurred to me that, well, nobody cares. As I watch boyz bouncing themselves off the ropes like WWF superstars (I resist the urge to tell them they’ve got the wrong sport because I’ve never actually seen a muay thai fight and maybe this does actually happen), I realize that everybody is too busy livin’ the dream to worry about anybody else. I like that.

Now this is my turn to brag. While I am here to embrace the fitness training only, Troy is keen to fight. Troy left me in the beginner ring after the first practice and is rapidly learning how to channel all the ‘power’ he apparently possesses. With hopes that the promoter can arrange a fight for him before we leave here, he has taken on the training full throttle and the trainers are eager to get him into the ring. I often glance over during his one-on-ones or while he is punching the bag or skipping or while we are running together and I wonder if the theme music from Rocky is playing over and over in his head. I suspect it is more often than not .


  1. Giggling and Pink boxing gloves? They tolerate that? Must be your super cute smile!!! All you gotta do is flash that grin and your oponants get weak in the knees!!!!! Kick some ass, Dic!