That was the welcome I was greeted with on entering the Kobra Muay Thai. My first day of training woke up a very sleepy and jet-lagged body. After 2 days of travelling, I’m here as part of a small investigation to see what changes training for 4 hours a day in the traditional Thai martial art of Muay Thai brings in just two weeks under 30 degree heat. Yep, to all you in London, that’s 30 degrees :o).
The toughest thing I’ve done to date was a week’s training of Kalaripayat, a Keralan martial art in Southern India. So am I woman enough for what is known as the most ferocious of all fighting disciplines? A training regime where you are taught that instead of 4 limbs you have 8; arms, legs, knees and elbows, each to use as a weapon.
My trainer for these two weeks, is Master Kongipop, a veteran fighter of 31 years. Kob as he is known, is a smiling, welcoming man, who runs and owns Kobra Muay Thai gym on the island of Koh Pangan, off the Gulf of Thailand. His demeanor can change in flash switching from the apologetic laughing; “Solly! Solly!” when he gets my name wrong (actually I don’t mind ‘Sofia’ … I’ve definitely been called worse), to the gravelly barking “more power” (fortunately not yet at me) . It’s not just his voice that changes as his eyes glare and I get a glimpse of the viciousness he must have had in the ring to win 120 out of 150 fights. All by knock out.
What I’ve learnt today;
1. Saba Sabai – most Western fighters tend to be tense when they fight. A Thai is more likely to be ‘saba sabai’ – relaxed and at ease when he fights. He moves slowly, almost dancing gingerly, until that explosive power is needed. Master Kong repeatedly told me to be more ‘saba sabai’. He doesn’t know me very well.
2. Make sure that your suntan cream is rubbed in PROPERLY…
3. Oh, and don’t mistake your trainer’s mother for his wife no matter how friendy he seems.