I travelled 6000 miles to train… and train I did.
I was lucky enough to have my first one to one training with Kob himself. I was eager to get started and whilst the gym is usually closed on Sunday, he was happy to give me a taster of what was to come.
So, at 8.30am on the dot, having doned the lurid turquoise and yellow boxing shorts emblazoned with the club’s logo I turned up at Kobra looking like a wide-eyed hatchling. Well, a wide-eyed hatchling in absurdly silly pants.
To give you an idea of Kobra, imagine a half-built, run-down, garage held up only by rusting corrugated iron and piled up bricks. Take out the cars and replace with a central boxing ring. Erect some metal seating racks on two opposing sides of the ring, add in some tree trunks to sit on, a wall lined with a mirrors, some truck tyres lined up along the ground, an old clothes horse and rows of hanging punch bags. Next, replace the Pirandelli calendar and page 3 pics a with pictures of the King and royal family (in Thailand it’s an offence to speak ill of the royal family) but keep the mangy dogs. As far as I can tell, all of these serve a purpose. Except maybe the dogs… although it must be said, their laziness acts as a foil to the focus of the fighters.
In one corner of the gym, is a fridge fortunately stocked with ice. It’s amazing how many uses it has from providing cool drinking water and ice for the damp cloths which the trainers use to mop down the fighters as well as propping up the ipod speakers invariably playing Iron Maiden.
My first training session with Kob was an eye opener for sure. First off he bandaged my hands. It’s great having someone else put your wraps on for you – they go on much smoother for a start and its somehow reassuring.
Once wrapped up and ready, Kob showed me what the tyres were for. I then spent the next 10 mins warming up by bouncing on them. Now this looks and sounds fun, but is a lot harder than you may think. Only a few minutes in my legs were aching and my feet were sore, I could feel muscles cramping and I wanted to stop. But pride took the better of me. Momentarily.
The feeling I got from having my hands wrapped for me was as if someone else is looking after you. And in fact, they are. As soon as you’re warm and sweating, the instructor will cool you down with an ice cloth (hanging on the ever useful clothes horse), mopping your brow, neck, arms and legs. This sense of trust pervades the whole session and the teacher is held in great respect by the pupil. I’m not so sure it works the other way around, at least in my case, having bounced off the tyre in my first 5 minutes.
I’m having to go through many changes in terms of how I actually train. Firstly, apparently I stand all wrong. From kickboxing I’m used to standing at an angle to my opponent, but in Muay Thai you face them full on – hips facing forward. It makes me feel more vulnerable than I’m used to, but with the change of guard I’m also having to accommodate I’m gradually getting used to that. For the last few years, I’ve always worked on protecting my face. A hooter like mine makes an easy target so I’ve strived to protect it by keeping my hands up either side of my face and just peering tentatively through my gloves. Now, though, with the ‘saba sabai’ Thai style, I’m learning to keep my guard lower, more relaxed and almost open handed, ready to grab or push if needs be. It’s disconcerting for me, but gives Thais that seemingly laid back style.
Kob also taught me I was moving incorrectly… I’ve always been aiming for a boxing shuffle but MT is more a side to side dance shifting weight from one foot to the other. I’m finding that almost impossible.
What I’ve learnt today;
1. The training I’ve learnt to date is VERY different from what I am learning now and it’s hard to stay focused. So I’m having to change the bad habits I got into and learn new ones. That’s tough for an old dog.
2. Apparently I have good kicks but no balance – actually I kind of suspected that.
3. The bar next door on the beach does a mean red chicken curry. And I mean mean.
4. The joys of wifi mean I can listen to The Archers. Even on the beach I’m never too far from the high dramas of Ambridge.