Am I a Boxer?

No. Definitely no. BUT, I am learning Muay Thai (Thai Boxing); probably the most brutal of the martial arts. I write for a local expat magazine and they wanted me to do a piece about learning how to fight. It will get published in the magazine in Thailand, but for everyone at home, here it is!

Eye of the Tiger

Eye of the Tiger

“Well, I’ve been roundhouse kicked in the head by my 6 foot tall Muay Thai trainer…” That’s usually my answer to the question, “So, have you ever been hit??” People frequently ask me this when I tell them I am learning Muay Thai. I admit, I am one for the dramatic and I do enjoy the shocked response I often get when I give that answer, but I assuage peoples’ fears by following up with, “…but luckily he got me right in the cheekbone so there was no serious damage and it only happened once.”

As I write this, I want to first and foremost say I am absolutely no expert on Muay Thai and I want to emphasize the word learning. I’m a reasonably fit person, and about a year ago, I was getting a little bit bored with my usual gym routine. I decided that I wanted to try something new and different. I have no background in martial arts whatsoever, except watching all of the Ninja Turtles movies, including that horrible new one. So, choosing Muay Thai as an alternative workout was way out of my comfort zone. I’m too lazy/uninterested to learn to speak Thai fluently and I felt like I should probably learn something quintessentially Thai so I have something to show for my three years of living in Bangkok. In the end, boredom, complete ignorance on the subject and academic laziness drove me to learn to fight. Seems like a recipe for disaster, but a year later, I’m still loving every minute of it.

In my first session, my trainer attempted to teach me how to wrap my hands. This was disastrous. It was so easy for him to weave the wraps in and around my hands, but trying to follow his pattern was like watching the Jumbotron at a sports game with the 3 cups and a ball game.  I never know which cup the ball is under after they mix them all up. After my 3 failed attempts to do it myself, we just gave up, and he still wraps my hands to this day.  Off to a good start.

After the hand wrapping fiasco, I started learning how to throw a simple punch, which when you really get down to it, isn’t so simple. I was bad. Really bad. So bad that my trainer has no problem telling anyone who asks, “At first she very bad, but now only a little bit bad.” I take that as a great compliment because when I started, whatever I was doing didn’t resemble boxing at all. I couldn’t follow simple combos and would “punch” left when I was supposed to go right. My trainer has always been extremely patient with me, but that may be because I bring him American candy and teach him bad words in English. There is a serious learning curve, but I love it because it’s something that challenges my mind and body at the same time and every day, I get a little bit better (I tell myself this, it’s unverified).

For anyone considering trying Muay Thai, beware, the initial physical side effects can seem somewhat alarming. My arms were covered in bruises, so much so that a woman came up to me in a public bathroom and told me there are people who can help me. My knuckles were beat up because my form wasn’t correct and after each session my hands shook uncontrollably and when I wrote on the whiteboard at school, you’d think it was the first time I had ever held a pen. But now, while my ability has only improved from very bad to a little bit bad, all of these side effects are long gone.

After learning basic upper body stuff for a few weeks, we moved to lower body. Hilarity ensued. To be able to kick, you have to have good balance and flexibility, neither of which I possess. I have uncontrolled power, but I can only stand on one foot for about 7 seconds and on a good day, touching my toes is more like touching my shins. This is a dangerous combination, not for me, but for my trainer’s nose. I haven’t kicked him yet though.  Soon enough. Imagine a kick called the crocodile. You have to kick with the top of your right foot while spinning around and landing a second kick with the heel of your left foot, like the tail of a crocodile. I can’t even describe what I looked like doing this, but all of the trainers in the gym stopped what they were doing and watched me like, what the….?? I still can’t do it, nor do I think I will ever be able to, and I am at peace with that. I am just not built like a crocodile.

For anyone thinking about learning Muay Thai, I would totally recommend it. I have a couple pieces of advice. First, don’t worry if you have no experience, you have to start somewhere and it’s better to learn the correct form from the beginning so you don’t develop bad habits. Second, if you’re not in great shape, don’t be scared away. You can start slow, and it’s such a fun workout that you’ll start noticing changes in your body really fast. Lastly, find a trainer or a group that you can laugh with because chances are, you’re going to feel like an idiot for at least 50% of the time, or in my case 90% of the time. If you’re not having fun and laughing, what’s the point? Harness your inner crocodile and give it a shot. Just remember to duck when someone tries to kick you in the head. I’ll never make that mistake again!

My gear

My gear

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