Friday, August 1, 2014

Training Videos from Nongnapat and Footage from Rajadamnern Stadium

I'm now back in Raleigh, after getting in on Wednesday around 11am. I barely made my connecting flight in Philly due to a mistagged bag and backups at security. For the first time, I got to be that person running through the terminal at a full clip. I made it to the gate just as the woman was announcing the final boarding call for my flight. Unfortunately, one of my two checked bags did not make it to the flight, but the airline was nice enough to deliver it to my house when it finally arrived.

Below is a video edit of some of my pad work with trainer Banglee from Saturday morning. The rounds at Nongnapat are around 5 minutes long with a 1 minute rest. Like a lot of gyms, there is no round timer. Here, the trainers just watch a clock that is posted over the ring. This means that rounds can end up being anywhere from 3-5 minutes long. Banglee is pretty accurate in his round timings though, and when I reviewed the video, I was surprised at how close each round was to five minutes. Watching these videos makes me realize how much I need to work on turning my hip over when I kick. Banglee was constantly telling me 'more hip.' I think my technique is generally better on the bag, but during pads I get tired and lazy and resort to punting my kicks in.

 I also got some footage of sparring. As is typical in many Thai gyms, sparring is very light and playful. You can tell we are having a lot of fun in the video. The good thing about sparring with Banglee, or you padholder in general, is that they can find your weak points in sparring and work them on the pads. For example, I had a terrible time with checking back leg kicks from Banglee who is a southpaw. He noticed this in sparring and would drill this a lot during padwork.

I really enjoyed my week of training with Banglee who held pads, sparred, and clinched with me about 90% of the time I was at Nongnapat. Banglee seems to have a passion for teaching Muay Thai, and being a trainer and holding pads is not just a job for him, it is something he loves to do.

On Monday night before leaving Thailand to return to the states, Linda and I decided to watch some Muay Thai at Rajadamnern stadium. We took the BTS skytrain from Sukhumvit to Ratchathewi and from there grabbed a Tuk Tuk to the stadium.

Linda's first Tuk-Tuk ride.

There wasn't a big event at the stadium, so it was only about half full, but there were still some great fights. Most of them were among the lower weight classes from 103 to 120 pounds. The main even was between Superjek So Yophinda and Ritthikrai Kaewsamrit. It was an exciting fight and I filmed the 4th round which was a clinch battle. The stadium was pretty loud during this bout and I wanted to capture the atmosphere, but my camera didn't pick up the sound all that well. Superjek (red) was laying in tons of knees from the clinch and dropped Rittikrai and one point, but Rittikrai later responded with some nice uppercuts.

Linda and I with Superjek

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Headfirst Back Into Bangkok

Sadly we left Rawai today. Linda returned to the gym yesterday from Kata for a couple training sessions before we both flew back to Bangkok. Nongnapat gym turned out to be a great choice for training. Much like Sitmonchai, I really felt a part of the family, and that they would have done anything to accommodate me while I was there. I also got some great training, worked hard, and put in 11 training sessions over the course of 6 days (I've got over 30 minutes of video footage to edit when I get to Raleigh as well).
With our trainers after the last session.
The gym manager, Cha Cha, was kind enough to motorbike us around Phuket the last couple days as well. Taking three grown adults on one underpowered 120cc motorbike onto the roads of Thailand is quite the experience. We precariously scooted around taking in some last minute sights including the Fightlab shop, Nai Harn Beach, and Promthep Cape (again for me).

I was having fun at least...and being totally safe.
Nai Harn Beach
Elephant tribute thing at Promthep Cape. And Linda.
Cha Cha, Linda, and I at Promthep Cape.
Flying Bangkok Airways is always a nice treat. They have a Boutique Lounge for all customers, even the lowly economy class scrubs like me and not just business travelers who rack up a million frequent flyer miles on corporate dime. The one at Phuket airport had free wifi, coffee, juice, pizza snacks, almond muffins, pineapple danishes, and more. Linda and I pretty much had the place to ourselves for like an hour. All this plus a full in flight meal for a ticket that cost less than $100 round trip. Why can't US airlines provide this level of service?
Living it up in the Bangkok Airways boutique lounge.
After arriving in Bangkok, the only logical way to overcome the depression of leaving Rawai and our new friends at Nongnapat was to hit up Soi Cowboy. No buddhist holiday this time meant that it was on. I'm not sure if this is a family friendly blog or not, but I'll just say we had a couple beers at Toy Bar and The Dollhouse and leave it with this picture of the soi:

After literally getting dragged into some other bar by the girls outside and refusing to buy 200 baht beers, we decided it was time to leave. I was reeling from a bit of sensory overload. Linda however was ready to dive full into Bangkok street life, so we headed out in search of some street food which she had been avoiding for the last couple weeks for fear of getting sick. First up was a pad see ew vendor. She stir fried it up fresh for us right there and we promptly devoured it on the spot. Linda then wanted to find some rambutan fruit, but the late night fruit scene was not very happening. We settled for some ko moo yang (grilled pork neck) at the end of the soi that our hotel is on, and it was amazing.

Pad See Ew vendor prepares us some food in a blur.

Linda pointing out the source of tomorrow's diarrhea.

Street eatin'.
  A good first night back in Bangkok. Tomorrow is shopping and hopefully catching some live Muay Thai at Rajadamnern Stadium.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Rain and Rejuvenation at Promthep Cape

After nine 2+ hour training sessions in 4.5 days, I needed a break. I decided to walk from the gym at Rawai Beach up to Promthep Cape which is the southern most point on Phuket Island. I had wanted to go yesterday, but the rain never let up. The weather this afternoon looked ominous, but I was determined. I put on my swim trunks, put my wallet and camera in a ziplock, and headed out. It was about a 2.5 km walk to the cape, and the rain held out for a few hours, though it was quite windy. Promthep Cape was beautiful, and I hiked down to the rocky point and had it all to myself. It was very peaceful and I just sat out there for a couple hours and relaxed.

After awhile it started to rain and looked like it was going to get pretty dicey, so I started back up the trail. On the way back up I noticed this cool little cove that reminded me of Pirate's Cove near San Francisco. While checking it out, I totally noticed some soi dogs in the cove. There were no signs of people anywhere, and I'm not sure how the dogs got there. If it wasn't about to monsoon, I totally would have found a way down there and checked it out. Maybe Sunday morning I will. I want to find out what these cove dogs are up to.

I got drenched on the 2.5 km walk home, and about an hour after I got back the rain became a full fledged raging storm. See the video below. There is also a picture of the longtail boat that Linda and I took to Coral Island.
Longtail boat to Coral Island.

View of Nongnapat Muay Thai Gym from the boat.

Storm clouds over Promthep.

Path down to the rocky point of Promthep Cape.

Another Shot of the path to the point.

Self-timer action. The wind was so strong it blew me off balance.

View from where I sat watching the waves crash.

View of Ko Kaeo Yai.

Cove dogs.

Zoomed out view of the isolated cove with the cove dogs.

Cove dogs taking shelter from the rain.

Future (maybe current) plague dog.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Rawai and Nongnapat Muay Thai

I left Bangkok on Sunday, and was sad to be leaving 96 Penang, as the trainers there were great and really gave me a lot of corrections on my techniques and taught me a lot. The Thai boys never really warmed up to me at all, but I understand that. They are their to try and fight their way out of poverty, and I'm just some privileged tourist who likes Muay Thai.

From Bangkok I flew to Phuket with Linda who I met up with again for a few days. Flying domestically within Thailand on Bangkok Airways was awesome. They had a lounge for economy class passengers with a nice little buffet that had orange juice, water, coffee, mini sandwiches, calzones, chocolate muffins, and sticky rice deserts. They even fed us a full meal on the hour and a half flight that had a sandwich, potato salad, and a piece of coffee cake. All for a flight that cost just a little over $90 round trip. I love Bangkok Airways. 
Economy Class Buffet from Bangkok Airways
 From the Phuket airport we headed to Nongnapat Muay Thai in Rawai. The gym just opened in February, and they just recently finished the onsite accommodations. It is really nice here, and the gym is right across the street from Rawai beach. Rawai beach is more of a working beach, not much of a swimming beach, as all the fishing boats leave from here. It is still really scenic though. I believe that Linda and I are the first people to stay at the gym, and we have the place to ourselves including the pool. Linda heads off to Kata tomorrow and I'll be on my own.
Linda with her soi kitten that she named fok thong (pumpkin) and promptly never saw again.

View of the cute little bungalows we are staying in.

View of the gym. You can see the beach in the background.

The Pool and bungalows at night.

The beach across from the street from the gym.
 So far training here is really good, and happens twice a day. I ran 2 miles before the morning session which is from 8-9:30, and then did 2.5 miles before the afternoon session that is from 4-6pm. The trainer I've been working with is a great pad holder and works a lot of fun combinations in addition to correcting my technique. The gym is not very crowded right now, and there usually only about 4-6 people along with Linda and I, so we get good attention and they are not just trying to tire us out and get us through pad rounds which is common at many of the more touristy gyms on Phuket. Training consists of running, 3 rounds of shadowboxing, 5 rounds on pads, 5 rounds on bags, and then 3-5 rounds of sparring or clinching with the trainer, which is awesome. I'll leave with some photos from sparring.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Mai mi Khao Niao

Afternoon at 96 Penang Gym
I'm going to be pretty spent by the end of the week as I'm feeling pretty worn down already. I had plans to get in some morning sessions at a couple different gyms, but I doubt the training would be near as good anywhere else as it is at 96 Penang. I've decided that I'll just run on my own in the mornings. I've been doing about 3-6 miles in Lumphini Park which is basically across form where I'm staying. I then eat breakfast, relax, and maybe take a nap before afternoon training.

Here's what training looks like at 96 Penang for me; I'm currently the only foreigner here. I leave the hotel at 3pm and walk the 2km to the gym, stopping at Tesco to pick up a 2 liter water for 12 baht (37 cents). I get to the gym about 3:30 and begin skipping rope. The Thais get back from their run about this time too and we all skip for 15-20 minutes. Then it's in to the ring for clinching, at which point I become the last kid picked on the playground. I can hear the Thais using the word for foreigner, and know they are all trying to avoid being the one who ends up clinching with me. This is because I (like a lot of foreigners) suck at the clinch, and clinching with me does nothing to help them get better. After 15-20 minutes of clinch work I get called out of the ring for shadowboxing. I'll shadow box for another 15-20 minutes while one of the trainers watches over me to correct anything I'm doing wrong, which is usually everything. Then it's on to pad rounds. I do 3-5 x 4 minute rounds on pads with either Kraisuvit, who is very playful and fun with his padwork, or Sricoon who is very technical and always correcting me. After padwork I hop on a bag to work on everything I just learned for 3-5 rounds. Finally i finish out with 200 skipping knees on the bag and then teep an old utility pole 100 times. Then it's time to walk the 2km back to my hotel, sometimes stopping to buy post workout fruit from a street vendor.

I also did some research and found that the Lumphini park area is actually a little hotspot for Isan food. The only drawback is that the street isan food is on the exact opposite corner of the park from where I'm at making it a longer post-training walk than I'd care for (I'm being cheap and avoiding taxis). But there are two Isan restaurants closer, and I decided to try Northeast restaurant tonight. I ordered som tum (green papaya salad), deep fried pork neck, and of course sticky rice. Well after I order the waiter who doesn't speak much English comes back and says "mai mi khoa niao". Hearing the word mai I knew that he was trying to tell me they were out of sticky rice. How does that happen in Thailand? I'm pretty sure that even with my limited Thai I could get a 10lb bag of it delivered via motorbike taxi within 10 minutes. Perhaps they just forgot to soak it. Disappointing, as I had to eat the far inferior regular kind of rice. On the bright side, if there is anything better than grilled pork neck, it is most certainly deep fried pork neck.

Monday, July 14, 2014

96 Penang

Yesterday was Sunday, which is rest day for most gyms, although Fighting Spirit does have a Sunday afternoon training. I decided not to train, and just did some exploring after watching the Channel 7 Muay Thai fights on TV. The main event featured Jomhod Eminent Air vs. Chiabkom Sitjagun. It is definitely worth watching as Jomhod put on a technical performance and used some great boxing all while smiling the whole fight.

Muay Thai on TV. So awesome.

As I was walking around exploring the Sathorn area of Bangkok, I scouted out one gym that I knew the street of and actually stumbled upon another that I wasn't looking for. I may try to get in a morning session at each of them this week.

The gym that I've decided to spend most of my time training at this week is 96 Penang. 96 Peneng is located underneath a highway overpass in the Klong Toei slums of Bangkok. It is only about 2km from where I am staying, so I walked the first km to the intersection of Rama IV road and Sunthorn Kosa Rd. I could have walked the whole way, but I didn't really know where it was and I heard the motorbike taxi drivers would know (the gym has no address as it is not on a road but under a bridge). So I stopped at the nearest motorbike taxi stand and using my perfect Thai said "kai muay gaao-sip-hok Penang." The guys all start shadow boxing, so I figure they must know where it's at, perfect. I get on the appointed motorbike, the driver goes about 50 feet, and stops to ask a songthaew driver for directions. He must have gotten it because soon we speed off. Nope. At the next stoplight he starts asking the guy on the motorbike next to us for directions. Why did he agree to take me somewhere that he didn't even know where it was? I guess he didn't want to lose the 20 baht (65 cents) I was going to pay him. Well the directions he got were good enough, and soon I recognized where to go from pictures I'd seen on the internet.

Despite being in the slums, the training I got here was some of the best I've had in Thailand. I was seriously impressed with the amount of effort and attention that the two trainers put in to me and correcting my technique seeing as it was only my first time there. Training consisted of Jumping rope, shadow boxing, pad rounds, and bag rounds. They don't have a round timer, but I think I got 2 x 10 minute rounds with one trainer and 1 x 5 minute round with Kaisuvit, the head trainer. No matter what I was doing (shadow, pads, bag) they would keep an eye on me and correct anything they saw wrong in my technique. Tomorrow I'll probably get some clinch work in as well; today I think they just wanted to see where I was at skill wise before sending me to clinch which they do first thing.

Here's the only picture I took of the gym. I'll get more this week and maybe some videos. I didn't want to look like a gym tourist taking a million pictures on my first time there.

After training I walked the 2km back to the hotel, it was a nice cool down. After showering I went out to get dinner and had my favorite Thai meal, Ko Moo Yang (grilled pork neck) with nam jim jaew (dried chili dipping sauce), khao niao (sticky rice), and fresh raw vegetables. I need to find some Isaan street food in this neighborhood though so I don't have to pay 170 baht (~$5) for this meal at a restaurant. I'll work on that tomorrow.

The rest of the plan for tomorrow is to get up at 6am and run about 10km in Lumphini Park, rest and then head to 96 Penang for afternoon training (they only train in the afternoon, just running in the am).

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Fighting Spirit Gym, Cabbages & Condoms Restaurant

I arrived in Thailand Thursday night after a rather uneventful 20 some hours of flying. Friday I roamed Bangkok with a woman (Linda) from the gym I train at back in Raleigh who is also here. It was her first time here, so I showed her the ropes of the public transit in Bangkok. We rode the BTS skytrain and MRT subway to a number of places. The first place we went was this great little shop called Action Zone to pick up some Muay Thai supplies. I didn't get a whole lot, just some anklets and handwraps. In total we got 3 pairs of shorts, 4 pairs of anklets, 3 paris of wraps, a t-shirt, and jersey for about $78. Not bad. The shop is owned by a nice old lady who gave us free water, a towel, and a nice discount. It is packed floor to ceiling with gear.

Our next stop was Lumpinee park. It's a nice city park for walking (it is very uncrowded in the afternoon) and checking out the enormous monitor lizards.
Lake in Lumpinee Park

Pretty yellow-footed bird.
 After Lumpinee park we headed to Saphan Taksin to get a view of the Chao Praya river.

Finally, curiosity got the best of us and we ended with a visit to Soi Cowboy. Unfortunately (or fortunately) Friday was a buddhist holiday and it was dead because alcohol sales are restricted.
Soi Cowboy
 The only plan for Saturday was to head to the Boon shop (another Muay Thai gear company) around 11am so I could get gloves for training. We had some time to kill before 11 so we headed in to the Terminal 21 mall. Malls in Thailand are huge, and by the time I get to the seventh or so floor I fear riding the escalators due to my fear of heights. This mall had nine floors.

When we got to the Boon shop, it appeared closed even though their facebook page said they'd be open from 11-3. It appeared that someone was there, because the garage door entrance was partially open. After calling twice and being told they weren't going to open, two other groups of foreigners showed up to shop, so we finally poked our head in and yelled hello. The girl came to the front, looked at us like we were crazy (whoever posts to their facebook must not have told her they we supposed to be open), and said she'd open the store in 10 minutes. I ended up getting some sexy dark brown gloves, a jersey, t-shirt, and some custom shorts which I pick up in a week.
Boon Gear

More Boon Gear

Satin ready to be made into Muay Thai shorts

Sale bin. Gloves with slight defects for $20.
 After getting new gloves, I was ready to train, but first we had to eat. We had seen something about a restaurant called Cabbages & Condoms so we decided to go since it was near by. I'm glad we did. It is an awesome little place with great food. The best part though is that it is owned by a non-profit that supports contraception and family planning among other things like school building. They have a gift shop with some pretty great souvenirs. The restaurant also has some fantastic condom art. Instead of mints with your check, you get condoms. 

About Cabbages & Condoms from their menu.

Banner hanging at the entrance to the Cabbages & Condoms.

Memory Dicks. Who doesn't need one of those?

Outside dining on the terrace.

My meal. Fried Fish Cakes. Yes, that is sticky rice in the background.

There was about 4 or 5 other life size condom people.
  After eating, we rested a bit at the hotel and then took the BTS to Silom to get some training in at Fighting Spirit Gym. Fighting Spirit is a great little gym for drop in sessions. You can show up anytime between 7-9am or 3-7pm and you'll get 5 pad rounds after warming up. You are then pretty much left on your own to do bag rounds and conditioning if you want. There were not any Thais training there, but you could probably get some of the Thai trainer to spar or clinch with you if you wanted. I didn't ask because I had to gas left after my bag rounds. I didn't get many pictures, because I was exhausted after we started training and completely forgot. I skipped for about 10 minutes, did 1 round of shadow boxing, 1 bag round, 5 x 3 minute rounds on pads, and finished with 2 more bag rounds. After that I was DONE. I was a sweaty mess, and just decided to wear my training gear back to the hotel instead of putting my clean clothes on. I almost felt bad for my fellow passengers on the BTS. Almost.
Sign by the entrance. You have to walk through an old cemetery to get there.

The walk up to the gym.

First session since arriving and it was rough.
Muay Thai commuter.
Linda heads out on a tour of northern Thailand tomorrow so I'll be on my own. I'm staying in Bangkok for now and will be visiting some more gyms I haven't been to and just exploring the city.