What Noone Told Me About Muay Thai

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When I first started training Muay Thai, I did it for exercise, slowly falling in love with it, and eventually leading me to fight. After deciding to fight, I knew it was going to be a whole new level of the sport physically, but noone told me how much I was going to cry, or feel, or be mentally challenged.

Amongst the emotional struggles for me was frustration and anger, as well as thinking I wasn’t good enough or ready. These emotions came out as tears, which I wasn’t expecting. I have never been one to have a hard time expressing my emotions, or crying when I’m upset or angry, but in the middle of training? In front of a gym full of people? That was different to me.

I’m in the middle of fight training right now for my 4th fight, and after having time off from fighting because of injuries, I almost forgot how emotional I get. I cried in the gym two days in a row.

The first time I cried, I was sparring with Aof. He’s an experienced fighter, a young Thai man who I usually enjoy sparring or clinching with. He can go very hard, but for the most part, I always feel like I can handle him, even if I’m just defending and getting a couple shots in. This particular day, we went a bit harder than usual. I heard my main trainer, Sanook, saying things to him, and I can only assume he was telling him to put on the pressure to get me ready for my fight, which I can appreciate. But, it felt different this time. It felt like Aof was trying to get me to my breaking point. He liver kicked me twice, broke a contact lense into three pieces in my eye. He could feel my frustration. He knew I was giving him everything I could. He knows that there is no contest in our skill levels, and as a crowd formed around the ring to watch us sparring, he began to go harder, proving that he was dominant, and I could never win. To me, that was obvious the whole time. I didn’t understand why he felt like he had to prove that to everyone. It pissed me off and my anger took over. He was able to get me in a position I couldn’t get out of without him breaking it, and the whole while, I’m struggling, and he’s laughing, along with another young Thai fighter, Big.

I completely lost my ability to conceal my emotions – anger, embarassment, frustration, doubt – and by the time the tears started rolling, he finally let me go and I sprinted out of the ring trying to hold onto whatever dignity I still had, while every spectator watched. In that moment, I questioned if I was even ready to fight again. I had forgotten this part of training.

I let the jai lawn (hot heart) take over, instead of keeping a jai yen (cool heart), and that embarassed me. It’s something I actively remind myself of – keeping a jai yen. I realized I needed go back into the gym and keep going, even though I was so angry and humiliated. As soon as I stepped back on the mat, nobody had even skipped a beat. Nobody asked me if I was okay – it was as though everybody either felt bad for me, or they were shaming me for my jai lawn. Or maybe I was just completely overthinking the entire thing.

As training ended, I did abs on my own so I could get out of there early. I didn’t want to be there any longer. I cried on my way home, feeling sorry for myself and vowing to do better the next day.

Entering the gym the next day, I still felt a little bit awkward about the previous day’s event. Everyone acted normal, except for Aof. He wouldn’t even look in my direction. Training was fine, and it came time for clinching. One of the trainers joked that I could clinch with Aof and I just said “no, thanks!” opting to clinch with Big. Before we could even begin, I heard Big and Aof talking and laughing, recognizing song loy (200 baht) and sam loy (300 baht), meaning they were talking about money, or making a bet about something. I immediately didn’t have a very good feeling.

The next thing you know, Big is completely annihilating me in the clinch. Once again, I felt helpless, but continued on, not wanting to give up or give Big and Aof something else to laugh about. He unleashed the beast on me, and I crumbled, already pretty shattered from the previous day’s disasterous sparring session. I turned away, and just sat at the back of the ring, trying to control myself, as Big and Aof errupted into a laughing fit, probably figuring out who owed the other money. I was really upset and their reaction just brought on a ton of hot tears rolling down my face.

Nook, the oldest trainer at the gym, came over to me and in the limited English he knows, really tried to make me feel better, telling me mai bpen rai (don’t worry). I could truly sense his genuine compassion and I appreciated it, but was unable to say that. Sanook realized I was really upset and came over, first just asking if I was hurt because at this point I was bright red, unable to catch my breath, and tears streaming – a hot mess. I just unleashed a straight sentence of profanity, which I have never done in front of anyone at the gym or any Thai in general, not caring at all how it made me appear. I was so so angry that Aof and Big’s goal had not been to help me or teach me, but to hurt me mentally and maybe even physically.

Sanook assured me that crying is part of the process and it’s okay to be upset – that if I were to ask any trainer in the gym if they had cried during their early Muay Thai days, they would say “yes, of course.” He emphasized this point, and told me to look at Bas, our 12-year-old fighter, who cries almost everyday. I reminded him that Bas is 12 and I’m 26, but it made me realize that even though we are different in age, we are still at the same point in our Muay Thai careers – just beginners.

This sort of situation is a part of earning your stripes – being broken down in the gym so that it doesn’t happen during an actual fight. I understand this, and have understood this since training for my first fight. This time just felt different.

I’ve been at Lanna a long time, and the trainers and fighters have become my family and support system – a home away from home. I rely on them emotionally, especially when I have a fight coming up. This felt like a betrayal of sorts. I told a friend about it and she mentioned that they were just acting like “brothers”, but I’ve never had siblings, and I honestly still can’t figure out if they were trying to help me or hurt me.

As a couple of weeks have passed, and Aof and Big fail to acknowledge my existence anymore, I can’t help but wonder what really happened. Sanook says they just think I’m mad at them and don’t want to reach out to me, but it makes me wonder if there are layers of Thai culture stacked on top of this situation that I will never understand. All I know is that I would hate to return to the U.S. in April never talking to my “brothers” again.

Huay Tung Tao

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I wanted to write a post about one of my favorite places to go in Chiang Mai that is a little bit off the beaten path, but is easily accessible if you’re up for a short motorbike ride.

ผลการค้นหารูปภาพสำหรับ huay tung taew

Huay Tung Tao is a little lake that is off of Canal Road in Chiang Mai. It’s about a 15 minute drive from the Huay Kaew area of CM, and totally worth it. You can take a songtaew there, but I personally think it is easier and faster if you take a motorbike.

If you’re in need of a motorbike for your adventure to the lake or anywhere else, you can visit Vanessa’s Motorbike Hire, which is conveniently located in the Huay Kaew area, where you can easily hop on Canal Road and be on your way to the lake. Vanessa and Robin, the couple that owns the shop, are wonderful people and will help you with whatever you need. I have been renting from them for almost a year, and whenever I have had an issue, albeit super minor and only once or twice, they have taken care of it quickly and efficiently. Additionally, they just really care about you. I’ve gotten into two very small accidents and they first and foremost wanted to make sure that I was okay – there weren’t even questions about the bike. My first accident, I hit someone’s car and Robin was available to talk on the phone, offering to even come out to the scene which wasn’t necessary, but a very nice gesture. He even followed up with me later that day to make sure everything turned out okay. It gives me peace of mind to rent from people who are caring, honest, and just great people. The prices are reasonable, as well.  I couldn’t ask for a better deal.

Anyway, you’ll have to pay a 50 baht entrance fee, unless you go before 6:30 am. Now, you’re probably thinking, why on earth would I want to go before 6:30 am?! Well, it’s a really nice place to run – we run around the lake for the morning muay thai training session and it’s just a nice view with sun rising and the peacefulness of it all.

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Another way to enjoy the lake is to have lunch at one of the little straw huts! I always enjoy having lunch at the lake – the view is beautiful, the food is amazing and you can just lounge around for hours. You can stuff yourself with some fried fish with herbs, which I highly recommend, dancing shrimp (live shrimp that are put in a bowl with chili and herbs, and the spice ends up killing the shrimp – sounds weird but it’s actually delicious), and some beers and then take a nice relaxing nap. It’s the perfect way to spend a lazy Sunday.

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Third Time’s a Charm

First thing’s first – I changed the name of my blog to ‘Double Life.’ I made the name change because over the course of being here, the thing that people always comment on is that I apparently lead a ‘double life’ by teaching preschool children by day and training/fighting by night. The contrast of the two fascinates people and so I thought it would be an appropriate change! 🙂

Anyway, like the title of this post says, third time’s a charm! I won my third fight (September 24th) in the second round by TKO.

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THAT FEELING THOUGH.

I’ve never felt something so exhilarating as winning that fight. I worked so fucking hard physically and mentally and it paid off. I walked into Tha Pae stadium with the intent to get the win and I wouldn’t be leaving without it.

I felt completely prepared for this fight. I was training extremely hard, really giving it everything I had. I was also trying out mental training, which I mentioned I would be doing in my last post. I read Relentless by Tim Grover and I felt connected to his words, actually using some of them as ‘mantras’ for light meditation.

I was the last fight, which is usually the case, and I was pacing, just ready to get in the ring and get the energy out of me. During my first fight, of course I wanted to win, but I was honestly just proud of myself for getting in there that I didn’t go into it with such an intense intentions. I was just happy to fight five rounds without getting injured. During my second fight, I was nervous as all hell, felt too much pressure from my corner, and didn’t feel very prepared, resulting in not the greatest experience. My third fight — I wanted to take matters into my own hands. I wanted to own my feelings, own the experience, own my actions — and I wanted to own that win.

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Dang had been very adamant about helping Amy and I with our kicking speed/technique leading up to our fights (we fought the same night – I fought at Tha Pae, Amy fought at Chiang Mai Boxing Stadium), so we had to do this torturous drill where we just kicked each other as fast as we could until he told us to stop. As much as we disliked the drill, it really did help – we both saw great improvement in our speed and accuracy. Anyway, because of this drill, I just really wanted to come out kicking, which is what I did, but my kicks weren’t coming up high enough, so my opponent and I kept kicking each other right in the shins – holy shit did that hurt. Early on, my right shin was feeling pretty rough, and you could tell by my body language and facial expression. There was no hiding it.

After the first round, I knew my right shin couldn’t take much more so I was going to have to go into the second round aggressive. My corner was hyping up combos, so that’s what I focused on and it worked. I threw a jab and then a kick, and it worked every time. Then, I was able to throw some elbows (although not the cleanest) to her head, which caused her to spit up a bit, and she got an 8-count from the ref. After that, she was just mentally finished, but we continued, and I kept on with the jab kick combo. Shortly after, they called the fight and I won by TKO.

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You can watch the video of my fight below (if you can’t see it, please let me know and I can post it on Facebook! trying out this embedded video thing for the first time):

As you can see in the video, I was fucking HYPED when I got the win. Winning this fight meant so much to me. I felt so prepared and confident for this fight but of course I was nervous — more so nervous because if I didn’t win this fight, I was thinking I would have to reconsider fighting, and that really would have been a sad decision to make.

This fight reinforced everything that everyone had been telling me — to be my own biggest fan, not worry so much about what everyone else thinks, and to just work hard.

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Unfortunately, I sprained my ankle during this fight and tried training on it for a week after because I can be stubborn and was worried my trainers would think I was being lazy, but after consulting a doctor, I decided to take some time off. I took a little over a week off from training and the swelling completely went down, as did the bruising.

It was kind of nice to have some time off but by the end, I was ready to get back to the gym. Everything was going well, my ankle felt fine – I was pumped. Day 3 of training rolls around and I’m feeling good! One of the trainers started messing around and wanting to clinch towards the end of training, so I just kind of let him jump on me and throw some knees as I stood there helpless, until he jumped and kneed me super hard in the rib on my right side. I keeled over in pain, and I immediately knew that he hit the rib I injured during my first fight. I was so pissed but tried not to show it. Dang saw what happened and said something to the trainer – I assume something along the lines of “Why would you do that when you know she has had this ongoing rib injury?” I was already in a lot of pain and I knew that now I was back at square one with this injury. Rib injuries take a very long time to heal and I was towards the end of my healing process with this one, only to have it completely fucked again.

That night I got home from the gym, iced my ribs, rubbed some thai herbal balm into it and tried to sleep, although I couldn’t get comfortable for obvious reasons. The next day I thought I would still train, so I started off as I usually do with a run, but it was apparent that I was going to have a rough day. The run was just okay, and when I got back to the gym, I went to jump rope and absolutely could not. Then, I tried bag work, which felt fine – not great, but at least I could go at my own pace and take it easy. Dang called me over for padwork and with every sharp movement, I was clearly grimacing and making some noises that made Dang stop padwork. He said “Nope! You cannot,” and as he walked me over to the bench, he said something again to the trainer who hurt me, which I think was something like “See! Look what you did.”

Dang then said to me “You cannot train. You need to heal. This injury you’ve had so long now. It needs to get better. I don’t want you to come here, pay money to train, and you can’t go 100%. Keep doing what you can – running, fitness – and when you’re ready, come back.”

It felt good to have Dang on my side and know that he was looking out for my best interest, but I was also really disappointed because I know that this will take a long time to heal.

In an effort to help speed up the healing process, I decided to try taking this thai herbal medicine called Ya Nam La Damphon (Sylvie has also written about this – you can read her post here). Essentially, it’s a laxative that’s meant to rid the body of toxins and help you heal faster from injuries. Pom tells us to take it after fights if we’re hurt, hoping to speed up the healing process. It isn’t sold in pharmacies anymore from what Pom told me, so I bought some off of her for 40 baht from her stash. I’ve taken it once before, but it actually didn’t work – it just gave me crazy nightmares and I didn’t go to the bathroom at all. So, the day after Dang told me to take it easy, I decided to take the day to rid my body of the toxins. I was told to drink only a little – about 4 – 6 oz. I woke up and drank this stuff on an empty stomach as I was told to do, around 9:30 am. Well, 11:30 am rolls around and I’m feeling fine – just a few stomach gurgles. I started getting really hungry so I decided to have a granola bar and some water. Within 20 minutes, I was in the bathroom. I was surprised that it took so long to get through my system (over 2 hrs), but maybe the food and water helped. I was also surprised by how quickly it was over – I mean, within 45 minutes I was completely finished. Unfortunately though, it didn’t make a difference with my ribs. Oh well, at least I tried!

Now that I can’t go to training, I have been running, lifting weights, and doing some plyometrics to keep myself in shape. My ribs have actually started to feel worse, not better, and I can now pin point exactly where the pain is coming from, where as I couldn’t when this first happened. I’m applying heat and rubbing thai herbal balm on it still, but it just doesn’t feel like it’s getting better yet. I guess I’m a bit impatient. 🙂

 

Second Fight and all the Feels

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Leading up to my second fight I was training really hard, but I honestly didn’t feel confident or mentally ready. Two of my trainers were pushing me mentally to a point that I didn’t feel prepared or good enough to fight.

I had been putting in the work physically — sprinting and running, faster padwork rounds, correcting a lot of technique with knees/punching, my stance, etc., but their voices inside my head were constant.

When you spend so much time with your trainers, you cultivate wonderful friendships, and you can joke around and have fun. But, there comes a point when the joking sometimes doesn’t feel like a joke anymore and feels more like criticism. Okay, so what if my punches aren’t my strongest suit? I work on them to get better, but when someone is constantly making fun of you because your punches aren’t what they want them to be, that doesn’t make you feel very good. You laugh it off, but those ‘jokes’ linger in your head.

Training takes a lot of space in my mind. If I have a bad day at training, I usually can’t just leave it at the gym — I take it home with me. I think about what I did wrong, why I didn’t feel my best that day, and how my trainer looked at me like “what’s wrong? what are you doing?” I put a lot of pressure on myself and when I don’t perform well, I’m left feeling like shit.

So, the day of the fight rolls around. I’m already not feeling good, as one of my trainers had told me just the night before, “I don’t want you to fight — I don’t want you to get hurt.” I had to work that day, so I went home after school, rested up for an hour or so and then started to get ready. I went over to the gym around 7:00 pm, ate dinner and then waited until it was time to go to Tha Pae Stadium.

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There was some confusion about my opponent that day, so I was a little uneasy, thinking I was having a rematch with the girl from my first fight. Turns out, I fought someone completely different. She was shorter than me (as most Thai girls are), and my trainer told me she was a bit intimated because of my height, but that didn’t prove to be a problem for her in the end.

I fought 5 full rounds, (again!), and lost on points. I was extremely disappointed and that’s an understatement. We went to the back to take off my my gloves and my trainers just started on me with criticism. I looked at Amy and she knew I was starting to get really upset, so we asked for 5 minutes so that I could go to the bathroom. I couldn’t hold in my tears before we got to the bathroom stall and when we got inside I just cried.

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I thought I did so much better than my first fight, hadn’t I? Hadn’t I taken direction a lot better? Was I THAT terrible that they couldn’t give me a small pat on the back — or at least not yell at me? By the time we got back out there, everyone had left, except one trainer. They thought I had just left instead of going to take a few minutes alone.

Amy and Joe tried to reassure me that I did really well, especially compared to my first fight, that they thought I had won and that after watching the video, I would think I did a lot better, too. But at the time, I just felt like an asshole. I let my gym down and I let myself down, for the second time, and I wanted to crawl in a hole.

2 losses in a row — my first two fights — what a fucking wash. Some of you reading this probably won’t see any of this as being a big deal, but to me it is. When you train your ass off, work so hard towards something, dedicate a huge portion of your life to it and then don’t see the results you thought you would, you get discouraged and start to wonder if it’s even worth it or if you should just give up.

I also hate when people yell at me in public, so when two of the trainers were yelling at me in between rounds, and as soon as I got out of the ring, especially after I had just lost, I was very embarrassed. I am not the type of person who is motivated that way. One of the other trainers noticed that I was not responding well while being yelled at in the ring and we locked eyes and I could see a little bit of sympathy, and he quietly gave me a tip or two. I was thankful for that.

When I came out of the bathroom, we finished taking off my hand wraps and I just wanted to get out of there, but was then criticized for the next hour by my trainer, while still at the stadium and on the way home. By the time I got home, with a black eye already forming, and not being able to really move my jaw, I was ready for a very hot shower and to not think or talk. I couldn’t sleep because everyone’s negativity was swirling in my head and I couldn’t shut my mind off. I probably got 3 hours of sleep and then had to wake up and go to school.

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I fought on August 15 and now, almost two weeks later, I am feeling really unmotivated and I just don’t feel like being in the gym. I’ve still been going and banging out sessions, but there’s no heart in it. After watching the video of my fight, I could see how much I improved. I even thought to myself that it looked like I had won that fight. But, I can’t help hearing those discouraging voices in my head.

I love my gym — they are like my family — but I am holding onto some resentment from this fight and I wish I wasn’t. The head trainer from my gym didn’t come to the fight because he was teaching a private session (he is one of the hardest workers I know and admire him for that), but didn’t tell me couldn’t be there, which disappointed me. I could have used his calmer nature to help level me out during the fight.

I just felt like my gym (maybe not everyone, but my main trainers for this fight) wasn’t behind me for this fight — that they didn’t believe in me — and that is the biggest mind fuck. I feel like the people who train me everyday, who I put my ultimate trust in with this sport, who are not only my trainers, but my friends/family, weren’t supportive and they should be the MOST supportive out of everyone, win or lose. It almost feels like a betrayal of sorts.

After this experience, I’m learning that I need to be my own cheerleader — I can’t rely on others for that. I can’t depend on others to validate that I’m good enough or that I can succeed in this, even if they are the very people who have gotten me to the point of actually fighting. I also can’t take things so personally — I’m sure they aren’t even thinking about any of this anymore, but I still am, and I can’t let go of it.

I still love my trainers, I still love my gym and I still love Muay Thai. I’m not trying to insult my gym or my trainers in the least — my loyalty lies with them –and there’s a part of me wondering if I should even publish this post. But, this is what’s happening and these are my feelings toward it — maybe others have felt the exact same way as me, who knows? Through blogging, you share the good and the bad, and although this wasn’t the most positive experience, I’m hoping something good comes out of it.

Now, I’m trying to get myself back in a good headspace and for me that means taking a few days off from training and coming up with a plan of action to get back on track. I’ve decided that mental training, which I’ve read about on Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu’s blog (8limbs.us) and Emma Thomas’s blog (undertheropes.com) is a good first step. I need to believe in myself more or else my thoughts will consume me to the point where a third fight won’t even be possible because of my lack of confidence and worry that I won’t win.

So, here’s to hoping third time’s a charm and a win is on the horizon.

**You can watch my second fight here: https://youtu.be/wkapjqiHYfA

Life in Chiang Mai and My First Muay Thai Fight

I haven’t written a journal post since I got back from Japan in April.I haven’t written a blog post for longer.

For some reason, I just haven’t felt that inspired to write. Maybe it’s because I’ve been so busy with school and Muay Thai or maybe it’s because I’ve been having a lot of conflicting emotions lately that I honestly don’t feel like putting down on paper.

But, I felt like maybe it was time to put whatever it is aside, and just start writing. It has always made me feel better in the past and maybe it is just what I need.

I’ve been calling Chiang Mai my home for close to 5 months now, and have been teaching amazing little 4 year old children for 3 months here.

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I adore them. Some days my cheeks hurt from smiling so much. They inspire me to be a better teacher and a better person. I always want them to have fun in my class and will do whatever it takes to make sure that happens.

I have one parent who I talk to weekly via LINE (a messenger app that all Thais use) and she told me that her daughter asks her to pretend to be me so they can practice English together at home. She also asks her mother to teach her small English phrases so that she can communicate with me more in the classroom. It seriously makes my heart melt.

I have such an unconditional love for these children. They are so innocent, sweet, and don’t have a bad bone in their tiny bodies. I don’t care if there is green snot running down their noses, or they pee their pants all over the floor in my classroom – I can handle it, and I honestly don’t even care. I would take that any day if it means I get to have the privilege of teaching and loving these angels on a daily basis.

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I sign in to work at 7:50 am, teach my kids and sometimes Thai teachers (2x a week), prep for lessons, write parent newsletters, record grades, etc. before signing out around 3:30 pm.

From school, I drive my motorbike straight to my gym, Lanna Muay Thai.

We’re currently in the middle of rainy season and the sky loves to open up mostly when I’m just leaving school to drive to the gym, so you can often find me wearing my flattering pink poncho while on my bike (insert monkey covering eyes emoji).

Once I get to the gym around 4:00 pm, I change my clothes and get ready to run. Most days, I run 6k, but if I’m feeling tired, I’ll cut that down to a 3, 4 or 5k  – depends on just how tired I am! After my run, I skip rope for maybe 10 minutes, wrap my hands, and shadowbox for 5 minutes. Sometimes I don’t have time to shadowbox and have to jump straight into sparring, which we do about 3 – 4 times a week. The sparring we do at Lanna is quite light, but sometimes us girls get to spar with the Thai boys, which is a treat because they all have so many fights under their belts. Some days they really try to kill you, which is fun and exhausting all at the same time.

We usually spar until someone tells us to stop, maybe 6 – 7 rounds, maybe more sometimes. After sparring, it’s time for bag work until a trainer calls you over for pad work. Then, depending on time, I usually go back to bag work after for a bit to work more on technique. To finish up, it’s time for abs and some arm/leg conditioning. All in all, our afternoon sessions last about 3 hours.

When I just started training back in September and was just doing it for fitness purposes, I didn’t put too much pressure on myself. That has changed. I’m not even sure when my mind changed from “I’ll never fight” to “I really want this”, but every day I’m trying to push myself to be better, learn more, run faster – the list could go on. It’s not even just the physical aspect of this sport – there is so much mental work that goes into it, as well. When my trainers started to train me for my first fight, they were relentless in making sure that I was prepared. I truly appreciate their dedication to making sure I wasn’t going to completely get my ass handed to me. But, that comes with a lot of prep work: long distance running, sprints, sparring every day, clinching every other day, crazy hard pad work sessions, endless drills on the bag, and getting mentally challenged at every turn.

I’m not going to lie, I cried and I cried a lot. I was frustrated because I didn’t feel like I was performing well, or that I wasn’t going to be ready, or that I wasn’t absorbing information quickly enough. I was taking my frustration out during pad work and not having as much fun as usual. I was pissed during most of those sessions. The trainers and the fighters could see that I was getting upset quite easily those days. Sometimes my eyes couldn’t wait until they got home to fill up, so I would get all teary eyed right there. They would joke around, but I took it more as being made fun of and I didn’t like it. They were testing me, and I didn’t know why at the time.

One day, I was sparring with one of the fighters, Aof, and he was just being relentless. I was starting to get tired and he was kicking my ass, and he kicked me in the liver, not once but twice. Anyone who has gotten liver-kicked knows the pain you feel when that happens, and sometimes, it’s hard to continue on. But I did. I was mad as hell. I came back with a vengeance, and ended up getting swept and falling really hard on my back — the wind was completely knocked out of me. That was my breaking point. Aof ran over to me but I did not want to be consoled or apologized to. I was trying to catch my breath and I knew I was about to cry — realllllly cry — so I jumped up as quickly as I could, ripped off my gloves, got out of the ring, and ran as fast as I could to the end of the driveway so I could cry by myself behind a bush. Pathetic, huh?

Bas, our youngest fighter (12yo), knew I was upset and came to check on me, and Aof followed, apologizing and hugging me. Yea, it was a shitty session. But you know what? It made me stronger. A lot stronger. And they were right to continue testing me — they wanted to make sure that I toughened up enough so that if something like that happened in my fight, I would be able to handle it and not run off crying. I understand that now and I appreciate it.

After weeks of working so hard to prove myself, Dang, our head trainer and one of my favorite people of all time, finally told me he thought I was ready to fight.

I was so pumped. I felt like everything I had worked so hard for finally paid off. He took my picture right then and there for the poster that promotes the fight and he sent that along with my weight to the promoter to set it up. I was on cloud nine.

Dang told me I would be fighting a girl we had seen fight at the Super Fight at Warm Up Cafe a few weeks prior. Our fight would only be her second and we were the same height and weight so it was a good match up. I watched her fight and took notes and tried to put together a strategy. I saved a picture of her to my phone and looked at it before training every day. I pictured her face in my head when I would go running, hit pads or during bag work. I wanted to kill her.

Fast forward the day of the fight — I see the poster that promotes my fight, but my opponent isn’t on that poster. I messaged Dang, asking why there was another girl on the poster, and didn’t receive an answer. I knew in my gut that my opponent had changed and it freaked me out. Don’t get me wrong, I had a couple sleepless nights and some butterflies in my stomach leading up to the fight, but overall, I thought I had been relatively calm (my mom probably would say something different), that is until I saw that.

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I had been planning on fighting the one girl, and just like that, it wasn’t her anymore. I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me. I was strategizing against this particular girl for two weeks and now I wasn’t fighting her?! I decided that there wasn’t anything I could do about it and to just relax. It’s actually extremely common in Thailand for stuff like this to happen — most of the time, you don’t know who you are fighting until you get to the stadium the night of your fight.

I bought a new top for the fight and got lunch with Joe and Amy and then rested the remainder of the day until it was time to go to the gym. As soon as I got there, I was all questions about this new opponent: who was she? how old was she? how many fights did she have? when did they find out? Dang told me he forgot to tell me and then Gaan told me she was a champion — a champion?!?! I almost ran out of there. He started laughing hysterically and I felt a little better knowing he was just kidding around.

Before I knew it, it was time to hop in the truck and drive over to Tha Pae stadium. I didn’t feel that nervous though — I felt ready. This was it, what I had been working so hard for. We got into the stadium and I just tried to listen to music and not get too worked up. I saw my opponent and she looked young, a bit thicker than me and she had some of her hair shaved off on the sides. This is something Amy and I have talked about — it’s scary to have an opponent who has a shaved head. It makes them appear more intimidating.

Anyway, I got changed and Gaan started wrapping my hands and I continued to ask him questions about her. I asked him “how old is she? she looks so young” and he responded with “that’s because you’re old” and we all just started laughing. We laughed about that for a good ten minutes. It definitely broke the tension and made me loosen up.

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After my hands were wrapped and I got a Thai oil massage, I shadowboxed for a little bit to warm up my body. Sanook gave me a pep talk, which really meant a lot to me, and before I knew it, it was time to get in the ring. Dang told me “it’s just like sparring” and that was it. I don’t have a Wai Kru (dance that fighters do before the fight to honor their trainers and gym) yet, so I did a simple walk around the ring, wai-ing at each corner. Then, it was time for the first round.

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I felt weirdly calm. In high school, I was always scared shitless before swim meets or games because I felt such pressure to perform well. I would even throw up sometimes before swim meets. But I felt ready, and I felt prepared. The first round proved that — I certainly won that round. Dang kept saying to me “she’s scared of you! push forward!” I was throwing some head kicks and she was backing up.

The 2nd, 3rd and 4th rounds are kind of a blur. I definitely didn’t black out, as some people say happens to them when they fight, but they just kind of morphed into one. She loved teeping (front kicking) me, and I couldn’t catch them or push them out of the way, which is something I’m currently trying to work on. She also was way better at clinching and throwing knees than I was.

5th round and she knew it was a close fight, so she tried to stay away from me so that I couldn’t gain more points.

By the way Dang looked at me, I knew I had lost. Usually, after the fight and before the decision, each fighter goes to the opposite corner to say thank you and get a sip of water. But Dang told me no, so he helped me get out of the ring instead and that was that. I felt disappointed, but it was also a good fight for my first one so I didn’t feel too horrible about it. You can watch the fight video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UaYT6w5r5M&feature=youtu.be

There were tons of foreigners at the stadium who wanted pictures with me, and someone even slipped me a 20 baht tip (haha!). Most of my gym came to the fight, as well as the teachers from my school, so it felt really nice to have a lot of support. I also found out afterward that my opponent had some where between 4 – 10 fights prior to ours. I felt good knowing I could hold my own fighting someone with more experience than me.

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On the way back to the gym, I sat in the bed of the truck with Amy and Adam and we talked about the fight. I felt really accomplished. I had wanted to fight for so long and it finally happened. But I also felt a little sad – I was really concerned that Dang and the other trainers were disappointed in me.

Back at the gym, we had a couple beers and snacks and then called it a night. I was already a bit sore at that point, but nothing terrible.

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Now, I’m still dealing with a rib injury from that fight that will not seem to go away. It keeps getting tapped in training and it’s starting to act up again. Putting a hot compress on it and rubbing tiger balm into it seems to help, so I’m hoping it’s just an injury that will take a bit of time to heal and not something that is serious.

Since my fight, I took a couple days off to heal and go to Koh Samed with school, but now I’m back on the grind.

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The past couple of weeks, I have felt so exhausted and it has been really affecting my training. Running 6k and hitting pads just feels hard for me – I feel slow and my legs feel heavy. In addition to that, someone who left Chiang Mai on bad terms with me back in November is back for some time and is training at the gym, which makes things a bit awkward and brings up unsavory memories. Gotta love gym dynamics, huh? As they say, don’t shit where you eat.

My Lanna Muay Thai family is my core group here — they see me at my best, my worst, my sweatiest, and everything in between. They know by one look if I’m having a rough day or by one laugh if I had the best day ever. They are constantly pushing me and I love them for that, even if some days it may not seem like it.

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Between school and Muay Thai, I don’t have time for much else, but I love my life here. I like my routine and I like that I get to do what I love, whether that’s teaching or training.

That being said, it can also be difficult. When people from school are going on an adventure on a Saturday or going out for drinks on a Friday night after school, I usually have to decline. I don’t drink too much anymore because I don’t want it to affect my training but I also train twice on Saturdays (6:30 – 9:30 am and 4:00 – 7:00 pm) so going out the night before or trying to squeeze something in between is tricky.

This may make me appear to be uninterested in making friends or whatever they may think, but it’s not like that at all. I’m just focused on what I need to do. And sometimes that hinders me from fostering new friendships. Luckily for me, I have an amazing best friend here named Amy. She’s from Florida and her and her boyfriend, Joe, moved here about 3 months ago to train full time. We were a little wary of each at first (girls, right?) but quickly became close friends. I see her every day, talk to her via messenger when we’re apart, and I just enjoy her company. She teaches me new things all the time, she’s an amazing sparring/drilling partner, and our little dance breaks during training are my favorite (even though we get in trouble for messing around sometimes — hehe). I can talk to her about anything and I know that we’re equally there for each other no matter what. We just click — we get each other. It feels really good to have someone like that here because it’s been a while since I’ve felt like that.

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Lately, I’ve been really missing home. I miss having people around me who have known me and loved me for a very long time.

I miss watching movies, drinking tea, and sneaking chocolate with my mom on lazy Friday nights. I miss eating hot dogs and drinking beers with my dad by the pool. I miss snuggling with my fluffy little puppy. I miss going out for drinks with friends down the shore. I miss waking up to the bay right outside my window. I miss constantly having people to just hang around with.

It’s hard to constantly be in ‘making new friends’ mode — sometimes you just want to be around the people who understand you the most. Sometimes you don’t want to make friends with people because you know they’ll be leaving in a few short weeks anyway so you think to yourself, “what’s the point?”.

I’ve also had to learn the hard lesson that some people I thought were my best friends maybe were just my friends out of convenience. Between the time difference and the distance, it takes effort to keep friendships alive when you live so far away. I am very lucky that I have wonderful friends who try to catch up when they can, but I do have others who seemingly can’t be bothered with trying to make an effort. It’s one of those things that nobody quite tells you before you move far away.

Don’t be fooled though — overall, life is great here.

Sure, I have my bad days just like everyone else — but when I’m driving my motorbike home after a particularly awesome training session, or when I’m in the mountains with friends and see elephants peeking through the trees, or when my students run over to hug me, or when Thai people see me running down the street in my Muay Thai shorts they give me a thumbs up or an encouraging smile, I feel really lucky to be here doing what I love to do.

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