short film – A Day of My Training – Love the Grind
above – our short film on a typical day of my training here in Pattaya (25 min) – วิดีโอซ้อมมวยกิจวัตรประจำวันค่ะ อยู่ที่พัทยาค่ะ
We’ve been wanting to do this for a while, making a full day of training in video format. But things get pretty busy and shooting it all and editing just always got pushed back. At first we wanted to shoot it because I was training in an unusual way, back in February of this year, training both at Petchrungruang (2x) and once at WKO with Sakmongkol – training at two gyms in Thailand is rare and socially complicated, something I need to blog about at another time. But lately the idea came back to life when the fighter Michelle – who I met on Twitter – moved from training at Sinbi in Phuket for a few days (among other places in Thailand), to coming to train with me here in Pattaya. Her reaction to my training made me realize that I should probably document it all and put it out there. It’s one thing to write it – my eyes glaze over when reading itemized workouts, myself – and simply a different thing to show it.
My need for extra clinch training really is what has propelled me to train at two gyms in Pattaya (then, WKO and Petchrungruang – now Petchrungruang and O. Meekhun Gym). It’s very hard for women to get good clinch training, by my experience both in the west and in Thailand, for a variety of reasons, and my determination to learn clinch and get proper training was best solved by training at more than one place. I needed to train like a 12 year old Thai boy and, at the time, no gym was giving me that work, yet a bit of clinch here and a bit of clinch there can add up. But it is more than that. Since moving to Thailand in April of 2012 to train and fight full time I’ve generally had a hard time simply getting my instructors, at any gym, to embrace that I really do want to train this much and fight this much, and that I’m much better for it. The short term fix in Pattaya has been that instead of continually trying to ask for more training at any one gym, I simply trained full-bore at two.
As to the question of communication itself, in Thailand I’ve indeed had a hard time telling instructors how much I want to train or fight, convincing them. Instead I’ve had to show them over time. Instructor boredom can get in the way too – it’s an exhausting, repetitive, possibly boring and at times thankless job. Trainers aren’t paid well pretty much anywhere and training tourists with a very broad scale of interest and dedication requires a different level of commitment from trainers than, say, training a current Thai champion. I’m a woman, so regardless of how sincere or dedicated I am, I’m not going to be in that champion class to trainers. My ceiling is fixed. That said, I’ve been fortunate in that most of my trainers have been inspired by my training intensity. In the same way that throwing some improvised moves into repetitive padwork can suddenly “awaken” the fighter that is inside Thai trainers – their eyes change and you can see the fight is still in there; Master K, who is 76 years old, is still like this! – when my trainers have seen me training the way that I do, they remember the training they did and most get on board. Kru Nu, when he first would watch me on the bag in the mornings after padwork, would remark to Alex (a 13-year-old Italian who lives at the camp, just debuting at Lumpinee recently) that I “train like a man,” and that my training is different from his (Alex’s) because I train “like a professional.” More recently I can see Kru Nu’s acceptance and respect for my training in two ways: 1) he pushes me harder; and 2) when he watches me on the bag some mornings after padwork he’ll get up from his spot on the ring and start kicking the heavybag next to me. He wants to feel that impact; all fighters do, no matter how far from fighting they have come.
As a matter of record, the gyms in Thailand I’ve trained at are Lanna Muay Thai in Chiang Mai; Sasisprapa Gym in Bangkok; Master Toddy’s Gym in Bangkok (briefly); WKO, Petchrungruang and O. Meekhun Gym in Pattaya; and Giatbundit Gym in Phutthaisong (Isaan) (very briefly). I’ve heard tales of incredibly difficult training regimes, and they must be out there, but mostly when I’ve heard them they sound more like a generational thing, how Thais used to train. I’ve seen endless hours of clinch by the boys up at Lanna, in grueling evening heat, to be sure. I’ve seen very hard sparring and padwork, and big rounds of knees on a bag, but I really haven’t seen consistent, high-volume training stretching out for months and years, the kind that I’ve grown to feel that I need, and in fact thrive on. All this is to say, I don’t train “like a Thai,” as people like to say. I train in a way that seems to remind my trainers of their youth, not always in a favorable way, as they recall how hard it was – how endless and exhausting it was. But I come at this from a very different place than they did, because of my outsider, upon outsider, upon outsider-ness of being western, a woman, not “young,” and not poor. My motivations are worlds away and I’m choosing to train like this, because I feel I need it in order to fight the way I want to fight, whereas they did so out of a different kind of necessity. Not a chosen necessity. And from what I’ve seen, the new generation of Thais generally don’t train like the old generation did. Maybe their needs are different, too.
In case you’re new to my website, Facebook page, YouTube channel, blog, etc., it might need to be mentioned that I document a lot. Since I first began training Muay Thai one-on-one with Master K in his basement in New Jersey, I’ve captured my good, bad, ugly and difficulties along the way in lengthy training videos. Master K wanted me to post “highlight” videos, editing out all my faults and failures and just showing the moments of slick execution. I refused. I wanted to show the grind, not just the spiffy, shiny axe blade on the other end of it. And really there’s no “other end,” because this process never ends. You just keep sharpening. Certainly, if I were to try to shoot a great-looking video of highlights in the earlier years, the edits would be tighter to cut out all the missteps. I’ve gotten better, sharper, but still don’t want to hide the mistakes. This video is to document what my training is like now. When I was in Master K’s basement I could film 10 minutes at a time of a 1.5 – 2 hour lesson, picking out a lesson rather than an overall process or workout. Now I’m trying to capture everything, the whole daily grind. It’s around 5 hours of work, every day. So cutting that down into something viewable means catching a piece of every part of the workout, not to show the best part, or the slickest part, or the least boring part – all of it in little chewable bites… and it’s still over 24 minutes long.
note: If you want a clear and beautifully expressed essay on grind, 1% training, and what it means to possibly affect others through your training, read fighter Mae-Lin Leow’s: The Grind: Someone is Watching
This isn’t a video on how it should be done or even how it is done by anyone other than me. I’m not claiming anything other than my own process and I’m sharing it because that’s what I do. It’s the same thing as documenting all of my fights on video, and keeping track of my fight record closely. That is what this short film is, documenting what I do each and every day except for Sundays, and except the day before and after a fight (though I do often return to training the day after a fight, but not the regular routine). I’ve been asked what training looks like, how many reps of this or that, what a workout for “the Thais” looks like. People who aren’t here are interested because it’s assumed there’s some authentic or official process; there isn’t, but people still want ideas. They want to be able to grasp some piece of it, and this is the piece I know. Maybe it inspires you, maybe it doesn’t. It goes up either way – that’s how I do.
To be honest, maybe part of the impetus to finally get this filmed and put up now is the recent debate surrounding my position on Overtraining (you can see my Overtraining articles here), and in particular my Myth of Overtraining post. If you don’t have time to read both of these, the shortest breakdown of my stance is that the symptoms of Overtraining are absolutely experienced by people, I just don’t believe they’re caused by the physical side of training. Some folks who disagree with my stance attempted to dissect my training from afar, suggesting that my training isn’t as rigorous as it may appear in my written descriptions because I don’t weight train a great deal, or because I get days off when I fight. I guess that’s possible. Maybe if I added weights I’d be unable to train like this, although I don’t know that weights would aid me in what I need for my fight-rate, which has been 30+ fights per year for 2.75 years now. Again, I train like this because of what I think it does for me, for my interests, needs, motives; I strongly believe it hardens my body to be able to fight frequently and recover from injuries quickly. I have yet to be wrong in my own physical test-kitchen on this. It just seemed worth while to put a typical (6 days a week) training day up for everyone, to share my training in detail, so that others can form their own opinion about what’s possible for themselves. I’m not really trying to be the-hardest-trainer, it’s not my goal. I’m trying to get better. And I’ve discovered that training like this makes me better. I do believe that other people train harder than this. In fact I believe I could do so, too. But this is the baseline. This is the thing that works for me now.
I also presented things in some detail because maybe other fighters or Muay Thai students will want to take things I do for themselves. This film is not a prescription. It is not: Hey train like me! This particular schedule of training is something I’ve slowly built up to over 2 and a half years. What it is composed of is a combination of things that address my particular weaknesses, and the opportunities that I have available to me. It is in some ways unique to me. If I was a different kind of fighter, or a different kind of person, or in a different part of the world no doubt my training would look very different, just as it has looked different between Chiang Mai and Pattaya. I wish other fighters would put up their training in detail so I could get ideas of not only their work loads and schedules, but also the kinds of drills and techniques they use. It’s like sharing a playlist of the music I like – the best response is for someone else to add their own playlist, right? Ultimately this short film is a collaboration I would hope others join in.
And also no small part of this short film is an attempt to share my world. It’s been a big focus of what I’m doing on 8limbs.us to share as much as I can of what I’m doing, where I am, to those who just don’t have the chance (yet) to come to Thailand and train. It’s a big dream of so many of us, and I consider it my responsibility to try to bring part of Thailand to you, my readers and audience. For that reason we filmed even mundane things like riding on the motorbike, or cooking breakfast, because before I got to Thailand I hadn’t a clue of what “life” is like. Here’s to the hope that you can feel what a day of training is for me, in all of its qualities.
I realize a video such as this risks coming off as “how much can you even bench, bro?” But that’s not my intention at all. It’s far more selfish than that. Honestly, I don’t know how long I’ll be here, training and fighting like this. I hope it’s a long time, but eventually my life will change and what will remain is the video document of what it was. Thank God I filmed my basement sessions with Master K. My life and opportunities have changed since those days and I am just grateful I had the gall to record it. I’m thankful I still have the gall to do the same here.
NOTE: This film is not an opportunity for Internet coaches to advise me how to throw a jab, or how to do squats, however well-meaning they may be. Playing the expert and helpfully correcting others just doesn’t have the effect that you think it does. This is what I do, and a lot of factors go into why I do it this way and not some other way. If you really need to advise people on how to do a squat, film yourself giving said instruction and post it on Youtube. That actually helps a lot of people.