( … Continued from Part I )
So here I am now, 6 weeks later… and to my great pleasure it’s nothing like the shady gyms that Ronnie had described that are apparently abundant all over Thailand.
Master Toddy came to greet me when I arrived and I understood straight away that his warm persona is not just for his reality TV series – he is a caring person, commanding well-deserved respect while treating everyone as his own family, and always conveying his message that learning Muay Thai is fun! The fact that he oversees almost all of our training sessions makes everyone want to work harder. His advice is always spot-on. Every word he says wields 50 years of Muay Thai experience. More than anything he is a mentor. He knows how to get into your head, build your confidence and motivate you.
Bryan from the emails, a smiling Alaskan who has been working the desk and learning Muay Thai here for over a year, started showing me the ropes the moment I arrived. Three of the gym’s fighters had just won matches by knockout so the mood in the gym was very good. The whole place smelled of hard work, with people training all around me in a very impressive and beautiful ring. I immediately got the feeling of a well-run establishment that is up to western and Thai standards for properly learning Muay Thai.
For me learning Muay Thai is a first-time experience. Although it’s my first time doing anything of this sort, I am no stranger to sports and working out, having played basketball for most of my life. I have a good sense when instructors, coaches and their students are faking it… and that is definitely not the case here. There is much emphasis on technique, and each student gets plenty of one-on-one pad-work time with one of the Krus (instructors). We spar almost every day. Everyone is serious about learning Muay Thai and smiling at the same time, and the atmosphere is great!
After 3 or 4 training sessions I started to understand what learning Muay Thai is about. The fact that there is a mix of new students and experienced fighters is fantastic. When I spar with newbies like myself there is a sense of mutual improvement and friendly competition. Every now and then I get paired up with an experienced fighter, and they hold back and let me learn, and give me lots of great tips.
The deeper I get into it, the harder I push myself. There’s no question about it – it’s hard. It’s demanding. But luckily the atmosphere makes everyone want to train, and then the motivation comes from within. I look around at others and think to myself: “This guy trained twice a day every day this week, why can’t I do that?”
Living my life in a training camp is amazing. This is how I want my life to be. Learning Muay Thai every day is awesome!
Another great thing about learning Muay Thai at Master Toddy’s is the awesome gear that is available at the shop. I was so happy with my new boxing shorts… they were such an improvement over training with my old basketball gear!
Besides learning Muay Thai at the gym, there is a lot to say about living in Bangkok. Culture-shock is an understatement for what I am going through. I ventured out the first night and tried to order beef (since I am Jewish and don’t eat pork), but nobody understood the word “beef” so I naturally started mooing like a cow at people… not knowing that “moo” is the Thai word for pig! This place is wonderful and strange and nothing like any of the other countries I’ve been to in my life. The fact that the gym is located a few kilometers from the center makes for clean air, cheap food, and a much more authentic Thai experience. Learning Thai is going to be a must if I’m going to be learning Muay Thai in the heart of Thailand!
Going to see fights is an awesome part of living here in Bangkok and learning Muay Thai, especially on days when our gym’s fighters are fighting. Everyone goes to watch and cheer them on. Master Toddy’s instructions to the fighters are very clear: “We don’t lose”. And we don’t.
Learning Muay Thai is hard and demanding, which is why it’s so important to have fun while doing it!
Besides going to fights we also go out on the weekends. The nightlife in Bangkok is great. Last week was Songkran, the Thai New Year, and the whole city just exploded into a week-long water-fight! It’s also really easy to have relaxed weekends here, just watching movies and stuff like that… the people at the gym are so friendly and it all just clicks. A couple of weeks ago we all went out and bought ukuleles and guitars, so now jamming is regular occurrence at the gym!
After only such a short time I can definitely say that my gut feeling tells me to stay here for as long as possible. Learning Muay Thai, meeting people from all over the world who are as much into learning Muay Thai as myself, discovering Bangkok… it’s all amazing and I feel very lucky and blessed. This is a good place!