Having survived the hairy border crossing from Cambodia to Thailand, we were feeling brave. With a desire and need to get looking some kinda semblance of ‘fit’ before landing back in the UK for a friend’s wedding, and following the recommendation of another fellow traveller, we decided to book in for another experience stay… at a Muay Thai boxing gym.
With not one, but two body-wracking temple-stays firmly under our belts; after losing some weight on our travels and gaining some confidence, this would be a doddle, right?! We were feeling pumped, we were feeling limber… until we walked up to the intimidatingly large gym reception.
WELCOME TO THE [JUNGLE] GYM
Our gym of choice; Petchyindee Kingdom Muay Thai Academy in Bangkok is one of the most well-renown gyms in the country; where legendary trainers work with world-class fighters… and us.
World famous and operating for over 40 years; the boxing academy is generally attended by those with previous fighting experience and a serious interest in Muay Thai, so quite clearly, with our one-time attendance of a spate of matches in Chiang Mai, and our well-rehearsed ‘goose-claw’ and ‘monkey-grip’ moves in-pocket, we thought we fit the bill perfectly…
IN TOO DEEP
Not gonna lie- in reality, we were terrified. Just walking into the newly renovated building transported us straight back to first day at school territory… we were so not ready for this. Making a fool of ourselves we are used to by now, but what if we couldn’t keep up?! Or worse still, what if our utter lame-ness insulted the gym?!
By the time it came round to our first training session, I’d worked myself up into such a mental state I could barely speak. Not helping in any way- our session began straight after a group class of young pro Muay Thai fighters… tiny svelte Thai guys filed out past us leaving the room hot, sweaty and filled with testosterone… a “Not for girls” neon sign flashed invisible in front of me.
OK. TIME TO (WO)MAN UP.
Our stay here included two personal training sessions.
We started our first one-on-one by wrapping our hands which instantly helped settle us into ‘boxer’ mode and meant that I couldn’t tuck my thumbs under my fingers when balling a fist… a rookie move I recognise now to be most definitely stupid now I’ve actually hit stuff.
The session then kicked off with a five-minute run. Something I have not accomplished since the beginning of high school some 15 years ago… Combined with the heat and humidity of Bangkok, I was glad to have not passed out on the spot!
Next up, stretching. OK, I got this(!) followed by learning the basic movements; correct stance and arm positions, how to dodge and advance, how to punch (not) like a girl… All this to start with, in front of the mirror while trying not to acknowledge how after only being 20 minutes in, the face was beetroot, sweat was stinging my eyes, and my super-long frame was looking decidedly flappy and ridiculous against our shorter, fitter Muay Thai instructors.
... WE HADN'T EVEN GOT STARTED YET!
Then the gloves came out and it was time to start punching and kicking the crap out of each other. Huzzah! Yep, shit was about to get real.
Working in 3 minute intervals with a short break in-between to catch our breath, we repeatedly kicked, kneed, punched and elbowed our trainers on command… it was ridiculously hard, but so freakin’ exhilarating!
Our instructors were both super encouraging and great at letting us know when we were doing something wrong (without making us feel like dicks) and letting us know when we were getting things really right- introducing new moves and new intensities of command like little praise nuggets… high fives all round!
Our hour session up, we retired exhausted, to our snazzy, newly refurbed room to compare bruises and shower before going down for dinner in the on-site restaurant… traditional home-cooked Thai fare- the perfect reward for a high-intensity workout!
DAY TWO. FEELING… GOOD?
…not so much! While not in the world’s worst pain ever, it was evident that we had worked muscles not even known about previously. Like, I’m pretty sure we actually discovered new areas of the human anatomy with the ways in which we were hurting!
Muay Thai involves lots of body twisting- the force behind your kicks comes from rotating your torso round and flinging everything bottom-half at your opponent with full force- so this morning we were trying our hardest not to find anything funny as laughing hurt our ribs like a mutha!
We were booked in for personal training part two in the evening, so made the most of our stylish and comfy accommodations (and the guy on the fruit stall round the corner!) by resting, munching on fresh pineapple and catching up on some work in the day… preparation for our next fight.
ROUND TWO... DING!
Training part 2 was both easier and harder than day 1. Mentally, we felt prepared, and now knowing our trainers, were comfortable with how things would go, what we were capable of and ultimately, what we had to do to make them happy!
Physically, things were… interesting. Our arms felt heavy and lifting them up to the pads was a real challenge!
After the same run-start, warm-up and drills, we worked on high-intensity technicals – 2 minutes of intense bag punching, 2 minutes practicing both left and right kicking the shit out of a tall, squishy bag (much kinder on the ol’ shins!), and countdowns of sit-ups and crunches.
It was hard work. REALLY hard work. But we got through it and I personally emerged feeling ridiculously proud and powerful. I may have been flailing round like a giant, sweaty red flump… but completing the training- the same training that guys go through, was so invigorating! Queen Bey would have been so proud.
In fact, the feeling of fierce-ness and overall pride this gave me was enough to make us look into going back again… for a month! – Fingers crossed coming May 2017! Watch this space.
So! Does Muay Thai feature on your own list of ‘must-do’ travel experiences or are you in the camp of thinking that exercising on holiday is just plain weird?! If you’ve gym-ed before in Thailand, where did you go? Let us know, below!