Thailand winter 2016, part 1
I'm sitting on that plane... I close my eyes for a second. I think about all the things I'm leaving behind. The problems mostly. So turbulent. So emotionally draining. This trip became more than just a way to recuperate my body from the grip of fate. It was more than a business investment. I needed freedom from... from something bad.
Air China. The plane starts to hit that speed where you know you are going to take off any second. Most crashes happen at take off. Five minutes out over New York State and I am still alive. Success. My head is filled with plans and ideas. That's just how my brain has always been. But this latter part of my life has been different than the first thirty or so years of it. I admit I was never one for commitment to a particular project. I would typically pursue goals intensely, then just abandon them for another goal. Not this time. This time a huge obstacle was placed in front of me, and I chose to not let it get in my way. To wait patiently as long as I could and then start back on the same road I was on before, that road, that path, of a fighter.
Nineteen hours later I am back in that place that stole my heart only 3 year ago; Phuket, Thailand. The heat was typical Phuket. Ninety degrees and sunny. This time, the cabbies at the entrance would not get me. This time I knew what was up. I don't even bother with them. Someone tries to haggle me down from fifteen hundred Baht to one thousand. I just keep walking. It took two minutes to get to the main road. I wave down a cab and ask how much to Chalong. He says six hundred and fifty Baht. I paid him seven.
Pulling in to what is known as "Tiger" or "Boxer" road, I start to glare at the changes. So many new buildings and storefronts. A few new gyms. Not even just Muay Thai gyms, but fitness gyms as well. There is a new reggae bar. That will come in handy for sure. By the time it's time to turn off to the side road where Mama's Forrest Bungalows are located, I am pretty much shell shocked. I mean really, I new this was going to happen, but dam. I mean it just made sense to invest in that area, and I am far from an investment genius, but the shear growth was astounding for three years.
I check in with Mama herself. She is all smiles. But then again, this is the land of smiles right? After settling in I feel like taking care of errands immediately. Forget about Jet lag. That's for pussies. I head strait to Central Festival Mall, do some shopping for cereal and milk and toiletries. I return to my room, drop the stuff off, and head right back out to buy protein powder and pre-workout. After that's done, I head back out again to buy a new pair of gloves. My emerald Fairtex are pretty sweet. Done. Now what? It's the evening and I feel good. I decide to just relax and stay in. The night approaches and I go to bed early. By 9pm I am asleep, at 5am I am awake. A perfect eight hours. What can I do but train? I decide to hit a gym I haven't been to so I could get to know these places better. First stop, Rattachai Gym.
I knew Kru Rattachai from my time at Tiger Muay Thai in 2012/13. A great, intense trainer with a lot of respect among the Thais. Considered a real top notch veteran. He now has his own gym just around the block from Soi Ta-ied (boxer road). Training was great as expected. I am definitely out of shape though. The trainer I did pads with showed me some nice little details. Muay Thai for me is all about the details. Many coaches and fighters know how to kick and punch. They all know basic combinations. But it's the knowledge of details and alternate methods that separate the real Muay Thai coaches from your run of the mill, never been to Thailand, have black belts in karate and do leg kick so they claim they can teach Muay Thai, guys. I absorb them like a sponge. I accept that each coach and camp is going to show me something that may differ or counter what another coach shows me somewhere else. I absorb it as a possibility, in a sea of endless possibilities. I pick my favorites of course.
After training and cleaning myself up, I decide to go to Tiger Muay Thai and speak with them about a discount. It was a part of their policy to offer a discount to those that have trained there 6 months or more. I was not only there for 6 months but fought for them and was on the fighter team, so I thought it only fair. There were new people working there and I had to sift my way around until I was told who I needed to speak to. Unfortunately he wasn't available that day so I decided to visit another gym. This Time I went to Chokchai Muay Thai.
I also knew Chokchai from Tiger, and he also had his own gym now. Chokchai was not only a Muay Thai fighter in his youth, but a pro boxer as well who's claim to fame was having fought Manny Pacquiao. I was super impressed with the facility. The training area was huge and clean. The training was long, hard, and very organized. As an added Bonus, Fahsuchon Sit-O was head coach, who again, I also knew from Tiger, and consider one of the most technical coaches in Phuket. Day one of training done. For day two I trained at Tiger so I could catch John Priest and discuss my training with him. I of course had great training, being reunited with my old trainer Robert "the Terminator" Thanawat, Talayhod (also known as Nong), Sawat, and many other coaches from my previous trip that were instrumental in developing my Muay Thai. I was surprised that they all remembered me. It was a great feeling, especially in such a busy camp with so many fighters coming through. After speaking with John, I just had to wait to be approved and I could get started. It was friday so I figured I would know by Monday. So what else to do but keep visiting gyms? Why not right? Lets really get to know the Phuket gym scene. Next stop for afternoon training, Dragon Muay Thai.
Dragon is a fucking cool gym. No other way to put it. It's ran by young Thai and veteran fighters for the most part. It has the most "Thai" feeling of all the gyms on the Soi. The trainers are all super friendly. Not that they aren't at the other gyms, but the other gyms tend to be so busy that the trainers can be tired and somewhat stoic. These guys were real chill and friendly though. I got done thinking to myself, dam, that was fun. Another day down. Saturday morning up next, and how could I not visit the other powerhouse MMA gym in Phuket, and Thailand for that matter, Phuket Top Team.
Phuket Top Team is owned by Boyd Clark. Can I tell you this guy is one of the most passionate dudes in the sport, about the sport, period. His interest is only to have a real gym. No frills, no fancy shit. Just good hard training. His Brazilian Jiu Jitsu program has grown to be filled with top level black belts, his Muay Thai program is rock solid, and he even has a WBC champ with over 50 fights coaching Boxing. I went to the boxing class for my Saturday morning training. I thought it was going to be light. Nope. We started with four rounds of sparring. Didn't have much difficulty, being that I am a moderate boxer myself, with the exception of a young pro MMA fighter, who was quick and agile and had some decent hands. The training session was intense and provided plenty of work and cardio. It was a bit busy but hey, that's good for varied sparring partners. I hope that they get to expand the gym a bit as they definitely deserve and can fill a bigger area. Another great session knocked out of the park, in another great gym. Phuket training is great training.
I took the rest of the weekend to chill out. I went to the night market. Went to my favorite beach. Had a couple of beers locally. Nothing to crazy. By Monday I was approved and ready to go. It was time to get serious. The journey was about to truly begin.