Thailand Winter 2016, Part 2
When in the outer boroughs of New York City, you get to notice subtle differences in energy and feel from the core of New York, which is of course Manhattan. I'm laying here on a mix of concrete and tar, or whatever NY streets are made of, looking up. I see the shadows of trees. The dark green of the leaves and black outlines of the branches that carry them like babies. There is a lamp post, shining it's gentle pinkish rose colored light in the distance. I realize I am cold. I start shivering. I wonder if that is because of the accident or because the concrete is colder than the air and I am lying on it. All in all, even with the commotion, I am happy this happened in Queens. All the noise from city traffic and what not would annoy the shit out of me right now. For the moment, it's only a few people looking over me, genuinely concerned, and a sort of serenity that calms the turbulent circumstance of this evening. I look over at my poor Harley. She took a beating. Me? I'm used to taking a beating. But her. She's my girl. Dam SUV rolled right on top of her. I was lucky it didn't roll on top of me. Or, maybe it wasn't luck, maybe, in true Jack Burton status, I blame it on the reflexes...
That was October 16, 2013. Now it's January 2016. Over three years later, and countless hours of destroying my body further with Moving Jobs, holding pads, trying my best to work live with my Muay Thai students, hours of physical therapy, and just generally trying to survive, now I have finally reached the point where I can start to train again. Granted, I will be turning 41 in a couple of months, but my 41 is not your 41. I am a beast, born with the genetics of Genghis Khan in me somewhere I know it.
After my week of floating around various gyms, I had the opportunity to chat with Tiger Muay Thai's new gym manager, Viwat Sakulrat. Turns out he use to coach in Westchester NY at a UFC gym. Us New Yorkers, when we meet in foreign lands, there is an immediate sense of camaraderie. He was a very pleasant guy who immediately stepped forward so I could start training right away. For that I am thankful by the way.
My first day was exciting. I came to the gym and ran into old friend and training partner Matthew Semper. A top level Muay Thai fighter with over 60 fights, making his name currently in China fighting all kinds of fighters, he immediately made me feel at home. He is a fellow New Yorker by the way, being himself from the Bronx. I asked him if he minded if I joined them for training and of course he welcomed me in with open arms. We trained not only in Thailand together but in New York as well during his short stay back home, so it was cool to train with someone you know and respect.
I had done about a month's prep for this trip. As much as I could at least. I was busy coaching and had been diagnosed with diabetes just a month and a half ago, so I was going through lots of changes. It just wasn't an easy road, but I was determined. After warming up and doing some bag work, we went strait into sparring. Me and Matt went first and flowed easily. he was aware it had been a minute for me and I was working my way back up so he took it easy on me. The next round I wasn't so lucky. This is how I met Lion Fight fighter Anvar Boynazarov.
It was Boxing sparing so I felt comfortable enough, to a certain extent. I had a clear reach advantage so i just kept my jab going out. I was able to set up shots and move out of the way, without really being intense as far as sparring levels, but because I was a lot bigger, I am sure it must have been frustrating for him to have to constantly chase me around while I used my reach. So of course he picked up the tempo... A lot. I felt a shot hit my arm and I knew things changed 180 degrees in a second. Every shot came in hard and fast and I was being rushed. All of a sudden I found myself in a fight. I tried to keep my flow light to try and calm the situation. I failed. I felt the shot get through my guard and I hit the floor. I just got chin checked.
I Took my ten seconds to regroup and continue. We went light after that. He marked his territory. It was also a reminder of how long I have been out. That would never have happened 3 years ago. I was slow. My timing was off, my stamina was down, I had picked up some bad habits, and I was just not prepared. Wake up call Mr. Marin. We finished training. The next day I was out of the fight team and in the advanced class. I was fine with it. I needed to catch up. And besides, I like to find my limits by hitting them (or them hitting me). I was more determined now than ever. I do not take things like that lightly. It wasn't about him. I don't know him, I didn't know his motivations, his moral standards, training etiquette etc. and I didn't care. I needed to get back on my game and do it fast. That was all that mattered. I trained twice a day everyday. Started adding extra jump rope and lengthening my runs past their standards. I would just say "I come back later, long run". The coaches in the advanced area took notice quickly.
A couple of weeks in I was offered a fight. Feb. 6th at Rawai Stadium. They had offered it to someone else originally but he turned it down. I spoke to the guy who turned it down as I was curious. When I saw him I was like holy crap. The guy was 210 lbs of solid muscle. completely lean. Who the hell was he fighting? They told me the opponent was 85 kilos (187 lbs.). i was 77 Kilos at the time (170lbs). That was a big difference already. Knowing who they tried to get for this fight, and knowing how things are in Thailand, the opponent was probably bigger. Still, I didn't care. I just wanted to fight. Now I had a goal.
I spent the following two weeks training my ass off twice a day, 5 hours a day. Extra runs, extra jump rope, etc. Two things I am truly grateful for in life, my genetics, and my learning curve. I can pick up moves I see from other training partners and on Youtube or whatever other source and add it to my game almost immediately. That will serve me well right now.
I so love the grind. More than anything else. I see people getting distracted by partying and what not. Man, I just want to train. I just love the fight. I love to spar. I love to think and problem solve and calculate and develop ways to spar to improve certain things. I can pull out any need or desire to win and just focus on particulars until I own them. And that really is key in sparring. When you focus on winning, the picture is too broad. Now you can't fix the little things. Focus on the little things, then move on to the next little thing. Keep adding. Getting hit is irrelevant. a circumstantial situation caused by necessity to improve a particular aspect.
4 weeks of intense training with some great sparring partners from all over the world. I was focused, physically ready, and ready for war. I was back on my grind, and completely happy about it. But I what I had forgotten was how to get emotionally ready. What was waiting for me on fight day was a lesson in the frailty of humanity. A lesson in inward revelation.