Archive for February, 2012

Muay thai, on training, on learning, on improving

Posted on: February 28th, 2012 by Philip No Comments

A version of this article first featured on the facebook page ’96 Penang Muay Thai Gym’ which I administer.I believe its sentiment to be of interest/ help to anybody interested in developing themselves-not just in the field of boxing!
On training….on learning…on improving….
To make a point I am going to give you a bit of personal history-bear with me-I started training in Muay Thai in 1986 in England. I got more and more into it and made my first trip to Thailand in 1988. The atmosphere in the gyms, the chilled, ego-free attitude of the boxers together with the friendliness of pretty much every Thai I met changed me for life. I have spent 16 of the last 17 years in Thailand and have continued to train throughout. I have been at some excellent gyms and have learnt from some great trainers-each with their own take on what makes a successful boxer; as importantly I have learnt through ‘being’ with Thai boxers. To give my training focus I’ve had 20 fights in Thailand. For those of you doing some maths, yes , I am rather old, 49(writing Feb 2012), but I don’t want to pack in and settle for a life sat around bars and watching bad tv, so I retain an involvement with gyms, particularly at the moment, 96 Penang, helping where I can-with some clinch work, and beyond, providing information for visitors. While my days of getting in the ring are behind me(well probably!), I keep in shape, still do some training and still try to improve.
Bearing in mind the massive amount of time I have spent training over the years I might have been rather dismayed to find that the trainers at 96Penang were less than impressed with some of my moves…….my style could, and SHOULD be better!!!! Blimey, what had I been doing all these years? and then I reflected……that good sportmen/women……never stop learning….. I thought of Freddie Roache reporting the joy of working with Manny Pacquaio, that every time the xtime World Champion-one of the greatest boxers of all time-enters the gym, he does so with an open mind, he listens to Freddie, he tries new moves,he practices, he learns……he improves…….Think on, of every great tennis player…….or golfer, constantly hiring…and firing trainers, as they continue to want/to need to improve.I also understand that the coaches at 96 Penang have their own style which they have learnt and developed and now pass on. I have been trained bya great many coaches over the years, all with their own, and this is important, sometimes contradictory approaches to the sport. So, what to do? well at least I am opening my mind and coaches can be bothered enough to want to help me improve, I am being shown alternatives, its upto me to decide which adaptations I make-if any, whether to adopt or reject the new advice, and I believe this mental side…learning…. is an important aspect of training and a fundamental part of making it enjoyable; it gives the activity a challenge so one must use ones brain rather than going on some kind of automatic pilot¬†. I have always tried to be technical in my approach to Muay Thai, not resorting to brute strength or naked aggression so appreciate being shown technique. These trainers take the time to go right back to the fundamentals of walking, moving, for on those good foundations, the ability to defend and attack can be built.¬†
Part of Muay Thai’s attraction to me is its recognition of technique, over aggression, Thais talk of the need to ‘chok suay’ (box beautifully), what they mean is to show that economy of movement that every great sportsman/woman has.
Westerners come to Thailand to learn technique;but and here is the point; technique starts with footwork/weight distribution so that you can transfer your weight, retain balance, block/evade and throw strong kicks/punches etc quickly from whatever angle. The good gyms teach this, the great boxers have mastered it , so they can block and counter and win points, and win matches and become great.
So, I am not going to be frustrated:I never claimed/pretended to be any kind of master, rather I’m pleased to find trainers, who despite my age and lack of future as a fighter, can be bothered enough to help me to IMPROVE…….
Every successful fighter must have a strong foundation, and then build on it. The trainers at 96Penang show a total commmitment to this principle. Time spent getting the basics right is the most efficient way to spend your time. Get this right, then you can kick, punch, knee, elbow…..and then when you get really good you can look to build in the multiple kicks and spinning techniques……but its step by step and needs patience, and it needs physical, and mental effort, to think about what you are doing and how you can improve…….bear this in mind next time you go training….try, not just to get a sweat on, but to use your brain….learn……and really improve… the best that you can be……..P

3 weeks, 3 runs

Posted on: February 26th, 2012 by Philip No Comments

I was pleased to have been able to rise at 3.15 this morning in order to make the 5.00 start of the 1st Thailand International Half Marathon at Rama8 Bridge in Bangkok.It meant that I have run in competitive races the last 3 Sundays so next week I will have a lie-in!!
The early morning starts-to avoid the heat and also to minimise traffic disruption- are the only real drawback of joining runs in Thailand, but once ‘up’,it’s amazing what the human body can do…..
Two weeks ago I ran the Half Marathon at the Bangkok Marathon. Extremely inconveniently I seemed to come down with a cold a couple of days before the race. I had looked forward to it and really didn’t want to pull out. I decided that I would ‘give it a go’, if I really didnt feel up to the task I would walk….tho it was hot, my body is acclimatised and I don’t sweat easily but at 4-30 on the start line sweat was running down my arms-a sign of the cold inside me, but, once I started moving I really didnt feel too bad so I kept moving and got into a decent stride. In the days coming up to the run I had been looking forward to running through some interesting parts of Bangkok but now I was here, it was so early, and hence still dark, that I couldn’t really make the sights out, mind I certainly knew when I was running past the zoo-phew what a “pen and ink!”(=stink! for international readers). I felt tired over the last couple of miles but that was to be expected and I was able to keep going to the finish, making it in 1-53. Not a bad time in the circumstances and, I had really enjoyed it.
Last Sunday-19th I was in Buriram for the annual ‘Run for Wiwat’ a run with a charitable aim-to raise funds for local orphans(see separate article on the Buriram Run 2012). That was a real pleasure, I ran 10k along with over a thousand other runners, nearly 3000 participated over a variety of distances. There was a great atmosphere, some performed showing real, raw talent, some ran to show that they had embraced the idea of keeping fit, whichever, I am confident that every single one of them will have had a really enjoyable experience which they will want to repeat, it was a joy to see youngsters and people who were more recent converts to the idea of running having a go at the course. After my Half Marathon the previous week I found the 10k distance very manageable, that said I felt I ran well, ran fast….but I didnt really, finishing in around 47 minutes, it really should be faster but, well me as a runner is a ‘work in process’ too. I recognise the need, as identified by my brother, to improve the mobility of muscles in my legs-quads, hamstrings, itb…so I am trying to do this, hopefully then I will be able to activate these muscles to work better, then my running technique should improve and I’ll be able to get round these courses faster, for I know that at the moment it is the deficiency in these machanics which is preventing me going faster, my heart and lungs are fine, the legs just don’t go fast enough!!
Talking of ‘fast’, the stars of the Buriram Run were once again the team of children from Ban Nong Weng School, Lahansai, Buriram. What talented children they are, several were placed in their categories and one 11 year old won the overall Ladies 10k race. The children run barefoot, not because of fashion or experimentation but out of financial diktat, the children come from poor backgrounds but they have awe inspiring heart and talent, wish them well dear reader!
My trip to Buriram was really rewarding, I constantly met friendly, hospitable people eg, when walking back to my hotel last Sunday night 2 different motorcyclists offerd me lifts, the first had a sidecar from which he was selling dried squid! marvellous!
So to today, the 3rd race in 3 weeks, the First Bangkok International Half Marathon. No excuses about feeling under the weather, the conditions were fine and the there and back course will have suited the speedmen, alas I am not in that number but never mind…….Most of the bigger runs in Thailand attract a large group (about 15 -20 today) of Kenyan runners. These runners are phenomenal, their bodies suggest that they are built purely for distance running, long thin legs, big chests, minimal body fat. They run incredibly fast though, and keep that pace up throughout, they give the runs an even more International feel and also have an influence on bringing out the best in other runners as they seek to emulate them. For that is a point of these big running events-World class athletes can line up togetherwith fun runners.Again I am confident everybody will have had a really good time, whether runners achieved personal goals or podium places they should all feel proud of themselves, that they got up-incredibly early!- and they tried! I was delighted that one of my clients completed both Half Marathons(his first) and made a significant improvement in the second, he is now hooked and will continue to run and race….. Oh and for me, well I did 1-49, ok, but the report