A few months ago, in the middle of January, in the middle of Fight Camp, the fort decided that the most effective way to take down the Ice Rink was to heat up Queens Hall, it was on this evening that we had our second ‘fight camp’ class. Setting the scene, it was freezing outside, we had spent the whole of December training in jumpers and sweats owing to the extreme cold and given we were only just out of Christmas weren’t necessarily the fittest we had ever been – totally unprepared to work out in sauna conditions.
I mention this now as it provides a loose comparison to training in Thailand…. I pitched up for our first session at 4pm to find everyone running round the gym, cool, no problem I join in and feel ok for the first ten mins then the line work starts and I spend the next ten minutes wondering how long the line work is going to go last, the sweat starts to drip off me and it becomes immediately apparent that my measly 500ml bottle of water is not going to see me through the next two hours – we are only twenty minutes in….
Stretching is next and this gives me an opportunity to catch my breath, my clothes stick to me, I feel ok with the heat except for not being able to breath, despite the gym being shaded it’s humid and makes it difficult for my lungs to suck in air they crave.
We finish stretching and are instructed to put our wraps on (this is done by all the trainers shouting wrap on, wrap on, in quick succession), Our teachers come and mill about helping those that require help to wrap up or just those of us that would like our wraps expertly done. Once you’re all wrapped up it’s on to Shadow boxing and again the trainers are very attentive moving about the students giving direction. I try to take it easy – 1 hour 15 Minutes left….
Nothing prepares me for pad work, the students are split into two groups, the first will head off to the rings to do pad work whilst the other group does bag work, then we switch. I am selected to do Pad Work first and thank my lucky stars as I am not sure I’ll still be standing after bag work.
I read before we came that each class every student gets 3 x 3-minute rounds with a trainer, it doesn’t sound like a lot but 3 minutes x 3 can be hard work, I breath and head to ring 2. The first round is ok, I was worried about the difference in pad holding and language barriers, but I adjust quite well, I use my eyes more than my ears and quickly fall into a comfortable rhythm. Come the 3rd round I’m exhausted, I go to thank my trainer, but he doesn’t release me – 2 more he says (I think), I look at the clock still running and wish I had bought my water to the ring with me. Lesson learned. I focus on not passing out and hold back in the next round. I make it through the 5 rounds and move onto the bag where the trainers watch us I think in part to ensure we are working and to assist and correct our technique.
By this point I am drenched, literally, I check the clock, it’s not that I want training to end, I enjoy it, but I am keen to pace myself to ensure I make it to the end of the session. 45 Min’s left, I wonder what we will do next and soon my answers come as we are again split into two groups, one for technique and the others, if you want to, sparring. I split off to spar figuring I came all this way to get that bit more experience… but.. after three rounds I am dead on my feet, my guard is lax and I start to think about stepping out, the last thing I want is to get injured and risk this being my one and only Thai training sesh.. I excuse myself and walk over to my water I pour it over my head and take the next round out.
Sparring comes to an end and we are instructed to take our gear off and assemble on the mat, this is done by continuous shouts of ‘one straight line’ (say this in your head with the best Thai accent you can muster). Conditioning starts, and I silently say a small prayer of thanks to Michael (don’t tell him) for being so insistent we do hundreds of kicks, knees, sit up’s and push up’s at the end of every session during fight camp and after. The blood crew stand out with their ability to blast through the conditioning and I am aware it is only due to our training at home we had.
Finally, we stretch, every class begins and ends with stretching and there is a wonderful satisfaction that comes from stretching in the heat my muscles feel pliable, flexible and responsive. I look around the gym, the mats are drenched, pools of sweat make it slippery and shiny, everyone is quiet as we work our muscles down.
Finally we line up to say thanks to our trainers, and not in the same way we high five back in the blood gym… the final part of our class involves all of us coming together with a 1,2,3 Sinbi, this is a bit cringy at first and I feel like I am back in school but over the next two weeks it will become a favourite part of my time at the gym giving us all the sense of belonging to a team.
Every class follows a similar format after that, different conditioning, always 5 rounds on the pads, clinching or sparring or Muay Thai technique and 1,2,3 Sinbi.