I’d been holding the pads for our team captain for about three minutes. This guy’s punching power is legend, so I’d been steeling myself for the worst, but was pleasantly surprised. Holding for him wasn’t so bad. In fact, I’d had a lot worse. I was relieved.
So when he asked if he could start hitting “for real”, I had to laugh. But, no matter how ferocious the punches, I did fine. All in all, I was pretty proud of myself at the end of the three rounds.
There were so many fantastic things that happened yesterday that I barely know where to start. I’m going to savor them all for as long as I can, for I’m sure there will be enough days where I’m not feeling so good about myself.
After the first class, we started the official fight camp training by working on knee strikes with a partner. Kru Kelly let my friend Vanessa help out, since we have an odd number of women. It is always great to work with her–she is so encouraging and positive.
“You’re a lot stronger than I thought you were,” she said. “These feel great!”
What a wonderful compliment, coming from one of the strongest women I know. It’s actually a relief to be in fight camp and know that everyone has the same goal, and is going to be training at the same intensity. You don’t have to worry so much about striking too hard, or hurting someone’s feelings or offending them. I’m now able to give every drill everything I’ve got. My kru wanted me to train like this all the time, but it’s much more difficult when not every woman you’re partnered with wants that kind of punishment. Vanessa doesn’t mind. She loves to get hit in the stomach.
Just when I thought things couldn’t get better, the kru came by and watched what I was doing several times, and (until I started getting tired), all he said was that everything was looking really good. This is almost unheard of in martial arts, where it seems like something can always be improved. And since knee strikes are so essential for true muay thai, this was an extra boost to my confidence. I felt like I could do no wrong.
Then came clinching. Most people are more likely familiar with clinching in a boxing sense, where the opponents hold on to each other to get a breather until the ref separates them. Clinching in muay thai is an entirely different world. It is when the art’s most deadly strikes (knees and elbows) are most often thrown.
I actually found the clinching to be a lot of fun. I worked with Vanessa and with Jen, another woman in the fight camp. Vanessa and I tried several different techniques together, but with Jen, it was much more like an actual fight simulation–we just went for each other, and however the hold ended up was what we had to work with. I learned a few things that would be just nasty in a fight, and I also got thrown for the first time. Even that was fun, but pretty surprising. One minute I was standing, and the next I was on my butt.
Clinching is exhausting, sweaty work. I realized last night that it’s a lot like grappling. You aren’t lifting weights, or punching, or doing intense cardio, but because it’s a drawn-out struggle, you are always engaging your muscles, and that takes a ton of stamina.
We were all sweaty and exhausted by the end of two hours. All in all, a great class! I’m looking forward to tonight’s 2.5 hours of training.
Injuries so far: Frostbite on leg from ice pack!, assorted blisters, stiff neck/headaches from clinching.