My first day at Chiang Mai, I decided to get back in the ring and train with some real Muay Thai fighters. In Thailand, Muay Thai boxing is the national sport. People train to become career fighters. International people can even stay in Thailand on a self-defense educational “ED Visa” to be sponsored by a gym to study and train in Muay Thai for a year. I had trained in Muay Thai and boxing briefly back in high school and college, so I thought it was long overdue for a proper training. After my first class, I decided to try to attend a training every day for the rest of my time in Chiang Mai (7-8 days). The 8 am workouts were the perfect way to start a full day of explorations.
The trainings were pretty brutal–intense stretching, sprinting around the ring for 10 mins, bag work, move technique, and sparring with a trainer in the ring. For context, the trainers are all career fighters in Thailand. They were really encouraging teachers and some even simulated real fight maneuvers. For example, when I was practicing roundhouse kicks, I ended up being surprise kicked in the stomach. It was a little painful, but I certainly felt the excitement of having to literally think on my feet. I also learned a few new moves, such as upward and reverse elbow jabs and spinning back kicks.
Of course, a trip to Thailand would not be complete without a trip to a boxing stadium to view an actual fight. Luckily, I got to meet up with Magda, my new friend I met in Bangkok, and we bought tickets to see a live match. I was most shocked to realize that matches took place between more than just young men. We saw match between two young boys, about 5-6 years old, and young girls, about 14-17 years old. But they were full of excitement and love for the sport and thankfully the referees were quite vigilant.
After my Thai boxing experience, I feel like I’ve come full circle in my boxing journey. I only started boxing in high school because I had never worked out before and wanted to gain some confidence. Now, I am traveling solo on a different side of the world and boxing to keep fit and make friends with career fighters. Maybe I’ll have to start up boxing again when I get back to the States….