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Thailand – Pum Pui No More!

  • Written by Swayer
  • May 28th, 2009
  • 11 min read

Tipping just over 105kg on the scales and comparing that to my height I realised drastic measures needed to be taken. My dad had just had his second serious heart operation and I knew I had to change my lifestyle. What was the best way of doing this I pondered to myself, depressed and beating up myself about my huge gut.

Around the same time I’d been introduced through a friend to a guy who practiced “muay thai” and he had a fight coming up. I went to watch him fight but was amazed by the brutality of it. I didn’t care much for the background of it, or what it even was. I just thought it was kickboxing. Little did I know…

After he won the fight there was always a celebration back at his house and I ended up back there. After chatting with him I explained I wanted to lose weight and he told me to come down and start training. After a couple of weeks of running in an attempt to get my fitness up I finally got the courage and went along. I got told all about where the sport came from (I had no interest in Thailand at the time) the history of the sport, the wai, wai kru and got shown a few basic techniques. I was completely hooked.

After 2 and a bit years of years of training hard and settling at a gym closer to my home I decided it was time to visit Thailand and train “Thai style”. Fortunately for me my gym has close links with a gym based in Bangkok, and our training style was similar, except for only 2 and a half hours 3 times a week, not the 6 hour a day onslaught that is Thailand.

I arrived on Sunday and today is Wednesday. Ny legs are bruises and battered and I have enough mossie bites that if you joined them all together you would have a map of Thailand.

I didn't get a very good sleep Sunday night due to the time difference, that or the fact that it's very noisy at night. The local cats decide to start fighting and screeching at each other at 3am and this awakes the dog that starts making a bizarre awheeeeeee noise (I’ve since learnt its deaf); in turn the lizard then starts up. Before you know it there’s a cockerel going off, then BANG BANG BANG, that’s my door being knocked to get up for training. I looked at my phone to see the time, 6:50am, great!

I felt quite fresh considering and felt ready for the challenge. As it was my first day Pimu said running 3 laps would be a good start. Running is a big part of the training here. You do it twice a day. It's not a very fast pace (at least for me it definitely wasn't) which I was glad of. Another young boxer showed me the route which is basically just round a couple of blocks of a residential area; I’d guess 1 lap is just under a km. As you run around occasionally people will stick their thumb up, or make the odd comment "You Nak Muay?” or "Where you from?" while frantically smiling and sticking their thumbs up.

One lap into this and I realize this isn't going to be easy. After just 1 lap I’m feeling pretty tired, I’m breathing heavily but every breath just fills my lungs with hot sticky Bangkok air. It's punishing! I finished my 3 laps and got back to the camp where training starts. I can only manage to 2 rounds on the pads. I have no energy at all, every pore in my body is sweating and I feel slightly sick. I hope it gets easier…

I then did a bit of skipping; some stretches and exercises to warm down. Pimu tells me I will soon get used to it. I take a shower which is probably the best shower I’ve ever had. Never have I felt more like needing a shower.

I don't remember much after this besides BANG BANG BANG, I awake slightly dazed and confused to remember I am in Thailand. It's 3pm and it starts all over again. Another run, another 2 rounds and more exercising. It's even hotter now as it's the middle of the day. A part of my head thinking does my medical insurance cover this? I've not yet written a will!

After this I went back to my room for another much needed shower and to watch countless Thai commercials of skin whitening cream. Why does everyone in England want to be tanned yet in Thailand it seems being pale is best. It's a crazy world we live in.

Pimu knocks on my door to ask if I’m hungry. I was starving so off we go to a local eatery, the mode of transport to get to said eatery….. The back of a scooter! I was absolutely scared shitless at first. I’ve never been a fan of scooters nor would I have said sitting on the back of one with no helmet, shorts and a T-shirt blasting around the back streets of Bangkok would have been a chosen thing to do, yet after 5 minutes I was loving it.

Tuesday was much of the same with regard to training, except I ran 5 laps in both the morning and afternoon, training generally felt easier but I was struggling with the round on the pads. The heat does really get to you.

Tuesday night Pimu took me to Lumpini Stadium somewhere I've always wanted to go since getting into Muay Thai. I had a real warmth of excitement as I walked in. The fights were unbelievable and I watched in awe at the technical abilities, conditioning and power of the boxers. The crowd is also insane; a mix of die hard betters shaking and waving their hands and foreigners who have come to see Muay Thai. Pimu did try to explain the betting to me and I had a very vague understanding of what some of the hand signals meant. One of the best fights I saw was 2 young Thais, one obviously very very strong in the clinch constantly kneeing his opponent so hard eventually he was sick all over the ring. Superb!

Wednesday arrived already. Pimu told me this morning to run 6 laps, which didn't bother me as much. I was a bit more used to the morning heat. Afterwards were 3 rounds of pad work with Pimu constantly reminding me about my technique. After training today I did my usual routine of shower/apply mossie bite cream and rub anti septic cream and place plasters onto my now blistered and cut feet. I then trundled off to Tesco to treat myself to some chocolate which turned into 1 bag of crisps, 2 bottles of Pepsi and 2 chocolate bars, all with change from what would roughly be 1 pound. What a place!

Wednesday afternoon was very tough, 7 laps of running plus another boxer named Dee had come to hold pads, clinch and spar with me. Dee like Pimu is all about good technique, constantly reminding me of the bad habits I have picked up while also showing me some new tricks along the way. After 3 rounds of pads I do some stretching and exercise before some clinch work. After being thrown round like a rag doll and being kneed to oblivion my ribs couldn't take it anymore. Thankfully training was over. I was absolutely shattered today and every part of me ached, especially my legs which were tight. Also on weighing myself after training I was 74 kg which means a loss of 1.5 – 2kg in 3 days…. Scary.

Wednesday night I decided I was too tired to go out anywhere exciting after a quick bite to eat I headed back to my room with a few DVDs I’d purchased for around 45p each. Suddenly my stomach felt a bit tense and the next hour or so was spent running backwards and forwards to the toilet, perhaps chili chicken wasn't such a good idea on my Western gut. I certainly don't remember it being that hot going down as it did coming out…

Thursday up again at 6:50am, 8 laps of running today. My legs were very, very achy and tight and running on them felt horrible. Spent the morning doing pad work with Dee holding the pads and Pimu slapping my legs/arms whenever my guard was wrong or I wasn't on the balls of my feet. By the end of the 4 rounds my arms and legs had some nice red marks, although I know the repetition is drilling out my bad habits slowly but surely. I also photographed my legs, which were now 1 big bruise rather than a collection of little ones. I'd also managed to rack up even more mosquito bites to a pretty impressive collection. Also after showering I think I noticed the outline of my abs, either this or it was the chilli chicken making it's reappearance in an 'alien' type fashion.

Thursday afternoon I woke up and went for a run, managed 10 laps which I thought was good. My legs were in such pain although I felt really strong this afternoon. Think I managed 3 rounds of pads and 1 round of just punching. Did a little sparring and clinching, although I spent most of my time picking myself up from the floor.

Friday was a world of pain, 10 laps again in the morning and a massage at lunch time, my legs were so tight when she was rubbing them it was absolute agony. I screamed like a little girl every time my thigh and calf muscles were rubbed. The pain was relentless.

After the massage was done I had my lunch and a sleep. Woke up and my legs felt all floaty when I walked about. Felt much better. Friday afternoon was a pretty similar affair to the morning, 8 or so laps, pad work and some clinch work and exercise to finish. It's amazing how I was now doing around 200 sit ups but doing them now in blocks of 50 – 60, rather than 20. In just a week my body felt a lot more conditioned to the punishment I was giving it. Also doing push ups in sets of 50. Hardcore!

Saturday had come, the last day of training. I felt exhausted mentally and physically and took it very easy in the morning and in the afternoon didn’t really train at all, maybe just some stretching and a bit of exercise. My stomach was in pieces too from something I’d eaten and I was just so tired the mere thought of running or pad work made my body throb.

In hindsight this was one of the hardest things I’d ever done in my life. The training was tough, not only because of the heat but the amount of time you train for. Plus trying to break bad habits makes it mentally difficult too. I don't think a week was really enough. I felt by Friday I was just starting to get used to the heat and the punishment the training puts on you.

Overall I’d lost 4kg (half a stone), felt a lot more toned and felt as fit as a fiddle, and was probably in the best mental and physical condition I’d ever been in (Come Sunday morning after a good sleep).

I'd recommend it to anyone. It's a real escapism from reality. It made me realise a lot about life and look back on a lot of the things that have changed for me in the past 3 years. I had a lot of time to myself between training and gave me plenty of time to think about things. I know this sounds really hippyfied but it really felt like I’d come a long way in life, both physically and mentally. I realised how happy I was, and to a degree a lot of this has come from my love of Muay Thai. Sad but true.

The only downside to this was I then spent 2 weeks in Phuket, Samui and Koh Pangnhan. 2 weeks of Singha, phad thai and Panang curries soon lost some of my “cut” figure… Oh well at least my hips were flexible and stamina was good from the training, but that’s another story all together… 😉

Stickman's thoughts:

A week seems rather a short period to train for, but then it sounds like the benefits were great. Many Muay Thai schools offer month-long courses for around 60,000 baht which covers everything from accommodation to food to training. Probably a good crash course to get fit and learn some self-defence.