Fighting Thai Champions in Thailand

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Training with Pradit from Thailand (aka Mr 500 jump knees warm-up)

The first time I traveled to Thailand back in 2007, I didn’t like it.

Lying on the beautiful Phuket beach sounds like bliss. But being surrounded by underage prostitutes, (obviously sold by their penniless parents) and old men hobbling around hawking souvenirs for a few dollars, left me feeling empty. How dare I enjoy my stay at a swanky 5-star hotel, when the street kids living on the street just in front of the hotel grounds had nothing to eat?

Being surrounded by poverty and heartache was not my idea of a great holiday. The overwhelming feeling of dread due to an inability to intervene in a blatant one-sided human struggle did not leave me the whole time I was there.

When planning my trip, at the top of my list was purchasing a fake designer bag which would be guaranteed to improve the quality of my life. Now, even the sheen of my shiny Prada knock-off did not help to brighten my mood.  I vowed to never to return to Thailand.

The years have flown by. Not that I’ve aged – still no wrinkles… but I digress.

957km later – here I come Thailand

Since then, I’ve fallen hard and fast in love. With Thailand’s national sport no less. Muay Thai.

Suddenly a trip back to Thailand was on the horizon. But it was more of a dream than a reality. Would I ever be good enough to fight in the land that Muay Thai was created?

I had taken the first step however, and was training with Thais. Real, live Thai trainers at JAI Thai Boxing Gym!

To them, it didn’t matter that I had a couple of local belts. In fact, the first  day at training, my trainer said matter-of-factly: “You NZ Champion? Cannot beat champion in Thailand.”

I didn’t get offended, because I knew he was right. It was going to be a long road ahead if I ever stepped into the ring in Thailand.

10 months later, after  957km of pounding the pavement, 576 of hours of fight preparation, and up to 1,000 kicks a day, I was finally ready to take on the world. The two-time world Thai champion Saifah Sor Suparat to be exact!

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Me vs Thailand champion. Super impressed they spelled my name correctly, even if they didn’t get my country 100% correct

Well… I had convinced myself I was ready… until I arrived at Thapae Stadium in Chiang Mai and got a wake-up call. In front of me were a couple cute 10-year- olds elbowing each other in the face.

Their fight was a performance that would put most seasoned adult fighters to shame. Knees that flew with deadly accuracy. Elbows with dagger-like precision to draw blood. Ending in a KO… KO?

Was this what my opponent did when she was 10? The biggest impression I left at the age of 10 was an imprint of my prone body on the couch. For a few minutes, I was struck down in a cold sweat of self-doubt.

 

 

 

Thailand's "beautiful" sport has left its mark in my heart - and on my legs...

Thailand’s “beautiful” sport has left its mark in my heart – and on my legs…

What have I gotten myself into?

She is a two-time world champion.

She has over 100 fights more than me.

Then I remembered the answer one of my trainers gave me, when I asked him what goodies he wanted brought back from his home town. His answer:

“I don’t want anything. Except for you to win your fight.”

Flashback in slow motion, to my thousands of kicks and jump knees. My trainers have given me not only skills to fight on an international level, but also something equally essential – confidence. Their belief in my ability and worthiness to step into the ring against a champion from their own country.  This was all I needed.

Spoiler alert. This isn’t a Rocky movie. I lost the fight. I didn’t get KO’d but I fought well, with skill and confidence, and I learned from the experience.

I knew what I needed to improve on and six days later I fought again in Chiang Mai.

I received a win this time – as well as seven stitches on my face.

I was absolutely devastated. I couldn’t fight for the rest of the trip. And I was just getting started! This was supposed to be my big break on the way to the world title and what was I doing? Sitting by the pool with a cool refreshing beverage. What a miserable end to my Thai trip!

I pushed myself really hard to come here. But after the initial disappointment (and a few cold pina coladas), realised that this was the universe’s way of telling me to take a break.

ThailandAnd break I did. For the rest of my time in Thailand, I did things I almost never do back in New Zealand.

I spent time with my family.

I slept in.

I ate too much.

I didn’t train.

I didn’t worry about who I was going to fight next.

All in all, the trip turned out to be even better than I could have imaged. I came back with a renewed passion for the hurting people business and the energy to do what I need to get to the top.

There is no longer any self-doubt about it, I AM going to the top.

Until next time, Thailand

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