Muay Thai Boxing

When I first arrived on Ko Lanta I met a a large, muscular guy named Jonny who had been living on the island in a bamboo bungalow since October. He originally came to Thailand for a 3 week vacation and has stayed for 1.5 years. In the US, he worked for a large engineering corporation, now he is a master dive instructor and a Muay Thai boxer.
It turns out that Jonny and I were in the same room in 1999. He graduated from a high school 3 miles away from where I went to school and was also a wrestler. He saw me in 1999 when I won my first wrestling match against a guy on his team. I was relieved to hear that although the guy got a lot of shit, he still continued wrestling :)
Jonny inspired me so much that I decided to stay on Ko Lanta and live in his world for a week. I signed up to get my scuba certification and take private Thai Boxing lessons early in the morning.
Welcome to the Muay Thai boxing gym on Ko Lanta on the west coast of southern Thailand.
Here is Cat with teh braids I put in my hair practicing the kicks I had just learned after the session with the instructor. During the session, you basically push and kick the trainer who is covered in pads - it is very motivating and very tiring.

I don't think this picture does justice to the pain I was feeling in my feet and shins after 2 days of Muay Thai kicking. I had lost skin in some places and my skin ached...not to mention my muscles  -especially my lower obliques.

Here is a guy from Britain who has been training for several years and is having his private session. In the background is his wife who is a yoga instructor. They are training every day during their holiday.

Meet Lindsay and James - they are from Kansas and Colorodo and are spending the year teaching English in Beijing. They are both incredibly atheletic and good people and I got to play with them while I was on Ko Lanta, which worked out wonderfully.

Lindsay, James, Jonny and I went to the Ko Lanta Muay Thai stadium for a set of 8 matches. (Jonny had wom the final match of the night the previous week! - go Jonny!) I was extatic to go to the event and feel like I had a community. My trainer was taking the tickets at the door, his brother was doing some of the announcing, a frech guy I had met on the beach was selling drinks, and I got to wave to a half-dozen other people I had met at the gym during the matches.
The first round is typically more ceremonial, where boxers will dance around each other feeling each other out and pacing themselves for the massively long 5 x 3min sets. The first 4 matches of the night are typically boys between the ages of 12 and 16. There are usually no knock-outs during these matches and I saw varying levels of activity.

However, in the 5th match, the guys did not pace themselves at all. They were doing flying attacks from the first round. My the second round one guy hit the ground completely limp after a solid hit to the head. Unbelievably, he got back up and kicked the other guy's butt for another 2 rounds before hitting the ground in the 5th round (picture below). He walked away safely but even in the 4th round both fighters were having trouble standing upright ...some of the fighters sitting near us said it was the best fight they had ever seen...
The final match was a swedish guy (primarily a boxer) and a Thai guy (primarily a kicker) - here you can see them doing their warm-up ceremony during which the boxers often move to each corner of the ring and do a short prayer and then do whatever other dance they would like in the middle of the ring.
Here's me on the beach after scuba Day 2.

And another amazing sunset

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