By Jen Louie, Foster Undergraduate participating in an exchange with Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand.
After pissing away half the day sleeping in on Friday I woke up feeling groggy and guilty, the usual combination of emotions from a regretful late start to the day. I didn’t have any plans for the day, so I decided to pass on meeting a few friends to go shopping and instead join my friend Long to check out a Muay Thai Boxing gym not too far from our residence. I was nervous for my first time attempt at a combat sport. I also knew/know absolutely nothing about boxing and wasn’t sure what to expect. From playing soccer, going skiing, running track, and swimming, my upper body strength is pretty non-existant. I actively avoid doing arms or chest or even back at the gym, let alone venture in to sports focused on upper body strength.
Mankong Phranai Muay Thai Boxing Gym is a 30 minute walk from our residence through a calm residential area, tucked away behind a gate and a nice lush green garden. A few mats laid down in a rectangular plot, with four punching bags around the sides, a few fans here and there, and a shelf of equipment in the back make up the gym. There are a few teachers and two owners; a male and female. The atmosphere was inviting and laid back from the minute we entered. They asked for our names and asked where we were from, then put us to work to start warming up. I think Long could tell that I was nervous; as an experienced boxer he was more eager than nervous and told me that these guys would know my limit and I shouldn’t be afraid of passing out. After slipping off my shoes and warming up with 500 loops on a jumprope, a trainer came over to me and began teaching me the basics;
how to stand,
where my feet go,
how to guard-keep my arms parallel to my body not perpendicular,
how to hit,
front foot step,
The process continued for a while; until I looked seemingly less foolish and unaware. The rhythm took a while to get, not to mention remembering where to position every limb of my body. Then I put on some wrapping and grabbed a pair of gloves and began to shadow practice while Long punched the pads on the trainer I just had. I was impressed, also scared, but carefully watched to see what I needed to keep track of. When it became my turn it wasn’t so easy, but it was exceptionally fun. I was focused, ignoring the pools of sweat gathering below my feet, and looked forward to every kick attack. I felt more confident with my kicks thanks to my leg muscle; but it definitely took a lot of energy and mindfulness to position my body correctly.
Remember it’s in the way your hips swing,
swing your hips,
keep your foot pointed down,
lower your arm.
Although the price for an hour long session was a bit steep, at 400B ($13USD), I had so much fun. I didn’t expect my first time boxing to me as exhilarating as it was. I left wanting to return to the sweaty but comfortable atmosphere of the small outdoor gym and nice muay thai boxers. Hopefully I’ll make my way back there some time soon.