This is what a Muay Thai training session with a world champion looks like
Expectations vs reality
Let's just say if Evolve MMA was seen through an academic lens, it would be the Yale or Dartmouth of all boxing gyms. Especially when it comes to aficionados looking to throw a solid punch, earn a belt, or basically go places within their fitness level. In essence, this is where the cream of the crop like Angela Lee and a slew of other world champions call home.
I knew all of this, but yet walked right into a private session with one of Evolve's Muay Thai world champions. Experiences, they said. Plus, I figured I could gain something from the session.
My trainer, who I referred to as Kru Lui ('Kru' being a moniker in Muay Thai for teacher and 'Lui' as an abbreviated version of his name), wasn't one of those that had 'World Champion' printed on for appearances. I wish. Instead, Kru has been a professional fighter for 25 years, with a fight record of 145 - 37 and many titles clinched under his belt in Thailand and around the world. Oh, he's also been featured 'Human Weapon' on the History Channel. No biggie.
The tricky thing about Evolve is that there aren't secluded places for private sessions to take place. Mine happened in a huge boxing ring, up on the second floor of their gym at China Square. I later found out, that beginners start their training from the ground floor before advancing to the next; which made me extremely unqualified to be occupying the spacious boxing ring with one of the most important trainers in the gym.
"Don't worry, no one will be staring at you," said Kru as I glanced nervously around the area. To my right, a Brazilian Jiujitsu class was underway; to my left, a level two class was going through their warm-ups. Kru was wrong. People were staring, and I couldn't really blame them. My body language definitely gave my inexperience away. But I also couldn't afford to care less. I was in a boxing ring with a 'Human Weapon'. What else could I possibly be thinking about?
The good thing about being a novice, is that you're handed plenty of free passes. In this case, Kru couldn't have been more patient during the entire session. We warmed up with stretches and a few laughs — and then it was time to learn. Gloves on, game on. Abiding to my left-handed stance, Kru led me through eight different techniques that are fundamental to Muay Thai. Termed the 'Art of Eight Limbs', it encompasses strikes which engage your fists, shins, elbows and knees.
Under Kru's instructed sequence, I practised the individual moves over and over again and then all together. I then realised it wasn't a matter of how much strength you had. What comes before that is nailing the fundamental techniques. Turns out, Muay Thai wasn't all brawn. There were plenty of occasions where I had to stop and think, before executing the said move. Mastering the full set in sequence, was almost like doing a dance. There wasn't any room to be distracted by your pending work problems or what you were going to eat for dinner, but what it demanded was your full and undivided attention. One wrong move, and that could be mean a brutal strike from your opponent. Mind over matter never rang so true in this circumstance.
Once you have that in the bag, brute force and pent-up frustration can then be put to good use. At least, that's what I accomplished in my 40-minute session with Kru. I wouldn't say I made him proud, but I definitely made him smile as he repeated "Good!" a couple of times in his heavy Thai accent.
In my world? That's an affirmative win.