After an initial, grueling flurry of appearances in a full-time Muay Thai (Thaiboxing) gym in Phuket, my employers decided I should relocate to Bangkok. Most Muay Thai clubs operate during office hours so it was a difficult to find one I could fit around work, but my search eventually met with success. A friend-of-a-friend – a Canadian guy called Tyler whose career as a mixed martial artist/cage fighter came to an abrupt end when he was flown to Russia for his first fight only to have his jaw badly broken in the first exchange of the first round – told me of a few evening classes near my end of the city. He listed off a few, but one had immediate appeal.
The following week I went along to my first class at the Bangkok Fightclub. But despite the fearsome moniker, the gym had little in common with the full-time professional classes I had attended in Phuket. The evening time slot meant predominantly foreign students training to keep in shape and for the enjoyment of the classes as appose to Thais who trained because fighting was their livelihood. The class was slowed down somewhat by tourists who came along on a one-off basis but the quality of the Thai instructors meant that individually, you could train more-or-less as hard as you wanted. Having quit smoking and cut pub/club visits down to by-monthly events I was raring to go from the off and after a couple of weeks the head instructor – a jovial, thoroughbred warrior who had boxed for Thailand in the Sydney Olympics and was only beaten by the eventual (Cuban) gold medalist – came to me with a proposition.
“When you fight?” asked Somchai.
“I'll fight tomorrow,” I said with a grin, hoping he was joking.
“Ahh! Dii Mak Lobert! Two months you ready to fight,” he answered, clearly happy with my faux-enthusiasm for a trip to the ring.
“You think so?” I asked, starting to wonder whether this might be something I could actually do.
“Jing jing. Two months I take you Burriram, my home town, and you fight in stadium! Now, go kick bag.”
And with that, my fate was sealed – I would be taking a pro-Muay Thai fight in the part of the country where it was practically a religion. Since then, I've been coming across increasingly worrying snippets of information. For one, an inquiry about who I might be fighting led Somchai to tell me that I need not worry, I would be fighting a fellow beginner, the only difference being that he would be Thai. Fighting a Thai is a big enough deal given that the purse is the difference between whether their family eats or goes hungry, but something else began to worry me about the proposition. Thais train since they're kids, so unless the plan was to put me in against an eight-year-old my opponent's 'beginner' credentials would be dubious at best. I was also told by my buddy Tyler, who is preparing to go under the knife for the second time in an attempt to repair his ruined jaw, that Thai instructors get paid for getting people into the ring – win, loose or draw.
However, the clearest indication that I was being lined up for an unholy bating came last week in training. On Somchai's orders I had been low-kicking a heavy bag for a good 30 minutes straight – it started to get boring so I started practicing a few high kicks. Somchai however, wasn't happy.
“No Robert! You have to kick low every time!”
“Really? Why?” I asked, genuinely perplexed.
“In Burriram you fight big man, so you have to kick low! Only chance you can win! Now, go kick bag.”
I've been researching health insurance. Sadly, I'll be lucky to find a company reckless enough to give me a policy.
© Rob Carry. All rights reserved by the author.