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damien trainor

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Training out in the sticks

22 Jul Posted by in Blog | 3 comments

maxresdefaultAs I write this I’m actually sat outside a secluded cottage in Wales on the hottest day of the year so far. There isn’t a sound other than the birds and the bees and the clanking of knives and forks as we eat our breakfast. This lifestyle and heat reminds very much of being in a village in Buriram, Thailand.

Buriram is situated in the north east of Thailand, in an area known as Esarn. Esarn is one of the poorest regions in Thailand and a hot bed for Muay Thai talent.

My ex wife is originally from Buriram and we used to go to see the in laws there on a regular basis. Her parents home was a fairly decent size compared to some in the area.

There was a little restaurant part built onto the front of the house were the local police and residents would come and order food.

I’d been so often to the area now that the novelty of a westerner turning up had worn off.

I still had the local drunk walk by and wave his hand in the air, shouting “Hello, how are you?” About six times a day. I think it’s the only English sentence he knew.

I remember often asking Ning (my ex) if there were any gyms near by that I could visit and she always replied with “I’m not sure I’ll have to ask my dad.”

On one occasion, while enjoying the tranquilness of village life, I thought I’d try asking her again. Ning and her father jibber jabbered away for a bit until Ning turned to say there is one near by. “He say he will take you now” She said. It was only 12:00 so I responded by saying that training wouldn’t start until 3pm. “No, no my dad say now open” and she pointed to her father who was already getting into the car to take me. I knew I was right but I’d given up trying to correct a Thai person, especially when they’d been told different by someone older than me. Instead I just headed to the car and jumped in.

Inside the car must have been five times hotter than outside, it probably wasn’t but it certainly felt that way. The car wasn’t air conditioned at all so as soon as Por (dad) got into the car he did the next best thing which was to wind down all the windows

We drove to the next village which was only down the road. I always thought the villages were spaced far apart but in some cases it’s very hard to see where one ends and the other starts.

We pulled up to the gym and as expected there was no one in sight.

Other than the boxing ring and two beat up punch bags hanging up it would have just blended in with the rest of the houses surrounding it.

The boxing ring was a huge bodge job. The base was just a concrete square with four metal post coming out of each corner. The ropes were made out of hose pipes which went around the whole ring and the canvas was just some carpet thrown over the top for good measure.

We got out of the car to look for someone who could help us.

As we came around to the back of the building we saw the occupants of the gym tucking into their dinner.

There was only two adults, two teenagers and a few little kids. Por bowed and said sawadee krup (hello) to the owner. They jibbered away for a bit and I managed to work out that he was telling them I’d fought wangchannoi and that I wanted to train today.

While they chatted everyone had their eyes fixed on me, it’s something I’d become accustomed to out in the sticks.

They told us to come back at 3pm… I didn’t say anything to Por but I had a smug grin on my face.

As we walked back towards the car he signalled me to follow him and we headed to a house about four doors down.

We stood outside as Por knocked the door. He then nudged me and signalled for me to bow and say sawadee krup when the door was answered. “Mair yai, Mair yai” he repeated, it took awhile to sink in but Mair yai means grandmother and low and behold Ning’s grandmother opened the door.

I bowed and said Sawadee krup with a huge smile on my face. Mair yai was very blunt and turned to Por to ask who was the farrang?

I had met her once before but she is losing it a bit. She once told Ning to make sure she carried a knife with her just in case I started to play up, other than that she was a lovely woman. I’d even been to this house before but I couldn’t remember a boxing camp.

This actually annoyed me as I’d been asking for ages about a gym only to find out there is one next to her nan’s home.

Por and Mair yai chatted for a bit while I tried to work out what they were saying. My Thai isn’t great but I can pick out things and get a general gist of a conversation.

As it was now only 1pm we headed back home for awhile.

I had the same smug look on my face when I told Ning that I couldn’t train till 3pm but it went into one ear and straight out of the other.

We headed back to the camp at about 2.45pm this time I wasn’t taken by Por but by her 12 year old brother on his motor bike.

This isn’t uncommon in Thailand, most kids learn to ride a motorbike at an early age. I’ve actually been on a bike before with Ning, her brother an infant as well as myself.

As I arrived at the gym the lads had just finished their afternoon run and were about to hit the pads.

I was signalled to go onto the bag. On the bag next to me was a young lad who looked about 12 year old.

As I started to punch the bag I could hear one of the elderly men start to shout at the young boy which in turn made him work harder.

I was left on the bag for the first half of the session and not once was I taken onto the pads. This annoyed me as I guess they thought I couldn’t do anything. Looking back it was probably more to do with the pad man not speaking any English and not wanting to appear stupid by trying to converse with me.

After the young lads had finished their pad work I was signalled and asked if I knew how to clinch.

I said that I could and then that familiar look I had often seen from none foreigner camps came into play.

The one young lad started laughing and kept repeating the word farrang.

I climbed in to the ring with the two other lads. They must have about 15 or 16 and of similar weight.

The aim for this was winner stays on. If you’re thrown to the ground, head pulled down or your partner gets behind you than you’re out and the other guy steps in.

The trainer shouted something to the young lad as we walked in to start clinching. He shouted something back while laughing and I thought to myself lets see if you’re laughing in a minute you little f#%ker

As soon as we tangled up to clinch I threw him straight to the ground.

Everyone in the gym shouted out “Oooeeee!” The young lad looked up with a confused look on his face but once he noticed he’s trainer was laughing he started to laugh with him.

I clinched with the other lad who was now in the ring but this time it was my turn to hit the deck. After a few moments i was back with the first lad but this time he was a little more determined. He tried to throw me with little success and soon all the lads in the gym had gathered round, cheering every time one of us kneed. It was getting that loud that a few of the residents were coming out to see what all the noise was about.

I had no idea how long we were clinching for before the trainer laughingly asked the young lad why he couldn’t throw the farrang? I can only guess his response was something like why don’t you come in and throw him?

The trainer then climbs into the ring and signals for me to clinch with him. We started to clinch and a couple of times I almost threw him, each time I did the gym started laughing and taking the mick out of him. We must of clinched for about 10 minutes until finally I was thrown to the ground.

I sat on the floor looking at everyone and they were all laughing and sticking their thumbs up to me in acknowledgement. I noticed one guy at the back on his phone walking towards the ring, he put his phone away and then promptly told me I was fighting tomorrow.

I said that I couldn’t as I was returning to Bangkok the next day to catch my flight home to the UK. As I said my understanding of Thai language is good but my speaking isn’t and he didn’t have a clue what I was on about.

One of the young lads must have thought he could speak English well and said to me “you fight tomorrow.” So I responded in English that I couldn’t. He looked at me with a puzzled look slapped his hand on his face and started to laugh and said “Ooeeee farrang.”

In the end I had to call Ning and get her to explain the situation to them on the phone. She also asked them how much I had to pay for todays session, they just said to give what I want. I bowed and offered them what i knew the going rate was in Bangkok which was 300 Baht, his eyes lit up and told me to bring more people to come and train at his gym (300 Baht in the sticks is quite a bit of money).

As I left the gym to get back onto New’s (Younger brother) bike all the young lads bowed to me and said “very good” in English.

The sun had started to set which gave the surroundings an orange glow and not a soul was in site as we made our way back home through the countryside of Buriram.

As I was enjoying the scenery I pondered to myself. Many young kids take up Muay Thai to help with the families financial burden. If they do well in the provinces and start making a name for themselves then they could potentially catch the eye of a Bangkok based gym. The trading of boxers is very similar to football players here where players with the most potential will be scouted and bought by the better teams.

Those few months of being thrown around in 96Penang camp in Bangkok had really helped with my clinching but also made me appreciate the level of talent to be found in even the smallest camps in Thailand (If you haven’t read that blog you can read it here Small fish big pond).

These young lads I just trained with were not at the same level as the guys in 96Penang and they may never be scouted by a wealthy gym. This is the sad case for many young boxers in the poor regions of Thailand. There are so many skilful fighters out there but you have to really stand out to be noticed.

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