CORPUS CHRISTI, TX, September 20, 2011 – One of the most important styles that make up the MMA game as we know it is the art of eight limbs, otherwise known as Muay Thai. As traditional a martial art as any in the world, Muay Thai’s roots go way back to the ancient kingdoms of Siam, when the rulers of the time ruled vassal states like Cambodia and Laos from the seat of power in the city of Bangkok and Muay Thai was used to protect king and country.
Back home here in present-day Texas, we have been fortunate enough in recent years to have Thai masters like Kru Pong and Saekson Janjira teaching the art of traditional Muay Thai. Yet I’m sure even they’d agree with the statement that nothing compares to learning Thailand’s national fight art.
To this end, we recently spoke to Paulina Granados, an amateur female fighter out of Corpus Christie’s American Revolution Muay Thai and Submission Center who recently had the awesome opportunity to go across the world to Bangkok, Thailand to drink from the well of MT knowledge, so to speak.
In this in-depth article, Paulina was kind enough to share some of the details of her journey for anybody out there, especially women, who want o make the pilgrimage to the Muay Thai mecca in the near future.
The Trip Overseas
“My friend Emily Grimes told me about Master Toddy (Muay Thai Kru and star of ‘Fight Girls’ reality show that was on the Oxygen Network) about a three-week fight camp he was setting up for his new show Tuff Girls. I thought it was a great opportunity for two reasons. I definitely wanted to train with other talented females but I also wanted to explore the world. I’d never been overseas before.”
Braving the nearly twenty-four hours or travel time and a time zone switch that turned night into day, Paulina literally used a stopwatch to keep track of time.
“I flew with United Airlines and they treated me pretty well. They give you a lot of complimentary meals, drinks, and snacks to make the long trip a little easier. They also had touchscreen TV’s for every passenger, where we could play music, watch TV shows, movies, and play games. It was pretty awesome actually.”
Training in Thailand
Relaxed and fully immersed in vacation mode by the time she got there, Paulina approached the trip and the training with a very open mind. “I knew there would be plenty of other English-speaking people at the camp. I made a lot of new friends from around the world – Thailand; Australia; England; Sweden; Israel; Spain; Russia; Norway; and even from other parts of the USA.
“I trained at Master Toddy’s Ultra Fight Gym in the outskirts of Bangkok Thailand. The gym had palm trees and a bunch of plants growing inside of it. We were basically outside just with a roof over our heads. It was for sure a different experience training with the instructors and the aa-jaan, which means head master. They spoke very little to no English but they definitely know the language of traditional Muay Thai.”
Luckily for Paulina, training at the fight camp with other women from other countries there for the same thing made life, and training, much easier.
“It’s so amazing to see females from all over the world coming together to train in the same sport,” she says. We are all so different yet passionate about the sport. I really respected everyone I trained with. All the girls had beautiful kicks and nice technique all around. The girls from England were very good and experienced. There was one girl Lanchana Green that really impressed me! I never realized how big the sport was in England. Shout out to Lanchana!”
Taking us through her training experience, it was obvious that Paulina took her Muay Thai experience to heart out there in Bangkok.
Her daily routine was serious business.
By 6:30AM she’d already be awake and scarf down a light breakfast before making it downstairs to train by 7AM, warming up by jumping rope before the group as a whole who then “wai” then say sawasdee-ka to all the masters before proceeding with stretching and agilities.
(note: Wai is an action of Thais to show respect to others by putting the hands together like in prayer and sawasdee-ka is a greeting given by a girl, sawasdee-kap is greeting from a male.)
Once the warm-ups were over, the next step was direct instruction from Master Toddy for an hour followed up by drilling glove-to-glove with a partner for yet another hour. And after that came the pad work. As if that wasn’t enough, every session ended with a 20-30 minutes jog and abdominal work to prepare the muscles for the inevitable knees that go along with a territory.
The midday rest would often turn into exploring the area, massages, or of course as with any vacation, shopping trips. Then it was back to work. By 4PM, it was time for an evening session that would typically consist of a general review what was learned earlier in the day, drilling, and sparring. According to Paulina, the sparring sessions were fun because they would have times where they were only allowed to spar with select limbs – like a left arm and right leg or vice versa. The possibilities were endless, she says. It really made her use her mind more.
All in all, the experience was both challenging and enriching for her growth as a fighter.
“The best thing about training in Thailand was that I was able to train with more women in one spot than I have in my whole career as a fighter combined! Also watching all the kids train… They have better technique than almost any adult man I have seen in the United States. It was insane! The most challenging thing for me was learning the clinch game and learning traditional Muay Thai. I am more Dutch-style based and all my standup surrounds around MMA. Clinching is a whole different ball game. I feel like my clinch got a little bit better and I have become more comfortable with throwing kicks using everything I have got without worrying about my shins as much as a I used to. They still hurt sometimes but my tolerance to pain has definitely gone up.”
Experiencing the Stadium Fights
In addition to her own training experience, Paulina also got to experience Thailand’s traditional Muay Thai culture through being able to attend some of Bangkok’s stadium fights.
As much of a fan as she is a fighter herself, watching this fights became one of the pivotal highlights of her trip.
“Let me tell you, these Thai’s really know how to put on a show! They hold fights everywhere in Bangkok – at the Lumpini Stadium, The National Stadium, Siam Night Bazaar, and many more places. The youngest fighters are first to the more experienced when it comes to the fight order. The youngest I watched was 6 years old. They start with a ram muay (also called wai-kru – which is an warm up activity in Thai culture that is performed by both competitors.) It’s the way to show respect to the masters, their God (Buddha), parents and opponent in the ring. The simple movements demonstrate the fighter’s control and style and it’s usually really beautiful. This whole time there is a band playing live for the Ram Muay and throughout the whole fight, speeding up towards the ends of the rounds to let the fighters know the round is almost over. It’s really intense. Between rounds, the fighter’s legs and arms are rubbed down with water and liniment by two trainers while the third one talks them through what to do. The crowds are wild at these shows, everyone is gambling and cheering. These events are probably the most loudest I have been too. It was awesome. Two words for you… Elbow wars!
The Thailand Experience
Aside from training, we also wanted to get Paulina’s perspective on what is what like to travel in Thailand despite the training. Based on what she says, the country sounds like a fun time whether you play on getting into the clinch or staying out of it altogether.
“The people of Thailand are the sweetest people I have ever met. They are always smiling and positive about everything. They love foreigners and always want you to try their foods.”
Speaking of the food, she says it was amazing out there, despite the fact that it was hard to order at first. “Most places have pictures on the menu so it helps to just point at it! The food is more on the spicy side but if you tell them “mai aow pet” for no spicy or “aow pet nid noi” for very little spicy. For the most part, they will realize that as a foreigner you are not used to very spicy dishes and will prepare your food accordingly.”
Adding to that, she says it was fun eating with big groups at the restaurant family-style, but another treat came in the form of the food sold by the vendors that lined the streets of Bangkok.
“They have the most awesome and inexpensive foods. My favorite was grilled chicken on a skewer served with a bag of rice and spicy papaya salad.”
From the street food to the restaurants and everything in between, it was all affordable in addition to being plain awesome. According to Paulina, it was actually much less expensive that every day life here in Texas. You can get by with $10-15 for a whole day’s worth of meals and even some snacks in between. And it’s not only the food either. Other luxuries like inexpensive Thai massages also show that money goes a long way over there.
A Few Tips for Traveling to Thailand
► Don’t ever tough a Thai person on the head or step on their feet. (very disrespectful in their culture)
► If you take a taxi, make sure to ask them to meter or you might get ripped off.
► Always bargain when shopping. You’ll cut your spending in half that way and get things a lot cheaper.
► In Bangkok, the sky train is the cheapest and fastest way to travel.
► Try everything once, even if it looks funky!
► Pack light or bring an extra bag. There are many cool shops to buy inexpensive clothes and handmade, custom training gear.
A Look Back at Her Trip
Paulina’s been back for a few weeks now and has learned to appreciate both cultures – east and west.
“I appreciate everything I have here in Corpus, including my training. I never really understood the meaning of the term “third world country” until I went there but it was so much fun! When I first arrived the first week went by very slowly, and then bam, I had to leave. I wish I would have stayed a week or two longer. There is so much to see and do in Thailand. I enjoyed their cultural differences, rituals, spiritualism, and simple lives. Thailand has beautiful temples and monuments. They also have an awesome Zoo! I plan on going back to visit next summer. This time I want to visit and train in Phuket, which is an island off the southwest coast of Thailand. Muay Thai and beaches galore!
If you haven’t been to Thailand, you should most definitely start saving up to go. It’s unbelievably affordable to train there or just make a vacation out of it. Thanks to TXMMA.com for letting me share my experience. I would also like to thank my gym American Revolution MMA for helping me prepare for my trip, my dad and Juan Perez for paying for almost all of it, and also my sponsors Tussle Fight Gear, Rocks Discount Vitamins and More, & Andy Martinez from Fitness for Life.”
Paulina’s Thailand Photo Gallery
Master Toddy’s ‘Tuff Girls’ Preview
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