Training/Diet #9: Coaching, Training, Self-Defense, Muay Thai

Posted on April 20, 2015



Wednesday Sparring Class (I'm wearing blue shorts)

My last update was some time ago. After finishing a cutting and obstacle racing cycle I wanted to get back into Starting Strength. Because of my awful ankle flexibility, back squat with proper form was almost out of the question.

I went back to my coach at Brooklyn Barbell Club for coaching however he (smartly) decamped for beautiful Arizona. He referred me to his friend and fellow strength coach, Gavin Van Vlack. At the time, Gavin was offering private and small group coaching in the basement of Kings Thai Boxing in Midtown.

I liked Gavin and his coaching style, but it came with a small catch…I had to join Kings to train in their Gym. Given that the cost of a month of Kings was two hours of Gavin’s time it seemed like a no-brainer.

While I’d never call myself a “fighter,” I’ve always viewed self-defense as a fairly personal prerogative. As a result, I’ve trained martial arts in one way, shape, or form most of my life. As a young kid, I trained Shotokan Karate at the local YMCA. In middle-school, I trained Aikido with a nutter whose carrot for the students was the chance to train with none other than “Black Belt Master” Steven Seagal at his Colorado compound. Sadly, I never got the chance. Hah!

In High School, I was busy with academics and cross-country, and, importantly, I questioned the utility of a martial art that one had to train for years merely to stand up to your everyday average “tough.”

I took a break in college as most of my competitive spirit was channeled first into NRA High Power Rifle and then USPSA.

After college, however, a friend of mine invited me to Claudio França Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, a local BJJ club. I enjoyed BJJ almost as much as USPSA and it was much cheaper. The asymmetric nature of BJJ appealed to me quite strongly; a relative beginner at BJJ can fairly easily arm bar or triangle an experienced fighter, if the fighter has no “ground game.” Sadly (as with many BJJ participants) I got injured twice, first a partial ACL tear, and then a rib separation. The former healed relatively quickly and cleanly, the latter was very frustrating. Every time I was “fine,” after I started seriously rolling, it would “pop” again. It “took the fight out of me” as they say.

Around the same time I was focused to work and applying to grad school, so I hung up the gi.

In New Hampshire, I focused mainly on teaching novices basic pistol and rifle marksmanship. During the Summer of 2007, I moved back to the Bay Area and trained with Modern Combatives, a Straight Blast Gym affiliate. There I learned to combine some of the ground game from BJJ with Boxing, Muay Thai, Wrestling and Judo. I enjoyed my time there, but it was only two months, so I was still an extreme novice when I left.

After ModCom, I more or less stopped training unarmed self-defense. In 2009, I took USPSA very seriously. Moving to the big city, I had to shelve even that. So last, April, when I got the opportunity to start training again, in a new discipline, no less, I was pretty excited.

Kings Thai Boxing in Midtown

I like Kings Thai Boxing because it does not try to be all things to all people. They don’t have a Kid’s program, Barre classes, or a BJJ Blue Belt teaching MMA. It’s just a good, solid Muay Thai gym. The head instructor Aaron Fisher, is an ex-fighter, an now a serious coach to the Kings fight team. He’s a patient instructor, funny, but at the same time, very serious about Muay Thai.

The Intro and Fundamentals classes put a great deal of emphasis on drills, conditioning, pad work and some formalized sparring (for example, only leg kicks, or only jabs and crosses). When they are ready, then students are encouraged to join the Sparring and Clinch classes. Sparring is pretty good as most of the fellow students are pretty respectful. Occasionally you get “that guy” who nails you because he can, but that’s very very rare.

I joined Kings about a year ago, at the time thinking, “it’s just a few punches and a few kicks, how hard could it be?” The answer was really hard. Even mastering the fundamentals of something like a basic Thai kick takes significant time.

The conditioning aspect of the class is something fierce as well. I remember when I started, towards the end of most drills I would be “gassing” very very badly. Now, while certainly not in the top 10% of the class in terms of cardio, I’m probably top half… which isn’t bad considering who else is training at Kings.

My goal right now is to continue to get closer to <10% body fat, and re-add strength training, as I'm much, much weaker than I was at the end of my last strength cycle.


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