On Wednesday night Petchrungruang had two new boys at the gym. Kru Nu instructed them to bounce on the tires for 30 minutes first, an order which made their father gasp. But the boys happily bounced away on and between the tires because, 1) kids have endless energy and 2) bouncing on tires can be pretty fun. The extent of that warmup even for such young kids has two purposes. The first is to get the boys accustomed to discipline and following the orders of their trainer. If they can’t handle that part, they can’t train Muay Thai. The second is to tire them out just a little bit so that they can focus on the narrow tasks assigned to beginners. When young boys first arrive at the gym for Muay Thai training they are always very eager to hit things, but in traditional Muay Thai camps you have to build up to that. Discipline first, form and technique, and then after time put in to these elements and heart has been demonstrated, then you can hit something.
When Kru Nu was a young boy just starting out in Muay Thai, he hated it. For months he would just shadow blocks and knees back and forth across the dirt floor, before they had a ring. He thought Muay Thai was boring. The gym only had one set of pads and only the fighters got to hit them. When the finally got a hanging bag, only the fighters were allowed to kick it. Kru Nu tells the story of kicking the bag when nobody was looking and hurting his leg on the cement-like filling (sawdust that had gotten wet and dried a million times is like cement; it hurts). Only after months of this monotonous marching of blocks and knees and holding stance did little Nu finally get to start punching the pads.
The new boys at the gym still have to go through the process of discipline and patience, although not nearly as long as Kru Nu did. These two boys were finally let into the ring and must first wai to the Buddha and the spirits of the ring. Then Bank put their little bodies into a proper stance, which they had to hold for a few full rounds. The boys wobble and look around, struggling to hold the position both out of physical difficulty and out of lack of mental focus. They just get repositioned if they fall out of line. Then Bank showed them how to march back and forth taking a single step and throwing a 1-2. The older boy had this one down really nice right away and the younger one wasn’t as coordinated, but when he got to the edge of the ring and punched the ropes he was immediately made aware of how hard the ropes are on tiny hands… just like little Nu kicking the bag.
In this video you can see the two little boys leaping into the ring to wai to the shrine and then begin their stances with Bank. Yonis is on the pads with Kru Nu – he’s about 9 years old and has a couple of fights already, but his training is really good.
As the light dimmed, Sun (fight name Petchburapa) had a long session on the pads with Bank. Sun and his family just moved next door to the gym and so the whole family is there late into the evening session, watching Sun develop as a fighter and his younger siblings help Podee as clinching partners. Kru Nu steps in a few times during Sun’s work with Bank to demonstrate some techniques. Kru Nu is an incredibly gifted and patient teacher, something he’s passing on to his son Bank as he’s grown up in the gym and has begun instructing as well.
Here Kru Nu shows how to escape a body lock by wedging one leg into the inside of the opponent’s knee/thigh, putting the other hand on the opposite side hip – both of these are to control the knees of the opponent – and then pulling one arm back through to the front of the opponent’s shoulder to create space. Then he pivots on his standing leg while pulling with the arm that’s been pulled back and positioned on the opponent’s shoulder, creating a turn that breaks the lock and opens the opponent to a knee. Watch at the end when Kru Nu explains the importance of a strong forearm on the front of the opponent’s shoulder in order to control their grip:
And in this next video Kru Nu explains how to tuck the chin and stay facing forward with a long block to guard against punches. He shows a somewhat comical “don’t do this” example of turning your face away from punches, which will get you slammed and make you unable to respond right away, and instead shows how you can remain in position for a counter by staying straight and pulling your head down (tucking your chin) to take any punches that might get through on the crown of your head – which is hard – rather than on your nose or chin, which hurts and can cause damage. Sun’s teeps were getting awesome on this day, so the counter given as example is a nice, long teep: