My fourth week in a Muay Thai Training Camp in Khao Lak, Thailand and final thoughts.

This post is the fifth and final post of a series within my travel diary describing my four-week stay at Rawai Muay Thai Training Camp in Khao Lak, Thailand.

TRAINING

Instead of writing a daily run down like I have done in my previous weeks, I am just going to do a general summary of the training this week as this post is going to be more about my final thoughts on my stay here. A conclusion I guess you could call it.

On Monday, I attended my third private session with Lek and finally managed to get a couple of photos of me training.

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If you read my post last week, I mentioned that I had a nasty graze on my right shin so I was unable to kick with it. My left leg was getting a good workout this week!

Last week, a Swedish guy told me that if I wanted the hardest workout of my time here to book a private lesson with a trainer named Pa Du.

So I did.

And he was right.

It was a pure and brutal beasting. If beasting is a word. I have heard people say it before and it sounds good anyway.

The private session with Pa Du was relentless. In fact, I would almost say it was merciless. He had no mercy on me. When he saw I was struggling, he pushed harder shouting “YOU ROBOCOP! ROBOCOP NOT GET TIRED”. He also explained that I should never show how tired I am as the opponent will see that. At the end of the session, he said that is why he pushed harder when I showed that I was tired.

I was coping well now with the group classes but Pa Du pushed me past my limits which was great. At the end of the session with him I felt almost as shattered as I did on my first day and I booked another session in with him for Friday. In terms of technique, one thing Pa Du did really help me with though is my knee work – by the end of the session I knew how to execute a more efficient and stronger knee strike.

I attended all of the group sessions from Monday to Thursday except for one on Thursday afternoon as I had hit a wall by then and I had a big day coming on Friday which I will explain shortly.

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My last day was on Saturday and I was due to leave at midday. On Wednesday, I found out that there would not be any group classes on Friday 13th April and Saturday 14th April. The reason being is because Songkran, which is the Thailand New Year Festival, runs from 13th – 15th April. In case anybody doesn’t know about Songkran, basically the way Thailand celebrate this festival is that the whole country goes to war – a war with water. It is the biggest water fight in the world – wherever you are and whenever you step outside you will be attacked with water bombs, water pistols and even buckets of water. Nobody is safe. If you  appear reluctant to participate, it makes you more of a fun target. You will be soaking wet for the entire duration. Even though it officially ends on 15th April, it can go on until 19th April in more busy areas. Songkran is very important to the Thai people and a huge celebration across the whole country.

At first, I was a little bit disappointed about there being no training despite that reaction being a little bit culturally disrespectful – I guess a bit like being annoyed in the west because the gym is closed on Christmas day. I was, however, really looking forward to working hard the last couple of days and one more beach session which is always on Saturday mornings but then I was told that the trainers would still be taking private lessons. So – in what can only really be described as a moment of pure madness – I booked three private lessons on the Friday – with Lek at 9.00AM, Dawood at 1.00PM and Pa Du at 4.00PM. I also booked one for Saturday morning before I leave at 9.00AM with a trainer called Sid.

I intended to leave here with a bang and Songkran wasn’t going to stop me.

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My 9.00AM session was with Lek. My fourth one with him. He had taught me a lot of techniques and routines.
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My 1.00PM session was with Dawood. He was all about combos. Some of the combos were quite long – punch, hook, jab, knee, kick, elbow etc. It was quite hard to remember sometimes but we just kept going until I got the combo right.
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By the time it got to about 3.30PM, it was starting to dawn on me that 3 private sessions in one day was a bit much. I was wiped out but I had paid for the session so I attended and this finished me off. My 4.00PM session was with Pa Du. He is all about working you as hard as possible, it was a very gruelling session to finish the day. We even did a bit of light sparring at the end.
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My fourth and final session was the next day on Saturday morning at 9.00AM with Sid. I was very tired from the 3 sessions the day before and he didn’t go easy on me. It was almost as if he pushed me as hard as he could with the knowledge he had that it was my last session. My biggest problem in Muay Thai is not having enough twist in my hips while executing kicks and other moves. They simply don’t twist very well. That has improved during my stay here but it is still not brilliant. He gave me some good tips on “hip twisting” which helped I think, 

LIFE ON THE CAMP

I visited a waterfall. I rested a lot and sometimes I fell asleep in the day. I finished my third book since I arrived here. I took myself on some more scooter rides. I continued to eat healthy and stay off the booze. I had dinner with a guy from Spain one night and a lady from Switzerland the next night. They both seemed like nice people. Life on the camp was good, a calm place where you almost felt separated from the troubles of the world. Like being in a cocoon almost – a world of its own. I am really going to miss this place.

I was sad to be leaving and could have done another 4 weeks here to be honest but there was also another part of me – the traveller side of me I guess – that was excited to be moving on and starting a new adventure after being here for a whole month. New adventures with a fitter, healthier body and a clearer mind. I am going to be honest and admit that I was also quite looking forward to a few cold beers as well and a good night out somewhere. I need a blow out. It has been 4 weeks and  3 days without an alcoholic drink.

There was one amusing story that happened during the week that may be worth telling. Every Wednesday, I had been heading down for a massage at the beach. I was quite tired that day as I hadn’t slept well the night before for some reason and I headed down for my usual massage after lunch. After the back, shoulder, leg and arm massage the masseuse began to give me the final part of the massage which is the head massage as I lay on my back. And then everything went blank. I had fallen asleep while she was giving me the head massage at around 1.30PM. As they were not particularly busy, the lady just left me there and when I finally woke up nearly two hours had passed and it was about 3.30PM! I couldn’t believe it and was a few minutes late for the training at 4.00PM that day. Anyway, that’s the first time I have ever fallen asleep during a massage so the training must be doing it’s job and making me sufficiently tired!

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I wished I lived in a place that had a good climate. I would never own a car. Scooters are the way forward. I loved my little scooter.

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MY FINAL THOUGHTS ON MY STAY AT RAWAI MUAY THAI TRAINING CAMP IN KHAO LAK, THAILAND

This conclusion will describe why I enjoy Muay Thai followed by my feelings about my stay at this particular camp and how I think it has benefited me.

Before I came here, I had kind of forgotten the specific reasons I liked Muay Thai, I just knew that I used to really enjoy it when I did it years ago. After 4 weeks of training, I can now articulate what I enjoy about it.

  1. I like hitting things. Not people. I am not a violent person and would take no enjoyment in hurting another human being, even though sparring can be fun. I am talking about punch bags and pads. Using as much force as you can to kick, punch, elbow or knee a bag or pad is incredibly stimulating, satisfying and stress relieving.
  2. The post training glow or buzz. The only other sport that gives me a similar buzz is wave surfing. In that sport, they call it being “stoked”. The release of endorphins and expenditure of adrenaline leaves me with a lovely, relaxed glowing feeling afterwards. Only a training as intense as Muay Thai can do that for me. I don’t get that feeling after a light workout.
  3. It is an all round workout – it works everything, muscular strength, weight loss, muscle mass, cardio, core stability, flexibility, endurance and even has mental benefits such as increased self confidence and lower levels of stress and anxiety.
  4. It burns a tonne of calories – I read something recently that the routine of an average 2 hour Muay Thai class can burn somewhere in the region of 600 to 800 calories. Not sure how accurate that is but it sounds about right.
  5. Finally, I like Muay Thai because it is a group exercise. I prefer exercising as part of a group with a trainer or trainers leading a class rather than just exercising alone. I am not sure exactly why. I guess there is some psychological reasoning  behind that. Something social – maybe not as strong as camaraderie but something similar. Also, it motivates you – you feel accountable if you slack off. You would look like a bit of a numpty if you just took a break from the skipping when everyone else is working hard at it, had a bit of a lie down and put your feet up outside of the scheduled breaks. When I train alone, I find I don’t work as hard. If a trainer is screaming “NO PAIN, NO MUAY THAI” “ROBOCOP NOT GET TIRED” at me, I tend to work a little harder.

Now to Rawai Muay Thai Camp itself:

The camp I stayed at is a very traditional gym. For example, they teach the ancient fighting style of Muay Boran and also the Wai Kru Ritual. That might not be for everyone but I liked it as it gave it a sort of cultural authenticity. I described the class structure in my first post so I won’t get into it here but I never got bored at the group classes – you had a different trainer every day for the pad work and they all had their own styles and there was a different technique every day. They always mixed it up a bit too. I really enjoyed the training throughout my whole stay.

The trainers themselves were all great. Nothing intimidating about any of them at all – very fun characters, friendly but also professional. They never seem bored or disinterested despite doing the same thing day in, day out, 4 hours a day. They genuinely seem to enjoy what they are doing. It is a very family based, local gym – although it is half owned by a westerner all of the staff and trainers were local Thai people who lived on or around the camp. I never met the Western owner. I think she is away at the moment.

The surrounding area is beautiful – I did have the occasional moment where I was a little lost for things to do in between the training times i.e 9.30AM – 4.00PM but that is purely because I am not the type for lying around by pools or on a beach. Also, I am on a long term travel budget so consciously restricted my spending to the training only. If you had cash to splash you could do all sorts round here in the day – snorkelling and fishing trips, horse riding, day tours, island hopping, nights out, watching fight nights, eat in nice restaurants, cycling tours etc etc.  I was fine though. It was very relaxing and I managed to get into a routine which generally filled up the in-between-session times. I read 3 books as well!

I learnt so much in the private lessons – they are definitely worth doing if you stay at these types of camps. I learnt more in them than in any of the group classes. I see the group classes as good for getting fit and the private lessons for learning and improving your boxing technique.

And finally to how I think this has benefited me and what I will take away from this:

Firstly, let’s talk figures. When I arrived at the camp I was 86KG. I am now 80.8KG.

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So I have lost 11 pounds in one month here. When I arrived on 15th March, I was 13 stone 7 pounds. I am now 12 stone and 10 pounds. That is the first time I have been in the twelves in the whole of my thirties. A few years back I was nearly 15 stone at one point. My waist size has definitely decreased too. I don’t know by how much but I have had to cut three holes in my shorts belt since I arrived.

I wasn’t going to do a before and after photo as the change has not been overly dramatic – I mean it has only been 4 weeks, I wasn’t expecting to be ripped and have a six pack in that period but there is a noticeable change so I thought I might as well. You can see in the first picture on the left taken the day before I started training that my belly is much larger, rounder and more bloated, hanging over my shorts, my man boobs are bigger and more  saggy. You can also see in the second photo that I have more definition and muscle on my shoulders.  No it’s nothing major but it is a good start and shows what can be done in just 4 weeks.

Anyway, it probably sounds a bit like I am bragging about my weight loss achievement here but that is not the case. Anybody who knows me well, knows that I haven’t got a vain bone in my body. My motivation for writing about this is just in case anybody ever reads this who is on the fence about attending one of these camps and reading this may just motiv………….ok I am bragging about my weight loss achievement.

They say you should treat your body like a temple. Having seen the dilapidated state of some of the ancient, crumbling temples I have visited in South East Asia on my travels, I no longer understand that quote. That being said, this four week stay in a Muay Thai Camp has give me a strong and renewed desire to treat my body “like a temple” if that is the correct quote to use.

I have got the bug for exercise now and keeping a more healthy diet. I still want to lose about one more stone. No, I am not going to quit drinking. Let’s not get into silly talk. I am still going to enjoy myself but in more moderation and control rather than my previous indulgent abandon. And yes I will still have the odd blow out. I will, however, counter the bad stuff with more of the good stuff – eating healthy and exercising on a consistent basis.

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My last meal at “Happy Times” A Chicken Salad. Several years ago, I went on a 2 week holiday to France with a couple of mates and to my shame I discovered at the end of the holiday that they had a private bet between themselves on how many cheese-burgers I would eat during the whole 2 weeks. I think one of them bet 6 and the other bet 9. I can’t remember how many I ate but it was somewhere between that figure. At this camp every meal I had eaten for 4 weeks had been healthy like this one. And I felt much better for it. My digestive system seems to be working much more smoothly now – I used to feel bloated, heart burn, indigestion or get stomach pains. That is all gone now.

The past four weeks of eating healthy food, not drinking alcohol and exercising every day, I have been waking up every day with the sense that I have been getting stronger, fitter and healthier, I forgot how good that feeling is. As well as physical benefits, there have been mental benefits too. An unhealthy body is a breeding ground for an unhealthy mind.

All the above being said, I am not under any delusion that 4 weeks of training here is going to give me prolonged fitness and health. I could go back to my previous weight and poor fitness levels very quickly if I just went back to my old ways.

To conclude, I would recommend a visit to one of these boot camps to anyone looking to lose weight, improve their health, strength, fitness and endurance. And also have fun! I have met some cool people.

This experience will be something I will never forget.

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Next: I am heading to Nepal! Travel diary updates to continue from there.

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