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The 4 Most Important Things About Muay Thai That I Learned From Watcharachai Kaewsamrit

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Watcharachai showing me how to properly celebrate Songkran

January 2012 was my very first trip to Thailand to study the real Muay Thai. I was extremely fortunate to land myself in the sure hands of Muay Thai legend Watcharachai Kaewsamrit for 6 months. This was at a time that he opened a gym of his own which unfortunately was short lived, but the experience I got there was priceless. Lucky for me I arrived in the very first days of the gym opening and ended up being one of the only people at the gym. For the first couple of weeks it was pretty much me and Watcharachai with the occasional foreigner dropping in for a lesson. This was the time that I really got to bond with him and we became very close friends and spent a lot of time talking about life, Thailand, fighting, and Muay Thai. We still talk today and always refer to each other as brother, it is quite an honor to call him my friend. While there were many lessons, many techniques, many demonstrations and many kicks to my body… these four things were my biggest take aways from training with this champion.

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Watcharachai Kaesamrit showing some of his gold! an impressive record of over 220 fights. 2000 Rajadamnern Stadium Fighter of the Year.  In 2000 he had 14 title defense in one year

1: basics and balance is everything in Muay Thai.

You can never be too good at the basics. Almost every great fighter I talk to says something along these lines. Watcharachai is no exception. I would often ask him about high level techniques such as spinning elbows, flying knees, jumping teep kicks, and so on and so on and his answer would always be the same. “if you have good basic Muay Thai and good balance then everything easy. If have very good elbow or knee then spinning or jumping is easy. If you have poor elbow or knee then why are you trying to jump or spin?”  The same rang true with clinching, sweeping and throwing.  It is easy when you have excellent basic understanding of clinching. If you do not master A,B,C then whey are you trying to learn XYZ? Watcharachai would constantly tell me about “basic Muay Thai.” “When you understand basic Muay Thai then you can do anything. But you have to develop your basic tools and practice them over and over again with good technique. If you do not have good technique then you will not have good Muay Thai.”

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Watcharachai displaying he muay femur stance.  More squared and balanced than what most gyms teach with the slight bend in the knees.

Ask anyone who has ever trained with me or been trained by me, they will tell you the first thing I work on with anyone is footwork. Basic stepping forward, basic stepping backward, basic side stepping and then moving into circle stepping, basic moving up and down the floor with punching. Not just when I train people but when I train on my own. You will always see me working on footwork because as many great fighters have told me over the years “foot work is everything!” It is the foundation of everything you do. If the foundation is not strong then your punches, kicks, and defense will not be strong. Developing balance is not a “sexy” training technique nor is working on basics in general, but it is hands down the best thing you can to improve your Muay Thai. So before you sign up for crossfit or do punches and kicks with rubber bands on your ankles and wrists, practice your basics.

 

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2: Shadow boxing. Always be different and creative

First day at the gym he started me with shadowboxing. 20 seconds into it and Watcharachai stopped me and changed everything I do. The first thing he changed was the way I stand. I originally was trained with a very common stance taught almost everywhere in the states and trying to “stand tall.” He switched me to more of a squared up stance, a slight bend in the knee and upper body more rounded and lowered into more of a “western boxing” style. I questioned him immediately “i thought I was supposed to be “tall” in Muay Thai?” “No Brian, this my style, many style of Muay Thai.” I jumped on board right way.

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My early days at Watcharachai gym, lost about 50 pounds in 6 months of training.  Watcharachai is also a tremendous pad holder as well.  I learned so much from this man.

The next thing he corrected was the way I shadowbox. Like most people I started moving forward throwing jab, jab cross, jab cross hook, jab cross hook and kick. As if I had a learned some pattern that I was doing over and over again. Watcharachai quickly stopped me again and said “No Brian, same same same every time no good. Every time you throw something do something different next time. Throw a jab then cross, then throw a jab, lean back then cross, then throw a jab then TEEEEP! Every time be different.” If you do 1,2,3 over and over again it may warm you up but its not teaching you anything. This is where creativity development and natural movement comes into play. I my opinion, shadowboxing is the most overlooked training tool in most fighters training. In reality, it is one of the best things you can do to improve your Muay Thai. Shadowbox everyday and every time you shadowbox really think about what you are doing rather than just going through patterns over and over again.

3: defense and countering: the Muay Femur style

As I explained in #2, Watcdarachai’s style was different to me than what I had learned previously in my first 10 years of training and studying Muay Thai. When I got into Muay Thai many of the coaches in the states that I had worked with all pretty much taught the same style which was more of the “Muay Mat” style of Muay Thai, which is very forward moving and aggressive power punching and low kick style. Watcharachai explained and broke down the different styles of Muay Thai. The punchers, the leg kickers, the clinch and knee fighters, the elbow fighters, the kicking specialists, and The Muay Femur style.

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The Muay Femur Style uses a Variety of body movements to avoid attacks.

The Muay Femur style, or as Watcharachai puts it “technique style” is a style of Muay Thai that is very precise and technical. It is usually a very defensive, patient and counter attacking style. Hard teep kicks to keep the distance, lean backs, head movement and footwork create evasions to many of their opponents weapons. They punish their opponents with vicious counter attacks, sweeps, dumps, and elbows for when they get in close. Some other great examples of the Muay Femur stylists are Saenchai PKSaenchaimuaythaigym, Samart Payakaroon, Namsaknoi Yudthagarngamtorn, Lerdsilla phuket top team, and Attachai Fairtex.

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Former OneFC star, BJJ Blackbelt, and Muay Thai fighter Adam Kayoom, once ranked in the top 10 at Rajadamnerm stadium, swings by to prepare for an upcoming MMA fight by sparring some rounds with Watcharachai.

Anyone who has sparred with Watcharachai knows all too well the frustration of his Muay Femur style. His movement is always deceiving, he is either a mile away or right on top of you and then right back out of range in the blink of eye. Catches your kicks and dumps you to the ground or playfully kicks you in the but as he tosses your leg aside. Throws a round house kick to your body, then we he does it again you raise your leg up to check and he immediately twists his leg and transforms that round kick into a teep kick that knocks you off balance as you are now standing on one leg in defense of the round kick. Sparring with Watcharachai is like being in a technical Muay Thai nightmare. Every thing you try to do is countered defended and studied. You may land a shot on him but you have been trying for the last 2 rounds to land anything on him. One time I thought I was slick and pulled out a Taekwondo spinning back kick that hit him and landed pretty hard on him. I was smiling so big and so was he. He then said “i can do spinning kick too” and launched a back kick that took my feet our from under me causing me to fall forward on the mat.

 

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Most people find themselves on the mat even in light sparring with Watcharachai

4 Muay Thai is fun

This was one of my biggest take aways and I really think that it is often forgotten amongst all the training, grunting, and bleeding, that goes with grueling world of Muay Thai. Muay Thai is supposed to be fun. I remember that one day in particular I was having a real difficult time with everything. I was doing poorly at everything that day. I had become frustrated, I couldn’t put together simple combos, I couldn’t defend kicks while doing pads, sparring I got roughed up a bit, clinching with the 3X Rajadamnern stadium champ named Kaimookaw and getting tossed to the ground all day was taking its toll. Watcharachai could see the frustration on my face and in everything I did. He pulled me aside and sat with me and said something like….

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Finally at the end of the round Adam gets Watcharachai on the floor, and celebrates this moment of victory.  Notice the big smile on Watcharachai’s face.  Happy to play Muay Thai with all his friends that he has made over the years.

“Brian, you try too hard. Muay Thai is fun. You need to relax. When you angry you can not do Muay Thai good. Can not think, can not move good, can not do anything when you like this. Muay Thai is fun, relax and try again, not everything have to be perfect. These guys (the other thais at the gym who by the way are all superstars in the Thai Boxing world) have done muay Thai very long time. But they all have fun everyday. They not too serious because is only practice. You have to learn the same, to have fun and relax. When you relax everything better bro.”

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This is something that I carried over to everyone I worked with every since. I notice most people I work with are tying their hardest to hit pads, hit a bag, hit each other and they just look tight and rigid. They do not look like they are having too much fun. If you train with a Thai coach you will hear them tell you to relax many times as they work with you. If you watch Thai fighters you will also see that when they spar with each other and even when fighting that many of them have a big smile on their face. Muay Thai is fun, remember to have some.

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most people who embrace their Thai friends are never short on smiles, laughs, stories, good times and live long memories 

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How to prepare for training in Thailand

 

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Pretty much everyone who participates in muay thai has the dream to goto train in Thailand. I mean why not? Its the birthplace of the sport and lets not forget that Thailand itself is just a beautiful and affordable place to visit. But there are those who have aspirations of fighting who attempt to put their money together and figure out how to do a “long stay” in Thailand for muay thai. This is very common in the muay thai world and many fighters head to Thailand to stay anywhere from 3 months to over a year to “live the dream.” That dream being to live at the gym, train twice a day, no distractions, and the opportunity to fight and fight often. Lets face it, if you live in the states you most likely work 40-50 hours per week at a job, have family responsibilities, and there is not a large market to get actual muay thai fights. The training in Thailand is very hard and very old school. Adjusting to the time, weather and food can all factor in, but the biggest killer that people usually run into is “The Grind.” The grind is something that native thais are very use to, they have been training this way since they were very young and if you try to keep up with them right out the gate you are going to be in for a big surprise, especially if you have not properly prepared for it.

*note this is based on someone who is going over to do a serious training camp and fight career.  Thailand offers all kinds of classes and various training programs depending on your goals and needs.  this is not the training protocol for a beginner who just wants to hit some pads, meet a champion fighter, goto the beach and get a tattoo.

 

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Running: If you don’t run, you don’t fight!

Unless you already are a “runner,” this is what most people have the hardest time adjusting to. In Thailand you are expected to run every morning 6 days a week. While gym requirements vary from gym to gym and trainer to trainer, most gyms have you run anywhere from 3-6 miles every morning. Gyms like Kem’s Muay Thai, this is Kem Sitsongpeenong’s gym, run 6-8 miles everyday. And nearly every gym has the rule “if you don’t run, you don’t fight.” So I begin by saying that no matter how much time you have till you leave, start running everyday right now. Depending on your fitness level you can adjust the distance as needed. I especially do not expect you to go out and start running 6 miles a day if you haven’t been running regularly. But you have to start somewhere no matter what your level of fitness is. If you are not a runner, you should still go everyday even if its only doing 1 mile per day. Get in the habit of waking up early and going for a run. As you progress you can have longer runs but I can not emphasis enough of getting up early everyday and going out for a run. Use your judgement on whether or not you should be going longer or shorter but, i will say it again, get up everyday early and go for a run. In most cases I will say this is more important than “pumping up” the intensity of your muay thai training sessions. RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN.

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Additional note on running. Do not run for speed but rather run for time. Time meaning it is more important to run for 30 minutes than to worry about how fast and far you are running. The key is to elevate your heart rate and keep it elevated for 30-60 minutes continuously. You are looking to increase your aerobic capacity not to improve your 5K time. Find a pace that lets you run steady for 30-60 minutes and try to keep it. If you go too hard you will be out of breath and you will finish running in 10-15 minutes which is not the goal of this training modality.

 

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2. The Heavy bag is your best friend

Training in Thailand is much different than training at your local gym. They do not have “classes” but rather “training sessions.” Most people goto an hour long class which has some warm up, technique lesson, pad work, and some light sparring. In Thailand the sessions are anywhere from 2-3 hours long. Usually 5 rounds of pads, 5-10 rounds of heavy bag, 5-10 rounds of sparring and a 20-40 minute straight round of Clinching. Not to mention some extra bag stuff and sit ups to finish things up. The reason the heavy bag is so important for you training before heading over is that you can use it to simulate the amount of time per day you are putting in. The heavy bag makes a great training partner because it never gets tired, shows up on time, and never hits you back. Ideally, you will have a heavy bag in your home or at your local gym. Get in front of it and set your timer for 4 minute rounds and goto work for 10+ rounds. Don’t worry so much about going 100% and trying to tear it up for the entire 4 minutes but rather focus more on just being “engaged” for the amount of time you must put in. Going all out on the heavy bag has its place, but here you are just trying to get acclimated to putting in more and more work. If you go 100% the whole round you won’t make it half way through. You can still hit with 100% power and take your shots but use time to focus on other parts of your “game.” When you watch a Thai hit a heavy bag they usually focus on the rhythm of the bag moving back and forth and side to side. They are using timing and footwork to land 100% shots rather than just blasting the bag. Again, the key here is focus on a bigger pitcher of your muay thai game and to adjust to being in front of a heavy bag for along period of time.

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Additional note: No heavy bag? Then put in round upon round of shadow boxing. Same idea, move around and use all your tools. Do not just through combos but use footwork, feints, blocks, weaving and slipping, and over all “fight IQ.”

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3. Jump rope: There is a lot of cardio

While the morning is filled with lots of running before training, the afternoon is when all of Thailand is “skipping.” The Thais put a very big emphasis on cardio and it doesn’t just stop with running. The afternoon training session usually begins with a 30 minute jumprope session. Now the Thais use a specific jumprope that is more like a plastic tube, but you do not necessarily need to have one to practice it. More importantly is that you just can jump rope because they are going to make you do it everyday. If you can get your hands on a Thai jump rope thats great, if not, just get a jumprope and start skipping. Focus on rhythm and timing not speed and tricks. Find a pace and try to keep it up for 30 minutes. I know that sounds like a lot and it is, but your Thai counterpart does this easily every single day.

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4. Some quick hits of things that is expected of fighters in Thailand.

A. Straight leg sit ups. Most Thai boxers do 200-300 of them at the end of every training session.

B. Alternating Push/Teep kicks on the heavy bag. Most gyms will have you do 100-200 teeps on the heavy bag. Not hitting for power but for rhythm. Left, right, left, right, left, right,

C. Alternating Knees on the heavy bag. Just like the teeps, rhythm and timing and usually 100-300 at the end of every session

D. Push ups. Most gyms expect you to do 20 push ups between all the rounds of pads and heavy bag work. NOTE: they usually are not “standard pushups” but rather short fast pulsing push ups.

 

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Another thing to get adjusted to is that the Thais generally do the morning training in a fasted state. In Thailand you run around 6:30-7am and go for 3-6 miles, training begins at 8am and usually runs till 10-1030am. You may not be getting your first meal until 11am. Getting in the habit to wake up and train on an empty stomach will help you prepare for what will really happen when you get to Thailand.

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The more you can replicate your training around the Thailand model the easier of a transition you can make when you get there. Trust me, you do not want to get to Thailand and struggle with running and you can not even do 30 sit ups. Getting up and training will be a great way to start your day and will also be a good strategy to squeeze your training in around your busy American (or whatever westernized country you are from) schedule. And if I did not say it enough. Do not forget to run everyday.

BONUS #2: Putting it together

Morning: Wake up and Run miles, 10 minutes of shadow boxing, 5-10 rounds on the heavy bag with 20 push ups between each round, 100 push kicks on the heavy bag, 100 straight leg sit ups

Evening: Jump Rope (build up to 30 minutes), shadow box, 5 rounds of heavy bag, 200 skipping knees, 100 push kicks, 100 straight leg sit ups

There are a million ways to organize this but this is just an example.  Programming will vary from person to person depending on fitness levels and goals.

5 Simple Plant Based Meals for Muay Thai

Most people worry so much about their workouts and yet pay very little attention to what goes into their body. I have found that one of the best ways of eating in the world for muay thai is a Whole Foods Plant Based Vegan Diet. Muay thai requires a lot of energy to be able to handle the training load of being a “Nak Muay.” The Whole foods plant based diet provides it all! When most people start hearing me talk about a “vegan diet” they tend to get a little “weirded out” and begin telling me about protein, calcium and how they couldn’t live without bacon. You get more than enough protein, calcium and other vital nutrients from a plant based diet. Now this is not an argument or information page for plant based vegan diets (not yet), but rather just a look into its world and how to add more of these meals to your diet plan.

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Listed below are just some of my staples in my diet and is a good start if you are looking to transition to a whole foods plant based vegan diet. Most people try to go vegan and usually are unsuccessful because they are not consuming enough calories. The other reason would be that people just do not know what they can eat. Those people tend to think that going vegan means eating an apple for breakfast, a greens salad for lunch and a bowl of rice for dinner. Hell i would have dropped dead from that too, especially if i was trying to do muay thai, road work, and strength training as well. But adding these meals below will give you a ton of energy and enough protein to get you through any workouts you have planned.

 

1. Mono Meal of fruit or simple put, single fruit meals.
5 or 6 bananas, 1-2 whole cantaloupes, a whole watermelon, 4-6 peaches or mangos, 1 pound of blue berries. All examples of single fruit meals, not a snack but a meal. Great for post workouts or when you are just trying to keep your meals light.  If weight loss is your goal, simply adding one of these meals as a replacement for a breakfast, lunch or dinner will help you with the results.

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2. Smoothies: I like to offer smoothie ideas that do not require a $500 blender to make. Don’t get me wrong, a Blendtec or Vitamix blender is an awesome piece of equipment, but not everyone has this high priced item in their kitchen. These are some smoothies you can make with just a basic everyday blender.

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Above is me using a very cheap blender in Thailand.  did the job no problems. keep it soft ingredients: Bananas, Berries, leafy greens, and other soft fruits.

3 – 6 bananas, a handful or 2 of spinach or another leafy green, 3 tbsp of hemp seeds.

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3 -4 bananas, 1/2 or a whole papaya (skinned and deseeded)

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All packed up and ready to go! easy post workout smoothie!

3 – 4 bananas, 1 or 2 cups of diced frozen mangos or any other frozen fruit. Use your imagination

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Don’t make it too complicated.  toss some fruit, greens, some healthy fats in there and blend away.  You can also use plant based protein powders as well such as hemp and pea protein. (remember this is a plant based diet.)  one of my goto dinner or later at night  smoothies is this: 2 frozen bananas, 2 scoops of “Bob’s Red Mill” chocolate plant protein and 1 tbsp of peanut butter. It is almost like having a healthy milk shake.

3. Potato wedges: takes a little time but is the EASIEST! This is a very simple and filling meal. take 3-6 potatoes (doesn’t matter, white, russet, sweet, red, whatever.) Preheat over to 450 degrees F. While you wait, cut your potatoes up into wedges or “fries.” The thicker you make them the longer it will take to cook. coat them in salt and pepper… then get a little creative.. you can use garlic salt, cajun seasoning, chili pepper, curry powder… whatever you can come up with. Personally, i give it a quick salt and pepper coat using a large bowl to mix it all up. after they have cooked i sometimes use cajun seasoning for some more flavor. but i found its just as good with good ole salt and pepper. toss in the over for 20-30 minutes. you will have to experiment yourself a bit to see what works best for you.

Dipping sauce: 2 parts Dijon mustard, 1 part maple syrup, add some Sriracha for spice. i just use a little bit.. enough to change the color of the sauce slightly but not so much to turn it red and just make the hole thing taste like Sriracha.

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4. Oatmeal : The king of breakfasts
Very simple. cook up 1-2 cups of dried oats (can use old fashioned, steel cut, oat bran, whatever. Don’t make this complicated. the DIRECTIONS are on the container. now you want to add a fruit and a fat… don’t go crazy with adding so much. Some simple ideas are adding bananas and 1-2 tbsp of peanut or almond butter. 1 cup of Blueberries and 1-2 tbsp of Chia Seeds. Break up and shred 4 dates and add 2-3 tbsp of hemp seed.  Be creative to keep oatmeal from being boring.

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Quick meal tip: always in a rush in the morning? another oatmeal option is to put the 1-2 cups of dried oats (you want to use the real deal oats on this one) add some berries and chia seed. then add almond milk or coconut milk and fill it till it just covers the oatmeal. mix it up and put it back in the fridge. in the morning grab your container and go or just sit back and enjoy.

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Quicks oats is a great option when you are on the move.  transported like this you can either add almond milk and put in the fridge at work or be at a hotel or friend house and add boiling water. 

 

5. Rice and beans: The most versatile foods on a plant based diet

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1 cup of dried rice (I prefer Thai White Jasmine rice.. you can use brown if you like.) My thai girlfriend told me the secret to good rice is to wash it in cold water at least 3 times. Toss it in a rice maker (this is so easy btw) and press the button. Open a can of beans (usually about 15 oz) and put on the stove on low heat. can use black beans, garbanzo beans, pinto beans, any kind of beans.. it doesn’t matter. experiment, figure out what you like. have all 3 if you want.

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If you are going to be eating lots of rice, then get a rice maker.  Your life will be easier

Combine the rice and beans in a bowl over a bed of greens. Top with Salsa, sliced avocado is optional or guacamole is you have it. it just doesn’t matter, have fun with it.  These dishes are only limited by your own creativity.  Add different spices and ingredients as you go and see what you can come up with.

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Bonus: This beans and rice idea can easily be used to make burritos and tacos as well. you know… DIET FOOD. its not rocket science. warm up a burrito wrap or taco shells and load them up however you like, just like you would any other burrito or taco… hold the cheese and sour cream of course.  You can even just go plain and stuff your burritos with just rice and beans.  the options are limitless!

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Burritos easily pack up for meal prep and travel food. Easy to eat and easy to handle

These meals and ideas are very simple and very tasty.  I found that they not only made my plant based vegan diet transition easy but was also very inexpensive.  Things like rice, beans, oats, potatoes, fruits and veggies are very cheap and easy to find.  Just think about how much you would spend on groceries if you cut out all your meat.  I literally cut my shopping bills in half and sometimes more!  Give it a try and get more plant based foods into your diet.

Gym Boss Interval Timer Review 5 Stars

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If you are into serious training then you probably do some sort of interval training. Whether you are doing cardio circuits, tabata circuits, bag work, or just need a count down timer the gym boss has it all. Talk about a device with NO FLAWS then look no further.

The Gym Boss has a few settings in its timing selections. first you can set the work time and rest time from 1 second to 99:99 minutes/seconds. This makes the Gym Boss ideal for people who do varieties of training. it can be set for any amount of work to rest ratios that you can come up with which makes it very versatile. It’s button set up is simple and easy to learn and customize the timers. You can then set the number of rounds you want to complete up to 99. With just some slight figuring you can plan out any combo of interval work that you can come up with.

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Some examples would be:

Tabata Circuit: 20 seconds work/10 seconds rest for 8 rounds
Boxing Round Timer: 2-3 minute rounds with 1 minute rest for 15 rounds
MMA Timer: 5 minutes of work with 1 minute rest for 5 rounds

Work count down timer: 10 minute countdown for doing as many sets or reps possible in 10 minutes. for examples: As many med ball slams as possible in 10 minutes. as many turkish get ups possible in 10 minutes.

Multiple exercise timer: Say you are doing Muay Thai rounds. 3 minute rounds. but you set the timer for 30 seconds and 30 seconds. Set the timer for 3 rounds. That equals 3 minutes.
0-30: Just punching
30-60: just kicking (1 minute mark)
60-90: punch and kicking
90-120: Punch and Elbows (2 minute mark)
120-150: Punching and Knees
150-180: Clinch Knee Sprints (3 minutes mark)
Reset Timer and take a short break. Repeat for 3-5 rounds
The Gym Boss is also pretty audible. you can set the alarm, which is just beeping, for 1,2,5, or 9 seconds of ringing. its pretty loud for a small device. if you were in an open room you could easily hear it, even if music was being played. Okay do not be stupid and play your gym music at the maximum and call me a liar because you could not hear it. Use some common sense lol. The same is true while wearing headphones. Granted you don’t listen to your headphones at maximum levels. Also it has a vibrate feature which can be used on its own or combined with the beeping.

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The other little accessory that comes with it is a “belt clip” on the back of the gym boss. It can clip to clothing and pockets depending on the type of training you are doing. They do also make a small velcro strap that can go around your bicep as well sold separately but is still pretty cheaply priced.

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The Gym Boss is also a favorite of Fitness coach Funk Roberts.  Almost all his workouts involve the gym boss as it is perfect for his interval training systems.  Whether you are using it for running, exercising, combat sports, or whatever… it is a solid piece of equipment and i am very happy with my purchase.

Using 8 Ounce Gloves for Sparring?

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If you have been around muay thai or boxing long enough you will have heard about using 14-16oz gloves are the “norm” for sparring. Ideally this is true. You can get roughed up enough in practice especially when doing hard sparring and using the proper gear is paramount. So when people see my gloves that i use for most of my sparring they say “hey are those 8oz gloves? your going to hurt someone.” So i thought i would shed some light on the uses of 8oz gloves.

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I like to use 8 ounce gloves for sparring, It doesn’t mean i solely use 8’s for sparring because i do use 16’s as well, but in many circles this is a big “no – no.” My reasoning behind the use of 8 ounce gloves is that they are much smaller than the 16 ounce gloves and makes defense much more than just hiding behind these big pillows. 16 ounce gloves  bigger than the standard 10 ounce that you will be fighting with. so many people “shell up” with the 16’s that it is almost impossible to punch through them, either with straight punches or finding holes with the hook. Because the 8’s are so much smaller they force you to have a very tight defense. Using the 8’s forces my defense to be much tighter and to use other defensive tools such as slipping, parries, and foot work to avoid punches. This is even more true if you also fight MMA or something like “caged muay thai.” whats the sense of training defense with big 16’s when you fight with basically bag gloves on your hands. You can not rely on those big pads in MMA.

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A second note on sparring with 8 ounce gloves is that I recognize the fact that i am using a much smaller glove. For me, I use more of a kicking style than punching and do not consider myself a “power puncher.” Also when i spar I go very light (50%-70% power) and even lighter with my punches. If you are a punch dominate fighter and have control issues, I do not recommend using 8’s. You could use 8’s or even MMA gloves and just do a few rounds of all defense. A good rule of thumb is “do you hurt your training partners?” You should know already if you are a “hard spar” type of person. Also this is more of an intermediate to advanced training tool. you should have lots of control over your punches so that you do not just swing wildly with your punches or overpower your training partners.

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Lastly, check with your coach. Explain why you want to use smaller gloves to him. If he disagrees with you, then you should respect his wishes and stick to the 14-16 ounce gloves. Im sure though no coach would disagree if you used much smaller gloves and agreed to only use defense. This is a personal choice for me and doesn’t mean it goes for everyone. I have had some coaches think its brilliant, some who just didn’t care and others say “as long as you are not busting people up, go right ahead.” experiment with the idea and see if it helps with your defense. Again, i cant emphasis it enough, go light in sparring. Do not break your “toys.” training partners are hard to come by and good training partners are even harder to come by.

 

PS: I do not like to use bag gloves on the heavy bag. At the same time, hitting the heavy bag with the big 16 oz gloves does not really give my forearms and hands the conditioning that bag gloves provide. So my personal solution has been to use 8 ounce gloves as my bag gloves. Now there has been some improvements in bag gloves over the years. I remember my first pair of bag gloves were these Everlast leather gloves that had a piece of lead or metal in the grip. These were pretty much just leather sheaths to cover your hands. Add to it a bit bulky hand wrap job and they can be almost impossible to get on your hands. They also offered zero wrist support so it made wearing wraps a must. Using an 8 ounce glove I felt gave me more wrist support and were a bit more accepting to a solid hand wrap job.

Things To Know About Muay Thai Scoring and Judging

Some things you need to know about scoring and judging in Muay Thai.

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If you compete in muay thai or even just watch it, you are going to come across some judges decisions and scores you do not agree with. You will see fights where you say “there is no way that guy won!” or you may even be that person in the ring NOT getting your hand raised with a look of disbelief on your face. The fact is judging is a very tricky business and to try to write an article on “how muay thai is scored” i feel is too vague. Many factors come into play when it comes to scoring and judging muay thai fights. Now there will be things that one person says or another but really everything is up in the air based on the venue. I feel knowing your “promotion” works more to your advantage than just knowing how you or your coach thinks it should be scored.
Scoring in Thailand… in Muay Thai, not on the Soi Cowboy.

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In general, there are pretty much 2 schools of judging. There is the “Thai” and the “western” set of scoring. for the most part in Thailand, punching is not really scored at all. Even if you are landing punch after punch but your opponent throws kicks and knees… you are going to lose. In Thailand, one good round can win you the fight no matter what had happened in the previous rounds. This often times leads to guys taking the 5th round off and just dancing around for the duration of the round. No sense in getting knocked out or banged up even more when the fight has already been decided i guess. Much more emphasis is put on the clinch and knee game in Thailand. Aside from the part of “favoritism.” not knowing how scoring goes down in Thailand is why many westerners do not get the “nod” at the end of the fight.

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Scoring in the United States.

For the most part, much more emphasis is placed on punching and western boxing style scoring. A 10 point system just like in boxing is in place so while one really good round can help your chances, it does not guarantee victory as it does in Thailand. Also a reverse of theroy occurs where you can dominate someone using mostly punching while the other person tried kicking more and you will be pretty much locking up a victory. Clinching is a low priority where it is a huge part of the scoring in Thailand. In North America, the clinch still happens but it is quickly broken up (about 2-3 seconds) and usually the competitors are not as active in the clinch as their Thai counterparts. At the end of the day it comes down to the 10 point system and the final score you receive.

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Everything in between.

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Now in true internet fashion, I am sure someone will come along and say “no thats not how it works! thats not how any of this works!” and they may be right on some points. Again I used real broad strokes to paint the scoring pictures above. The next part is pretty important no matter which side of the scoring pendulum you end up on. The promotion you are fighting on can affect the scoring as well. No matter where you fight, some promotions will have their favorites. Favorites could be techniques, styles or even fighters in particular. Does the promotion bring in judges from out of town or are they wearing the same T-shirt as your opponent’s gym? You think your going to get a win in this place? Say you are fighting up north in Issan against “Black Eagle.” Black Eagle comes from Korat, the judges are from Korat, and you are fighting in Korat… you better knock him out! There is no way you will ever get the win there on a “score card.” The same can be said if you are fighting in Liverpool, NY against a guy from Liverpool with 3 judges from Liverpool. It may not be as blatant as Thailand but you really need to dominate the guy to get the win.
Know your environment

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At the end of the day we all want to win. Prep yourself and learn about where your are fighting. In the youtube world we live in, look at other fights in the same promotion and see how it is scored, then fight accordingly. Examine close fights and see why the judges thought the way they did. Does this scoring play in line with your style and if it does not what can you change or work on for this fight? Know that if you are fighting in a “hostile” or “partisan” environment that you need to not “pace” yourself but rather you must go on the offensive and attack. If you are from Los Angeles and fighting in Philly with a Philly opponent then you best put a good show or expect the home town hero to get the nod. Let the fans be your judge in that matter. In Thailand it is not unusual for people to throw fruit, beer cans, and trash at the ring when they think the judges made a real bad call. Remember a loss is not really a loss unless you feel defeated. A judges decision is just an opinion. Yes, it can affect your standing as a professional but you must not let it beat your spirit. Fight your hardest, fight with spirit and not to sound cliché but “never leave it to the judges.”

Getting a Sak Yant or Protection Tattoo in Thailand.

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If you have been training in Muay Thai its a pretty good assumption that you either have or have seen someone with a sak yant. Sak yants are “sacred tattoos” or sometimes called “protection tattoos” by many people. Just like anyone who has tattoos, some people have one while others have much of their body covered in ink. Just like regular tattoos many people get sak yant tattoos for various reason. Many people like having an old school style like this because well, not many other people have them. just the fact that they put it on your body without using a machine is cool in its own way. The majority of people who gravitate toward sak yants are those seeking protection and good fortune. But one thing is for certain… sak yant is not just for fighters. Everyone from police and military personnel to basic housewives have them. this is a cultural thing amongst many of the Thai people. For me personally I believe in the karma that goes with the tattoos as well as a reminder to myself when i see them that I should always try to follow “the path.” Also it goes without saying… they are pretty cool to have.

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There are many people in Thailand who do sak yant tattoos but if you are actually looking for the spiritual aspects that go along with them you want to find an Arjahn who is a master of doing them. I myself goto Arjahn Thoy Dabos for all of my sak yants. Arjahn Thoy is very famous in the muay thai community having tattooed fighters like John Wayne Parr, Chaz Mulkey, and most recently Liam HItman Harrison. There are several other masters who do them in Thailand, but just be sure you have a master do them not some guy with the “bamboo tattoo” sign on his shop.

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When you find a master to do the sak yant you will choose your design and most likely make an offering to the temple they represent.  Usually they have an assistant that sets you up with an offering bowl. The offering bowl is usually a gold or silver bowl with various things like cigarettes, incense, lotus flowers, and candles. Another option is to ask the master to “read” you and decide for himself what sak yant you should get.

Sak Yant 7 This is the beginning. Placing the tiger yant on my ribs. 

Then we get down to it. you will sit in front of the master and he will begin apply the tattoo. traditionally the masters used bamboo but many have gravitated to steel needles. Then he will dip the needle in ink and begin to poke you with the needle. I am not going to lie… this hurts. I have received many tattoos in my time but this one was the most painful. Many people who have been tattooed by a machine know the feeling that when you first start it is a bit painful but as it goes on, the area gets numb and becomes less intense. I found the old school style to be just as painful from the first stab to the last stab. The good news is that the process is pretty fast. the majority of the tattoo is line work so there is not the time-consuming work of all the fill in you get with most western styled tattoos.

Sak Yant 11 Arjahn Thoy Dabos adding his chant to the sak yant

After the tattoo is done the master will then take out a thinner needle and begin the next part which is inscribing the magical chant or spell that goes with your design. typically the chant is different for each person based on what the master feels is best for you.  The final part is the blessing. Without the blessing all you have is ink on your skin. It is the master’s blessing that “activates” the spell on your sak yant. Some people have been known to hallucinate or go into a type of trance saying that they are being empowered by their sak yant.

This is a video of my friend Gaz getting his sak yant blessed.
Sak Yant 14 Arjahn Thoy blessing my sak yant 

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Arjahn Meng Khunpaen giving a blessing after one of his disciples placed the sak yant on this girl

Now that the sak yant is complete here is something you need to know. If you just got the tattoo to be cool or just for the experience then you are pretty much done. However, if you are following the path of “protection tattoos” there are rules of conduct that follow. Different masters have different rules but my Arjahn simply says “be kind to others and follow the 5 precepts of buddhism.” Arjahn thoy’s rule system has been written out something like this though:

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Do Not speak poorly to or disrespect your; Mother , Father or master (Kru).
• Do not commit evil deeds.
• Devotees of the same master are forbidden to fight or compete with each other – they should consider each other members of the same family and cherish each other.
• Do not drink alcohol or take drugs.
• Do not make special claims of having protective powers because of your yant or amulets.
• Do not think that the power of the yant will protect you if you intend to use those powers for bad deeds.
• try to keep the five precepts: constitute the basic code of ethics undertaken by upāsaka and upāsikā (“lay followers”) of Buddhism. The precepts in all the traditions are essentially identical and are commitments to abstain from harming living beings, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and intoxication.

It is believed that if you do not follow “the path” or use your sak yant for evil purposes that you will lose all the power that they possess.

Here are some examples of Sak Yant Tattoos and their various meanings

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Ha Thaeo (Five Row Yant):Very common yant and the one i encounter the most. Made famous to the west by Angelina Jolie. Offers many levels of luck and fortune.

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Hanuman: the monkey god: and general of the Varanas (a monkey like race in hindu religion) Very popular amongst fighters because of the promises of Bravery and courage.

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Tigers: Yant Sua: are associated with strength, fearlessness and power. very popular with fighters, soldiers, and policeman. Tiger yants vary widely in style and might be found anywhere on the body. Leaping tigers, twin tigers, even tigers with the head or tail cut off.

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The Hermit or Reuesi: Pho Kae: was a solitary sage who once lived deep in india’s forests where he meditated, studied traditional medicine and the arts. Today many thai tattoo masters worship the Ruesi and claim to get their powers from a long line of hermit sages. Wearers of the various reusi tattoos believe that the power of the ruesi yant will convey knowledge, kindness and a clam state of mind.

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Ganesh: A popular hindu god that is a remover of obstacles making it a symbol of success. also known by the Thais as Phra Pi Kaned.

There really are too many Yants and styles to choose from or talk about.  It really is a vast culture and everyone seems to have a different opinion or idea of what their sak yant means.  The most important thing is what it means to you and that you always try to be a good person.