A Sweaty, Painful Kind of Groove


2 pairs of steely eyes followed my every move, the faces belonging to the eyes, emotionless yet purposeful. It didn’t take long for me to crack.
“Ok! Ok! Fine! I will go jogging now!”
The 2 heads nodded approvingly, eyes glinting in silent celebration of a mission accomplished.

“Good. Now you go.” said my trainer in the unmistakable Thai accented English while his sister who helps out at his gym continued eyeing me as I deliberately slowly put on my socks and trainers, making sure I indeed go on my merry way after the usual, standard morning Muay Thai training session and before an equally punishing late afternoon session.

“Uh huh, great job gal, look what you have gotten yourself into…” I muttered to myself half delirious as I went for a 6km jog in the sunny tropical resort island of Phuket. It didn’t help that my first fight was only a week away .

Oh yes, be careful for what you wish for. I didn’t want the usual vacation of sun, sand and sea. I wanted something more challenging and there I was, in constant pain and fatigue, awashed with salty water of a different kind from the sea. That was the price to pay for something different. Luckily no one had drowned in sweat before.

Once I foolishly uttered that I wished to fight, the entire gym conspired against me. Steely stares and naggy reminders to get me on my runs; screaming trainers pushing me that inch further than what I thought was humanly possible; gleefully enthusiastic trainer smacking my abs with the training pads while I was doing sets of crunches and ultimately that stick wielding eagle-eyed trainer who made sure all the knees and kicks on the heavy bags were of power and speed. I felt like a school kid all over again, only this time, it was the school of hard knocks.

“No pain no gain; train hard fight easy nah!”

The trainers would come over and remind me every time after they had laughed enough at my panting and whining and what nots. They never understood fully why so many foreigners like myself would pay to subject ourselves to sweat and pain while we could just enjoy life and lounge at the beach. But it was a win-win situation, both parties get what we needed; a source of income and something different. Yeah, I was in good professional hands as the trainers were once fighters training in conditions perhaps ten times more intense than what I had. It was an added bonus too in that one of the top fighters in Thailand was also training out of the gym. It was always an eclectic mix of awe, fear and inspiration to watch and him train and more often than not make a monkey of his unwitting sparring partners.

Then all too soon, it was my fight night, and also nearing the end of my vacation. Seriously with all the adrenaline pumping through my veins and all, my mind was almost a complete blank and I couldn’t remember too much of my fight; except that my opponent delivered surprisingly painful kicks and once sent me tumbling onto the canvas with a well placed front kick. But I came back strong and before I knew it, was declared the winner. Huh? That was it?

Thank goodness for camcorders and a volunteer videographer I was able to review what actually happened in the ring. Hmm… I didn’t recall myself being that lean and ripped. Oh… I kneed her in the stomach and that was where the end began. Oooo that looked painful, how come I didn’t feel a thing?

The rush and realization set in in a very unreal pace, almost in slow motion. My gym mates and trainers were happy and congratulating me, I was pretty much in a daze as the other fights went on. My first fight, a big thing for me, but it was actually like a school kid taking her first graded test. At the back of my mind a small voice calls to me. Give me more… Now back home I begin to strategize on how to engineer a longer leave from work, to return to fight training. There wasn’t that many legitimate fights that I could get myself into in my part of the world. Reminders by friends and family members on how I much whined fall on deaf ears; somehow I missed those steely gazes.

M Cheng

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