For a long time, I was the only girl who trained regularly at my gym. I love training with guys all the time, but there is something to be said for the value of another female presence. Whenever I see another woman in the gym I get excited at the prospect of training with them because it’s not something that I often have.
In September, Katy turned up. In the second part of this post, I’ll talk more about the benefits of having other women to train with, but in this one, I want to highlight Katy in particular.
Katy is an English teacher from Canada who now trains with us several times a week. Having any women around is always a bonus, but thankfully, she is one who totally ‘gets it’ and is as committed to training as I am, which is really valuable. Since she arrived, we’ve been sparring almost all the time. Although there is a size disparity (she’s around 63kg, whereas I’m 50kg), it’s really great to have a woman to work with regularly and I feel like we both get so much out of it. When we’re not sparring, we’re talking everything through (although, that does actually happen a lot during sparring, too) and that’s another thing that I don’t often get from working with the guys. As well as beating the shit out of each other, we get to use each other as a source of emotional feedback and support, which is great. Katy is yet to have her first fight, but she’s been training very intently to fight since ever she got here, waiting to get the go-ahead. It’s been really nice to see her grow and improve while she’s been here and I’ve enjoyed watching and sometimes walking her through it. In doing so, I often see myself. When trainers are teaching her new things, when she’s struggling with certain techniques and when she’s getting frustrated, I always think to myself ‘yep, I’ve been there’, because that used to be me, and it reminds me of how I was when I first came here. In that same vein, it reminds me of how far I’ve come since then. In those times, I always try to let her know that, because these are things that we all go through. Verbal support goes a long way, and I know that there have been times where I would have benefited from the voice of another woman in the gym. Also, I really enjoy training with her and want to make sure she sticks with it. Hopefully, she gets as much out of our partnership as I do.
This weekend, Katy will finally be having her first fight. Her and I will both be fighting on Saturday 1st March at The Second Muay Thai Festival at Muban Chombeung Rajabhat University and Muay Thai College. I fought on this show last year and will be re-matching my opponent from that fight.
I’m really excited for this event, but mostly because I can’t wait to see Katy fight. She’s allowed me to share part of a post that she wrote for her personal blog, in which she talks about her experience of training here so far:
“I’m training with THE Master Toddy, as in Gina Carano and Kevin Ross,’ trainer and basically the godfather of UK Muay Thai. He’s pretty wonderful. As a human, he’s a hilarious, commanding, formidable man. He’s caring and really understands Muay Thai from every level, especially the mental aspect. I’ve spoken before about how I can let my frustration take over my training and create walls, but he always knows exactly when to push and what to say to me to get me over the hump. A couple of weeks ago, I was getting noticeably frustrated. He said to me, “Why are you doing that? Learning is like trying to climb a mountain, it’s hard enough; if you let yourself get frustrated it’s like taking a bag of rocks with you on your jouney- it just weighs you down and holds you back. Let go of the rocks! You’re doing fine; if you could be perfect the first time you tried something I would be out of a job.” Not only is it impossible to argue, it’s impossible not to smile. What I had been missing since coming to Thailand was having mental stimulation during training; that is, a structured purpose to each training session, an explicit objective for the week or day. At Master Toddy’s, I’ve definitely found that. Everything we do always boils down to just a few basic skills that we work to improve every single day: something like keeping your eyes strong, or your footwork sharp. Everything builds. It’s basic and simple and at the same time incredibly detailed. It’s everything I love about Muay Thai.
There is one thing that’s missing at Master Toddy’s. Sexism. I spoke before about struggling to find trainers who would spar with me or clinch with me. At the gym, it never comes into play. I spar every day, usually with Emma, an English girl who trains at Master Toddy’s who has had 12 fights, but often with other guys passing through to train and with the trainers themselves. Everything the guys do, we do, and it’s such a non-issue that it’s hard to remember what it was like for me when it was a real problem that I had to deal with at every training session.
I feel like I could go on for thousands of words about the gym, but it would start to become repetitive and sound a lot like hero-worship. I do have to admit, though, that every time he’s describing a technique to me and says, “I said the same thing to Gina so many times!” I still get a real thrill. I don’t think there’s ever been a day that I’ve left the gym without feeling on cloud 9 and that I had really, really learned something. And ultimately, that’s everything I could ever want out of a gym.
I do want to talk about my training partners a little bit. I mentioned Emma; she’s been living in Thailand for 3 (or maybe 2, I’m forgetting now, crap) years, fighting and working as an English teacher. She’s such an incredible support, and it’s really nice to have not only another girl around to train with, but a smart, experienced, technical girl who is better than me and that I genuinely get along with. Master Toddy alternately laughs and yells at us because sometimes we chat and gossip during rounds while sparring. And it really is rare to have that relationship with another girl that you train with, I think. The closest thing I can think of is a sibling rivalry; as girls who train we are usually the minority and are used to a certain kind of special attention. When another girl is added to the mix it must be like being an only child and then suddenly acquiring a new sibling. In this scenario, I would be the new kid in the family, but Emma has always been welcoming and just overall awesome, so I think I’m pretty lucky. Emma is also the kind of girl who has no passive-aggressive tendencies to her personality whatsoever. My control isn’t the best and I’m a lot bigger than her, and I know there have been times where I’ve hit her too hard or not on the mark, but she usually just laughs at me and by the time our sparring is over we’re back to giggling in the corner.
There’s also Jesse, a fellow Canadian, at the gym. He’s from Vancouver and I should use the term ‘training partner’ lightly because he’s quite an active fighter and so much better than me that usually our paths barely cross during training, except at the end when we run and do ab-work all together. He was back in Canada for a couple of months but has been sponsored by a gym to come back here and continue fighting, and it’s been really nice to have him back. I guess together we make a kind of cozy little trio. I am definitely the newbie in the group but it’s kind of great to have knowledgable people to model my training after and I have been able to push my training forward and make real progress by just imitating their habits.
Okay, so I said I was going to stop talking about the gym, but, guess what, I’m not.
Besides Master Toddy, we have some really great trainers at the gym, and every single one has their unique strengths. There’s Ajarn Poun, who is really the Dad of the gym. He bandages cuts and scrapes, massages your neck after clinchwork, stretches your legs between sparring rounds, and pushes the crap out of you in padwork. He’s so caring and sweet, he gives me a ride to the BTS every evening after training and always gives me hand lotion. We make small talk in a mix of Thai and English. There’s Kru Singh, who is hilarious and really technical and likes to torture me by catching my kicks and hanging my leg over the top rope, or dumping me during clinchwork. He asks me why I’m crying and then pretends to wipe my fake tears. There’s Nut, who has a million dollar smile that he will beam out as he punches you over and over in the face, thus making it impossible for you to get mad. Then there’s Kru Cheep and Sky, a father-son team (the kid is 12 and trains after school) and the way they play and laugh during training makes me giggle constantly. Kru Cheep is really intuitive on pads, so you can choose the combos and strikes you want to throw and the pads will magically appear in the right spot for you. I don’t really train with Sky because he’s 12 and tiny but his boundless energy is contagious and he is literally the cutest person ever.
Okay, now I’m done.”
After this weekend, I’ll publish a post on the fights. I’ll also publish the second part of this post, in which I will talk in more detail about how valuable it is to train with other women. In the meantime, we’ll be prepping to fight!
Here are some photos of Katy and I training together.