On May 31st, a group of us from the gym went to fight in Hua Hin at Cong Carter Muay Thai. Some of us had previously fought there in December last year, when I fought Nong Ning Palapon Gym.
Cong Carter is a relatively new gym in Hua Hin which is run by a Danish guy called Nick. That was his first fight night, and he’d invited us back for the second one, specifically asking me to fight one of his girls. I was due to fight Pennapa, a student of the gym. Unfortunately, a week before the fight, she pulled out. It was disappointing, since I was excited for the match. Pennapa is exactly the same height and weight as me, which is not something that I come across very often. Still, having opponents pull out or cancel just before a fight is something that I’m used to. In fact, I’ve almost come to expect it. As long as they could get me an opponent, I was happy.
That weekend, we drove to Hua Hin for a day trip. We ended up doing various activities there, including kicking banana trees, visiting a salt farm and fishing. Upon arrival at the gym, Pennapa approached me and introduced herself. She seemed very nice, and explained that she wasn’t able to take the fight at that point. She’d previously lived in England and had her first fight there, so spoke English very well. We chatted for a while and laughed about how I was an English girl fighting in Thailand, while she was a Thai girl who went to fight in England. Afterwards, Nick told me that he would arrange for us to fight in three months time, which we agreed on. So, I had that to look forward to. He also told me that he had arranged a new opponent for me, Kwankaw Palangpimut. Funnily enough, I’d been watching one of Kwankaw’s fights online the previous night. I started to take notice of her after seeing her fight a couple of times at MBK Fight Night and liking her style. I’d previously shared a photo of her on the Under the ropes Facebook page, where she was kissing her opponent as they touched gloves. This seems to be her thing, as she does it in every fight. She’d been very active and had just won the Bantamweight title belt at MBK the week prior (video here), although upon calling her manager, we were told that she hasn’t fought for a long time. Again, this is fairly normal in Thailand, so didn’t bother us too much.
On the day that we visited Cong Carter, the coup had only just been announced and a curfew was in place from 10pm until 5am. This meant that we had to get on the road back to Bangkok early enough to get back in time. As it happened, we weren’t able to do that, and found ourselves staying there for much longer than we’d planned. Nick was quick to offer us some rooms for the night, which was very kind of him. So, we ended up staying the night there, sleeping at our opponent’s gym. It sounds funny, but everyone there was so lovely that it wasn’t an issue. They even cooked us dinner as well as breakfast the following morning.
Eventually, my opponent changed another time before the actual fight, and it was confirmed that I would be fighting Nong Ning, who I’d fought five months prior and beaten by KO in the second round. They said that she’d come a long way since then, had actually just fought Kwankaw and won, and was looking for a rematch with me. So, that”s how it ended up.
The Fight Night
Saturday 31st of May was fight day. We all headed to Hua Hin in two vans; one for the fighters and one for everyone who was coming to support. One of the people in the second van was Jacqui Bogart, whom I wrote about in ‘The Joys of Having a Female Training Partner: Part 2’. Jacqui is an active fighter from the UK who was on holiday in Thailand and looking to fight. Originally, it was intended that she would fight on that night, but they were unable to find her an opponent in time. That left me and two other fighters from our gym on the card.
We found that the curfew wasn’t really implemented in Hua Hin, although it was still in place in Bangkok, which meant that we had to fight early in order to get back home in time. So, we left the gym at 12pm, arriving at Cong Carter in the afternoon and planned to rest there for a couple of hours until the fights started. I got up, ate a big breakfast, got my hair braided and got on the road.
Jacqui’s Impromptu Fight
When we arrived at the gym, it was still quite early and they were just setting everything up, so we headed to a room at the back to relax. Those who’d come to watch cracked open a few beers and got started early, including Jacqui. During that time, Gaichon, Tu’s opponent, walked in and said in Thai “her opponent has arrived already”, pointing at Jacqui. No one else had noticed, so I looked around to see another Thai girl, who wasn’t Nong Ning. I knew that there were no other female bouts on the card, so it could only have been Jacqui’s opponent. Neither the gym nor Jacqui had been informed that she had a match, so to our knowledge, she wasn’t fighting. This meant that she hadn’t prepared. The previous day, she had done two training sessions and gone out that night, and she hadn’t brought any gear with her. I calmly let Jacqui know that she did, in fact, have a fight, and that she didn’t have to take it, although if she did, she could borrow my clothes. Of course, she rose to the occasion and wanted to grab the opportunity with both hands.
With that, she braided her hair and got herself ready to fight, and it turned out that hers was the first fight of the night, which gave her very little time. We had some extra shorts that she could wear, but she was still without a mouthguard or sports bra. So, I gave her my sports bra and informed Nick that we would need time in between fights to change, as I’d have to wear it after her. She looked through the bag of gear that the trainers had brought from the gym, and luckily, found a mouthguard, albeit a used one. that would have to do!
Only now, as I’m writing this, have I realised where that mouthguard came from. In March last year, my trainer and I had the unfortunate experience of unexpectedly having my trainer put another person’s mouthguard in my mouth before a fight, after misplacing mine. I wrote about this in a An Unfamiliar Mouthguard. I had assumed that mine was never to be seen again, but have now come to the realisation that Jacqui had used the very same bright pink mouthguard that I’d lost, which must have been at the bottom of that bag the whole time. So, in one week, Jacqui and I had gone from meeting for the first time to sharing bras and mouthguards. Her willingness to just jump in the ring on almost no notice, regardless of any setbacks, was admirable.
It all happened very quickly for Jacqui, and the time between her finding out about her fight and getting out of the ring afterwards was less than two hours. She dominated the fight from the first bell, and by halfway through the second round, had reduced her opponent to tears. The referee stopped the fight there.
After fighting Nong Ning previously, I was wary of two things. Firstly, I knew that it would be difficult to clinch with her, as she’d caused me problems with that in our first fight. Secondly, she’s very effective with front kicks and I had kept me out with those last time. I knew that after losing by KO previously, she’d have something to prove, and that was apparent right away.
The very first thing that she threw at me was a right head kick, and they kept coming. That was new for me. I don’t know if I was thrown off by that, but I didn’t seem myself for the entirety of this fight. Things just weren’t coming to me as they usually would, as if I had some kind of mental block that was stopping my body from doing everything that it had been trained to do. It was almost like having my first fight all over again. Instead of stepping off, moving and countering, I planted myself in front of her. Instead of clamping down, turning and kneeing in the clinch, I just clung on. I almost felt lost. What the fuck was happening? This is something you expect to experience in your first fights, so I couldn’t understand why I was experiencing it at that point. The fight went the full five rounds and although I realised what was happening to me early on, I wasn’t able to pull it out before the end of the fight, which meant that Nong Ning won by decision.
Immediately after the fight, the left side of my head started to swell. Those head kicks had taken effect. It quickly progressed into bruising and the following day, I woke up with quite the shiner. I had to go to work the following morning, something that I always do after a fight. I certainly received some concerned looks from my students that day, but they’re all aware that I’m a fighter, so they knew that it was a result of Muay Thai, which saved me from having to explain too much!
What Happens from Here
I felt like I’d taken ten steps back with this fight. This was frustrating and upsetting, but forced me to look more deeply into why I experienced that mental block. It also presented me with an opportunity to improve myself by learning how to avoid or get past it in the future. You can read about that in Letting Go but Staying in Control: How Mental Training Enhanced my Confidence.
I left that fight with some things to chew on (as well as a black eye), but there’s always progression in that, or at least, the potential for it. Even if I felt like I’d gone backwards in the fight itself, I know that there was progress made in training, it just didn’t come into the ring with me this time. That fact doesn’t devalue the work I’d been putting in or the developments that had been made in the gym; it just means that as always, there is more work to be done. That is one of the things that is most addictive about Muay Thai; there is always more to learn and further to go. I have a long road ahead of me, but I’m on my way.
Letting Go but Staying in Control: How Mental Training Enhanced my Confidence
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