When it blizzards like it did tonight I always worry I’ll show up and the gym will be locked.
Absolutely not the case. The crowd was a bit thinner than usual, but the dedicated keep on truckin’.
Some real-life complications made me miss the massacre that is our Monday night circuit. Tonight I opted to arrive at a quarter past seven for Crossfit and Muay Thai. Crossfit is a school of hardcore conditioning that is growing evermore popular among high caliber athletes – from marathoners to gymnasts to MMA fighters, it’s a good program for anyone who wants to kick themselves in the ass – hard – and jump their fitness up a notch or three. Crossfit has their own gyms (called “boxes”) but the central theme that sets them apart from other crosstrainers is the much loved (or feared, depending on how new you are) Workout Of the Day, dubbed “WOD” for short.
I started on the treadmill running at 7.5 mph on a decent incline. After seven minutes of that, a quick breather and straight to Box Jumps and Kettlebell swings. Four sets of each at 40 then 30 then 20 then 10 reps. I barely made it out alive.
After pulling my heart out of cardiac arrest and convincing my mind to retreat from the bright, soft light in the distance, I grabbed some water and changed my shirt. Loyalist MMA is just a two-shirt kind of gym. I realized pretty quick that I had to decide between a little extra laundry or catching a chill every other night.
Since it was my first night in Muay Thai Jay set me to practicing leg-kick counters in the mirror. The knee raises with the shin facing outward while the same-side elbow comes down to create a seamless barrier. The opposite hand extends out in a push-punch to set the opponent up for a counter.
After two rounds of that my shoulders and hips ached. I have tight hip flexors (something to work on) and they don’t like blocking leg-kicks any more than my shoulders like holding the high Thai guard after a kettlebell workout. Luckily, we moved on to greater things.
Next we worked a teep-round kick combination. The teep (similar to a front push kick) is something I’ve worked on by myself in the past and comes out as naturally as a jab. Ideally it starts with a short stutter-step where the rear foot falls almost level with the front heel. The front leg then comes straight up and lashes out like a piston, the hard ball of the foot aimed for the opponent’s solar plexus.
Round kicks are a little counter-intuitive to me, coming from a history of contact Karate. In karate almost all kicks are thrown with the ball of the foot or heel, and aimed either at soft parts of the torso or the head and neck. There are no leg kicks in Karate competition. Thai round kicks are quite different. I need to remember to step closer than I feel like I need to, so I don’t break my foot, and point my toe slightly, so that the sharpest part of my shin slams into the target.
Next we practiced countering punches with kicks. The opponent throws a jab, countered by a teep to the midsection and followed by a right leg kick. The opponent throws a straight right which is parried and trapped, drawing them in for two knee strikes and a shin aimed for the skull.
As we ran through this combo I found myself explaining some of the finer points to my partner. He kept trying to trap my straight right with an outward parry rather than inward – using a variation on the technique that is often seen in action movies, but that has very little use in any kind of real fight. I showed him how the inward parry leads directly to head-and-arm control with the arm hyper extended – a control position I use sometimes in grappling, and see often in the UFC.
For the last couple rounds we got in the ring and Jay showed us a basic method for trapping kicks and…
SWEEP THE LEG!
Heh, sorry about that. Jay’s eyes light up when he explains the nastier fighting techniques, and Thai legsweeps are plenty nasty. It’s the kind of energy that makes me feel really at home, because I know every time I think about fighting I get the same crazy grin.
My workout buddy had to leave a bit early for a night shift, so Jay stepped in for the last few rounds and showed me some serious clinchwork. The Thai clinch is probably the part of the sport I’m most familiar with – as a No-Gi Jiu Jitsu practitioner, I use head control often to set up control positions. Even so, I felt like I’d never even attempted it before. Jay is strong as a Minotaur, forcing you to hit the technique just right or feel like a silly fool. I was familiar with the first two (crossface and chest push) but the third was a thing of beauty I’m not sure I can even describe right now.
I finished the night by hitting the heaviest bag until my arms got heavy, working round kicks and teeps into the combinations. When I didn’t have the energy to hit the heavy bag anymore I switched to a bungee-rope speedbag and kept pace until it became a blur.
A good night at the gym, and a safe drive home through driven snow. I must return tomorrow night. I will. I must. I will.