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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sityodtong Muay Thai Goes 4-0!

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending Muay Thai Madness as a coach and corner man, which gave me the honor of helping out four of our fighters as they fought their way to victory. And while being a corner man for a Muay Thai fight for the first time (I’ve cornered one MMA fight previously) has given me a lot to think about, I want to make sure that give appropriate recognition to the fighters themselves, who all did an amazing job.

Stan Schultz made his amateur debut in a three-round battle that was a very a near thing. In the end, Stan’s clinch game won him the fight, allowing him to shut down his opponents very heavy hands and take control of the pace of the match. Stan’s opponent had some very heavy hands, and there were one a couple of moments where Stan looked like he was rocked pretty hard. To his credit, Stan fought it off, kept his composure, and got back into the fight. He also did a fantastic job of listening to his corner, and to Kru Mark, who gave him the strategy that carried him through the final round of the fight, and gave him the win.

Dat Tran, our second fighter, did a lousy job of listening to his corner; I say that mostly because I had enough time to say “Dat, take your—” before Dat had knocked his opponent out with a neck kick. Dat threw exactly two shots during his fight (a left leg kick set up the right neck kick), and he was done. I’ve seen him work harder in training.

John Johnston, our third fighter of the night, fought a vicious three round war with his opponent. John weighed in at 232, and his opponent weighed in at 251—the two of them barely fit under the lights in the ring, and both of them came out to fight. John pressed the action and took the decision in the end, but both fighters fought their hearts out, dealing and taking an unbelievable amount of punishment.

Andres Jeudi was our fourth fighter, and the only pro bout we had of the night. Andres, to no one’s surprise, performed beautifully; he is easily one of the most technical fighters out of our academy, and just has a beautiful game. He looks and fights a bit like a miniature Anderson Silva. This particular match he won in one minute and third seconds, putting his opponent down with a knee to the ribs that was so fast and hard, some people didn’t even see the actual knee. His opponent dropped so fast that for a second I thought Andres had accidentally fouled him in the groin. It was a beautiful thing to watch.

I was amazingly proud of all of our fighters. I still am. I’ve been talking about this non-stop since it happened, and I’ll probably continue to chew people’s ears off about it for another few days before the adrenaline and excitement wears off.

For my own part: the experience of being a corner man was very cool, and very interesting. I really enjoyed it, particularly helping the fighters get warmed up, stay composed, and keeping them focused. I was able to use some of the material and knowledge I’ve gained from working with Tony Blauer; a lot of it was just talking to them, making sure they stayed confident, but also giving them permission to be nervous. Especially for Stan and Dat, who were first-timers, I wanted them to understand that yes, they were going to get butterflies, yes, they might be worried, and that was ok. Stan was actually more worried about his wai kru than his fight, which I thought was interesting. Dat was worried about his right hand, which was sore from an earlier injury (boy, did that turn out not to matter!). Even Andres, who is one of the most relaxed fighters I’ve ever seen, said to me at one point “I feel like there’s extra pressure on me now. Everyone else won, now I’ve got to win.”

“How is that different from before all of our guys won?” I asked.

And he laughed. It seems to be a good sign when a fighter can laugh right before they get into the ring. It means they’re relaxing, getting challenged instead of getting threatened, and are going out there to do their thing.

When I was actually in the corner, it was interesting—things were a little confused, because at any given time, we had half a dozen people standing NEAR the corner, but only two official corner men. For the most part, the corner men were tasked with physically cooling and calming the fighter, while Kru Mark gave them instructions. It clearly worked pretty well, though there were one or two times where I think we would have been better off with a few less people crowded around the fighter.

Most interesting to me is how much I became not only emotionally but physically invested in our fighters success. By the end of the day, I was sweaty, hoarse, and felt like I had gone a few rounds myself.

Kru Mark has always said that Sityodtong is a family, and that feeling is never truer than it is on fight day. Watching people who are like brothers to me in the middle of a fight is incredibly emotionally taxing; I find I worry for them, even fear for them, get excited for them…I’m almost in there with them. It’s quite the experience.

Next steps: 1. Learn how to corner better. 2. Be the guy in the ring.

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