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First of all, I should tell you that prior to getting my motorbike yesterday, I decided I wanted to go on a walkabout, and explore the neighborhood surrounding my hotel. I was maybe 100 yards form the hotel before I found myself being chased back to the hotel by a pack of wild dogs. I must have smelled like a farang (Thai for ‘foreigner’, pronounced ‘Falang’). Those of you know me, know how F’ing terrifying this was for me! Now that I have my motorbike I just speed past them when I get on the road that leads away from my hotel.
Driving a motorbike in Thailand is how I would imagine a single bee joining a swarm of bees would be. You just head for the swarm, and find your little nook without bumping into the other bees. A small bump could be a catastrophe for the entire swarm. Sometimes a bird comes along (Car or bus), and the swarm just makes room for them without crashing into one another. There really is a rhythm to it that is very Thai. Cars and other motorbikes will swerve into you, pull out in front of you, or stop quickly in front of you. It is not uncommon to see vehicles coming right at you on the wrong side of the road. Nobody gets angry when any of this stuff happens, because if you are in the rhythm of things, you will be doing it to someone else shortly. There are honks on the horn, but it is just to let the other person know you are there. I see some Thais laugh at me when I am not aggressive enough on the road…that is breaking the rhythm. Knock on wood, I am beginning too get it.
On another note...Welp…I found her!!! I have been searching high and low. I have contacted ever Thai person I know. Everyone told me they had seen Bubble and her family recently, but were not sure where to find them. I was invited to their house one time almost two years ago. I thought I could remember where to find it, but wasn’t 100%. Mind you, I am riding around on a scooter that I really don’t feel 100% comfortable navigating the landscape on. I went to an area that I thought it was in. It turns out I was correct, but her shop was nowhere to be found. I was on my way back to my hotel, and on the outskirts of where they might be, when I heard a little girl scream my name. It was her…It was Bubble. Her mom didn’t even notice me, but she did.
It was a very poignant moment for me. When I saw her face, I shuddered, thinking about that same lifeless face looking up at me on the beach. It wasn’t lifeless today…she was beaming! She gave me the biggest hug I have ever gotten from somebody. I gave her the money that Aztec Highway donated, plus more that AJ and I did. Her mom broke out into tears, and Bubble gave me another HUGE hug. Her mom told me she has had a very tough year. That is why it was hard to find her. They lost their restaurant, which made them move to where they are, which is very slow, and not profitable. The money is going to make a huge difference for them, and from the bottom of my heart I cannot thank Chris Killillay from Aztec Highway enough. PLEASE, if you see him, hug him for me! I spent the entire evening with them, and it was amazing… I took her to get ice cream, and we had a great time together!
But before I found them…I had some Jiu Jistsu and some Muay Thai to do!
My first day back at Tiger Muay Thai was a good one. I ran into many of the trainers I have formed friendships with over the years. I absolutely love how they greet you. It sort of goes like this;
First, they give you a hug, and say Mie, how you? Then they step back and make some comment about your appearance. They physically touch you when they do. I felt like a piece of fruit at the grocery store. I got a pat on the belly that accompanied a ‘not fat’ remark. I got a squeeze of the arm, with a ‘strong’ comment. I had a rub of the arm, with a ‘you more white now’, a reference to my lack of having a tan. I had another point out all the new tattoos that I have gotten since they saw me last, and another that just came and started hitting me with Thai pads. It was fun to be back.
My favorite part of coming back is the warm welcome I always get from the ladies in the front office. They are the sweetest, and kindest group of ladies on the planet.
EVERY SINGLE person I encountered, of course, asked about my son. They all just love him. **One of the ladies in the office said I look younger than him now that I am not fat, and that he has all that hair on his face. Lol (He was sporting a pretty mean looking goatie (sp?) last time he was out here)
I decided to do Jiu Jitsu this morning. I haven’t done a ton of it lately, and there are always some pretty high level guys in the class, so I was a bit apprehensive. Alex, the instructor, is one of the first guys I made friends with when I started coming here. He’s as cool as they get. He is a damn good BJJ coach as well. Unfortunately, he is recovering from a torn ACL so he couldn’t roll, but he taught some pretty cool stuff from back that I will have to use on my wife when I get home.
I got to roll with some pretty good guys. There was a purple belt that weight around 260. He was a lot of power, and caught me with a triangle, but otherwise we went 5 solid minutes with some good position changes, but no other subs.
Next, I went with a member of the TMT Fight team. He is a super good MMA fighter, but I cannot remember his name. I got a single leg on him, only to wind up in a guillotine. I got another single on him a few minute later that I didn’t get the takedown, but I was oh so close…he rolled out. It was a super fun roll.
My final partner was a Chinese kid. There is a group that comes to Tiger every year called Martial Training Academy (MTA). They come in numbers of over 100 people. Most of them are pretty novice, but do not realize it until they get here. This kid was one of them. He wasn’t very good, but went balls to the wall. I tapped him a few times before I realized how novice he was. I just rolled with him after that. He was a super nice kid afterward, and said ‘Sank You’.
I went to my hotel and rested for 2 hours before returning to the gym for a private Muay Thai session with one of my all-time favorite characters in Muay Thai, Pong. If you followed my exploits last year, he and I became drinking buddies, hanging out buddies, and just all-around buddies. We spent a lot of time together, and he was the first one to ask if I wanted to do a private with him.
Pong is a funny dude who is always macking on girls, despite the fact that he is married. He never takes it too far, but he is the biggest flirt on the planet. His favorite line is, ‘Where you go? OK, I go with you’.
The last several times I have come here, I always ended up puking my guts out because I came out of shape. What Pong didn’t know, was I have already done all my puking in Bangkok, and showed up to Phuket in shape. He tried to put me to the test. Our first pad round was 20 minutes long. I hung in there. We did two more rounds of ten minutes each before he decided he wanted to spar. I suspect he wanted to spar because in our final round of pad work, he told me to catch a body kick, throw a knee to the body, then throw the kick off, and counter with a kick to the head (Where he was supposed to have been holding the Thai pads). As you can guess, I threw the kick off a little harder than he expected, and he lost his balance a little bit, which caused him to drop the pads just as I landed a shin to his forehead. Fortunately, I pulled the kick at the last moment when I realized I was about to kick him in the face. I don’t think he blamed me for this happening, but I could tell he was embarrassed by it because all of the other trainers laughed out loud at him.
I had mentioned earlier that the large contingency of Chinese people were there as well. Pong and I were really in a flow prior to that happening, so a group of them had gathered around to watch. They all were in an uproar when this happened, and I could tell it got under Pong’s skin.
We started sparring, and he was throwing bombs. I could see blood in his eyes, and he wanted ‘revenge’. He threw a REALLY hard body kick that I caught and swept him on. It was one of those sweeps, where he almost caught his balance as he was going down, but just couldn’t quite hold it, so it looked even way worse, as he hit the ground with a thud. The Chinese went absolutely bonkers when this happened. He was FURIOUS. The next minute or so, he was head-hunting on me like a madman. He was so mad, that he was missing wildly. Ultimately, I told him we were done. I’m not trying to lose a friend over this. I would like to be clear, I AM NOT better than Pong. He is MUCH better than me, it’s not even close…but I was better today.

Day 1 at Tiger Muay Thai in the books!

The Author, Mike Stidham, owns and operates the Ultimate Combat Training Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. UCTC offers classes in Boxing, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, MMA, as well as a wide range of Fitness classes to Men, Women, Children, groups, and private lessons.



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