Another action-packed week in class. This was the first week where I ventured into a morning class — mostly due to a schedule conflict that prevented me from attended that night. Why does this matter? Well, unlike the evening classes I am accustomed to, the morning classes have students from White Belt up to and including Black Belts. Quite an interesting mix. I partnered with a Red/Black Belt fortunately and during our session together (largely consisting of punching drills with Muay Thai pads) I learned some great tips and was able to watch a far more experienced student from up close without feeling like I was staring.
One thing I learned in that class is that there’s always room for improvement. Sure, that sounds trite but it really is true. We lower belt students can sometimes put the more advanced students on a pedestal but training with them reminds you that they’re students just like us. Sure, they are far more experienced and have a lot more skills under their belts (so to speak) but they can struggle just as much as anyone. As I was off for a quick water break off the the side I’d see a Black Belt off to my right gasping and gulping water just like me. As I dropped my arms to the side quickly to shake off a cramp, so too did my partner on occasion when it came to her turn.
It was somewhat surprising to me that many of the talks we get in our evening classes about the basics (i.e., moving the hips into a punch, staying aware of our footwork, breathing, etc.) are repeated to even the more advanced students. It never hurts to drill these lessons mercilessly into people’s heads so they are second-nature and triggered by reflexes and habit more than thinking.
On another front, this was my first week of sparring as well. It was enlightening for me in many ways. Instead of our practicing into the mirror or facing off with a partner and pads I was actually squaring off with another student practicing various moves. No, it wasn’t full-contact, animal sparring (in fact, I don’t have my gear in yet) but it was different enough to appreciate the difference.
One last lesson I picked up, also in the sparring, was the notion of elbows flaring out. Sensei pointed out that many of us are likely familiar with the classic “boxing stance” with the elbows in tight and the gloves coming up to protect the face. He demonstrated the difference in Muay Thai — elbows out and a larger gap between gloves. The gap is there to invite the opponent to strike between them, making for easier deflection, and the elbows are flared because — unlike boxing — we have to keep in mind knees and kicks. Elbows being flared are far better positioned to deal with these incoming blows.
Coming up on our next stripe test next week, which should be exciting. I am also now able to have access to Jui Jitsu and a brand-new, dedicated Muay Thai class. Like a kid in a candy store, me. If I only had more time…