Sunday, August 26, 2007

Dragonfly Muay Thai: Day One

Kenneth Bigbee, Jr. shouted "kick" and I did, blasting my shin across his hips underneath the Thai pads he was holding. My legs were shot and I was mortified. I apologized profusely while the whole class had a "been there, done that" laugh at my expense.

Bigbee, a former Navy SEAL, is a long-time practitioner of submission grappling, Tae Kwon Do, Hapkido, and the Korean weapons-style Kumdo. He began study Muay Thai two years ago under Ian Ransburg and received his blessing to start his own school. He still enjoys Korean martial arts but in terms of street defense and MMA, Bigbee said "I don't like teaching things that aren't effective."

My backround is American Kickboxing - the footwork and striking mechanics are significantly different but I left all my baggage at the door to learn something new. Bigbee walked me through basic punches and kicks; his program is only a few months old and still small enough to allow for individual instruction. "When I teach you punches I start with the hands, move to the hips, and then the feet," Bigbee said looking at me in a mirror. "When I teach you kicks I start with the feet, move the hips, and finish with the hands." I have thrown thousands of punches and kicks in my life but the mechanics of Muay Thai - standing tall on the balls of my feet, swinging my hands away from my face when kicking, holding my hands away from my face when in a defensive posture - are totally counter intuitive.

Damn you, Velocity Sports Performance! My hips burn with every thrusting Muay Thai knee as I circle the gym at Oriental Martial Arts in Avon, Ind. Dragonfly Muay Thai operates under the umbrella of a hapkido school and the environs reflect that more than a Muay Thai or boxing gym. It was Friday night and I was already cashed from work, workouts, and sleep deprivation but I pushed through it. If I am still standing I figure I can work for another hour. My can-do attitude backfired when I couldn't do enough to get my leg up to Bigbee's pads.

I've always been interested in Muay Thai because it's the only so-called pure martial art that has a long standing tradition of formalized full-contact competition. Bigbee knows which way the wind is blowing and took time to explain his perspective on why Muay Thai's mechanics are better suited to MMA than boxing's are. His view revolved around meeting attacks further out in the gap to allow for time to sprawl if necessary as well as never putting yourself in a position where you are vulnerable to a knee or kick.

Amanda and I got a really good vibe from him and his students but Avon would mean a minimum 60 minutes of drive time for each class. We are going back on Monday for conditioning but I was told that Ian Ransburg runs the Muay Thai classes at Modern Gladiator, an MMA gym between my house and Downtown. The time and gas expenditures of training in Carmel at Velocity and Avon at Dragonfly might be prohibitive.

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