In my experience, especially with grappling and MMA, every gym has a different style and program.  Most of what I know I have learnt through tips from other people or from watching fights on TV.  When everyone is on the same program it puts you on par with other students.  This recent change in gyms has really highlighted a lot of technical gaps and gaps in my knowledge.

My grappling is still very new.  Yes I dabbled from time to time in Melbourne, but nothing significant enough to warrant mention.  In all honesty I mostly went to spend time with my grappling buddies and to take a break from getting punched in the face.

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When I left Thailand I finally felt as though I had turned a corner in both my grappling and MMA sparring.  I went home and rolled with a good friend who had trained with me in Thailand earlier on in the year.  He had a lot of good feedback about my development in the few months in between which was a relief to hear.

Fast forward to Berlin and I don’t even understand a lot of the warm up.  I feel like the broken link in the chain slowing my partner down during drilling.  It’s the first time where things have been shown to me and I can’t put them into action.  It’s so frustrating to feel like I am starting all over again.

Fortunately, I am still a white belt and most people have exceptional patience with me but I’m eager to catch up with this program and to start developing again.  It’s a strange thing having your rolls be ok, but having no technical training against technical grapplers really shows.14753713_1814485248827455_8807372661076320949_o

I had my first sparring session over the weekend which was nice.  I almost backed out but thought it might be nice to see how I go on my feet – do something that I am more comfortable with.

One of greatest things from the past few months at AKA has been getting in MMA sparring 3 times a week.  I relied heavily on my clinch in my fights and never took the time to develop my striking until this year.

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It was a very uncomfortable beginning.  A few (accidental) concussions and some quiet (and some not so quiet) tears.  After a few sessions you decide to quit or not be the punching bag and I went with the latter.  I worked with people I trusted, people who would push me, and I grew.  My striking still has a long way to go but I am feeling a lot more confident on my feet.  Even in my exhausted and jetlagged state, I felt comfortable standing and trading.

It’s always difficult being the new kid at a gym – it takes time to see where people are at, what is acceptable in training and how hard people will push you.  Today was a great way to help me find my feet although I still feel like I was a few steps out of place.

I’m, however, definitely in the right spot for now.  I feel completely supported in my career and I have some really talented training partners.  I joined a team and a family and I’m excited to see what lays ahead for us all.

I am hoping to announce my next fight soon but this next week will be spent getting on the new program – getting some of my fitness back – and hopefully shaking my awful jetlag!

Stay tuned!

Phuket has become an increasingly popular training destination.  Not only for Muay Thai fighters but for health and fitness addicts, and people wanting to improve their general health in some way.  It’s actually a great deal.  You can come and train, eat well, and soak up the wonderful island atmosphere, all at a fraction of what it might cost you at home.

After almost 3 years on the island, I’ve noticed quite a few mistakes that people make on their first training trip to Phuket and I have selected what I believe to be the most important, and have included a few tips to help the new traveler out.

“I’m going to train 15 sessions a week, every week.  I’ve got it all planned out!”

I genuinely enjoy people’s enthusiasm when they get here.  Not only that, I also understand it.  People arrive with the best intentions but often feel defeated a few days in.

The humidity in Phuket is almost always high.  Much higher than most have experienced or expected.  Coupled with those travelling into our high season and the scorching heat, those first few days (sometimes even the first week) can take some time to adjust to.

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Many people start off really strong, fighting through the jet lag and the heat (or whatever other obstacles may be in their way) only to fall short a few days in, exhausted and unable to train.

Don’t underestimate the change in climate!  Start of a little slower than you normally would.  Let your body adapt to the climate and training in these conditions.  It might take a few days, then you can train as hard as you like.

“Water is adequate for hydration”

For those of us who have acclimated over time, this might be true.  But for those coming from abroad, it’s a common mistake to make.

Training sessions are often conducted outdoors  at times where the heat and humidity is not too extreme.  Most people sweat just from being outside, let alone pushing their bodies.

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I have seen many people suffer from cramping, nausea and extreme exhaustion during their sessions without understanding the why.

It’s difficult to replace the amount of water you lose through sweat each session.  Electrolytes are a cheap and simple way to avoid symptoms of dehydration and it always surprises me to see how many people don’t actually use any.  Head to your local pharmacy or Supacheap and ask for some.  Even your local 7/11 will stock some.

“Beach erryday!”

For those training 1 session a day, going to the beach (when the weather is good) is very realistic.  For those training multiple sessions a day, you might find this a struggle.

You usually have a few hours in between training sessions.  Most will spend the first hour or so after training, showering and eating.

Hitting the beach in between every training session begins to take it’s toll for a number of reasons.

Most importantly, your rest period is usually in the middle of the day, right when it’s the hottest.  Why?  Because most people don’t want to train when it is that hot.  So when you hit the beach at that time, be prepared to fry yourself.  Most only last a hour or 2 at that time.

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Second to this, the heat zaps your energy.  A combination of extreme heat and possibly a little dehydration can leave you feeling exhausted, as can swimming in the ocean!

Don’t get me wrong, I have seen people do it.  Chill on the beach every day in between sessions.  But usually it is people who are only here for a week wanting to maximise their time and experience.

The beaches are beautiful and relaxing, just be sure that if you go, to stay adequately hydrated and make sure you leave enough time to rest and fuel up for your next session.

“Thai food is so healthy!  It’s going to be easy for me to lose weight”

I myself fell under this trap when I first moved here.  Thai food is so delicious and cheap, it’s difficult to resist sometimes.

People often think that Thai food is all vegetables and rice – which to be fair is not completely wrong.  What most don’t realise is that a lot of the food is laden with MSG and sugar.

All Thai dishes contain sugar.  All.  Even their omelettes have sugar in them.  Luckily, if you are aware of this, you can request your dish without.

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MSG is the tricky one.  Here in Phuket, some cafes are advertising that they don’t use MSG.  Because of the rather healthy clientele and repeated requests to make food without it, it’s become easier to find places that no longer cook with MSG.

In addition to the MSG and sugar, traditional Thai meals don’t have a good macro balance.  You get almost 2 cups of rice with your meal (most people mistake it for one) and almost no protein (approx 50 – 70 grams per serve).

I’m not a huge advocate of stuffing yourself with protein, but if your nutrition approach requires a high level of protein, you’re best to stick with the BBQ proteins available.

For the longest time I was watching my friends (particularly in America and Australia) post about their gravity float or sensory deprivation sessions.  I knew a little about it from listening to a Joe Rogan podcast but had resigned to the fact that probably would not have access to, living in Thailand.

We lucked out here in Phuket when Joe and Steve came along and opened the first gravity float in Thailand – about a 10 minute ride from my house.

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I was quite curious about the whole thing so I booked in for one of their opening specials – an hour float for 1000 baht (probably less than half the price of what I would pay at home).

I was greeted by Joe and Steve and sat for a quick chat while the tank was put through it’s routine clean after the previous persons float.  They gave me a run down of the different experiences that people have had their first float and some sage advice for being in there.

Once the float tank was ready, I was ushered into a room where the tank is housed and am provided with a number of items to assist me with my float.  Ear plugs, pillow, Vaseline (for any nicks or cuts), a small towel to hang inside (in case I needed to wipe my face) and a large towel for when I was finished.  I am given a run down of the tank itself, how to get in and out safely, and the bell to listen out for when my time was up.  I was also shown the ‘panic button’, should I, for any reason, need to get out but can’t.

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Awesome!  I’m set to go!

I climbed into the tank, carefully placing my small towel on the rack, and closed the hatch.

Now I don’t know what I was thinking, but my first thought was ‘sh*t!  It’s really dark in here’.  Yes.  Yes it is.  Because it’s a sensory deprivation tank (d’uh!).

I slowly slide down in the tank and try to let myself float.  Easy enough so far!

I closed my eyes to try to visualise the fight I had coming up in a few days, and noticed that my body was slowly floating in a circular motion.  I went to reach for the handle bar on the hatch door, and couldn’t find it.  In a moment or slight panic and opened my eyes, looking for the dim outline of the hatch.  My eyes didn’t appear to be adjusting at all so I quickly sunk my butt to the floor to sit up and in all of my awkwardness, splashing myself in the eyes with the high sodium water.

I slowly found my way back to my starting point, attempted to flush out my eyes with the water bottle provided inside the tank, and continued to float.

I eventually found a few markers inside the tank to give myself an idea of where I was inside the tank.  Eventually I just forgot about it and continued with my float.  I figured there is only one way out!  I’d find it when I needed to.

I had a moment where I was fully focused.  I could see myself at the stadium, getting my hands wrapped, warming up…. and then I was thinking about my cat… and then thinking about training… and then thinking about my personal life… then thinking about needing a new media kit.  My mind went crazy.

I felt really frustrated that I couldn’t focus on what I wanted to.  In turn, it made me restless and I began squirming around in the tank.  I developed an insane impatience because I had no idea how long I had left and I felt a sudden urge to get out.

I convinced myself to just sit still but my anxiety got the better of me and I sat up and opened the hatch door.  I sat there for about 10 seconds and told myself it couldn’t be too far off finishing, so I took a long, deep breath, sunk back in and closed my eyes.  Next thing I knew the bell was sounding.  My time was up.

I hopped out and showered and took a seat out front with Joe and Steve.  They were both so eager to find out what my experience was like.  I told them I was so disappointed that I didn’t get what I thought I would from it, but they both assured me that it was ok and that my next float would be better.

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When I went back for my second float, I had a lot going on in my personal life and it showed.  I couldn’t focus on my next fight at all.  In a moment of frustration I told myself to just let it go.  What ever was going to pop up from my subconscious – let it.  Surprisingly enough, it helped me clear a lot of things out of my mind, which in turn helped me focus on what I needed to be ready for my fight.

I still couldn’t lie still for the entire hour.  What I estimate to be about 45 minutes into the float, I started moving my body.  Rolling my hips from side to side, stretching my arms and legs.  It was actually quite nice and I wasn’t bothered by it at all.  I felt a sense of accomplishment that I sat still for so long.  Meditation is not something I have ever mastered, nor is sitting still.

I didn’t feel panicked or anxious this float which made the hour pass by quickly.

By the time I went in for my third float, I was mentally and personally in a better place.  I was again, close to another fight, but I had such a different experience during my float.  I had a more calm sensation and was able to focus fully on my fight.  I spent my time visualizing all the things I wanted to achieve in my fight, combinations I had been working on and how I could implement them.

I still ended up moving around and stretching from time to time, but mostly because I was so stiff and sore from training that I wanted to increase the physical benefits of my float as well.

Aside from learning how to calm my mind and sort through my subconscious, I noticed a significant difference in my recovery and the extreme relaxation I felt after my floats meant that I came home and had some of the best sleep of my life.

I’m sad to be moving away from Float Indigo – if I had it my way, it would be part of my weekly routine.  Hopefully I can find something similar in Berlin!

To anyone visiting Phuket, I highly recommend you check these guys out.

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I always liked to dabble in jiu jitsu.  It has often been a welcome break from my striking training, and a large number of my friends back home are grapplers, so it was a great way to spend time with them and have a little fun in between fights.  (pajamas and cuddles!  I mean, c’mon!)

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Going into MMA, I know I need to work my ground game A LOT.  I am far behind the pack, but with no regrets as I have spent this time developing my striking skills.  In the beginning I struggled to find the motivation to train consistently because I naturally wanted to go back to what I knew.

I really enjoy live rolling.  I always have.  But it was never really enough to keep me interested.  How was it that I spent 2 years doing 12 Muay Thai sessions a week but 5 BJJ sessions a week seemed impossible?  Why would anyone want to do that?

Fighting on the side has meant constant interruptions to my BJJ training, which personally, I haven’t minded.  I have felt that by taking a few consecutive days off the mats, that I come back and new things click into place and make sense to me.  It gives my tired old body some time to catch up to my brain.

One of the biggest problems I faced, was that I have always loathed training in a Gi.  Mostly because I got choked out with my own Gi a lot (which is both hilarious and frustrating) and I felt like no gi was the better fit for MMA.  I used that as an excuse to avoid training in a Gi.  Also, if I’m being totally honest, having a valid reason to buy colourful spats and superhero rash guards was also a big draw card….

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Before I went on my holidays, I found a new enjoyment in my BJJ sessions.  It didn’t matter how tired I was, I didn’t want to miss out on a roll.  I put it down to it still being so new, that the novelty would wear off.  But to my surprise – it hasn’t.

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One of my friends tagged me in an article we were discussing last night, which I felt excited to read.  The BJJ community is so large and there is a huge amount of information out there, passed down by people, once walking in our shoes.

I’ve been searching for tape to buddy tape my busted finger and to protect my poor poor spidey fingers because I love spider guard drills so much that I don’t want to miss out because my fingers are raw or bleeding.

I recently watched some great videos on foot and ankle control and guard passes because I get stuck there.  And then I realised.  It’s happened.  I’ve turned into a BJJ girl.

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I had that great light bulb moment where I rolled with a blue belt, and used his Gi to manipulate his and my own movements and finally understood why people enjoyed Gi training so much.  There are so many creative ways to maneuver, submit and roll in a Gi!

It’s nice to be able to continue learning and growing so much and doing what I love.  I am shocked that I have found so much love for this sport and I’m excited to keep pushing and seeing where I end up.

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I’m joining an amazing team in Berlin next month where I hope to start working towards my blue belt (something which never really mattered to me before).

Maybe it’s time to buy that second Gi….