4/10/2014 10:17:00 AM Local Muay Thai fighter acquires training in Thailand
by Sue Sullivan
For several years Cannon Falls boxing trainer Justan Duden had encouraged his local student Mike Sullivan to train in Thailand.
After winning the Elite Fight Night II middleweight Muay Thai championship last November, Sullivan was ready to go.
He arrived at the Bangkok airport just before midnight New Year's Eve and was met and escorted to his accommodations at 13 Coins Hotel, which is attached to the four ring training center.
During the month of January, he trained mornings and afternoons in the 13 Coins Gym to develop advanced skills in the discipline of Muay Thai.
Each training session began with a six mile run. He did try running just outside the hotel as many of the international students did, "but the sidewalks were uneven so we had to watch our feet. Then (at 6 feet, 3-1/2 inches tall) I hit my head on the low hanging awnings," he explained. "Most of the people were only about 5 feet, five inches or so."
Traffic was moving at a brisk pace right up to the sidewalks so running in the streets was not an option either.
Not far from the gym, the Olympic stadium with space all around it provided a place where Sullivan and other students were able to run unfettered.
There were no walls on the training facility but with average temperatures of 85 to 90 degrees, Sullivan didn't mind an occasional breeze wafting in.
Though the hotel is air conditioned, screens in the rooms were also non-existant as Sullivan discovered when a gecko decided to bunk with him. "He (the gecko) ate the insects, though, so it was all good."
The city, located in the Chao Phraya River delta in Central Thailand (formerly Siam), rose from a small trading post in the 1400s and now has a population of over eight million, with more than 14 million people living within the surrounding Bangkok Metro region (suburbs).
Muay Thai, referred to as the "Art of Eight Limbs," because of its multiple points of contact, was a practical fighting technique for warfare and became a spectator sport which gained prominence in the mid-1500s. Later, in the late 1800s when the country was at peace, the discipline functioned as a means of physical exercise, self-defense, recreation and personal advancement.
During January the national government, seated in Bangkok was (and continues to be) in upheaval, experiencing protests - some quelled violently.
"It was about a 20-minute taxi ride from the gym to Lumpinee Stadium where the protesting was going on near the landmark Victory Monument. Lumpinee is the most well-known Thai boxing stadium, hosting traditional Muay Thai matches almost daily. A friend and I considered attending one of the matches but it was pretty expensive," he said.
"Anyway, our cab driver didn't want to get into it so he dropped us off and pointed across the plaza to the stadium he was supposed to take us to," explained Sullivan. "As we walked through the protesters, they seemed really friendly and directed us to the Lumpinee."
Though he traveled alone from Cannon Falls, he met many students at 13 Coins from around the world who were also honing their skills. "Not all of the students from various countries spoke English or Thai so we all became known by our country of origin. It was easier that way," he said with a grin, explaining, "In the Thai language the sounds of 'L' and 'R' are rarely pronounced so some names were really difficult for (owner) Mr. Coke to pronounce.
"We ate at local restaurants trying local cuisine. There is a lot more spice than in American food!" he exclaimed, "though we also had access to milder fare at the hotel. We had ox tail, prawn, grouper and sea bass and some other stuff I can't remember or pronounce."
Though Sullivan went to Thailand to train, he did do some sightseeing and shopping. "One small mall was called Bangapa with a pool and movie theater on an upper floor.
As evidence of Muay Thai as a popular national sport Sullivan described another venue: "At the Imperial World Mall, they were televising Muay Thai fights on the roof."
About an hour and a half away, Sullivan and his friends visited a floating market and the ruins of some temples. He did see the Grand Palace, "over the tops of heads," he quipped.
"We got lost in the city all the time which is why we kept the cards from the hotel desk, with the address in both English and Thai, so we could get back."
Sullivan continues to stay in touch with some of the friends he made in Thailand through Facebook.
"Though the training was difficult there is more freedom in technique and really in the training itself," he explained. "I enjoyed the challenge and look forward to going back some time in the future."