Switching It Up - Podcast Episode 1

Happy New Year everyone!  I’m excited to start the year with this initial podcast episode.

After getting TeepThis.com off the ground last summer I came across the image featured in this post of Sergio Wielzen and Arthur Meyer at Lion Fight 30.  I sought out the photographer and expressed my admiration of the work which led to a dialogue which then let to this podcast.


Duration 34:51

  • 00:08 Episode Introduction
  • 02:56 Meet My Guest Charlie Clark
  • 04:43 The Fighting Monkeys MMA Madness
  • 05:12 New England MMA
  • 06:18 Tengu Photography
  • 08:13 Shooting at Lion Fight Promotions
  • 10:15 Bellatore Limits Local Media Access
  • 13:54 Giving Back To The Fighters
  • 15:44 Yeison Berdugo, Jo Nattawut and Switching It Up
  • 21:20 Growing Muay Thai and Summer Bronco
  • 22:24 The Images and Capturing Them
  • 25:47 Kickboxing and Muay Thai in America
  • 27:20 Politics and Perseverance
  • 28:22 Distribution & PR
  • 29:26 Fighting For Autism
  • 31:32 Links To Follow
  • 32:45 Episode Wrap Up

Charlie Clark is a combat sports journalist, photographer and advocate.  He is the author of The Fighting Monkeys MMA Madness and shoots and interviews some of the most respected professional and amateur martial artists in the world.

In this podcast Charlie takes us behind the scenes of the New England MMA scene and introduces us to local legends Mike Gresh,  Juliano Coutinho; shooting for Lion Fight Promotions and Bellator MMA’s aversion to local media.  We also talk about our favorite muay thai fighters including Yeison Yayyoo Berdugo, Smokin Jo Nattawut, Jorina Baars and finding it within yourself to switch up your game plan in the face of unforeseen adversity.  We’ll also get into giving back to the fighters and the fight community, Charlie’s Fighting For Autism initiative, growing muay thai in the united states and rising pro and amateur muay thai righters that you may or may not have heard of but need to know about like 11 year old Nick Enzor, 12 year old Summer Bronco and 68 year old  Ann Perez de Tejada. Yup, that’s right I said sixty-eight!

It feels like 2017 is simply going to be a massive year for muay thai and combat sports in general.  The year is already jam packed with high-level amateur and professional muay thai, kickboxing and mma contests through a myriad of fight promotions, broadcast networks and online outlets as early as WCK Muay Thai’s “Ultimate Conquest” card in San Diego on January 7, 2017.  I’m very excited to finally get this whole podcasting thing figured out so that I can continue sharing the exciting, insightful and amazing journey that is the study of the Art of #8Limbs.  Sawadee krap

Subscribe to the Teep This Podcast via: iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play (Android). Don’t forget to give the podcast a review and share share share! For questions, suggestions or requests send an email to: yo@teepthis.com


You don't have to fight to train like a fighter

What does one ask themselves when looking for a gym?  Is it close to me?  Is it expensive?  Are the classes and instructors “good”?  Does it have a nice shower and lots of bathrooms?  Sometimes you gotta ask yourself if it’s a gym that you’re looking for or a spa?  Fuck that.  I say: “I want a gym thats going to help me become more than I ever could be on my own.”

Today I dropped in to train at Team Victory Muay Thai in Inglewood, CA with Kru Rod McKiver.  Man, I’ve been harboring this notion for close to 6 months now since I started seeing Kru Rod out at the fights always prepping and cornering fighters; and my visit today wasn’t short on fun, challenge, learning and laughing!

The gym wasn’t overly crowded today and the community of #8Limbs enthusiasts that showed up for the Monday morning class included one of my favorite LA-based pro fighters Jermaine Soto.

I was fortunate enough to get in some combos, pad work and light sparring with Soto who is in full preparation for his upcoming appearance on the Glory 37 fight card to be held here in Los Angeles on Jan 20, 2017.  Yes, we will be there in full force making noise for Jermaine Soto, Mike Lemaire and Zoila Frausto!  It’s such a great fight season right now as we blast into the new year!

CXF had an incredible night of mixed martial arts fights this past weekend with #TeamVictory bad girl Madison McElhaney winning over Bryanna Fissori in an absolute grappling and striking clinic!  #WCKMuayThai has a packed card entitled Ultimate Conquest taking place in San Diego on Jan 7, 2017 featuring Super Landon Simmons, Joe GoGo, Travis Clay and multiple title bouts including Ana Flores and Selina Flores competing for the IAMTF Women’s Atomweight belt.  Which leads right into Glory 37 on Jan 20 in downtown LA.  Shit my holiday season is made already!  🙂

If you’re training muay thai seriously and you live anywhere in or around Los Angeles or Orange County then you’re likely already familiar with the Team Victory name and Kru Rod.  If you’re not familiar, it’s really worth it to familiarize yourself.  Look em up on facebook or follow them on Instagram and make arrangements to visit the gym and glove up.  Check your ego at the door and get ready to fall into the flow of authentic muay thai training.

If you love muay thai but don’t have any plans on fighting, that’s absolutely NO reason not to experience the sensation of training as though you’re fighting next month!  It’s not about training harder harder harder…it’s about training better better better!

The techniques that Kru Rod teaches are creative, effective and versatile; and he’s paying enough attention to each person in the room that he’ll tweak your execution in order to compliment your unique self.  It’s those little details that I got today not only from the coach but from the students alike that I really cherish.  But please, don’t let me forget to communicate how fun this place is.  If you’re not having fun training muay thai then please stop and recheck everything because that’s what this journey is reallly all about.  These fools are really having fun and really fucking good too.  it’s another reason that I love muay thai so much; never have I felt so relaxed and carefree in a room full of straight killers!  LOL!


Visit 301 Muay Thai in Thailand

Why Choose 301 Muay Thai if You’re Going to Thailand ?

Muay Thai isn’t for the weak of mind – it is a hard sparring sport that demands total dedication and conditioning. It it for this reason that people who are serious about the sport, think very carefully about which gym or training venue to choose. Even seasoned martial artists think long and hard about where to train. They know that its not just the body which is going to take lots of hard knocks, they want a place that will harden them mentally too. Maybe it won’t even be the endless squat thrusts and push-ups that reduce you to a trembling wreck but the hard, unrelenting mental stamina of the other participants and trainers. , sit-ups, squat thrusts, and various other body weight exercises designed to leave you a trembling wreck.

Muay Thai is a combat sport which makes use of 8 contract points

Hands, feet, knees and elbows. It is quickly becoming an international sport and is popular with men and women. It offers so many mental and physical benefits – participants become strong mentally and physically, they become more confident because they lose weight, they look and feel good and they can defend themselves. Research will reveal to you that there a plenty of useful information on the Internet as to how to learn Muay Thai at home, but most people like to start at a gym or training centre. This way they get to learn the different techniques and styles the right way and how to go about doing a proper warm-up and stretch session before commencing.

Choose your Training Venue with Great Care

A decent school or instructor is always listed with reputable national associations – and 301 muay thai camp is one of Thailand’s first choice to learn the sport for so many excellent reasons. You are thoroughly prepared for a fight, you lose weight and become lean and mean and you simply become inspired by the superb setting and the excellent learning environment. The accommodation is attractive and minimalist with hot showers and healthy meals adapted for training. When you’re not training, there is free time – you can relax and watch a movie, go for a swim in the pool or simply cool off in the gardens. There is also 24 hour free Internet wifi.

You and your Trainers work Naturally Well Together

Training at 301 Muay Thai camp is an event that takes place twice a day and training classes are from Monday to Saturday. The success at 301 Muay Thai is that you are matched well to your trainer. Nothing can be achieved if you feel at odds with your trainers. When things work naturally well together, you’re inspired to achieve, to be focused and to get in shape. Together, you and your trainer form a duo that will work together towards spectacular results. You and your trainer become the best team to take your training day to new levels. There is a well equipped fitness area which allows for different workouts, ensuring that both the body and the mind can be trained.

A typical training day at 301 Muay Thai includes

• a run along the beach
• shadow boxing and bag work
• learning Muay Thai techniques
• lots of stretching and swimming
• running, rope jump and pad work
• strength training and work outs

Therapeutic Peace to Reflect

Why people choose 301 Muay is that there is more to just training for strength and defense. This magnificent training facility is also beautifully located in Sam Roi Yot “300 peaks”, which is a 3 hour drive from Bangkok. It is wonderfully quiet and this in itself is therapeutic, allowing for plenty of time for meditation and reflection. It is well place near the marine national park in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province, allowing for other activities such as boat trips, golf, fishing as well as other outdoor activities. The entire set-up at 301 makes many participants want to substitute bad habits with good ones. Instead of boozing and smoking, they find themselves wanting to dedicate themselves to the health and strength of the body and what they put into their body as well. With an excellent diet and an exercise program, men and women start to look better every day. They realize that the key to success with Muay Thai is to also to find peace and repair the mind. They get to the root of their fears and insecurities, and in a good routine, they find balance.

We Are Female-Friendly

Consistent, dependable and dedicated, the Muay Thai trainers at 301 Muay Thai have it in them to change things and make it possible for women to participate with ease in an amicable environment. They know too well that women have to be taken seriously now in the 21st century, and that no sport is  restricted to men only.

A Champion Recipe of Success

For a while now, 301 Muay Thai has been dispensing an irresistible blend of excellent services and atmosphere. Its the kind of place where people come to develop a sport even further but where they uncover a whole lot more. People come from far and wide to learn the sport in these pleasant surroundings, and whenever one of them feels a bit homesick, they look around at the warm family here at 301 Muay Thai and suddenly they simply feel at home again.


WCK Cali 16: Heavy Hitters 2

Yo, I’m still reeling from this past weekends WCK muay thai fights at the Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens, CA. Get settled in cuz this will likely be an epic post!

I went into the night excited for the rematch between Ana Flores and Colleen Duffy as well as Natalie Morgan’s pro debut.  Little did I know that the night would far surpass my own humble expectations and include encounters with more than a few muay thai greats like Kevin Ross, Gaston Belaños, Ky Hollenbeck, Ariana ‘Pink Lady’ Gomez, April Vergara and Brian Del Rosario.   First, a head nod and thank you to Dustin Pagliughi, Dennis Warner and the entire team at #WCK for organizing such a well oiled event!  I wore the promoter hat myself for a number of years during my journey so I can appreciate proper event programming and execution.  With that said the best way to share the event with you here is to take you through it chronologically, just as I experienced it.


the first indication that this was gonna be an epic night was the venue.  The Bicycle Casino was an easy drive from West LA and a pleasure to visit.  From the valet parking, to the gambling areas and staff everything was well managed and running smooth.  There was no underlying feeling of stress or madness that can comw with a disorganized or mismanaged organization.  After will call I enterrd the event center where I promptly ran into The Pink Lady herself Ariana Gomez who wasn’t shy about posing for a picture!  The ring was immaculate and well lit for the television cameras.  Great, my camera will love that light just as much!  I rolled out with just one camera body on this night but did have two lenses, including a recently acquired 40mm f/2.8  pancake lens which I was confident would be my go to option on this night; and it was!

I was surprised to see Natalie “Ladykillface” Morgan in the seating area as I thought she was fighting tonight in her pro debut. But in true champion form she confirmed that she was not fighting tonight and buttoned that announcement with a shrug and a smile.  She was chilling with Galen Okazaki founder of  West Coast Muay  This guy is obviously Cali area muay thai royalty and I see him everywhere I show my face.  I’m a proud owner of two of their tee shirt products and they’ve just released this Satra line.  Not sure yet what Satrawoot means, but I enjoy learning about the plethora of custom and culture around the centuries old Art of 8 Limbs.


The fighters at #WCK #Cali16 were provided two prep areas denoted by Red or Blue, which was kinda cool.  I’m such a newbie to muay thai and to the world that almost everything blows my mind LOL!  Being as this was a followup to #Cali14 back in March, it was cool to see lots of faces that I was already familiar with.  Evan Boulton, Lorenzo Orozco Jr, Alyshia “Code Red” Madison, you know, I gotta say, it’s always something special to watch #CodeRedMadison and her trainer Steven Frye prep and work together.  I remember his voice bellowing out over the crowd at #Cali14 when Alyshia Madison fought Crystal Lagunes… “ai’ght Red… let’s go Red… time to go Red…”  It was a privilege and honor to witness them preparing for this fight tonight.  Kru Rob of Team Victory Muay Thai was constantly wrapping hands and every diligent in his care and support of his fighters.  He too is someone that seems to basically be in everyone’s corner at one point or another.  He’s a super devoted muay thai advocate.  I look forward to experiencing their energy and spirit at Team Victory as soon as I’m training again!


Man, all of the fights were excellent!  I mean every bout was exciting, all of the fighters brought it and the outcomes were surprising and electrifying!  I was super stoked for both Lorenzo Orozco, Jr and Alyshia ‘Code Red’ Madison on their wins.  Madison fought Vanessa Gonzalez Leon who is simply a powerhouse!  I watched her prep and she’s like a tiger; just raging and focused.  But Alyshia Madison was patient and her technique was really on par.  It was a great fight and thank you to both of those warriors for their inspiring performances.  I was completely gitty at the sight of one of my very favorite muay thai fighters Kevin Ross in the prep area with Eddie Abasolo who was punching a tennis ball tied to his head.  As soon as I saw #Dasoulassassin in Abasolo’s corner I knew that Eddie Abasolo was going to be some kind of special.  He fought crowd favorite Josh Aragon (El Gato) for the WBC Middleweight Title so that was destined to be a good one for sure!  By the time the fight actually went down though, Eddie Abasolo’s corner was full to the brim with a posse of North America’s baddest muay thai fighters.  Ky Hollenbeck, Gaston Belaños, Kevin Ross and Artem Sharoshkin all in his corner at the same time.  Shit I was like a fucking teenager jumping around taking shots of them all and fist-bumping like I knew them or something.  Ha!  They were probably like, who the fuck is this dude?  But, that’s another reason I love Muay Thai so much; because even the baddest mother fuckers on the planet aren’t too cool to say what up?!?!.  That’s real!

Let’s see what else…I could go on about the fights on this night. I mean, there were ten bouts that night so if I were to write about them all it’d be a fucking novel.  But I can’t end this post without talking a little about the vendetta bout between Colleen Duffy and Ana Flores.  Ah buddy, these two!  When they get at it it’s always real!  I was there for their #Cali14 fight which left Colleen Duffy a bloody mess as Ana Flores took the W via Unanimous Decision. This fight was also high paced and vicious.  Colleen kept the cuts to a minimum but did take home some purple quads courtesy of Ana Flores’ low leg kicks.

Okay, I gotta wrap this thing up!  Don’t forget to jump over to the PHOTOGRAPHS SECTION OF THIS SITE to see some great images from the fights; and be sure to check out the Mansilla vs Gogo fight.  That was also epic in it’s action, energy and technique.  My time in the ring is eminent; but at present I’m nursing some injuries away and it sucks not training.  I’ll be sure to jump into that topic in one of the podcasts.  Yes that’s right I said Podcast!  I’ll be launching a monthly podcast series just as soon as I can figure out the whole hardware/software/technical side of it all; which I’m close to nailing down actually!

Enjoy the complete Cali 16: Heavy Hitters 2 photo sets HERE and please do comment and share.  Live well, laugh often, love much!  Sawadee!


A Defiant Muay Thai Community

Congratulations to Defiant Muay Thai Promotions and all the fighters, trainers, supporters and fans who came out to the Sportsman’s Lodge this past Friday night. I’m still new to Muay Thai and new to this muay thai community, so I’m just getting acquainted with the people and places.  I made it a point to take note of the vibe and energy at the Defiant Muay Thai fights because I wanted to juxtapose those qualities against my previous visits to the Sportsman’s Lodge for MMA cagefighting events.  The vibe was different at a Muay Thai event than at an MMA event.  I mean, MMA draws a few more spectators than does Muay Thai, but the muay thai crowd felt family-like!  Respectful, smiling and there to cheer on the fighters!  It was cool as fuck to be there!

The night had a few celebs on hand as well so I heard.  One of the Guns-n-Roses band members and a Wayan Brother were said to have been in the house but I didn’t see.  I did however get to meet Natalie LadyKillface Morgan which was cool.  The great Kru Santi and Coach David Huey of Muay Thai America Gym where there cornering their fighter Roland Braud who snagged a W on the night.  Congrats Roland and MTAG! There was a bloody #Featherweight bout that was noteworthy and great technique and heart displayed by all of the fighters.

Salute to the sponsors and promoters as well for putting on the event. West Coast Muay Thai, Three Leapord Liniment (thanks for the sample!!!) and photographer Jeff Dojillo, thanks for your hospitality letting me share the space ringside with you!

I came to not only support the muay thai community and watch the fights; I was also there to support one of my A4fitness training partners Will “The Thrill” Barcena.  Willie’s fight was scheduled at number 16 of seventeen!  Yikes!  I mean, doors opened at 6pm.  That seems like a lot of fights for a single evening, but as I said, I’m new so I’m just watching and learning.  Unfortunately for Will tho, he never got to lace up his gloves as the event was cancelled prematurely due to a conflict with event paramedics.  No paramedics, no fights.  Willie, Coach Adam Lerner, Kieran Fitzz and myself had all been there since doors and it was midnight by the time the cancellation came down.  Shiiit…but you gotta roll with the punches.

I’m confident that my debut in the ring is eminent and ever approaching.  I’ll surely keep you posted.  Until then, enjoy the complete set of photos, train hard, live well, love much and laugh often.  Sawaddee.


Leaving It All In The Ring


The word itself simply gives one pause be it in excitement or terror. The CXF Gold Rush cagefights, organized by Lights Out Promotions and Bash Boxing will be my second outing at an MMA event and my second outing at The Sportsman’s Lodge in Studio City!  This is a special fight night for me and my gym-mates because tonight our very own coach Akkim Lee makes his Professional MMA Debut and Terrion “Flash” Ware is also fighting on the same card! I purchased one of Akkim’s walk-out shirts to fly at the event but shit, I forgot to pick it up at the gym.  Akkim neglected to mention it to me also but, I ‘aint complaining.
A group of us grabbed a block of the pricier tickets so that we could be right on the fence when the fights go down.  I haven’t gone through trying to attain a photo pass for this event so getting close to the cage will be important so that I can take good photos!  This is going to be a great fight night!  I had to bust ass to make it out of my day gig but I’m here ready to scream and shout for Akkim & Terrion!

Akkim’s looking good as he makes his way to the cage, a little stiff maybe, but he’s never struck me as much of an exhibitionist.

So right away there’s a noticeable weight disparity between Akkim and his opponent Joshua Jones. The kid is a big boy. He’s got that wrestler look.  I’d heard Akkim talk about him a bit during the week leading up to the fight; and Akkim expects Jones to “lay on him” and want to bring the fight to the ground.  Akkim loves to grapple but he’s a lethal striker so I hope that he chops that big ole tree down and spends no more time on his back than he needs to and gets that W.

As expected Jones rushes in throwing his body at Akkim.  Tossing his weight around accompanied lots of punches and aggression.  Akkim’s face is focused and calm though throughout.  I’m remembering one of Akkim’s go-to phrases when he’s watching me bang pads or spar: “Relax your face Charles!”  Akkim’s face looks relaxed but you can see that his mind is busy at work.  Jones seemingly wins the first round via ring generalship and out-striking Akkim.  The Duke’s back was either against the cage or on the canvas for the majority of the round.

Round 2 and Akkim’s on the balls of his feet.  It looks like he needs a round or two to get his motor runnin’!  Again, Jones is all over The Duke.  Throwing that weight around and smothering Akkim’s ability to strike.  I’m thinking that Akkim could be more elusive and strike Jones while he’s on the move.  But you know, everyone’s got something to say from the other side of the fence!  Jones scores a big take down, picking The Duke up at the waist and turning him over onto his back.  Akkim did manage to cut Jones open with an elbow in close, but Jones keeps pressing Akkim. Laying on top of him with that body weight and striking Lee, until Jones ultimately finds a way to submit The Duke.

It was strange for me watching my coach get tapped.  I felt an urge to go help him.  Funny, like when I was young: “Hey, that’s my boy, get off my fuckin’ boy!”   After the official decision was announced, we solemnly watched Akkim step out of the cage under his own power which is in itself also a victory!  It wasn’t long before he was out in the crowd shaking hands and smiling alongside his wife, friends and students, whom were present in droves and all excited to have Akkim out of the cage and out of harms way.

see the entire photo set here

Terrion Ware was soon after in the cage with Rob Gooch and ready to show the room how he’s earned his moniker “Flash”.

Terrion and Rob look like an even match up from my seat.  The fight opens with Rob Gooch landing a couple of times and Terrion visibly shaking his head at himself as he critiques his own performance.  It’s so interesting to watch fighters consciously thinking, strategizing and correcting during a fight.  It’s like playing chess whilst being punched in the face.  It’s an amazing journey for me personally as well, striving to get to that place I might add.

It wasn’t long tho before Terrion became, well basically just hard to hit.  I was yelling at the top of my lungs during this fight and when Terrion’s feet and hands started to fly I just yelled louder and louder!  Ware shuffled, slipped, bobbed and weaved and all the while kept a consistent sharp jab in Rob Gooch’s face.  Terrion Ware won a Unanimous Decision and is already set to fight Melvin Blumer at RFA 40  Congratulations Terrion!  You’re doing the damn thang!

A good couple of weeks passed before I finally had an opportunity to ask Akkim the one question that I had wanted to know during and ever since the fight.

“So coach, what was going thru your mind during that fight?  I mean, did you really want it?  Were you really there or just kinda going thru the motions?”  Akkim paused and chuckled to himself a bit before responding: “You wanna know what I was really thinking about during that fight?  Looking bad in front of my students.  That’s what I was worried about more than anything else.  I really didnt want to let my students down.”

Damn. I was taken aback.  Of all the things to be thinking about when another man is trying to hurt you I thought. Like any injuries he may have been harboring going into the fight, or the weaker points of his fight game or better yet the strong points of his opponents fight game!  But when Akkim went to war he was thinking most about his students.

This moment hung with me prominently for some days and as I write this now I can feel that poignancy visiting me once again.  Look, I’ll be honest.  I’ve had my moments with my coach. The times where I felt like I wasnt getting the attention I thought I needed, wanted or deserved.  “These drills are too basic…” or “Class was kinda weak today, coach is phoning it in.”  There were times where I thought that maybe I should explore aligning with a different coach or a different gym altogether. But during all of those moments, there was always a piece of, something, lingering there inside me advising me to be patient; advising me to “Check that ego!”  This is why I love fight sports and especially Muay Thai.  The learning is infinite, constant and the lessons transcend the sparring and the training right into my life and how I’m living it.  I am compelled to step back and consider just “How am I showing up in the world?”  I’ll tell you, whenever I do take a look, almost always I see that I could be doing better.  I could be more mindful, more honest, more patient, more consistent, more responsible, more present.

So just as each time I have considered cancelling my Krav Maga membership (to save some $) and end up taking away something from class that I know I will only find at Krav Maga; I realized at that moment that what I find with coach Akkim Lee I will only find with coach Akkim Lee.  Look, I’m not saying that Akkim Lee is the end-all-be-all of Muay Thai trainers or that I dont enjoy, desire and need to train with other coaches, krus and fighters.  I’m just saying that there’s a re-occuring mantra here that at the risk of sounding cliché, I must acknowledge.  Whatever you do, listen to your inner voice and be as true to your feelings as you possibly can be.  It can be a difficult act in this world of illusions and distractions but the truth is ever present, ever unchanged and ever within.

I along with the rest of the muay thai/mma/jiu-jitsu students who train under Akkim Lee’s tutelage all let the coach know that we were proud to be there that night making that cage rattle with our support as he went in to do battle.  Akkim’s classes are more filled up today than ever and I invite anyone reading this to come on by A4fitness anytime to experience the training and the comradery that we share there.

But for the record, there is no such thing as a poor performance in the ring, on the mat or especially in the cage in my book.  The simple act of stepping into that ring makes you a winner the moment your feet touch the canvas.  The only thing left to discover is what you’ll leave behind after you’ve stepped out.

Okay coach, lets talk about MY first fight!
Train hard, live well, love much, laugh often.  Sawaddee kap!

see the entire photo set here


Training Partners

I’ve been training muay thai now just shy of one year.

I’ll never forget my very first sparring experience at A4fitness under the supervision of coach Akkim Lee.  It was at the latter portion of the class and I was warm, loose, was sporting a nice sweat and brimming with confidence.  Then it began… an onslaught of punches, kicks, schoolyard-style pushing and ultimately punctuated by a shocking thud as my opponent’s glove made full contact with my face straight on!  Whoa!!! I was in unfamiliar territory.   I think I was punching back, at least I hoped I was. I finallyI turned my head away to avoid eating another 16oz. sandwich and then: “Breaaak, breaaak.” The coach put a hault to things as he shook his head at me: “No good, never turn away, that’s how you get beat up.” I thought, “Shit, I ain’t gettin’ beat up”; so I went back in.  I launched a punch at my opponent which was met by an even more aggressive cascade of punches and kicks which basically took my breath away right along with my confidence.  I waved my gloves in front of my face and quit.

I was bummed for the rest of the day, not about my performance but about the fact that I quit.

I questioned my every fiber of being.  “Who am I?” I thought.  “Man, that guy wasn’t even winded and I just stopped.  What else in life will make me just quit like that?  And more importantly, where else in my life have I been quitting already?”

So, I reached out to the one friend who I knew that I could talk to about this and who would give me proper feedback, honestly and without filter.  I’ve known Claude Lawson III since childhood. He’s a trained martial arts champion and when were were kids he’s usually the reason I didn’t end up fighting when a fight seemed bound to happen.  So I hit him up and told him about my experience.  “Charles, you’re not a fighter.” was his response.  “You’re closer to fifty than to anything else and you’re gonna get hurt with what you’re doing.  Just train and get in shape.”  Wow!  I’m not a fighter?  That comment just hung above my head!  Almost every minute of the day.  I mean, okay, I don’t have a lot of street fights under my belt; but I know I’m not a coward.  And I fight all the time in my life just not with my fists.  I know that I have a fighter spirit, just because I don’t use my fists does that make me any less a fighter?

The next morning it was time for my 7am Krav-Maga class so I geared up and went in.  I had a great class!  Krav Maga is a very practical self-defense system and the instructors, students and environment at Krav Maga Worldwide is supportive and nurturing, which is just what my wounded ego was in need of.  Soon I was back at A4fitness in muay thai shorts and donning my boxing gloves.  That sinister student who punched my face wasn’t there on this day so I looked around for find a training partner to spar with whom looked like a less menacing threat.  I banged the pads hard that day and had a much better time sparring with other students not as powerful and aggressive as my first opponent.  I spoke the coach after class about my dilemma.  “When was the last time you were hit in the face?” he asked me.  “Ah man, I can’t remember the last time I was hit in the face” I responded.  “So, you’re just not used to it.  Keep practicing, you’ll get better.”  He was very matter-of-fact about it.

Since then I've trained and sparred at gyms all around Los Angeles and Chicagoland and yes, I've been hit in the face a bunch and its gotten easier.

I even enjoy it a bit as it tends to bring me more into presence and excites me to be honest. Oh, what about that first opponent who slapped me around?  Well, I’m not going to say that I’m handling him nowadays because the truth is, whenever I spar with him he still owns me, but I enjoy it much more these days.  I can even get a few good shots in of my own which is always an accomplishment and enjoyable. 🙂

(L) Charles Little, (R) Igor Tischenko @A4fitness

I even enjoy it a bit as it tends to bring me more into presence and excites me to be honest. Oh, what about that first opponent who Igor Tishenko has become one of my most valued muay thai training partners at A4fitness.  He doesn’t waste time talking or goofing around but he also isn’t taking things too seriously.  Sparring with him is always a learning experience, always enjoyable and always challenging.  It’s been a mission of mine to become a source of learning and challenge for him as well.  I try to change up my attack, my defense and try to stay relaxed and aware. The challenge of sparring with a larger, stronger opponent is still intimidating and always makes me nervous.  The nervousness is really what I’m trying to change so that when I finally do step through the ropes I’m calm and ready to enjoy myself while I spank that ass!

Sparring is essential training IMHO whether you plan to fight or not. Its likely the only chance you might have to exchange strikes with another live human who is not actively trying to hurt you. So if sparring isnt yet a part of your training regiment I hope that you cross that line and get in on the fun.  If you’re already  that <i>down to scrap</i> sort, just rememeber that sparring is not a fight so, slow down killer; unless you’ve communicated with your partner and you’re both on the same page.  I always want to be as good a partner for others as I hope they are for me.  So commuicate with your partner whether you’re holding the pads or  you’re the one banging them.  Watch videos online that illustrate pad holding techniques and principles and always watch the masters train like Buakaw, Malaipet, or whomever you like to follow.

Train hard, live well, love much, laugh often. Sawasdee krap.

Photographs by@kengomega