Sunday, July 13, 2014

Muay Thai: Grizzly Gym: Kingston, ON

Background: Muay Thai exploded into western consciousness with the rise of UFC and Mixed Martial Arts in general. What had been viewed in the past as an eclectic Martial Art suddenly blew up as one of the most functional and dangerous fighting styles in the world. As fighters learned to overcome the grapplers and wrestlers in MMA it gave rise to infamous "Sprawl & Brawl" fighters before gradually growing into more complete fighters.
Kru Pete checking a kick beautifully.

What is it that makes Muay Thai so dangerous in the ring over some of the other fighting styles like Kung Fu and Karate? Is it that Muay Thai is fundamentally better than other Martial Arts? As a fighter with a background in Chinese Martial Arts I have always been curious on this. Surely no fighting style is better than another? Yet, if that statement holds true, why does Muay Thai produce so many champion fighters?

I reached out and contacted an old friend of mine, Mike Martelle, in order to get a better understanding. Mike and I competed against each other and have trained together on numerous occasions. Mike now runs his own gym in Kingston, Ontario and has led the Grizzlies into battle all over North American and beyond. Mike himself has fought around the globe, competing from Russia to Central America making him ideal to ask about the strengths of Muay Thai.
Kru Cody whipping a kick out at his adversary. 

Mike was more than willing to oblige me and, even better, he let me bring a couple of friends of mine. This let us host a whole gathering of Travelling Ronins. Kru Cody and Kru Pete were teaching the Muay Thai class and provided a wicked experience where we worked through some basics and then drove us into some more advanced techniques. It was a great day of Chinese Sanda fighters learning from Muay Thai fighters and a mixing of techniques.
Mike Martelle (left) and Eugene Shewchuk (Right) have both
played a great roll in developing me as a fighter.

Now, Mike was extremely gracious and let me film everything. However, all but the group photo are taken from the Grizzly Gym facebook page. Unfortunately, my camera was lost in a completely preventable fishing accident and the footage I shot was lost as well.

What did I Learn: I am extremely comfortable in fight gyms having trained in so many over the years. So I always like it when a fight gym can take things to the next level and really push me. After warming up with some standard callisthenic exercises we dove straight into working on a series of wicked combo drills. With the rotations it forced us to work with a variety of partners and body types to get our technique down.
Kru Cody (left) ran us through some awesome drills.

I also loved that the Grizzlies work into some incredibly tough and complex combos. I have seen a lot of schools that stop at four strike combos. Kru Cody had us blasting way beyond that in order to help develop the "killer instinct" necessary to win fights. "Killer Instinct" isn't about being violent or brutal, it is about continuing to press the assault when you have momentum. Far too often fighters will throw a couple of punches and than stop to assess the damage they have done allowing their opponent to gain their breath and reset.

What was similar: With my background in Chinese Sanda and MMA there were a lot of techniques that were familiar to me. With a few technical differences on how you throw a kick or a punch Muay Thai was easy to slip into. The Grizzlies were preparing for a fight that was coming in two weeks and you could see the competitive spirit radiating from them.
Grizzly Gym fighter PJ Ste Marie after his May 3rd, 2014 MMA Victory.

Fighters carry themselves with an easy confidence and it is wonderful to be around. Neither Kru Cody or Kru Pete had any ego in working with the fighters I brought down and so we were free to exchange techniques and learn. It was fantastic that Coach Mike Martelle had imposed such a great atmosphere to come train in. All my crew left asking when they could meet with the Grizzlies again.

Conclusion: Friendships like the one I have with Coach Mike Martelle are what make Martial Arts so much fun. I had a question on Muay Thai and he brought me in without hesitation. It is the mark of a true Martial Artist. 

To answer why Muay Thai fighters are so dangerous the answer was clear. Preparation and structure allow the style to turn out fantastic Martial Artists. I often saw Kru Cody refer to a lesson plan throughout the day which implies goals for the lesson and a focus on fighter development. It also means he wasn't just "winging it," rather approaching the training in a results orientated strategy. Muay Thai makes great fighters because they have a goal, measurable objectives to achieve it and structured approach to their training. I certainly will take that lesson with me.
A great day training with some old and new friends!

Best regards and keep training,

Martin "Travelling Ronin" Fransham 
If you are interested in training together I would love to get together with you. Drop me a line on facebook and we can connect. I would love to learn from you. 

On Youtube: Travelling Ronin

Go take a look at Grizzly Gym:

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