Today I heard some sad news.
One of my Muay Thai trainers back in Thailand had lost his battle against leukaemia and passed away. I’m not ashamed to admit upon hearing the news I bawled like a baby.
I met Wang back in November 2011 on my first visit to Thailand to train at Sinbi Muay Thai. At the time Saenchai (one of the top, if not the top Muay Thai fighter in the world) was fighting out of Sinbi and that was one of my reasons to go and train there. Wang was one of Saenchai’s pad men and I used to watch in awe as they would be in the ring, it was amazing to see. I didn’t get a chance to train with Wang on my first trip, but he would always greet everyone and make us feel welcome and would brighten up the day with his singing, funny whistles and shouts of “oeeeeeee!”.
On my second trip to Sinbi in November 2012, I arrived with a broken heart and a broken mind after a pretty horrific few months of relationship BS back home. I spent the first three days locked away in my apartment, barely drinking, eating or sleeping and didn’t even want to go outside, let alone train. On the fourth day of being in Thailand I had enough of feeling sorry for myself. I had travelled there to do Muay Thai and to have a holiday, I certainly hadn’t flown thousands of miles to cry and hide away from the world.
One of the many things I love about training at Sinbi is the family atmosphere. As soon as you step foot in the camp, everyone smiles and greets you, and to me and many other students who return there time and time again it feels like a home from home.
On my first day of training my spirits were low and I was holding back the tears as I was going through the motions of shadow sparring and feeling like a zombie. I didn’t want to be there, but I forced myself to stay. Wang stepped in to help me, asked if I was okay and when I said no he asked why. From that day on he would always keep an eye on me to make sure I was okay.
After my first day of training on my way back to my apartment, there was a dog who appeared out of nowhere and started following me. I called him Buddy, he would sleep outside my apartment. Like me, Buddy was also sad, I thought he had been dumped as he had a collar but there didn’t seem to be any sign of an owner. After a few days, my spirits started to lift thanks to training, seeing my friends and making new ones and letting the sun and Thai life work its healing magic. I noticed that Buddy also started to cheer up as I did. He would come to Sinbi with me and patiently lie down waiting for me to finish training so he could escort me back to where I was staying. Everyone thought he was my dog. Buddy didn’t leave me for the entire month I was in Thailand.
During my first two weeks at Sinbi, Wang would always whistle me over to indicate that I would be doing my pad work with him in training. I loved training with Wang, he would teach me some cheeky Saenchai tricks and would often sweep me and make me fall on my arse when I was getting tired and then laugh at me as I tried to get up. During the breaks in the rounds I sometimes dance in the ring if there’s a good song playing and Wang would smile and say “Good dancer. Let’s go disco!”
At the end of training Wang would always ask “You come train later?” if I said no his reply would be “You come. I wait. We train.” And I would dutifully go to train, I didn’t want to let him down. Wang also tried to give me some relationship advice which was “No cry. Your boyfriend stupid. You train, beat him up”. Through my tears that would make me laugh and slowly day by day, thanks to Wang, my friends and Buddy by my side my smile started to come back.
There are some people that you meet in life who leave a footprint in your heart. Wang was one of those people. He helped lift my spirits and soul when I was broken and he has guided me on my Muay Thai journey. I will always be grateful to him for those reasons. I know there are many people who are mourning his passing right now. If I could say anything to Wang these are a few of the things I would say:
– I’m sorry for cracking you too hard on the top of your head when you taught me how to ‘run’ up your opponent’s lead leg and land a downward elbow on them
– I’m glad you never learnt to grapple because that time you swept me on the floor and you also fell gave me an opportunity to do a full mount with ground and pound. As you didn’t know how to get out of it you ended up shrieking like a girl which made everyone laugh
– Thanks for giving my friend and I a lift from our rather miserable accommodation miles away from Sinbi and taking us to the Sinbi apartments where we ended up staying in a house next to Saenchai (one of the highlights of my first trip to Thailand)
– Your singing, funny insults and advice will be much missed
– You are the best pad man I have ever had the pleasure of training with
– I hope you know how much you were loved by everyone at Sinbi. When we first heard you were ill there was so much love and support for you from around the world
Goodbye Wang, friend and trainer. Your Muay Thai legacy will live on in the many students and fighters you have trained and through your family, friends and Sinbi crew. We will remember you fondly. May you rest in peace.