After two sessions with Mike, a week of training on my own and countless Muay Thai videos watched on youtube I’m finally getting my kicks down. I think kicks are the most difficult for any Muay Thai fighter because there is a sequence with which you execute them. Simply telling someone the sequence doesn’t equate to a smooth, perfect kick right at the start. It is similar to riding a bike. You start off slow and awkward, trying to keep all the points in your head of what you must do, but then you progress and get better and better. I messed up on every one of my kicks last week, but Mike helped me through the whole thing. He reminded me what I was doing wrong and encouraged me to go at it again. So I did, and failed again.

Determined not to disappoint myself at the next training session I hit the bag at the Student Rec Center on Friday. My goal was to focus on kicks until I felt comfortable with them. I was there for an hour and a half, and by the end, my shin and foot were red and stiff. But I do feel much better about my kicks. Mike told me to relax and let the arms come out more, so I did. He also said to pivot on the front foot more and rotate the hips and shoulders together, so I did. The result is a controlled, yet underpowered, kick that I felt comfortable hitting the bag with. I know they will get better with time and training, but I admit I was discouraged when it didn’t click automatically.

That is the point of this test, though, to find where I am weakest and strive to strengthen it. This is what we should all attempt on a day by day basis: to become better than the person we were yesterday. The opportunity was there for me to become better and so I went about planning a way to achieve it. Next, I will work on adding power and quickness and also being able to throw a kick from a switch stance, (aka my left leg instead of my right).

For Muay Thai videos check out

Sitsonpeenong (red) vs Watanachai (blue)

Not all Muay Thai kickboxing is throwing kicks and punches. Sometimes fighters opt to move in close, grapple and throw knees and elbows trying to knock each other out. This is a great example of close quarters fighting. At the end of the second round through the end of the fight both fighters vie for position and exchange elbows and knees. Enjoy! video via WBC Muaythai

Video  —  Posted: February 3, 2013 in Uncategorized
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“The mind is incredibly powerful, and if you can conquer the mind you can do anything you imagine to be possible.” posted an article on maximizing your Muay Thai training motivation. Basically a great Muay Thai fighter eats right, sleeps and does not binge drink. Duh! But they also recommend surrounding yourself with like-minded people who will inspire and encourage you. The most interesting, and I think, most overlooked piece of advice is that conquering the mind lets us achieve anything we think is possible.

This is great advice for anyone who is doubtful they can perfect their mid-kicks technique, or advance to the next level of their training. So many underestimate the power of positive thinking and believing a thing is possible. It is common when we hit a wall to think of how it can get worse not better. We think how we are not cut out for the job or do not deserve to succeed. This is wrong, and has no place in the mind of a Muay Thai fighter.

So as a recommendation to any who are feeling low and that they can’t progress to the next step, it is as easy or as hard as you make it. Thinking only positive and motivating thoughts will prompt your mind to create plans of action to realize the rewards you are working towards. Thinking negative thoughts will only reinforce a defeatist attitude that will not help you progress at all. So the next time you face a challenge be conscious of your thoughts. If you find yourself slipping into negative self-talk reverse it by telling yourself, “I will succeed, I will succeed.” Imagine yourself overcoming the obstacle and progressing forward. In no time you will no longer be wallowing in failure, but taking strides toward finding solutions to your problem.


I trained at Big Foot Gym Friday night. It was my second time training with Mike Walrath, who instructed my first ever Muay Thai class two weeks ago. I returned to his gym because I like the energy there. Everyone is very helpful and kind and Mike is the best instructor in Eugene. 

This time around the group was more experienced. One guy had been coming for a month, others longer. We started with warm-up. I biked, others jump-roped. Then we did calisthenics. Then we sparred for four rounds. My partner was a Mexican named Enselmo. Enselmo has been coming to Big Foot for a while, and it shows. He’s built like a compact box. During sparring we circled and tried to land soft punches on each other’s torsos. I had a reach advantage, but Enselmo had the advantage of being a small quick target. Each time I struck I had to lower my center of balance, or punch downwards to hit his torso. A few times at the beginning I punched too high and caught him on the chin. Oops!

Next we focused on form. The sequence was Jab-Cross-Hook-Kick. I was with Enselmo again. I have the punches down pretty good, but the kick is hard. Mike encouraged me through the whole thing and showed me where I could improve. The key he said is to step with the lead, angle the front foot outwards, pivot on the ball of the foot, swing the back leg around to strike your opponent. It was a lot to process, but Mike said I improved. “Do you get A’s in school?” he asked. I admitted I should get more, and he said I was a fast learner with a “promising future” in Muay Thai. That made me feel good, and reaffirmed what I had been thinking the past two weeks: that this is possible as long as I believe so and I train hard outside the gym so I can make the most of my time in the gym with Mike. 

Finally we stretched out, and I realized I was not the only one winded from the workout. I am not in fighter shape yet. Compared to the guys in the gym I am unconditioned. So these next two weeks I will work on getting better conditioned. I will also work on my kicks, so that next time I will have perfect form. 

‘Kick loses to punch, punch loses to knee,
knee loses to elbow, elbow loses to kick’

There are a number of fundementals that can make a break a Muay Thai boxer. First there’s stance, then movement and finally strikes, or weapons.


Stance: the front toe points straight to the target, the back toe angles out about 45 degrees. Feet are shoulder-width apart and knees are bent. Next, butt and chin are tucked in, (this is to keep an opponent from landing a haymaker). Next, hands are raised to the face and make small backwards circles. Weight is kept on the balls of the feet with about 60% on the back, 40% on the front.

Movement: a shuffle walk ensures a boxer is always balanced and ready to strike or defend. The trick is when moving forward to step away from the stance and then to it. This is done  without lifting the foot so much as sliding it forward. It stays the same going backwards or sideways, step away from the stance then to it.

Strikes: There’s different types of strikes. Punches include the straight punch, jab, hook and uppercut. Straight punch is thrown with the leading hand, the jab is with the back hand, hook can be either and is aimed at the side of the head or body, and the uppercut, well, you know what that is. All punches are thrown by twisting the body and transferring back to front.

Elbows are a bit tricky. The aim is to graze your opponents brow, cutting him and thus forcing the fight.  A back elbow is done by spinning around on the front leg and throwing the back elbow around. This is dangerous as it can cause imbalance.

Grappled Knee via

Grappled Knee via

Knees are most effective when they are high and sharp. The goal is to lift the knee and rotate the hips while pointing toes backwards. Knees are staples in Muay Thai for landing body shots on your opponent while in close quarters.

Kicks happen when by rotating the hips and buttocks and following through. They can be low – shin, knee and thigh; mid – ribs and torso; and high – chin and head. The key is to use the shin as the weapon of impact, not the foot and to rotate for power. Teep/Push kicks are used to push an opponent away and stop their attack.

Grapple Holds: These happen when both fighters are close. They fight for superior hand position on the neck and then proceed to knee upwards while pulling down the head.

So, to start my path to the National Championship I must join a gym. There are many in Eugene, some I’ve heard are better than others. I’ve narrowed my search to three. These being the gyms that focus on Muay Thai and have good word of mouth.

1. Big Foot Gym – Mike Walwrath is the owner and trainer here. He’s been teaching in Eugene for 25 years and is considered the first person to bring Muay Thai to the area. His gym is like Rocky’s gym in Rocky I. It’s the Gold’s Gym of Muay Thai Kickboxing. What it lacks in amenities it makes up for with grit. You don’t come here for spa treatment, you come for the hard-nosed work that is Muay Thai training. Mike’s a great teacher who is as down-to-earth as any one I know. He is quick to incorporate you into the workout, but takes time to show you and correct you on proper technique.

2. Art of War MMA – Jason Georgianna heads this gym. He’s had 14 years of experience, a MMA ProAm record of 15-8-1. His gym is more MMA themed because they have multiple people looking for a gym where they can learn it all. BUT one instructor is a Kru, (read black belt for Muay Thai), who simply goes by “Kobb”. I didn’t get a chance to meet “Kobb” but he’s their Muay Thai master. The gym is an upgrade from Big Foot, (there was a heater at least), as has a mat area and a weight area. This is a place to hang out and work on your technique any day of the week. It has a relaxed and close-knit atmosphere, but not really Muay Thai focused, which is what I’ll need since I’ll be training for the Amateur National Title.

3. Northwest Martial Arts Academy – This gym is a class outfit. Unlike Big Foot or Art of War this gym is family friendly. They have kid classes and family classes. Don’t read this as this gym being wimpy. Far from it. Their Jiu Jitsu team fighters have won multiple events and belts. They have a crack team of instructors who all have fighting experience who regularly train with Mike and the Big Foot Gym. Unlike Art of War, which has a solid MMA feel, NWMA has a focus on bettering your fundamentals for striking then graduating you into their Muay Thai specific class.

As of now I’m leaning towards NWMA because they seem to have the best facilities and focus for fundamentals. When I graduate to more experienced levels they have a partnership with Mike and Big Foot so I can benefit from both instructors’ experience. There is a cost difference Big Foot is $75 and NWMA is $120 a month. But NWMA allows a “cash out” program. Basically you pay for 6 months at a reduced rate. AND they allow for a 30 day free trial.

For those who haven’t seen a Muay Thai fight, or don’t even know what it is, here’s the best fight of 2012. These guys are just kids, Pidsanu (red shorts), is only 15, and Siragnern (blue shorts), is 18. But they are fierce fighters with a lot of heart and talent. The second round is an elbowfest. Video via

Video  —  Posted: January 13, 2013 in Uncategorized
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“Action Conquers Fear” Peter Zarlenga

We don’t know what we’re capable of until we attempt the impossible. The rut I find people facing everyday is not a lack of great ideas, but the belief they can act on those ideas. “Oh I’d love to live in France for a year, but I just don’t have the time.” Or “I’d love to strike out on my own and start that business, but I don’t have the resources right now.” These excuses are just that, excuses. As soon as you tell yourself, and believe you can and will do something, the “how” is automatically set in motion. Your brain seizes the opportunity to seek out the best way possible to achieve your goal. I believe so wholeheartedly in this willful thinking that I’m conducting a test to prove it.

For the next eleven months I will be working towards a personal goal of mine, to be a Muay Thai Kickboxing Champion. I am a complete novice when it comes to any type of martial art, but by the end of this year I will have competed and won an amateur national title. Impossible you say? Nonsense. Belief and persistence are 90% of one’s ability to achieve his or her goals. The key is to set high goals and have high expectations for yourself to reach those goals. But it starts with believing you can do it in the first place, without belief even the most dedicated will fail.

Follow me as I document my path to the National Championship. Follow me on Twitter @AllenSpoonsberg. Leave comments about your goals and your aspirations. What helps you? How do you inspire belief in yourself and others? And always remember to build today for a better tomorrow.