Kelsey Andries

Muay Thai World Champion

Canada vs. Sweden - May 26th, 2016

Forgive the (slightly) delayed posting. I did my best to keep things up to date but that combined with training and preparing was a full time job in itself. I also needed some to process this entire experience so I could formulate a coherent post. As I mentioned in the last blog post, I advanced to the Semi-Finals where I met Sweden.

After 3 hard fought round, I lost the decision. I come home with a Bronze Medal. This is not the result I was working for. My goal was to fight the best I could fight, and I knew if I did that, I would have the gold.

But the fact of the matter is, I didn't. I have been trying to figure out what the fu*k happened. And after a few days away from the tournament the only answer I can think of is I cracked. The night before the fight I was cutting weight and something happened. I couldn't take anything anymore. The last 6 months, which was full of big life changes for me, flooded over me and I couldn't breathe. Everything became instantly overwhelming. The sauna...the people...this place. I felt like we have been training for this tournament forever. And then when we got to the tournament, it seemed to last forever. That night everything was loud. EVERYTHING. I locked myself in the bathroom, made a cocoon around my heads with my arms to try and drown out the noise and I started sobbing.

I didn't realize at the time what had happened but I wasn't the same after that. I woke up in the morning and felt off. I weighed in and felt off. My teammates and coach thought I looked better and more rested than before the previous fights...maybe physically I did but my head felt like a bag of smashed a$$holes. I couldn't find my focus, clarity, sharpness. And that made me nervous. I was hopeful that my focus and clarity would come when I warmed up.....or when I got my rub down....or when I hit pads.....or when I did my Wai Khru. But it didn't come. I never felt clear.


Mental clarity/focus is one of my strength. I seem to be able to deal with the circumstances (no matter how crazy or shitty they are), find a rhythm and go. It doesn't mean it isn't difficult for me to do that, but I seem to be able to find it. Until now. And I realized that having that clarity gives me confidence in myself, my skills and my corner.

It's interesting because in retrospect, considering what was going on in my head, I fought well. Nobody could tell that I was off. But for me, it was as if my brain and body were operating on separate wave lengths. I needed them to connect...that is the bridge between the highly programmed Muay Thai robot (my body - that operates without intent) and being able to strategically win (with the presence of mind). 

Art was calling for the left cross and I could hear him. It registered but I could not pull the trigger. Watching the fight now it is SO there. Like painfully open. But I could not get my head to make my body throw a cross. The punch was a critical part of the equation as it was the bridge between my outside and inside ranges. I needed it to score on the way in. That punch was the difference between winning and losing that day.

Despite feeling like I had no head, there are good things that came from this fight. I am getting more comfortable fighting southpaw. I am finding my range and the tools that will work for me. My left kick is coming along. I am having success with my elbows and establishing my range. I am trying to look at this fight and concentrate on those good things, but I am overwhelmed by feelings of anger and sadness. I am mad at myself for not being able to pull myself together...for somehow (not consciously at all) getting in my own way. I am mad about the tournament is scored and left feeling very confused about what sport I just participated in. 

And I am mad because I feel like I let myself down.

Bea was a very fun and strong opponent. The fight was well matched, she had her game face on and she had more power than I thought she was going to have. She kicked me in the ass (literally) harder than I have ever been kicked in my life. She landed the first ass kick and I remember thinking "Shit this girl has some power!". She made me work hard to find my rhythm and range and never backed down. In my opinion, it was the gold medal match for sure. A big congratulations to her as she advanced to the finals and ended up winning Gold against Turkey.


I took a lot away from the fight against her and I will grow from this.  And ultimately, that is the point of this whole game. You don't fight because you love winning...or at least I don't think you should. You fight because you are on a journey of self growth and you use it as a tool to become a better version of yourself.

I have to be careful to remember this and not to fall into the hole of self criticism, obsessive thoughts and thinking that because I lost I am a shitty person. 

I have to avoid creating a story about this loss that I carry around with me for the next however long.

I need to use this fight as a looking glass for my skills (both mental and physical), my ability to handle my emotions, my motivation in the sport. and my confidence.

I am feeling an inkling of self doubt sneaking in and I don't know how to manage this and get back to baseline.

I do know the first step is to get back on the wagon and go to work...

Meditate. Run. Shadow Box. Hit the bag. Spar. Clinch.

And fight again. 
 

Canada vs. Belarus - May 23rd, 2016

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The tournament kicked off on May 19th. We had a few team Canada members fight that day. My teammates Jessica Gladstone and Melissa Reaume both fought on May 21st. They faced very experienced and tough opponents. Jessica lost 29-28 to Norway and Melissa's fight against Sweden was stopped in the 3rd round. They fought well, listened to Art and grew from the experience. It was an honor training along side them and I am very proud of both of them. They will stay on as teammates extraordinaire, helping Hilary and I prepare for our fights, going on adventures and taking in the sights and sounds of Jonkoping.

I had my first fight of the tournament on Monday (May 23rd) against Belarus. I was relieved to get this one out of the way. Tournaments make me more nervous than usual. I think it is because there is so much going on at once...so much nervous energy from all the athletes bouncing around the venue...so much noise from the live bands...and then all the waiting around for your fight to begin.

My head was clear and my body felt great. I just wanted to get in the ring and fight already. It was a looooong training camp leading up to this. And then lots of travel and training here in Europe.

FINALLY it is time to fight.

I had a nice warm-up in the back. Art had me laughing as usual. I geared up and got in the ring and performed my Wai Khru. It always calms me down and helps me focus on the fight. It it way better performing the Wai Khru with a live band. You can feel their energy and rhythm. They are playing for you and you are dancing for them. Its a beautiful tradition.

 

Round 1 started and Belarus landed some snappy and heavy roundhouse kicks to start off. I stuck to the game plan and worked to find my range and rhythm. A few right leg kicks, remnants of my orthodox days,  worked their way out of my system and Art instructed me to ditch them. Yes sir. My left kicks started landing and I worked to cut her off and not chase her around the ring. I followed her into the corner, clinched up and landed a left downward elbow. It landed clean and I felt her go limp in my hands. She was 8 counted and after that we knew that short range was where I needed to be. The scoring here is different than we are used to. Usually if you drop someone with an 8 count you will win the round 10-8. Here there that isn't the case, so I won the round 10-9. If you are absolutely, dominating and win all the rounds it doesn't matter but in really close well matched fights that point makes all the difference.

Round 2 started and she came out strong, teeping and landing kicks to keep me away. I found my range for knees and elbows and we knew I could end the fight there...but I was pushing too much and being impatient and falling into the clinch after my elbows. I needed to stay taller and hit crisper but I was too excited. I started to figure it out and managed to get long enough that I landed a few knees to the head. We continued to clinch and I was kneeing and elbowing and then the referee called the fight. Yay!!

Next up is Sweden in the Semi-Final round : )

A big thank you to everyone that has supported me on my journey here. Annnnnnnnddddddd of course we have a nice little video for you to enjoy.

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World Championship 2016 - From Poland to Sweden

We headed from Szczecin, Poland to Ystad Sweden on May 16th, and then along to Jonkoping on the morning of the 17th. That gave us all day on the 17th to manage our weight and start cutting in preparation for weigh-ins on the morning of the 18th. The trip was a bit of a blur as we moved from city to city in a sleep deprived, food deprived state but it made for a pretty giggle filled journey.

We arrived in the afternoon of the 17th, got settled into our Euro-riffic hotel, Scandic. The rooms are straight up IKEA. They are space efficient and well designed and oh so cute, but I am missing the bathtub, mini fridge and in house coffee maker. It is making this trip more inconvenient than it needs to be. Why might you ask? Well here it is...

No Bathtub - This is necessary for weight cutting for me. This is how I cut weight for fights so I have timing down and know what to expect. When I found out there was no tub I went in search of a hot tub instead. I paid 65 Swedish Krona to get entrance the a MASSIVE rec center that has pools, weight rooms, a wave pool, "hot tubs" and saunas. I found the tub, jumped in and found it to be baby safe warm. In fact I started shivering if I let my shoulders out of the water. Major bust. It was the evening of the 17th and I had to weigh in between 7-10am the morning of the 18th. I had more weight to cut that I had planned so I had to start the night before. The baby bath had me off to a terrible start. So after walking around and shivering I asked the staff. I guess hot tubs are not really a thing here. So they gave me entrance to a nice sauna and I started in there, cutting 1/2 of what I needed to the night before, and then the rest in the morning.

Less than helpful staff - I stepped on the scale at 9:30am on May 18th at a glorious 66.56kg and then it was time to re-hydrate and eat. All of our meals are supposed to be included in our accommodation pricing, which was INSANELY expensive by the way. So I have just finished weighing in, I boogie back to the hotel at 9:45am to get breakfast, only to find it all being packed up (and it is supposed to be open until 10am).  I run to the back and a woman wraps up yogurt and museli and ask if I can just have a small bowl.

Her response - "NO - breakfast is over"

My response - "Ummmmm, I just weighed in and I haven't eaten anything or had water in like 30 hours. Can I just have a bowl of muesli?"

Her response - "NO" and then a long hard Swedish stare.

Ohhhhhhhh, snap woman. I won't forget this. Strike ONE Hotel Scandic. So Art, Hilary, Melissa and I get in the rental car (which we have for another hour) and zip into town to grab some snacks to last us for a few days. You know, bananas, greek yogurt, nuts, heavy cream for my coffee's etc etc. Nothing crazy, but stuff that requires a fridge. We get back to the hotel to find that we have no fridges. So I ask reception for ice (as there are no ice machines) and we make plastic bag mini fridges. Cool - I can make this work as long as replenish the ice.

Fast forward 2 days. ICE LOCK DOWN.

Excuses given by the hotel. 1) We don't have any (LIE)  2) The ice machine is broken (LIE as they serve ice in the drinks in the bar) 3) We aren't allowed to give out ice (LIE - you just did). STRIKE TWO Hotel Scandic.

No Coffee Maker - If you know me, you know that coffee is an essential food group. When I travel I bring beans, a grinder, Aeropress and Aerolatte so I can make fatty coffee, good coffee, team coffee and coach coffee. I enjoy the meditative practice of grinding the beans. I like patiently waiting for the water to make its way through the drip. I love the smell. The taste. And I love making one for someone else and seeing them smile. Well - no coffee maker in the room means no room coffee for Kelsey. Hmmmmmmm this is going to be a problem. WAIT! There is pretty decent coffee at breakfast so Ill just fill up my thermos and make magic happen in my room.

But no - you are not allowed to take coffee from breakfast in a thermos and drink it later. BAD CANADA. You have to drink it in the restaurant only during breakfast but you can have unlimited cups. Acca-scue me? If you want to take coffee away you have to pay for it. $20 Kroner for 350mL. STRIKE THREEEEEEE!

I have tried not to lose my marbles over how we are being treated but it is difficult. We have had to stop eating the food that is being provided for us because the quality is so poor and there are no options for Gluten Free, Halal, Dairy Free etc. A ton of athletes got sick. I spoke with our team manager and there were so many complaints from the athletes, coaches and officials that they switched caterers. I'm hoping that food quality picks up and there are options for me, otherwise I will have to buy all my own food from here on out.

...I don't mean to sound like an entitled North American either (which I may). So I am going to follow all the "feedback" with something positive. I think I learned this technique in coaching 101. The hotel does a few things really well. Their sauna is great and I have dialed in weight cutting there. The cleaning staff are awesome and have helped us out a ton finding places to do laundry, extra towels etc. And they do a decent breakfast. There, I can still find a few nice things to say : )

Enough about that...time for a short history of Jonkoping Sweden! (thanks Wikipedia!)

Jonkoping received city status in 1284 which means its old as fu*k. The first part for the name "Jon" is derived from a creek found on the west side of the city and the second part "Koping" is an old word for trading center or market place. It its situated on Sweden 2nd largest lake, lake Vattern.

Because of its geographical position, Jonkoping was vulnerable to attack along the river routes that lead south. It was predominantly attacked by the Danes. The city was plundered and burned several times until the got smart and fortified the city during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Strange facts about Jonkoping:
- It was the matchstick industry between 1845-1970 which is FUNNY because we went looking for matches and they were impossible to find
-They house the central warehouses for you guessed it…IKEA. And also Husqvarna and Electrolux.
- People have electronic lawn mowing machines that look like Roomba's but your lawn. Watch the video at the bottom of the blog and it will all make sense. You can pick one up for $8,999 Swedish Krona…so $1419 according to Google Currency Convertor
- It is at 57 degree North which is somewhere between Grand Prairie and the North Alberta Boarder

Famous Jonkopians!

Lillian Gertrude Asplund, Titanic Survivor. 706 people survived the sinking of the Titanic in total and Lillian was one of the last three living survivors as she was only 5 when it happened. According to the all knowing Wikipedia, Lillian is actually American! She was born in Massachusetts to a Swedish Immigrant family came from the region around Jonkoping. They returned to Sweden in 1907 to support their family here and then decided to return to America in 1912 via the Titanic with their four sons and Lillian. Lillian, her mother and her brother Felix survived, but her father and 3 other brothers perished.


ABBA member Agnetha Ase Faltskog. Born in Jonkopin April 5th, 1950. Turns out she was famous in Sweden before joining ABBA, which launched her into international stardom. ABBA sold over 380 million albums and singles world wide, making them one of the best selling music artists in history.

Ok enough education for today. Check out the video below for the moving picture/video version of this blog. It has nice music, us being dorks and it took me a long time to make so enjoooooy :)

World Championships 2016 - From Calgary to Poland

Its been a whirlwind first week of travel and training so please forgive the late first blog post.

And it begins...

After what has seemed like the longest training camp in recorded history, I am in Sweden. FINALLY.  The last 2 months have been intense. We increased our training frequency to make more time for one on one work, running, hitting pads etc. It was really nice because I felt like a professional athlete for the first time in my life. Muay Thai has very much been my job for the last 8 weeks and I loved it. Don't get me wrong. It was hard as fu*k, but it was awesome. 

My typical day looked like this:

  • 6am Wake up to the yells of my hungry cats
  • 6:30am Drink ALL THE COFFEE
  • 7-10am Working with my awesome clients at Vita Fitness (shout out!!)
  • 10:30-11:30am Meditate
  • 11:30 Light Lunch
  • 12-1pm Glorious pre-training nap to save my ass
  • 2:30-4pm Run to the gym, small group training, run everywhere else like a crazy runner person
  • 4:30 Eat, rest, email, random cat based activities such as throwing string, belly rubs
  • 6:30-9:30 Run back to the gym, skip, shadow box, bag work, pads, sparring, clinching and getting hit with the discipline stick should I take too long to do any of the aforementioned
  • 10:00pm Late dinner of ridiculously healthy foods
  • 11:00 Hit the HAY 

Our Calgary based Team Canada athletes, consisting of me, Hilary Herman, Jessica Glasdstone and Melissa Reaume,..along with Kru Artur Nowacki, left for Europe on May 11th. The actual IFMA World Championship Tournament does not officially start until well, yesterday, but we wanted to head over early to shake off the jet lag, finish training AND….meet Art's mom Maria. 

We flew from Calgary to Amsterdam, then Amsterdam to Berlin. From Berlin we called "some Polish guy" that Art's sister set us up with and he drove us to Szczecin, Poland. As soon as we got into Szczecin the history lessons from Art began which I loved.

This city is very interesting, especially if you like old things (which I do) and cool architecture (which I do). I wish I had more time so I could take more pictures.

Essentially it is a mixture of pre-war buildings that are beautiful but took a shit kicking during the war and were never repaired, plain jane concrete communist era buildings, reclaimed buildings that are painted crazy colours and ultra modern buildings. Beautiful insanity. 

We checked in our hotel, the Park Hotel, which I would highly recommend if you ever find yourself in Poland.

THE. BEST. COFFEE. IN. MY. LIFE.

Like no joke. I drank so much coffee that the severs thought I was actually nuts. The breakfast there was also to die for. Its a shame that I had to monitor my food intake so much with the upcoming weigh ins because I would have CRUSHED that breakfast buffet if I could. 

We had a great few days in Szczecin training at Linke Gold Team Pozan. Art knew the guy that owns the gym. They train JiuJitsu and MMA, so there was lots of mat space as well as a heavy bag for us.  We trained two times a day for the 3 days were were there. Lighter sessions in the morning and then longer harder sessions in the afternoon. We were all battling jet lag so in some sessions we would have energy and others we would all feel like a bag of smashed a$$holes. But we all got better and stronger after each training session so despite what we felt like, Art was happy with our performances.  

Despite the jet lag, we did try and get out to see some of what Szczecin has to offer. Hilary, Mel and I took a cab down to the Central Cemetery. It was established in 1901 and is the largest cemetery in Poland and the 3rd largest in Europe, spanning 167.8 hectares. It has over 300,000 graves and is still growing and is a legally protected national monument.

It was beautiful. It is a mixture of a natural park, monuments, architecturally gorgeous chapels, winding roads and of course many many graves. I have never really spent much time in a cemetery but what stuck out for me was how well taken care of the ENTIRE place was. While we were there, we saw so many people bringing flowers and candles to their loved ones. People sitting in silence. And many people cleaning the graves. Washing the headstones, raking up the leaves and even planting and maintaining flowers and greenery around the sites of their loved one.

It was also really sad. Art told us (as we couldn't read any of the signs that were set up throughout the cemetery) that during the war, 1 in 5 Polish people were killed. 20% of the population.  We walked through the military section and saw all the unmarked graves. The cemetery also had special sections for people who died at sea, unborn children and concentration camp victims.

The last night we were in Szczecin was really special. We took an adventurous little road trip to Art's home town to have dinner with his family. We got another history lesson about the area which was hilarious, crazy, cool and at times slightly terrifying. He told us stories about "treasure" hunting with his friends in abandoned bunkers and tunnels that were built by the Germans in the war.

And then we made it to his house where we had THE BEST MEAL since landing in Europe. His mom made Polish Pancakes, cabbage/tomato/cucumber salad, stewed chicken, rice and potatoes.

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I tried one pancake and it was delicious. I asked Maria if she would share the recipe with me so I can make then at home (and gluten free!) and she said YES. I am super stoked to have this recipe in my collection.

 

It was so nice to have a home cooked meal before heading to Sweden. We got lots of hugs, well wishes, clean laundry and I scored a bag of walnuts from the tree in the backyard. Oh and lots of laughs too. So many laughs. And then we were on our way...

I am attempting to make a few video of our adventures so here is the first one. I hope you enjoy Episode 1.

 

Fight vs. Isa Keskikangas

Fight vs. Keskikangas - October 17, 2015 Journey Fight Series, Calgary, AB

Photo Credit: M. Hawkes Photography

Photo Credit: M. Hawkes Photography

Saturday night was my professional debut in my hometown. I got to do what I love most, with the people I love most, IN FRONT of the people I love the most. It doesn't get much better than that.  I faced Isa Keskikangas from VBC Muay Thai in Stockholm, Sweden. Isa won gold at the 2014 IFMA World Championships at 71kg. 

The camp to get ready for this fight was insanely tough…for so many reasons. It was the hardest training I have done in my life. And I have been in the training game a long time. I was dealing with issues in my personal and professional life that should have consumed me right up and left nothing for the training.  Should being the operative word. But they didn't. Had I faced these same issues a year ago they would have eaten me right up. But I am different now.

I wrote in my last post about my experience at a 10 day Vipassana Meditation retreat. The tools I learned there as well as maturing as athlete made training for this fight fundamentally different. Most notably, I managed my emotional stress through meditation and my view of the coach + athlete relationship shifted. In past camps when the training load increased or I was getting pushed hard I would take it personally. Like "why is he trying to hurt me?". The shift in this camp was to remove this self-centred view on training and realize every action in training is to make me better at my sport.

I can clearly remember the day it clicked. Kru Artur was watching me in sparring and was correcting EVERYTHING I was doing. We had implemented some changes to my stance and I was trying so hard to do it perfectly. And in trying too hard I was over thinking it and NOT doing what he wanted. And he kept telling me. And I kept taking it personally and thinking that I was a shitty person because I couldn't figure it out. And then I cracked. I shut down and he could tell. He took me aside and explained something to me that changed everything. "Kelsey, I am not telling you that you are a bad person because you cannot do what I ask. My job as the coach is to assess the technique and tell you if it is correct or not. Right now, it is not correct, but that is not a reflection of you as a person. Take yourself out of this and you will, with practice, be able to do this correctly".

WOAH. Huge shift. I slept on that and woke up the next morning with a deeper understanding of my role. And I went to the gym and let my body take over. I surrendered my ego. My attachment to the outcome. My obsession with being perfect and I just trained. It was the best rounds on the pads I had all camp, and in that moment I knew I was ready for the fight against Isa. 

Photo Credit: M. Hawkes Photography

Photo Credit: M. Hawkes Photography

Fight day was different than usual. It was calm. I felt really good all day. I was happy. I arrived early to the venue to get settled, get my hair braided (any fighter chick knows the importance of this) and start to warm-up. I didn't really feel like I was in my body. I felt like I was floating above myself watching a movie play out. 

We had 5 fighters on the card that night so the team was busy with wrapping hands, rub downs and making sure we were prepared. It was organized chaos as usual, but I liked the mayhem. It kept my mind occupied and before I knew it, I had to get ready. 

The battle started with out walkout songs. I had wanted to use "Bitch Better Have My Money" by Rihanna but it was a bit too racy for the family crowd. I went to the DJ to give him my second option and he told me that Isa had picked "Move Bitch" by Ludacris so I could use BBHMM! In that moment I knew it was going to be awesome. Clash of the Vikings and Clash of the walk out songs. 

Photo Credit: Mark Neustaedter

Photo Credit: Mark Neustaedter

I was happy to debut a new Wai Khru that night. I thought it fitting for my first pro fight. I LOVE performing the Wai Khru. It centres and focuses me and is an expression of my gratitude to my teachers. This particular one was representative of a raven building a nest and then fiercely protecting it. Pretty much my jam :)

And then we were off. Isa was a focused and experienced competitor. We spent Round 1 feeling each other out and trying to establish our ranges. I listed to Art, stayed calm, landed a few shots but spent most of the round watching her and what she was going to do. 

We came out in Round 2 and she picked up pace a bit. I worked on staying calm and landing the kick at the right time. Isa countered the kick really well - faster than I was expecting so I knew I needed to counter the counter but was having trouble finding the timing. She was also moving into the clinch after her punches so we spent some time there as well. I felt strong in the clinch and was working towards my favourite positions but felt that it was broken up early a few times by the referee.. 

Photo Credit: Mark Neustaedter

Photo Credit: Mark Neustaedter

Photo Credit: M. Hawkes Photography

Photo Credit: M. Hawkes Photography

We exchanged a few kicks and then she moved into the clinch again. I could see that we were close to the corner so I tied her up, moved her into the corner and landed a few knees. I had inside control with both my hands on her head. She moved her left hand for a split second and I saw the smallest opening and threw a right upper elbow that landed right between her eyes. I saw the cut open up and tried to land a left level elbow to finish but she tied me up. She was bleeding pretty bad and the referee called a time out to have the cut checked out. The ring doctor looked at it and said she couldn't continue. 

I was jazzed :) I finished the fight with a new weapon against strong and experienced competitor. Art was happy with my performance and so was I. I am excited to book another fight soon and get back to work. It was a real pleasure to compete against her.

A big thank you to my sponsors Stenia Health and High Performance, NIA Advent, Peak Performance, Blush Lane Organics and Team Smandych Muay Thai and Kickboxing. It is with your continued support that I am able to train and compete in the sport that I love. 

Thank you to Kru Trevor Smandych and the entire team of volunteers behind the scenes at Journey Fight Series. To have the opportunity to compete against world class athletes in my hometown is truly a gift. Your time and dedication to growing local amateur and professional Muay Thai in Canada is so appreciated. Thank you for giving me a place to compete.

Thank you to my Team Smandych teammates. Every one of you had a hand in helping me prepare for this fight, but a few gave me an extra push. Thanks to my soul sister and glamazon twin Hilary "The Huntress" Herman for all the rounds, the clinch master "Shotgun" Sean McKinnon, Luke Theriault for all the elbow technique and Faraaz Kahn everything from to sparring to countless massages. 

As last but certainly not least, thank you to Kru Artur Nowaki. I can't really put into words what working with you has done for me both personally and professionally. It has been life changing to say the least. You bring a level of professionalism to training that pushes me. Your humour keeps me smiling despite the intensity of our training. Your technical expertise has me so geeked out on Muay Thai and inspires me to teach others.  It is an honour to fight for you.

Photo Credit: Mark Neustaedter Photography

Photo Credit: Mark Neustaedter Photography

MY NEXT FIGHT is October 17th, 2015 in Calgary, AB

You heard it right! I will be stepping back in the ring on October 17 at Journey Fight Series XIII at the Century Casino in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

This fight is a big one as I make my PROFESSIONAL debut before my home crowd. I will be facing Isa Keskikangas from VBC Muay Thai in Stockholm, Sweden. Isa took home the Gold at the 2014 IFMA World Championships at 71 kg, the weight class heavier than me. She is now moving down in weight class to compete at 67kg. She represented Sweden at the 2015 Royal Muay Thai World Cup in Bangkok this past August. She fought several times and made it to the gold medal round where she faced, you guessed it, Anastasia Napianidi the Russian who I beat in the 2014 final! Isa lost the fight against this tough opponent, which means she will be training hard and will be ready for a great fight. 

This is going to be a great match up. We are both making our professional debut on this card and have competed at the same level internationally. I have been training hard for this fight, sparring lots, getting to train with awesome new training partners and living in my bathtub on the weekend. I have another 3 weeks of tough training ahead of me but I know that if I do as Kru Artur says, this is going to be a great fight.

Hilary "The Hunter Herman, guest training partner Wayne Li, Kru Artur Nowaki and well, me...  

Hilary "The Hunter Herman, guest training partner Wayne Li, Kru Artur Nowaki and well, me...

 

Team Smandych had four athletes on the fight card and THEY ARE ALL GIRLS! The Female Muay Thai Army to be exact. Hilary "The Huntress Herman", Jessica "Thumper" Gladstone and Stephanie Quigg will join me in the token Team Smandych green on October 17th. We are going to put on a great show and there are a ton of other fantastic fight on the card. 

Tickets are selling FAST! So if you want to get your hands on some you can them at:

Impact Boxing & Team Smandych   435 10th Ave SE     403-250-1771

Stenia Health and High Performance    6027 Centre Street SW    403 238-0001

Or online at Ticketpro at the direct purchase link: https://secure.ticketpro.ca/?lang=en&server=ww2&aff=muaythai#achat_CCE17JS15

VIP Tables (8 seats) are $1000

Row 1 $75      Row 2 $65     Row 3 $55      General $40     Student $30     

Tickets will be $10 more at the door

International Fans? 

The fights will stream on www.mmamadhouse.com for FREE so tune in and enjoy the show

 

 

Fight vs Erica Bjorenstrand

Fight vs. Bjorenstrand - April 18, 2015 Journey Fight Series, Calgary, AB

Another first for me. MY FIRST FIGHT AS A SOUTHPAW. WHAT?? Yes you read right. In November we had a new coach join our team to help train the fighters. Artur Nowaki spent years training, fighting and studying Muay Thai around the world and in Thailand. His knowledge of the sport, his ability to teach and explain the technical side of Muay Thai and his passion was instantly loved by Kru Trevor and the rest of the fight team. He came in and started training us in his systems and I was falling behind and I didn’t know why. One day, just before Christmas he came in and was like (insert awesome Polish accent here), “I was washing my dishes last night and thinking about you. I think we should try you southpaw!” My first, uncensored, pit of my stomach though was YES. I don’t know why but I just knew that it would be ok.

So begins my journey of trying to learn Muay Thai like I have never learned it before. After about 4 months of solid training, it was time for my fist fight….an “experiment” as Artur said. We don’t really know how well I have adapted until we try it in the ring. He and Kru Trevor set up the fight against Erica Bjorenstrand of Sweden. She is a bronze medalist from the 2014 IFMA World Championships at 63.5kg, the weight class below me.  I knew she would be a good fighter and Kru Art knew of her club and coach and said they are good.

I was fighting in my hometown and I think everyone I knew was there. I was excited by the cheers of the crowd and was super thankful to have everyone there, but hilariously I can’t actually look at anyone or talk to any of them before the fight. I think it is because I have to take my mind to a different place in order to perform, and when I see my sister, or my Dad, it reminds me of my everyday life and pulls me out of focus. So I avoid everyone, not because I don’t love them, but because I need to focus.

This fight was a blast for so many reasons.

1) Erica was TALL. Not as tall as my last opponent but tall enough that she teeped me in the face. HA! I loved it.

2) I had to think so strategically because NOTHING that worked for me in orthodox stance works as a southpaw. I could not rely on the weapons I have favored in the past.

3) I had to surrender and let my body perform. Many of the things I did in this fight were complete firsts….and they just came of out me. All the repetitions and training done over the last 4 months took over and starting coming out and it was pretty cool. 

4) I found my hands and my left roundhouse….very cool for me.

5) Erica was GAME! She wasn’t afraid of me (or at least did not show it) and brought it for the full five rounds of the fight. 

It was a super close fight. I thought I had done enough to win based on the weapons I threw and the power behind them but in the end I lost by split decision. I can completely understand why I lost and why Erica won based on how we fought.  She was a great opponent and I know she had just as much fun as I did in this experience. I was criticized by after this fight for losing. People said I could have won if I fought orthodox. People thought I never unleashed on her. People expected me to be mad that I no longer had a perfect record and questioned if I would quit after this loss. 

What many people didn't understand was after 14 times in the ring I am most proud of this fight because of what it represents to me, not to anyone else .

...a willingness to grow...

…instituting change not for the short term success but for long term success...

...thinking critically about whether I love Muay Thai or whether I love winning....

...risk and reward...

...sharing with the world my expression of Muay Thai....

I thank Erica for the opportunity to compete and for her contribution to my grow as an athlete :)

Fight vs. Candice Hardwick

Fight vs. Candice Hardwick, November 1, 2014 -Journey Fight Series - Calgary, AB

I am always the taller fighter…..always. At 6 feet tall I can pretty much bank on having the height advantage. Not against Candice! Trevor set up the fight and never outright told me how tall she was but said she would be a good match up for me. After some internet sleuthing I learned she was 6’3”. At first I freaked out but quickly got excited about the opportunity to fight someone bigger than me as I knew it would challenge me. The weapons that I usually rely on might not work with her and I was looking forward to having to adapt to the challenge during the fight.

The fight started at a nice pace. We both played the outside and kicked….a lot. I was landing my right leg kick nicely and I knew it was hurting her. I also moved into southpaw a few times (totally unconsciously) to set up for a left body kick.  She was long enough that when I was leg kicking she could land her cross. I did a decent job of head movement to avoid it but I needed to be careful and kick harder in order to avoid her counter. In between the 1st and the 2nd Kru Trevor told me to make sure that I reach with my leg kick so I don’t destroy my foot. Good advice.

The second round Candice put the pressure on early and we ended up in the clinch. She did a good job of tying me up…I managed to get a few knees off but nothing awesome. I switched to southpaw again, threw a left kick into Candice’s ribs and just hit my foot and heard a very large “POP” and when I put my foot down and I could feel that something was not right. Adrenaline was flowing so I knew I could keep fighting but I wasn’t going to throw any more left kicks.

The pace of the rest of the second was good…we were still figuring each other out and staying calm. I sat down to talk to my corner in between round 2 and 3 and within a few seconds the fight was called off. Something had happened to Candice’s right leg from checking my kicks. Everyone in the crowd thought it was her left leg that was injured (as that was the leg I was kicking) but it was actually her right leg. I still don’t know 100% what the injury was but I know it had something to do with a blood clot in the lower leg.

 

Its always a bummer to have a fight end under those circumstances. I was pretty upset that we didn’t really have a chance to bang, but it was a win. In the weeks after the fight  I told Kru Trevor it felt like I had fight “blue balls” because there was all this training and anticipation and then I never really got to explode like I wanted to. Oh well, bank that left over energy and aggression for the next one. 

Fight vs Olivia Curry

Fight vs. Olivia Curry - June 29th, 2014  TBA Tournament Title, Des Moines Iowa

What they don’t tell you about winning a world championship is that the peak, positivity and high you get from winning is often times followed by a dark, deep valley of the same magnitude, but in the opposite direction.  After winning Worlds, I was full on, whole heardly depressed. I have never experienced this in my life and it was terrifying. Nothing in my life brought me joy, not even training which I ALWAYS love. I thought for a while that maybe this means that I am done, that I have no fight left and that it is time to hang up the gloves

I decided I would try one more fight and see how it went. I registered for the TBA tournament again but they didn’t have anyone to fight me at 147lbs, but they were looking hard to find me an opponent. Olivia Curry, who was registered in the B division at 165lbs stepped up to the plate and we agreed that she would move up to A class and I would fight her at her preferred weight.

I was super thankful that Olivia took the fight.  She was a tough girl who stepped up to fight me and I am grateful for their experience as I learned a valuable lesson in this fight. For the first time, fighting felt like it was my job and I was going to work. I didn’t have a ton of crazy emotions. I hadn’t obsessed over my opponent like I used to. And I wasn’t thinking about winning, I was thinking about performing. I went in there to do my job and I did it . And even though it felt great to win, it didn’t float my soul like the last fights had. Fighting was becoming less about making me feel good from the high of winning, and more about me expressing myself through the martial art.

I have the video for this fight somewhere and I will post it once I find it. 


Fight vs. Anastasiya Napianidi

Fight vs. Anastasiya Napianidi - IFMA World Championships Finals - May 9, 2014 Langkawi, Malaysia

I think that most of you have already heard the news, but if you haven't hen let me be the first to tell you that I WON!! That is right, I won the World Championships by beating Russia!

I still don't really believe it...and I think I thought that if I won I would feel like a different person, but I don't. Just the same old Kelsey but with a gold medal around my neck.

It was a pretty surreal last couple of days. I was all geared up to fight in the final match on May 8th as that was what was on the schedule. The night of the 7th I started my cut and then at about 12:30pm Janice came to tell me that all the A Division finals were moved to May 9th, the last day of the tourney.

I was disappointed because I wanted to fight, but I think it was a blessing in disguise because my legs needed an extra day of rest.  In my fight against the Aussie I kneed her in the elbow hard and I was having trouble bending my right knee. The extra day gave me more time to ice and roll so by the time May 9th came it was good to go.

The days before the fight were a mental challenge as everyone was in party mode so staying focused was the biggest challenge, especially when you still have to be strict with water and your diet. Physically I felt great. I had an amazing last day of pads with Trevor on the 8th and I felt extremely rested, powerful and dialed in which was awesome because it is SOOOOO hot here and you kinda always feel like you are dying.

The night before the final,  Trevor and I watched the semi-final match of Russia vs Finland that Nate had taped for me. The Russian won. She has a really bouncy style, trying to bait you into moving to her by keeping her hands low and being awkward. The Finnish girl bought into her tricks and started to copy her style and as soon as she did, Russia would attack. The Russian was also very good moving backwards...she has a killer long right teep (despite being short) and she likes to fight off of the ropes.

The game plan was simple. Stay calm, look at her chest and fight my style of fight. Don't buy into her shenanigans, stay aggressive and wear her out.

I had a hard time sleeping the night before the fight between cutting weight and thinking about the fight. I think I slept for 4 hours and then was up at 6am to finish my cut. To my surprise, after only 30mins of sweating I was on weight! A huge score in the energy departments. Mark MacKinnon, the other Canadian fighting in the finals, gave me a lift on his scooter and we headed to weigh ins. Then we both ate massive breakfasts and went and had naps while our teammates explored the island.

I was getting quite antsy and agitated because I didn't know when my team would be back or when everyone wanted to head to the venue. My biggest fear of the day was missing my fight so I was relieved when everyone returned and we headed to the venue. It was a long wait once we got there because they were taking breaks after 4 or 5 fights to do medal presentations....and the organizers didn't tell us that before hand so we waited around for a long time. Finally....after much waiting it was time to great ready. 5 fights out - get rubbed down with thai liniment, 4 fights out - shadow box, 3 fights out - light pads, 2 fights out- get gear and hit another round, 1 fight out - hang out on deck and hit 1 more light round.

I was super nervous and super calm all at once. I knew if I executed the game plan I would be successful but I was starting to feel magnitude of what I was about to do. Kru Trevor and Kru Rhino know exactly how to communicate to me before a fight to keep me confident and relaxed an usually that is enough but the finals was a whole other ball game. Everything was amped up....we had a dramatic entrance with a spotlight, music and a long walk out. Usually once I get in the ring my nerves calm but that day they did not. I could feel my hands shaking in my gloves...I had decided that day that I would perform the Wai Khru because I really wanted to do it, I figured now was as good a time as any AND because my teammate Janice says it really helps her to stay calm. So for the first time ever, I did it! Janice was right....by the time I was done, my nerves were settled and I was ready to rock!

The fight was an absolute blast! The Russian came out as we thought she would and I stayed calm and did what we had planned. The crowd was roaring and it was an absolutely magical experience. The Russians were chanting " RUSS-I-AAA" loudly and my Canadian teammates countered with "KELS-E-AAA" in an epic cheating battle that I could totally hear! I took the first two rounds convincingly.

When I sat down in the corner between the 2nd and 3rd rounds I could see the happiness in Kru Trevor's eyes and I knew I was close. He told me to keep the pressure on and it was mine. When I stood up everything hit me at once and I was like "holy shit if am fighting for a world title here......everything I have worked so hard for comes down to this moment" and I got sooooo amped and I think my heart exploded into a thousand smiles. I finished the round hard and then was completely overcome with emotion. I gave a huge hug to both Kru Trevor and Kru Rhino, thanked Russia and her corner and then went to the middle of the ring for the decision. I was so excited that I forgot what corner I was and when they announced "the winner in the blue corner......" I thought I had lost for a split second. But then I heard "CANADA" and my heart exploded into a MILLION smiles. If I could bottle that feeling and feel it everyday I would.

I found my team and hugged them, found my husband and we both burst into tears and hugged and then walked out of the staging area arm and arm with my great friend and coach Trevor. All I wanted to do was go celebrate but I was whisked away to doping for drug testing...never have I been so anxious to produce 100ml of urine in my life. After 3 bottles of water, the medal ceremony (in which they cut off the end of the National Anthem right as I was about to sing the loudest!!) and some jumping up and down and pressing on my bladder I was free to see my friends and family and celebrate!!

Holding that Maple leaf flag over my head and knowing that I took home that medal for me, Kru Trevor, Kru Rhino, my family, my teammates, my friends and my country was a dream come true for me. I have dreamed of representing Canada since I was a kid and I finally got the chance to see that dream fulfilled. I cannot thank my coaches, team, training partners, family and friends and supporters enough for helping me achieve this. Everyone played a part in this journey and I am truly blessed to have so many people in my life that stood behind me and believed in me. I can never repay all of you for love and support that everyone has given me but I will do my best.

A very special thank you to two fellas in my life who are the main reasons I was a able to make it here. First my great friend and coach Kru Trevor Smandych, who believed in me from day 1 and invested as much time and energy into getting me prepared for this as I did. Trevor has a gift for coaching and I am so fortunate to fight for him. He inspires me to be the best fighter that I can be and is there every step of the way to help get me there. I hope this is just the beginning of a awesome Muay Thai journey and I couldn't think of a better person to have in my corner. From the bottom my heart Trev, thank you : )

Second is my amazing husband Nathan who supports me during the times in my life I am not training...which is by far the hardest job. He puts up with all my crazy shit aka "the Kelsey Show", let me be a boring athlete robot for the last 3 months as I prepared for this tournament and didn't complain about it, tapes my ice to me, provides excellent snuggles when I am tied and tucks me into bed when I am so gassed I can barely make it in myself. He pours a mean Epsom salt bath and he managed to take Stenia completely off my hands so I wasn't worrying about work at all. Thank you so much sweetie. I love you so much!

Fight vs Melissa Perry

Fight vs. Melissa Perry (AUS), IFMA World Championships Semi Finals May 6, 2014, Langkawi Malaysia

My second fight of the tournament got moved back a day so I figured that would be the perfect time for an update. After my Round of 8 fight against Sweden on May 3rd (who I just found out won the [World Title in 2010] and is a pro.....ahhhhh) I had a few days off before my next match against Australia on May 6th. 

The view from the hotel  

The view from the hotel

 

We laid pretty low for those couple days as my teammate Janice was still fighting and Nate Smandych was set to fight. Days are pretty simple right now. Wake up, eat breakfast, do some emailing/take a nap, have an afternoon training session, eat and then head to the venue to watch fights or compete. The nights are long as the tournament does not start until 1pm in the afternoon and often goes until midnight or later. As the tournament progresses the days will get shorter as there are less athletes competing. 

I think I have told most of you guys that we have to weigh in each morning we fight at this tournament so I am sticking closely to my diet and then sweating the night before and the morning of to make weight. Typical pre-fight weigh in day I will eat breakfast, train, have a light lunch and then switch to fluids only until about 6pm and then nothing after that. Ill draw a VERY hot epsom salt bath before I go to bed and in 20 min in the tub Ill lose about 1lb of water. Then I wrap myself up in my sauna suit, put a towel over my head and get into bed, tucking the covers all around me like a Kelsey taco. Depending on the day I can do another 1.5-2.5 pounds of water just laying there watching TV.  Then a nice cold shower and into bed I go. 

We have to weigh in between 7-9am so the fight day mornings are early, usually about a 6am wake up. I have enjoyed moving first thing in the morning so I throw on my suit and towel, head to the gym and incline walk at a decent pace for about 30 minutes. If I am on weight Ill stop there and if not one more time in the tub and I am god to go. A quick shuttle ride to the venue to weigh in and then back to the hotel to rehydrate and re-fuel. I was quite worried about cutting every morning going into the tournament but it has been a breeze so far. I am not depleted for very long and I am used to fasting from my diet so I feel pretty good. 

So I weighed in on the 6th and after a huge breakfast of everything healthy and delicious I hit the hay and slept.....a lot. I was feeling quite shitty on the 5th. I ate something that my body did not like and lets just say me and the toilet were good friends for the day. I think I even had a fever...but I didn't care. I knew if I was smart I could beat whatever I was feeling so I went and bought a shit ton of Vitamin C and Zinc and pretty much just ate that and drank water and slept. My fight bout for my match against Australia was 37 so I knew I would be late that night...probably around 10pm so I had a ton of time to rest. Sleep, eat, drink, sleep, eat, drink...

We headed down to the venue early as there were several Team Canada fights on the 6th. Janice, my teammate from Calgary was in the semi finals against Peru.....4 time IFMA World Champion. I watched her fight and it was awesome. She fought so amazing against a girl with 60+ Muay Thai fights and years of competition in Karate and MMA. I was so proud of her courage, determination and her performance. It was truly inspiring to see her perform like this. Side note: last summer Janice and I had a few drinks and were talking about our goals in the sport. We both wanted to compete at the IFMA's and represent Canada and at that time it was a huge long shot. Neither one of us were ready to compete at this level but we knew we wanted to. To be sitting there less than 1 year later and watching my friend fight the 4 time world champion was one of the highlights of this trip for me. 

After Janice's match Kru Trevor, Kru Rhino, and Nate squared (Nate Smandych and Nate Bodewitz) started getting me ready by rubbing me down with Thai Liniment oil. This stuff is crazy....think like tiger balm but liquid. It helps to warm up the muscles and stimulate blood flow....plus is smells super crazy so I sniff a little because it wake me up. Kru Rhino told my Nate to help and "rub here" pointing to my chest "because you married". Code for rub her chest because we are allowed. I died laughing at this point. After the oil massage I did some light shadow boxing, then geared up and hit some light rounds of pads with Kru Trevor. The game plan for Australia was simply to build off what I did with Sweden. Play the range game, make her miss and the answer back right away. I didn't do enough answering in the fight against Sweden so I was not going to make that mistake again. 

The fight against Australia was a blast. I was the calmest I have ever been in a fight. I could hear Trevor the whole time and did a much better job answering back after making her miss. I dominated the fight winning all rounds. I landed my very first Acee-bo-jah (sp?) aka flying downward elbow....this has been on my Muay Thai to do list for some time so that was super fun. I also felt so much better in this fight then the one against Sweden. My first fight was the first time I have ever fought 3 x 3' rounds with 1' rest. In Calgary I usually fight 3 x 2' rounds with 1' rest. In the match against Sweden I remember thinking "fuck.....3 minutes is a long time" but that did not cross my mind once with Australia. 

By beating Australia I advanced to the finals. I am to face Russia. That is a dang good birthday present if you ask me. Russia beat Finland in the match before me so I had the chance to watch her. She keeps her hands low and taunts you forward to make you think that she is open....but she is ready with an arsenal of attacks. I just have to keep fighting the way I fight and I will beat her.

Anyway, sorry for the long winded accounts of my life. A few people mentioned they really enjoyed the last post so I figured I would keep going. There is a rumour the fights might be streamed live so if they are I will send the links to you guys. Ill leave you with the view from the pool from this evening. Tough life out here hey? 

Fight vs. Jennifer Osterlin

FIGHT VS. JENnIFER OSTERLIN IFMA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS ROUND OF 8 - MAY 3, 2014 LANGKAWI, MALAYSIA

We flew from Bangkok to  Kuala Lumpur and had a layover there. The trip became a bit more real at that point because you started to see the other countries in the airport and waiting at the same gate as you. I saw a giant Swedish girl and instantly had a feeling that I would be fighting her in the tournament (turns out I was right).  We got in late that night and then searched around frantically to find a scale so that we could all check out weight as weigh ins started on the 1st. With no luck we ate light and went to be. 

The 1st of May was weigh in day and it was gong show. I had 5lbs to sweat and my teammate Janice  had 8 so we went slow and steady using hot baths, then putting on our sauna suits and wrapping ourselves up in our beds. This is a nice and easy way to cut but it is SO HOT so you have to be careful not to cook yourself. We got on weight and then headed to the venue because weigh ins started at 7. Due to horrible organization, understaffing and all around craziness, I didn't weigh in until 10:30pm. I almost lost my mind when one of the teams (who I will not name so we can keep world peace) tried to cut the line after Team Canada had been patiently waiting forever. I am not sure why at tournaments they don't spend more time organizing weigh ins and less time making sure the dancers for the opening ceremonies look good. Nobody is going to go postal if a dancer messes up but if you keep a fighter who is cutting waiting too long, things get ugly. 

May 2nd was a radical day. We took a taxi to a Thai temple on the island so we could get ourselves and our mongkon's blessed before we fought. It was an awesome thing to experience especially because Rhino explained everything to us and it was legit! We all had our hands on each other as the monk said a prayer for each of the fighters, Trev and even Nate and Harry! He blessed out mongkon's and wrote some spells on it with a sweet gold pen. We also each received a bracelet that is blessed and he put one on each of us. Janice and I bought some prayer beads for good luck and I picked out a beautiful amulet of Buddha that I will get a chain for in Bangkok. It was a great experience and I couldn't have had better company. 

Penasonic .JPG

Janice and I also had to go by a blender so we could make our Bulletproof coffees. We exploded her Magic Bullet in Thailand (as I didn't use a convertor) so we went searching for the deal of the day. We found an amazing Team Smandych coloured Penasonic (is that even a brand??) blender for a good price and we were back in business. Bulletproof Coffee was a large part of both our diets leading up to the tournament so we could not do without them!

The outdoor dojo

The outdoor dojo

Pool time for Nate and Harry while Janice heads to train!

Pool time for Nate and Harry while Janice heads to train!

We had a nice hot and light training session in the afternoon in our beautiful outdoor dojo,  some pool time and then headed to the venue for the opening ceremonies. At this point we were certain I was not fighting as I had 7 people in my division and there were brackets of 24 in other divisions. The ceremonies were disorganized and longer than planned....we patiently waited while all the other countries left (Canada is too polite to do that). My teammate Sean McKinnon was the flag bearer so that was pretty cool!

Opening Ceremonies

Opening Ceremonies

There was a dinner provided by the tournament for all the countries at a cool beach location so we all loaded up in buses and headed over there. As soon as we were on the bus I started thinking that there is no way that they can feed this many people....and when we arrived I proved to be right. NO FOOD and 100's of hungry athletes. The caterers were trying to stretch the food by putting out doughnuts ripped in 1/4  and thats when I lost it and said we should leave to find a restaurant...which turned into a food court...which was also full of hungry athletes.

SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO hungry and hot

SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO hungry and hot

Needless to say it was a very long, very uneventful dinner that left us all exhausted. We got back late that night.....around midnight. I had a sneaking suspicion that I might have to fight the next day so I held off water and snacks and headed to bed. Sure enough, I put my head down and there is a knock at the door at 1 am and its Trevor telling me I am fighting tomorrow. Fuck. Out of bed and into the bath I go to start my cut. 

I didn't sleep too well that night because I was up late cutting and then I had to wake up early to finish the cut and weigh in before 7-9am. The cut went great, I weighed in at 66.8kg and then headed to breakfast to refuel and then had an epic nap.

I was really nervous about fighting but I do a good job of keeping a good game face. Kru Rhino and Trevor know what to say to me to keep me calm, cool and collected so I listened to them and that helped a ton. Once I got rubbed down and warmed up I felt ready to go. Raven feather in my mongkon, a prayer with Rhino and it was time to go!

Once I stepped into the ring and the music began (from a live band I might add) I felt great and ready. I sealed the ring and thought of my coaches, training partners, teachers, family and friends...and of course my golden buddha and raven!

 

Fight started and this girl was BIG! Like my height big. We played the range game for the first round. I did a great job of making her miss and answering, but I had trouble getting her in a good position in the clinch because she kept putting herself in an awkward position. I felt good at the end of the round....which was nice because this is was the first time that I have ever fought 3 min rounds. Round 2 I wasn't answering back as much. I was out of range and didn't take any damage but she was defiantly the aggressor so I had to come out stronger in the third. I kept the pressure on and did a better job of scoring my point but it was a close 3rd round. She was tough and did not give up. I am happy I got the win and will learn from my mistakes moving forward. 

I am not too banged up.My shin is a little mangled but I brought my Traumeel, voodoo floss and ice so Ill be good to go by my next fight against Australia on May 6th!!! BDAY FIGHT. All I want for my bday is a WIN to get into the finals :) And maybe some cake at dinner that night.

Just chilling today and then heading to the venue to watch my team mates. Thanks for all of the support everyone.  Ill let you know how things go tomorrow!

Thailand and Malaysia so far

So far the trip been amazing. We started things off with 4 days in Bangkok and in about 6 hours I fell madly in love with this place. The food, the people and then fight life are amazing and something that I am so fortunate to get to experience because of the support of people like you.  

We trained for 4 days in Bangkok at Varipol Gym. The days start off with a morning run around Lumpini park, which I guess is usually beautiful, but there is some political unrest in Thailand right now so the park was the center of the protests. We "falang" aka foreigners were safe to run there during the day but were told to stay away in the evenings. It felt eerie at times to be in there but most of the time we felt very safe and welcome. 

After morning run is breakfast at the hotel and then a foot massage. The first day we were there I had the worst massage ever....I think the girl hated me or something because she rubbed her knuckles on the bony outside of my foot for about thirty minutes straight. I thought she was going to rub my skin off. Everyone thought it was hilarious as they all enjoyed their nice massages....not a great first experience but I didn't let that keep me down. On the third day we where here I actually got a foot massage from a male massage therapist named Joss. He is one of the guys that massages the Nak Muay aka "Muay Thai Fighter" at Lumpini stadium. He was insanely good and then session was more like a treatment for an athlete than a massage. I felt very lucky to have him work on me.

Next was a nap and then lunch. Everything there was delicious. We ate in the streets and we at in restaurants and I never had a bad meal. I had a few ridiculously hot meals that left me burping chilies for a few hours but it was worth it...kind of.

Varipol Gym before training

Varipol Gym before training

Kru Rhino, our Thai trainer, set us up at Varipol gym in Bangkok. It was about a 20 min walk from our hotel so we would pack up our gear and walk through the heart of Bangkok. SOOOOOO awesome. Just like my sister Leah described to me when she was in China, walking through the streets of Bangkok is a flurry of activity and alternating horrible and delicious smells....as well as shops of every kind along the way. We would arrive at the gym at 3pm and then train until about 5pm. IT.WAS.SO.HOT. The first day I thought I was going to die.

Hot Janice and Sean

Hot Janice and Sean

You kinda got used to it by Day 2 an then Day 3 it was hotter AND it was the hardest workout I have ever done. I am grateful to my coach Trevor for making me train in my sauna suit under the heater at Stenia because it did help to prepare me for the insanity.

On the last day of training we learned the Wai Khru, and traditional dance that we perform before each fight to honor our ancestors and teachers, our family and our country. It also protects us from spells and bad black magic and allows us to spread our  magic in the ring. This was an amazing part of the trip for me as I got to stand alongside Kru Rhino and have him teach and explain everything. If I practice enough Ill do my first one in the tournament but I am still a bit rusty so it might have to wait for Canada.

Post training we would refuel for dinner and then either hit some shops or head for another massage. The massages in the evening were longer....usually 90min of Thai Oil or Tiger Balm to help us recover better. It was a great way to wind down before we sleep too.

On the last night in Bangkok we went to Lumpini Stadium to watch live fights and it was insane. The fights were amazing....the crowd was insane....and I was in heaven. The best fight of the night was at 113lbs Lumpini Champion vs the Channel 7 Champion. The guys went so hard and the fight was amazing with the Lumpini Champion taking the win! It is hard to believe how hard these guys hit. The look like giants in the ring.

Being a Nak Muay here is an experience. People yell and cheer for you in the streets. They size you up, touch your muscles and let you know that they thing you are strong. The first day I was here I got told I was strong and had a beautiful body twice...it hard not to fall in love with that. You train, eat, sleep, get massages and explore Bangkok. It really is a wonderful life.

We left for Langkawi, Malaysia on April 30th. On the way to the airport I saw dozens of these beautiful gold Thai statues of a woman with wings and lions feet. I asked Kru what they were and he told me that I saw Buddah. I described the statues** to him in the detail I saw and he got goosebumps and said that I will win the championship for sure. He told me to pray to her when I do the Wai Khru and she will protect me. It was a really special moment for me and I will defiantly pray to her before my fights.

What is interesting is that after this post, I did some internet searching and found this picture of the Buddist Goddess Kinnara. It  is the picture I found that best represents what I say. Kinnara is a "paradigmatic lover, a celestial musician, half human and half horse (India) or half-bird (south-east Asia)".In Southeast Asian mythology, Kinnaris are half swan and half woman. She is known for her beautiful  dance, song and poetry. She is seen as a symbol of feminine beauty, grace and accomplishment.**

We are everlasting lover and beloved. We never separate. We are eternally husband and wife; never do we become mother and father. No offspring is seen in our lap. We are lover and beloved ever-embracing. In between us we do not permit any third creature demanding affection. Our life is a life of perpetual pleasure.[1]

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinnara

 

 

Fight vs Rhapsody Johnson

Fight vs. Rhapsody Johnson - March 23, 2014 - WKA North American Championship Tournament - Richmond, Virginia

 

I WAS WRONG! The worst was not over. Less than 45 minutes after fight my fight against Katrina I was called to fight again. I did not think it was possible to get called into the ring without being told I was on deck but it happened again. Hilarious. At least for this fight we were prepared for the possibility of having to fight with no warm up. So I stayed warm and in my gear and when it happened again we just rolled up and got in the ring. 

Rhapsody was bigger than Katrina so the game plan was the same. Stay on the outside and if she rushes in, clinch up and stay on the inside. No middle ground where her size could hurt me. It worked and after 3 hard rounds I took the decision win and won the tournament belt. It was nice to get in the ring a few times before taking off for the World Championships. 

As soon as I finished fighting (which was at like, 11:30 pm), Wade picked us up and took us back to hotel. We had to get a picture with him before heading out to grab some food. 

We took off early the next morning and were all hurting. The disorganization, travel, cut and fighting two times in two hours did a big number on me. I was a total grump on the way home until we got on the plane and the Captain happened to be hilarious. Janice (one of my teammates) and I convinced him to let us up into the cockpit and I somehow I ended up trying on his sick Captains Jacket. It was a nice end to a very long trip. 

Fight vs Katarina Coombs

Fight vs Katarina Coombs March 23rd, 2014, WKA North American Tournament, Richmond, Virginia

I had just been named to represent Canada at 67kg (147.7lbs) at 2014 IFMA World Championships in Langkawi, Malaysia before this tournament. I had never fought this weight before so I wanted to test it out before the World Championships so I registered, and weighed in for the WKA tournament at 147.  It was the fist time for me making this weight and I did it using a good combination of diet and hot baths. I ended up cutting way too much as a result of...what is the nice way to say this..."organizational difficulties" from the tournament. The line up for weigh ins took 4+ hours and we were waiting outside. I LOST MY MIND and was laying on the concrete in every piece of clothes I brought looking at the stars contemplating the meaning of life. When I stepped on the scale I was 145. A whole 2 pounds under what I needed to be.

After all of that, there was no one else registered in my weight class....and nobody in the two weight classes above me.  It was looking like I had cut weight and travelled all the way down there for no reason. Trevor told the tournament organizers that I would fight the next two biggest girls that were there, (I believe at this point I said I would fight the janitor if I had to. ) After some negotiating they set up a bracket with Katrina Combs at 165lbs and Rhapsody Johnson at 165+. 

This tournament was a gong show. The bout numbers will jumping all over the place so you couldn't plan when you were actually fighting, they were super behind getting the fights going and it was general chaos. I was all wrapped up just chilling with my headphones on waiting to find out when I would get rubbed down and warmed up when the announcer announced my fight in ring #3. Trevor and I were both like "EFF" and ran to get ready.  I got geared up and Trevor hid me in a corner so I could warm up. I had no idea the announcer was yelling for me multiple times and threatening that I would forfeit if I didn't show up. Trevor made sure I was warm and ready and had me completely fooled. It wasn't until after the fight that I realized what he had done!

The fight was fun. She was much heavier than me so I kept to the outside as much as I could, and when she swarmed, I clinched up and did not let go. She didn’t seem to know what to do with me in the clinch so I just held on and kneed, kneed, kneed.  I landed my first teep to the face in this fight (which I love!) so I was jazzed about that. Our cab driver for the weekend, Wade, also stopped by to watch this fight. You can hear him in the video yelling "right hand Kelsey, right hand!". 

I did a few things well and a few things not so well and left this fight with a new appreciation for creating space to properly land knees.  I won the fight by unanimous decision and moved onto the tournament final. Despite a crazy weight cut and then a crazy first fight, I was confident that the worst was over.

Fight vs Erica Mancosa

Fight vs. Erica Mancosa - June 30, 2013 TBA North American Classic Tournament Des Moines, Iowa

 

This fight was for the B class tournament final at the TBA North American Classic. I was so nervous before this fight that while I was sitting waiting to go into the ring, I was getting hit by crazy waves of nausea. I was combatting this my taking sips of water to hold back the vomit. Before I realized it, I had drank 2 bottles of water and had to pee so bad. But I didn't have time because it was time to fight. I remember standing in the corner looking across at Erica. She was smashing her gloves together, nodding her head and looking at me like she was going to kill me. I almost barfed.

The fight started and I teeped, faked the teep and landed a right cross. It got me close enough to get into the clinch and then I started kneeing. I dropped her once with a knee and got the count. Trev yelled to do it again so I did, dropped her again and then they called the fight. It was my first TKO and I was so jazzed.  I won the tournament title and a sweet shiny belt!


Fight vs Mikyla Sakurai

Fight vs. Mikyla Sakurai - June 29th, 2013 Des Moines, Iowa

 

This was my first fight in a tournament style AND in full rules Muay Thai. I had experience with tournaments when I competed in wrestling but that was ages ago so I was nervous. Like really really nervous…. I scoured the room during weigh ins looking for girls that I thought were my size and just ended up terrifying myself. Of course everyone I thought I would fight, I didn’t. This tournament was also right after the 2013 flood in Calgary that sunk the Team Smandych gym. We were not sure that Kru Trevor was going to be able to come and coach but at the last minute he decided to come. I was thrilled  and extra motivated to take home the title for him.


I had been working on staying outside, or moving inside to the clinch in the camp leading up to this fight….trying to spend less time in “la-la land”…..the dangerous space where you are sitting the pocket.  I was able to do this well in the fight and ended up spending a bunch of time in the clinch. My position was not optimal for landing strong knees and my timing was off but I managed to get the win…and I also landed my first few elbows in this fight. 


Fight vs Jamie Droeske 2.0

Fight vs. Jamie Droeske 2.0, May 18, 2013, Fists of Fury Medicine Hat, AB

The rematch! Jamie wanted to fight me again, this time under her preferred rule set Kickboxing. It was harder training for this fight because I had never exclusively trained kickboxing before, and I like the clinch so taking that out limits my tools. 

In addition, the weigh ins were the same day as the fight, and we were meeting at 150lbs. I changed my nutrition substantially leading up to this fight to ensure I was 150lbs upon waking so I wouldn’t have to cut weight and fight on the same day. Mentally I felt very strong, I suspect because I had already fought her so I knew what to expect (or at least I thought I did).

The fight was tougher than the first time we met. We both went super hard in the opening minute and after the first round Kru Trevor had to remind me to stay calm, use my range and throw my cut kick….hard. So that is what I did in round 2 and 3. I won by unanimous decision and actually, during a few moments of the fight, felt the first inklings of having fun in a fight.

Fight vs Nichole Glazik

Fight vs. Nichole Glazik - March 2, 2013  Journey Fight Series, Calgary, AB

Nichole was not my original opponent for this fight and stepped up to fight me when one of her teammates had to pull out. She was much smaller than me and had a hard time with my range in this fight. I did not feel awesome leading up to this fight. I was exceptionally tired from training and work and just did not have the same energy that I usually do. I did not feel “on”.

I was quite a bit taller than Nichole and knew if I could stay on the outside I should be able to fight my fight. I was able to get into the clinch and spent quite a bit of time there in the first round, although I wasn't making space for my knees as I should have. The second and third I used my range and stayed to the outside throwing a lot of teeps...probably too many

The positive things I took away from this fight was learning to compete even if I didn’t feel 100% and this was the first fight that I  was really be able to hear my corner. I tried hard to end the fight by KO but it didn’t happen so I took the win by unanimous decision. I was super grateful for Nichole coming all the way up her to compete with me. 

This fight was right after the announcement was made the Wrestling was on the chopping block from the Olympic Games. I trained and competed in Freestyle Wrestling for the University of Calgary Dinos while in University so the news hit home. There was a large social media movement #saveolympicwrestling that I just had to be a part of so I had it silk screened on my fight bra to show my support. 

Kelsey Andries © 2016