Kelsey Andries

Muay Thai World Champion

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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.

IMG_9534.JPG

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

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 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? 

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 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. 

Fight vs Jamie Droeske

Fight vs Jamie Droeske - September 8, 2012 - Journey Fight Series, Calgary, AB

Shortly after my first fight the “I don’t want to do that again” faded and I was ready and excited for another fight. My coach set me up with Jamie, a much more experienced fights. She had a several fights and I have only fought once. Trevor said I could beat her and I believed it. I had to clear this fight with my husband because the fight was set on our wedding anniversary! 

 

The fight started slow but once we engaged Jamie pushed forward. She was aggressive and did not stop moving forward regardless of happened in the fight. She had experience on me and I had strength on her. She came from a gym that trains more Kickboxing than Muay Thai so I made sure to use the clinch as much as I could because I suspected she would not be comfortable there. I won the fight by unanimous decision.

Kelsey Andries © 2016