Kelsey Andries

Muay Thai World Champion

Filtering by Tag: Calgary

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. 
 

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 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.

Fight vs Allene Chernick

Fight #1 vs Allene Chernick - June 9, 2102 Journey Fight Series,  Calgary, AB

 

OMG. My first fight. I don’t think I have been more nervous in my life. I remember weighing in for this event. I was supposed to be 165lbs (which was my walking weight at the time) so I wouldn’t’t have to cut for my first fight. I was so nervous leading up to it I weighed in at 156lbs!

The fight was for the CMTC-A B Class 165lb title. I am not sure it is normal to fight for a Canadian Title your first fight. Allene was a big tough girl from Saskatchewan. I only did two things in this fight that I can remember. 1) I teeped her so many times that all my toes were messed up, bruised and mangled for months after, and 2) I instituted the highly technical “hockey style” right crosses to her face….grabbing her head with my left hand and straight up hockey punching. Technical brilliance.

I also remember some guy in the crowd yelling “kick her in the head” and I was like...”do you have any idea how tired I am?”.I would not describe the experience as fun. The fight ended and my legs gave out. I mustered enough energy to stand for the decision and then I almost fell out of the ring. I got to the back room, sat there exhausted, and said to my coach “I don’t want to do that again”

Kelsey Andries © 2016