Kelsey Andries

Muay Thai World Champion

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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. 

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 :)

Kelsey Andries © 2016