Kelsey Andries

Muay Thai World Champion

Filtering by Tag: nak muay

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 :)

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

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 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 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]




Kelsey Andries © 2016