My tuk-tuk driver is talking again to the other drivers to the side of the road. This is the second time we’ve been up and down this street, where my phone is beeping the address of the gym should be.
Luckily for me, my driver is doing me a solid and is trying to ask the other local drivers if they know of any nearby gyms. I’m not picking up any of the Cambodian, but getting all of the body language ‘fighting gestures’ they are making :-)
We speed off again, find a side street, and we have arrived – Angkor Fight Club, Siem Reap
I had received a really nice response to my enquiry of a drop in from Nick at Angkor Fight Club, a few days earlier:
Hey craig good to hear from you. We have our MMA class tonight – monday at 730pm. (also Wednesday 730) It is mostly grappling and you are more than welcome to join. Please take as many photos and videos as you would like. MMA class is after our beginners kickboxing class. Beginners kickboxing is usually our biggest class and MMA is our smallest. So if you want some pics of the gym busy you might want to come a bit earlier. Of course you are welcome to join both classes is you want. Beginners kickboxing is every weekday at 6pm. We hope this helps and we look forward to seeing you in the gym. Thank you for your interest.
I arrive at the gym and am introduced to Fraser, a coach and partner at Angkor Fight Club who was just finishing up teaching the kickboxing class.
“Hey man, welcome down!”, Fraser greets me and shakes my hand, “Nick told me you were coming down tonight. unfortunately he couldn’t make it. We’ve just finished the Kickboxing class”, he nods over to the mat where around 15 people were sitting, “I need to go and finish up the cool down. The changing rooms are through there so will catch you in a bit”.
I get changed, take a brief wander around the gym and a few snaps before finding a mat to stretch out on.
The gym was really nice, spacious, and well equipped. A full-sized, boxing ring, sets of heavy bags and speed bags, matted areas, and the essential MMA equipment of battle ropes, hammers and tyres!
As I’m stretching out, Zach, a member at the gym comes over and introduces himself.
“Hi, I’m Zach!”, he tells me, “You’re the guy travelling around, right?”
“Yeah, that’s me”, I smile.
“We’re just finishing up”, he reiterates pointing to the group and starting to wander back over, “We’ll start in a couple of minutes”.
“Cool, see you in a bit”
“You’re a black belt, right?”, Zach says as he’s wandering back
‘Er….what?!!’ I’m thinking……“No, I’m a white belt!”, I say
“Oh! Ok cool, you’re mainly an MMA guy then?”, Zach says more of a statement then a question as he’s already almost fully wandered back to the cool down group.
“No, a BJJ guy…….wait!”, I start to get up, confused but he’s already back in the group.
Think is where I realise that there has been a slight breakdown in communication somewhere. I came down for a drop in session, and these guys thought I had come down to teach the session!
“Right guys!” Zach addresses the group of 7 students who are here for the MMA class as I make my way to the mat. “Let me introduce you to Craig. He’s been travelling around and training in different gyms on his travels, and he’s come here today to teach us a few things.” Everyone says hello and I try not to look like a rabbit caught in headlights. “Craig….over to you.”
Seven faces turn to me…………..I gulp.
Fortunately some of my old work skills just kicked in……I have had a bit of experience in consulting, presenting……and dealing with a few unexpected situations in the past putting you on the spot. And in this case, honesty was definitely going to be the best policy!
“Well, thanks for having me down guys, but I think there is has been a slight mix up. I’ve only been practising BJJ for a couple of years, and wasn’t expecting to teach tonight, just take part in the class!”
Fraser clicks immediately and helps me out. “No problem, our regular instructor is ill currently and everyone here is at beginner level. If you’d just like to show a favorite technique or something you have been taught along your travels, that’s good with us.”
If someone had asked me for a bet, that before I took my first flight out of Manchester that in six months you’re going to be teaching an MMA class in Cambodia I would have seriously lost a lot of money!
Doing my best impressions of Liam and Martyn, my original coaches/teachers from my old gym in Manchester I take the class. Warmups, and then a couple of techniques, step by step. Armbar from guard and a mount escape. It was a really fun experience and something I’d definitely be interested to pursue in the future….when I feel I’ve acquired enough skill to do it justice! :-)
The whole situation was also totally made easier by the class being made up of a really nice and friendly group of people!
Thanks guys for having me take part, and for having a story to tell going forward! :-)