Going To Thailand To Train Muay Thai For A Month

Ever since I was a kid I dreamed of becoming a karate master. One of my favorite movies growing up was the “Karate Kid” and I used to watch that film over and over and over again.

Unfortunately I grew up and no part of that dream came true. No karate tournaments, no wild motorbike chases, no awesome death touch. Well, now I will make at least a small part of that dream a reality.

Yes, at times I did train and tae kwon do and did get some colored belts, but at no time was I serious. Now I will change that.

I booked a flight to Thailand for a month and will do intensive training at one of the muay thai camps in the country. I am a complete beginner in the fighting art, but hopefully after a month of intense effort, I will learn at least the basics.

I was planning to do this for a long time now, but kept postponing it. I am not getting younger though and so finally I said “fuck it” and booked the trip.
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The Real Gladiator Workout: Train Like A Gladiator

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The Ancient Roman gladiators were some lean, mean killing machines. Fighting was their way of life, the very essence of their being. This gave them an unwavering strength and a tremendous drive and determination. Their courage was legendary. If a gladiator wanted to be the champion, he could not let his focus waver. A single mistake, a slip up, a short lapse in his attention or a bit weaker stamina could end it all for him. His very life depended on being in peak physical condition and the master of his weapons.

Gladiators needed to be driven, not only to become the best they could be, but also to always be better than their opponent. For them, being second best could often mean only one thing: death.

Unfortunately only very few fragments describing their training survive, so it is very hard to reconstruct their training regimen. There was also never just one specific way of training gladiators. Gladiator training varied across time and geographic location. The type of training they received, as well as their diets, also often depended on how rich the owners of their schools were.

The richest and most prestigious schools could employ the very best trainers and physicians and also provide the highest quality food, while the poorer schools, especially in the outlying provinces often suffered from a lack of resources.

This article will focus on the ancient gladiator training techniques and what we can determine about them from the ancient sources. If you are looking for a modern “gladiator” inspired workout, then click here.

Sport specific training
The most important training for any gladiator was the training done with the specific weapons that he would use in the arena. If he wanted to win in a fight, he needed to be extremely proficient in their use.

The main weapons used by the gladiators included different types of swords, knives, shields and special weapons such as the trident for the retiarius, or a spear for some other types of gladiators.

In practice, the gladiators utilized wooden replicas of these weapons. Much of the training was spent sparring with these wooden weapons against other gladiators. Part of the time, wooden weapons that were heavier than the ones the gladiators wielded in actual combat were used. The idea of training with heavier weapons was that once they got used to fighting with these, it was much easier to fight with normal weapons.

During sparring, gladiators were taught the proper way of using the sword. They were taught not to slash at the opponent, but instead to stab him. This was considered the most efficient way of killing the opponent or causing him the most harm.

One of the most important exercises was called the “post” exercise. This was done using wooden weapons of normal or larger size against a large pole stuck in the ground. The exercise was described by Vegetius, a writer from the period of the Late Antiquity, in his book called “De Re Military“:

They gave their recruits round bucklers woven with willows, twice as heavy as those used on real service, and wooden swords double the weight of the common ones. They exercised them with these at the post both morning and afternoon.

The gladiators also spent considerable time practicing fighting without weapons. Things like wrestling were a very important part of training for any gladiator. Not only did they need to be skilled in the use of the sword, but they also needed to be good at hand to hand fighting.

Some descriptions of ancient hand-to-hand fighting survive. For example boxing, wrestling and an ancient version of MMA called pankration were official sports in the Ancient Olympics.

We do not know how the actual gladiator training without weapons proceeded, but it probably involved a lot of drilling of different moves and resembled the instructions for wrestling moves found in one 2nd century AD Greek papyrus or the even more ancient scenes from Ancient Egyptian wall paintings.

General training for physical condition
The historical record for what type of physical training the gladiators did is very patchy. There undoubtedly were a lot of manuals produced during Roman times, however very few survived to the present. So unfortunately we cannot produce a full “real” gladiator workout, but we can only surmise at the types of exercises they did from some of the writings that do survive.

The trainers of Roman gladiators did realize that fight specific training is not enough in order to build the ultimate fighting and killing machine. They knew that in order to develop strength, speed and stamina, the gladiators would need to do a variety of generic exercises in order to do that. Many of these were based on what was developed by the Ancient Greeks.

Different ludi (gladiator schools) organized their training regimens differently, however at the time of the Roman Empire, the most popular organization of training was based on the “tetrad” system developed by the Ancient Greeks. This divided training into 4-day cycles:

  • Day 1 – day of preparation, which consisted of toning and short, high intensity workouts
  • Day 2 – day of high intensity, which consisted of long, strenuous exercise
  • Day 3 – day of rest (short, very light workouts were also done, but it was mostly about resting)
  • Day 4 – day of medium intensity

In his work “Concerning Gymnastics” (one of the earliest surviving works on sports science), Philostratus, a Greek philosopher who lived during the time of the Roman Empire, described the tetrad system like this:

By the tetrad system we mean a cycle of four days, each one of which is devoted to a different activity. The first day prepares the athlete; the second is an all-out trial; the third is relaxation; and the fourth is a medium-hard workout. Regarding exercise of the first day, it is made up of short, intense movements which stir up the athlete and prepare him for the hard workout to follow on the next day. This strenuous day is an all-out test of his potential. The third day employs his energy in a moderate way, while on the day of the medium workout or last day, the athlete himself practices breaking holds and preventing his opponent from breaking away.

Once this cycle was over after Day 4, a new cycle of the tetrad would begin.
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Who Were The Roman Gladiators?

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It’s a hot day. Two men are waiting at the gates of the arena dressed in battle gear, ready for their fight to start. Sweat is flowing down their cheeks and their breathing is becoming heavy. This might be their last day alive.

Yet these men are professionals. Training has prepared them for this day and they know what needs to be done. They stand proud and determined, wiping all doubts from their mind and instead refocusing their thoughts on the task ahead.

Each one has the same thought flowing through his mind. No, this will not be his last day. He will go on to score a huge victory and be celebrated by the crowds, going on to become a real sports superstar. Each one of them knows that they are the best, yet there can be only one winner. One of these will leave the arena a victor, while the other one will be the defeated…

Each one of them will do everything in his power in order to remain the one standing up, to be the victor. There is no other way. They are Roman gladiators and that is their way of life.

Gladiatorial fights were all the rage in Ancient Rome. They were the equivalent of today’s Super Bowl in magnitude and popularity, with one huge exception: some of the contestants would probably not make it through the day alive.

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Ancient Rome was a martial culture and any type of sport where the contestants aren’t risking their lives was a pussy sport. That’s why athletics, which were very popular in the Ancient Greek city states, never became very popular in Rome. The Ancient Romans thought athletics were not something real men should compete in, because there was no risk in them. They might use similar methods of training originally developed for athletics to train, but athletics were for the pussies, real men wanted to see sweat and blood and feel death knocking at the door.

Many gladiators started off as lowly slaves, purchased on the market or captured in war, but went on to rise to become veritable superstars with fans cheering their name and women throwing themselves at them. They went on to enjoy lavish lifestyles just like the sports superstars of today.

However for the majority of gladiators this was not the case. Many of them died during their fight in the arena or suffered crippling injuries and lived out the rest of their lives as cripples. Gladiatorial fights were high risk, high reward contests.

Reflections on the role and popularity of gladiatorial fights in Roman society

Gladiatorial fights were the epitomy of Ancient Roman society. They demonstrated the ideal values that were held dear: valor, strength, bravery, cunning, discipline and above all risk. These were the individual traits valued in what was a very martial society. Rome was built by war and martial values were what was supposed to define Roman society.

The gladiatorial games exploded in popularity, when Rome had grown very far beyond its original borders. The very dominance of Rome in the ancient world at that time was the instigator for the growth in popularity of gladiators. Originally Rome was a small city-state and all male citizens were required to protect it. So in times of need basically all males had to go on military duty. During these times, most male Roman citizens experienced combat first hand.

However as Rome grew and conquered lands far and wide, less and less of its inhabitants directly participated in war. The empire of Rome also brought in more and more new subjects and these needed to be exposed to Roman culture and in that way “romanized”.

It is at exactly this time, when we see the importance and popularity of gladiatorial games grow and expand into all parts of the lands that Rome brought under its control. The games were sports, spectator sports, but they served not only as entertainment, very bloody entertainment, but as a way to remind the masses of their martial spirit and the original values of Rome.
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Everybody Wants To Be A Ninja

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Seriously, who hasn’t thought about becoming a ninja? That is something that every kid dreams about! 🙂 As kids we have a very vivid and wild imagination and there are a lot of things that fascinate us. I remember that as a kid, I loved to listen to my grandfather’s stories of times long gone and especially his war stories. I also watched many movies and when I learned to read, I also read a lot of things. Somehow I learned about ninjas. Whether it was through my fascination with the movie “Karate Kid”, or through watching the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or just trading stories as kids, the subject of ninjas grabbed my attention very early on.

These ancient Japanese warriors could use their hands and other parts of their bodies to defeat much larger and stronger opponents and use their tricks to do all kinds of cool things. They could climb walls, throw shurikens (metal stars), create different potions and disappear in clouds of smoke. I was not the only kid that had this fascination and the ninja sparked the imagination of many a kid. We all wanted to be ninjas, playing games where we pretended to be powerful ninja warriors or spies on a mission. Whether the image of the ninja that we have is accurate or not, it is a powerful image and one that still fascinates me to this day.

The theme of ninjas was reflected in many different things during the 1990s. There were movies, cartoons, books, video games and martial arts classes. For example, characters based on ninjas played main roles in such popular cultural phenomenon as Mortal Kombat (mostly video games, but also movies), the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (where the word ninja was even in the name), even G.I. Joe (cartoons, action figures), where several of the characters strongly resemble ninjas.

These characters then sparked our wonder in the real ninjas that they were based on. With ninjas, it is hard to separate fact from fiction. Much of what we hear about ninjas is based on legends passed down from generation to generation. Some of the images of the ninja are, on the other hand, based on modern myths invented only recently. Even the term “ninja” is of more recent origin, as older texts usually refer to shinobi. However all these myths and legends are based on real events and real people.
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Yoga for Weight Gain (or Weight Loss) and a Generally Healthy Lifestyle

Practicing yoga can lead to many benefits for your life. You become calmer and your body becomes stronger. Practicing yoga can help you achieve your goals, whether it is weight gain or weight loss. In fact, yoga can do both at the same time. While this is a bit of a paradoxical statement, but through the practice of yoga, you strengthen your body and lose fat. Muscles do weight a lot, so you get bigger muscles (and weight), but fat is lost and so for example you will look slimmer at the waist. Of course, in order to achieve the best results, practicing yoga needs to be combined with other activities and a good diet. Here are some yoga poses that can help you gain weight (or lose weight) and give you a general healthy functioning of the body:
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The Health Benefits of Tai Chi

I have always been interested in martial arts and also Chinese history. An interesting concept here is the concept of chi, which is supposed to be an energy force in the body according to tradional Chinese thought. Out of these traditional Chinese thoughts arose such things as tai chi, which is practiced by millions of people not only in Chinese and it apparently gives its practitioners a big boost to their health. Here is a video video discussing the health benefits of tai chi, a traditional Chinese exercise and internal martial art:

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