28 Feb 2013

Muay Thai training in low light: double challenge

Two weeks ago, while I was walking in the park near Ramkhamhaeng University (covered in this post) I met a very friendly Thai guy named Bun. He was one of the numerous people jogging in the red lanes, tireless lap after lap, but he happened to make a short break to regain some breath next to where I was sitting, and conversation started just like that. He is, as I guessed, a student from the near university, coming all the way from the South of Thailand to study law at the capital. Happy to practice his English with a westerner, he said he loved jogging in this new park every evening he had free time, as his room was in the vicinity, but he confessed to me that he had another favorite sport that he loved to practice every time he had the chance to. Guess which one?

GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm
The sufferer, GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm

GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm
Warriors, GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm

Muay Thai is Thailand's national sport and, even though it is quite present in TV and around the city, I never really paid much attention to it. Until today, that is. This morning I received a call from Bun inviting me to join him and his friends in the evening to practice Muay Thai at the gym of the university. I asked him if I could bring along my camera and he had no objections, so I prepared my bag and went to the gym after my last class, as we had agreed. The sports hall is near my faculty, but, even so, it was hard to find the exact spot, as the boxing ground happened to be a spacious, isolated area above the big, noisy basketball court. Located in a false second floor, immediately below the roof, there was none else in there except Bun. And then me.

GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm
Bun warming up I, GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm

GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm
Bun warming up II, GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm

He was already warming up when I arrived. And then, without giving me a minute to unpack my camera and get ready to take some stills of the dim, interesting setting, I realized he was expecting me to sit down on the floor, and start working my muscles out, just like he was doing. After a few seconds of shock, I burst out laughing: I hadn't imagined that I was supposed to practice Muay Thai myself, nor I was wearing appropriate clothes, but, nevertheless, he was really eager to show me some moves, and I just thought it could be fun, so finally I tried. Fortunately, there are no pictures whatsoever of my miserable attempts! After a few efforts, I asked for a bit of rest, and then I grabbed my camera and started firing at him as he continued his training.

GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm
Ready, GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm

GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm
Power kick, GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm

GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm
Back kick, GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm

Evening was fast approaching and the gym was getting darker by the minute; the only source of light was a round window in one of the walls, so I turned around Bun and decided to try some silhouettes of him against the bright window. I hadn't tried this before, therefore it was a test for me, so while he continued hitting and kicking the punch bag relentlessly, I crouched down and shot.

GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm
Silhouette I, GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm

GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm
Silhouette II, GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm

After punching non stop for well above half an hour, Bun decided to call it a day, so he sat down in the floor and started stretching his muscles. He is a formidable athlete, and I couldn't help but continue taking more pics of his every imposible posture. At this point I wished I could use a wider lens, as I was shooting with my Olympus 45mm (90mm equivalent in FF terms) and I didn't have space enough to step back and cover his whole body while fully stretched; but the ambient was very dim and that is my fastest lens, so I sacrificed a bit of field of view instead. He didn't feel bothered at all by the camera, and he just continued his routines, very concentrated, from horizontal to vertical through a few intermediate steps.

GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm
Step 1, GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm

GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm
Step 2, GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm

GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm
Step 3, GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm

GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm
Step 4, GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm

And just when he was almost done and ready to go out to get a well deserved dinner, his friends, the ones that were supposed to be there from the beginning, arrived. So Bun, obviously, stood up in a second, and welcomed his friends, ready for the second round. For the next half an hour, he practiced again with a girl colleague, but he was obviously getting exhausted and, not long after that, he decided to quit, at last.

GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm
Motion and calm I, GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm

GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm
Motion and calm II, GH3 + Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm

It has been a truly interesting experience for me, so I wanna thank Bun for his patience, understanding and tolerance with me and my camera. I will try my best to be a better contender next time!

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