It was sept 2003, a few months from graduating high school. I was going to community college full-time, working tech support for an ISP company part time.
I got my first full-time job May of 2004. I worked for EMC, E-merchant club, a subdivision of SMC, specialty merchandise corporation. I did over the phone technical support and customer service for members who owned online ecommerce websites that they would drop-ship merchandise from china. Not quite a pyramid scheme, but did have seedy elements of deception and exploitation of the ignorant and uninformed.
This was my introduction to the Corporate world and Corporate culture.
The idea was to save money to pay for college while I pursued my psychology degree. I was still attending Los Angeles Community College in the evenings while working during the day. For just being 18 years old, the pay was great. My cohorts were 10 years the elder, some even 20.
I was the only ‘teen’ employed there and with that came the dangers of disposable income. I didn’t have much expenses then, so with the amount of money I was making with the hours I was putting in, life wasn’t too shabby.
At the time, the only working out I did was the random gym trip to the local Ballys in my neighborhood. Obviously, like the many that attend these public gyms, I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. The random machine here, the random bench press there. Sometimes I would do squats on the smith machine, and regretfully so, the next day would be pretty painful.
I wasn’t much of an athlete as a child, nor in my adolescents. I skateboarded for the longest but at the time it wasn’t seen as some sort of athletic endeavor as it is now.
I remember my 10th grade P.E. teacher, Mr. Mochizuki had a nickname for me. ‘Olive Oil’. I was a mere 100 lbs and could barely do a push up. Never mind having to actually run, forget it!
I found Physical Education miserable.
The tipping point for me perhaps was Mid Summer of 2004. I looked at myself in the mirror. Disgusting. I had ballooned to over 150 pounds. I was skinny fat. Little tiny stick legs with a belly pouring over my jeans. My face breaking out in acne. I hated myself and the way I looked. The months of eating fast food and sugary treats from the vending machine had taken it’s toll.
My downtime at work was spent looking up fights, fighters, events. Learning everything I could about all the different martial arts out there.
Along this time, the LA harcore scene was reaching an all time high in violence. You couldn’t go to a show without feeling insecure. One wrong move in the pit and you could find yourself in a brawl. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time could have gotten you in severe trouble. Just seeing the amount of violence and anger was so off putting, but I loved the music, the shows and the friends I had made.
Between this feeling of vulnerability, a poor self image and lack of confidence, I decided I finally had to do something. Do I want to wrestle? Bjj was an option. Do I want to learn self defense? There was the super exotic Krav Maga, martial arts for the Israeli Defense Force. Do I want to kickbox? There’s a local muay thai school near me. Two in fact.
Ok, ok. Let’s do some research. They all had some valid points of interest. Ultimately what it came down to was ‘Which one was the toughest’. That’s what I wanted to be. Tough. What more can be tougher then two dudes going shin to shin with each other?
In the past few years I had always driven past the local muay thai gym along the way to Frys where I would buy my computer parts. On the corner of Vanowen and Vineland, I was always curious but never had the interest in going inside until I decided to make my change.
First time I went in must’ve been on a Saturday afternoon. No one was there, and I remember it being really old looking with a very distinct smell. I see a flier, a schedule and pricing information printed on a 8×11 orange sheet of paper.
I take it home and read over it. Letter by letter, inch by inch. I think it was at the time $99 a month, or 500 dollars cash for 6 months prepaid. Without even coming in to try a class out I decided to pre pay 6 months of membership. I figured this would keep me coming in to avoid wasting money, along with saving me an extra 100 dollars! What a deal haha.
I think it was August 27th 2004, Mid week maybe? I drove from chatsworth where EMC was located to North Hollywood, where The Muay Thai gym was located. Muay Thai Academy, USA. My alma matter. A shriveled old thai man greets me. Kru Puk. I ask him if I could join and wanted to prepay 6 months in advance. He gives me a smile from ear to ear and has me come into my office. I fill out a waiver and he tells me I have to buy muay thai shorts and t-shirt as a school uniform. Ok, I give him an extra 50 dollars and he hands me a pair of big ass muay thai shorts, a big ass muay thai t-shirt and points me to the dressing room.
I get dressed and hang out by the waiting area. It was about 7:30 so the womens class was going on. Not alotta action. Class started at 8 so I just eagerly waited around, wringing my hands in anticipation of the uncertainty.
In fact, I don’t remember much of my first class. I think it was taught by Kru Santi, or maybe Malaipet but it’s all a blur. I do remember it just being extremely hard and I was sore beyond belief. Til this day, I have never been as sore as I was after my first muay thai class.
There was rounds of skipping rope, jumping on tires with hand weights, learning how to punch, learning how to kick. I didn’t get briefed on pad holding but from day one we were expected to hold pads. I’m sure those motherfuckers went flying to my face. Sparring? What’s that. Just grab a pair of grungy cloth shin pads and put them on. Mouth piece? Cup? Nah- you don’t need any of that. I’m sure I got blasted.
I drug myself out of there after the class. The next day I could barely move. Every entire muscle on my body hurt. Off to the cubicle farm and a much needed day off. I’ll go back the next day…