Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Blame Anderson Silva

By Dave Sholler

I place all the blame on UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva.

He is the reason why my legs have trembled when I’ve attempted to get out of my chair at work and why I’ve eased gingerly down the stairs of my Jersey Shore home for the past few weeks like a man destined for nursing care. You see, my recent diagnosis of Jell-O legs – a syndrome affecting the strength in the legs of boxers and MMA fighters who have been rocked by an opponent – is largely due to the fact that I’ve begun training in Muay Thai kickboxing.

After seeing Silva’s mastery of the ancient Thailand fighting style in his recent UFC bouts, I decided last month that I should give it a try at the local LA Boxing facility in my area. I figured that since I have been boxing and weight training since high school, the transition to Muay Thai would give me a better understanding of the style so often employed by today’s top MMA fighters. In my early twenties and in what I consider to be great shape, the training couldn’t be that difficult, right?

Boy was that a miscalculation. Training under South Jersey Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu guru Jose Tabora, the past few weeks have been as physically grueling as any training I’ve ever done, not to mention the fact that it’s been a mental butt whooping. I learned quickly that training in the craft that Silva has mastered drains you like an old-fashioned guillotine choke.

In my first weeks of class, I have learned to rotate my hips in Silly-Putty directions and throw kicks, punches, and knee and elbow strikes using my entire body. In addition, my cardiovascular conditioning and psychological will power have been tested like never before.

During one particular class, we threw non-stop combinations for what felt like an eternity. First it was jab, jab, hook, and kick. Then it was two jabs, a low hook, a high hook, and a knee strike. Here it was still relatively early into our one-hour class and sweat soaked my UFC muscle T-Shirt, pouring from my hairline like blood from a wounded fighter.

I still felt like I had a lot in the tank though. At the beginning of several subsequent three-minute stanzas dedicated to furious striking, I still felt good and was firing like UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Chuck Liddell. Soon, though, I began to fade. By the time final ten-second warning fired, I was throwing punches like Grandma Liddell.

Despite fading late in that drill, the night was still young. Instead of sipping water at the end of the aforementioned three-minute, all-out drills, we instantly broke out into a cardiovascular-infused segment of knee lifts and jumping jacks. About 20 knee lifts in, I felt as if my legs had become two giant Sumo wrestlers, each working with gravity to pull my lower extremities to the depths of Hell. Ten knee lifts later, we broke into 20 wide-legged jumping jack/squat combos, each of which felt like I had six foot, eight inch UFC big man Tim Sylvia strapped to my back.

After a much-needed 90-second hydration break, the onslaught continued. Alongside ten other Muay Thai aficionados, we broke out into the MMA version of suicide runs designed to improve flexibility and in-ring evasiveness. As we lunged from one side of the floor to the next, I could feel the intense pressure on my Achilles’ tendons and ankles through my fancy Nike Impax shoes. Meanwhile, the faces around me got paler and paler.

“Who’s gonna throw up,” Tabora barked in playful mockery as he completed the drills with us. “Because I’m sick with this.”

More like sick in the head. Down on the floor in the guard position, we followed suicides with enough crunches and abdominal exercises to make you consider suicide. One hundred or so repetitions in, I could see each classmate was beginning to feel as if they had taken a shot to the midsection from MMA stud Mirko Cro Cop. Regardless, Tabora reminded us of how important the core is to effective Muay Thai kickboxing. So we crunched on. And on. And on.

One thousand, five hundred and six crunches later, we were almost finished. Following the hour or so of Muay Thai boot camp, Jose led us through an intense cool down session that involved crazy body contortions, gluteus maximus raises, and breathing exercises. As we mellowed out and internally reflected on our Thai adventure, I couldn’t help but to crack a huge smile. This feeling of physical and emotional depletion enthralled me. Oddly, it made me thirsty for more. I’d run mile after mile on treadmills and done a million chest presses and squats in gyms before, always enjoying a good burn. But never in my life have I enjoyed a beating as much as I’ve enjoyed the one I received from my venture into the world of Muay Thai training.

As I write this piece for enthusiasts of combat sports, the pain from class still lingers. My hamstrings are tight like a newly strung guitar and my knuckles raw like a slab of fresh beef. Even as I waddle down the halls of my office in agony and sit down like I’ve got hemorrhoids, I can’t help but to admit that I love the sense of accomplishment it has given me.

And I have Anderson Silva to blame.

Dave Sholler is a freelance writer whose work has been featured in a variety of publications, including The Press of Atlantic City. Sholler can be heard weekdays on ESPN Radio 1450 AM in Atlantic City.


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