The staff at Charn Chai have become like family. They are cheeky, funny and caring. As a super language nerd, I love noticing the way they use English and to hear their accents, sentences and different levels of understanding. Having now spent a few weeks at the gym it’s lovely to have a rapport with them and understand their language and personalities.
The first few days of training was confusing, until I mastered the Thai accents of the trainers. Now, in pad work I can comprehend words like ‘switch’, ‘grab and throw’ and sometimes translate ‘left knee’ to ‘right knee’ so that I’m usually doing what they want me to. I’m also learning a (very little) bit of their language – e.g. I know that when Bee yells ‘Leo! Leo!’ he’s telling us to hurry up/do it faster and ‘boom-boom’ means they’re talking about sex AGAIN.
I’ve been trying to teach them the pronunciation of ‘Sasha’. Tree calls me ‘Sencha’ and Turbo calls me ‘Tar-cha’. Tree also sometimes calls me ‘Saenchai’ which is the name of one of the best Thai fighters at the moment – quite the compliment! Ae calls me ‘ladyman’ (as distinct from ladyboy, which he reserves for the guys) and Bee usually just calls out ‘you! Skipping!’ to tell me to go and skip when I’m standing around feeling tired and sore.
Bee is the founder of the gym and an ex-Muay Thai champion. He speaks English best of all the trainers as he’s travelled a lot in Australia and Holland – he helped establish the Parramatta Bulldog Gym. He’s rarely seen without his training prop, which is a thin piece of cane that he uses to hit us with – on the calves, thighs, arms, butt – when we’re slacking off, not doing something correctly or even as encouragement. It’s always a relief when he hits you then yells ‘Ahh! Good!’. After three weeks I still despise this cane, it can be really painful, especially when Bee’s in a bad mood!
Tree is the dancer. He’s short and bulky but when you punch him in the stomach (as he once asked me to do) it’s all muscle under there and your fist bounces right off. He loves to dance around on his toes with his arms in the air in the middle of our circle when we’re doing ab work. That’s when he’s not hitting us with the cane of course (he’s picked up Bee’s habit). He’s also the resident mosquito killer. If there’s a few mozzies around he’ll use the switch to smack them as they land on our legs. He once walked right up to me and slapped me on the forehead while we were doing sit-ups because there was a mozzie on my head. Common phrases include: ‘Not cry!’ when he hits you or you look exhausted, and ‘Champion! Australia v Thailand! Thailand winner!’ when he puts you on the floor in the ring during pad work or clinching.
Turbo is all muscle and goofy grin. He’s got a tooth missing from a past fight and is pretty quiet because his English isn’t as strong – quite funny to hear him say things like ‘have good nice day’ to everyone at the end of class. He’s also the flirt and keeps us entertained every Saturday night with his lady dramas. He’s always upsetting someone – usually his girlfriend.
Charlie is the youngest trainer, he has just had his 26th birthday. He’s quiet but cheeky, always sneaking up behind you and pinching the back of your legs. I’m often paired with him for pad work which is good because he gives you a hard workout every time – lots of sequences of 10 kicks or 30 punches for example.
Ae is Bee’s older brother and is a sweetheart. He’s married and his wife and daughter are usually around the gym. I can’t tell you how cute his daughter, Daan, is – she’s about two years old and has made all of us independent women feel very clucky. Her nickname is ‘Orang Utan’ because she’s such a little monkey. Charlie has a soft spot for her and likes to lift her up about two metres high and leave her clinging to a pole. She’s constantly being photographed and we all swear she could be a baby model.
There will be tears when I leave Pai!