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THE last time Colin Robb raised a fist in anger was in Primary Seven. So he remains unsure why he signed on at the world’s toughest martial arts camp in Thailand during a round-the-world trip of a lifetime.

The 31-year-old, of Uddingston, Lanarkshire, travelled to Koh Tao to learn from the best trainers in the sport at the island’s famous Muay-Thai gym.

Here, Colin – a manager with Scottish Gas – details his gruelling days being taught the Art of Eight Limbs, so-called because fighters can use fists, feet, elbows and knees in a flurry of blows.


I arrive after a two-hour ferry journey to be met by the owner Darius.

He takes me to a one-room bungalow on stilts – my new home.

The gym is open-air except for the corrugated iron roof over the ring. I’m told training will begin in a few hours.

Bang, my trainer, is not much taller than me, except for his calves which are the same size as my thighs.

I get to choose my shorts and I’m told most people pick their country’s colours and have a nickname written on them.

I go for blue and white with the name BOAB, which pals have called me since school. The Thais seem to find it funny. I start to worry that it’s Thai for “punch the white guy”.

Bang leads me to the training area and tells me to skip. I haven’t done this since school – 10 seconds in and the sweat is running down my face. After 30 seconds, which feels like 10 minutes in this heat and humidity, my legs feel like lead and I whip myself across the shins with the rope.

At least the pain distracts from my heavy legs. “Skip,” Bang shouts again.


The sweat starts straight away as the humidity is even worse than yesterday.

We go over what I learned yesterday. Some of it seems to have sunk in – doing the same thing over and over does that.

Today we’re working on elbowing and kneeing. My left wrist is starting to feel sore already. There is also a local fighter training and the speed he moves at is incredible. You hear the thud of the pads but his hands and legs are a blur.

To add to my raw feet and shins, I now have red elbows from hitting the pads.


During the pad work with Bang, the blister on my foot bursts but Bang flings me what looks like masking tape and shows me how to tape it up. Amazingly, it works and feels better.

I start working on blocking moves. First time round I get it wrong and get kicked on the upper arm.

After a few rounds working the bag, I show Bang my knuckles that are scraped and slightly bleeding.

“It nothing,” he says, laughing and pulling the loose skin off.


Having a kick-boxer swing at you fairly gets rid of the cobwebs. I dodge back from a couple of kicks and Bang shows me why you don’t do that by slapping me on the head with the pads. I’m saved by the alarm ending the round. It’s starting to become my favourite sound.


New day, new pain. I start skipping and, as I notice my calves don’t hurt any more, I realise my back does.

One of the other trainers sits me down and teaches how to strap up my hands. I ask about the training of the real fighters at the camp. They sleep next to the ring and eat at the ring. The speed at which they move is frightening and even Bang is on his heels when they land a combo of kicks and punches.


I must be insane or stupid as I decide to go to training on my day off. I get a packet of Ibuprofen. Hopefully it will get me through the next 90 minutes.

When I get to the club, there is an eerie silence as it turns out everyone is sitting watching Filipino champ Manny Pacquiao on TV. I hope to get tips.

I’m amazed I’m starting to put some moves together without thinking. Bang points to his teeth and says: “Remember gum shield tomorrow. You spar.”

I must be doing okay to be allowed to spar in the ring. The only problem is, I don’t have a gum shield.

When I tell Bang, he smiles. I’m hoping he’s smiling because he has some in the gym and not because I won’t have my front teeth by tomorrow night.


I do a couple of sessions on the bag with one of the trainers. As I’m trying to get my breath back, I hear Bang shouting: “You…ring”.

As I put my gloves back on, I glance up to see one of the fighters stepping into the ring.

My sweat suddenly feels a lot colder. He has been training for 20 years and this is what he does for a living. Even the punch bags are scared of him.

We touch gloves and he shows me what to do. I’m relieved to see that we’ll be going pretty slowly as we don’t have head or body guards.

Asking how I should block the punches is nearly comical if it wasn’t for the fact that I’ve been hit on the head about five times. I have a gum shield in, which means I dribble when I speak, and the fighter I’m sparring with only knows three words of English – punch, kick and block. The alarm goes – I survived.


I start off on the cross trainer. I go to put my gloves on but I’m told to leave them off. Turns out I’m grappling today – going head-to-head with another fighter. I have no pads and no gloves. This is tough. I get dragged about the ring with my head getting pushed down so my chin is touching my chest. I can’t even push my head up, never mind get balanced enough to land a knee.

I’m saved by the bell. I realise how much I need to learn and how easily I could get hurt.


Once I’ve warmed up, I’m told not to bother with the gloves or pads as I’ll be sparring, kicks only.

Then all of a sudden, I get kicked on the side of my thigh. Smack, smack, smack…my thighs are taking a pounding and I’m on the verge of having two dead legs. I decide it is time to get some hits in of my own. In hindsight, not my best idea.

As I lift my leg to kick, the trainer knocks me off my feet. I fall but at least he has the decency to catch me, even if it is only so he can kick me some more.

As I drag my aching legs back onto the mat for round two, the trainer puts in some obvious kicks to allow me to practise blocking. I land a couple, too, but maybe these were pity shots. My new bruises make me look like my legs have a sun tan.


I swing a kick and can barely get my foot above my waist. My back feels like it’s being kicked every time I twist. I spend the next few rounds working on the bag which, with a sprained wrist, means I’m taking more of a pounding than the bag.

Bang shouts over and takes my gloves off, puts me in a full Nelson-like position, then lifts me up with a knee in my back. A few cracking noises later and my back feels looser. No more fighting for me today as I spend the next 20 minutes stretching.


The last day. I turn up for my session and it’s the fastest of them all. Ninety minutes fly past.

I take time getting my things together and have a final look round the ring that has given me bruises, cuts and a sore back. I’m nowhere near a fighter but I’m pretty sure I could beat the Primary 7 me now.

I’ve still got front teeth and a great pair of shorts. I say my goodbyes and hope to see them again next year. As I jump back on my scooter, I hear the thud of the bags as the fighters go back to training.