Jack Roberts, right, had his first Muay Thai fight in Thailand.
An enormous hematoma on the left thigh, two black eyes and a broken nose sums up Jack Roberts’ first Muay Thai fight in Thailand.
“It was a huge accomplishment because I was able to hold my own for five grueling rounds,” said the San Mateo native.
Roberts, 25, never practiced martial arts as a child, but he always wanted to immerse himself in the sport. He got his first exposure into contact sport in high school when he joined the Serra Padres’ wrestling team.
“Having gone through that workout kind of mentally prepared me for Muay Thai training,” Roberts said.
The Padre alumni first got into Muay Thai as a sophomore at Chico State University after watching Ong-Bak, a Thai film, with his roommates. Muay Thai jumped out at him as an extreme martial arts he wanted to pursue.
“I saw the film with my roommates and literally the next day we were all in the gym doing Muay Thai,” Roberts said, laughing as he realized he was the only one who stuck with the sport.
According to Roberts, Muay Thai is a type of martial arts from Thailand that incorporates kicks, punches, knees and elbow attacks in a ring with gloves similar to those used in boxing. It requires good physical preparation through mental and physical discipline, which Roberts has spent years mastering.
He first got his training under the tutelage of Cedric Schwyzer and Jason Pietz at StandAlone Mixed Martial Arts Academy in Chico. It wasn’t all fun and games at first.
“I remember the first few times I was puking and questioning whether I wanted to keep doing this,” Roberts said. A Muay Thai stance requires the left foot forward as a shield leg and the right leg back to have protection from leg kicks. Unfortunately for Roberts, a natural right foot, adjusting to the workout was the hardest thing. But he kept going every single day, he said, because he had the right amount of dedication to commit.
The body takes an enormous amount of unwarranted punishment. Roberts has a bad habit of not arranging his kicks, which causes his toes and knees to crack all the time.
“I’m always icing myself down by taking ice baths,” Roberts said with a grimace on his face.
He decided that he needed to change his training to take the next step in the art of Muay Thai, so he investigated all the forums and websites trying to decide where he wanted to train. He chose Sinbi Muay Thai Training Camp in Phuket, Thailand. To make his dream a reality, Roberts sold his Pontiac Firebird.
“It was well worth it, because I had the best time of my life,” Roberts said.
In the summer of 2012 Roberts embarked on a trip to Thailand. He was there for two months training. His training session consisted of six two-a-days a week. The first session started at 7 a.m.
“I got up at 6 a.m. and ran for six miles before I started my session,” Roberts said.
The first session consisted of five rounds of hitting the punching bags, shadowboxing with heavy pads and five rounds of sparring.
“I then eat and sleep until 3 p.m., because it starts all over again,” Roberts said.
The second session was structured the same with the exception of clinch sparring. According to Roberts, clinch sparring is when a fighter grabs the opponent around the head and pulls them in with their knees. Each fighter takes turns clinching.
Roberts noted that there isn’t enough focus on clinch sparring in the states like in Thailand. In Thailand, there is a full half hour dedicated to clinch sparring, but Roberts feels it is the most excruciating exercise.
After two months of training, Roberts finally got his first Muay Thai fight. His opponent had already 60 fights under his belt, but Roberts was ready to face his challenger head-on. Roberts was eager to fight, and the days leading up to the fight were nerve-racking.
“The night before, I could barely sleep constantly playing this fight in my head,” Roberts said.
The fight went well for the first-timer, as he wasn’t knocked out.
“I tried to knock the guy out by hitting him so hard that it felt like his skull bounced off my glove, but he still stood up,” Roberts said.
When he was not training at Sinbi, Roberts was enjoying the beauty of Thailand and its people.
“What stood out about Thailand was just how nice everyone is,” Roberts said.
Everyone he met was generous and eager to help him out, he said, and he enjoyed the cuisine.
It was easy for him to make friends with the other fighters at the training camp since they were all there for the same reason: Muay Thai. He hopes to return soon for a six-month session.
When he returned to the states, StandAlone offered him a Muay Thai instructor position.
“I came back a different fighter with different training methods,” Roberts said, adding those weren’t previously offered at StandAlone.
He teaches about 20 people six days a week and finds the experience rewarding. When he notices students use techniques he just taught, it enhances the experience for him.
“All the trainers took me under their wing and now I can help people on their path to learn Muay Thai,” Robert said. “I want to keep teaching and competing as long as I can.”