Erik Miskle: Muay Thai Fever

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International Kickboxer Magazine, Sept/Oct 2014

Erik Miskle was in danger of entering a safe, conservative lifestyle when he was saved from it by a brush with Muay Thai fever.

“After working hard and saving up money to build a house,” he says, “I put an offer in on a block of land. I got mucked about and missed out. At twenty-three, I quickly realized that I was about to tie myself down to an average Joe lifestyle of working to pay off a house.”

The security of home ownership, once it became a reality, also showed Erik that other aspirations would have to be sacrificed. He responded by immersing himself in the Muay Thai lifestyle.

“I had recently won a couple of interclub competitions and was feeling the Muay Thai fever, so I scrapped the building plans and booked flights to Thailand.” The Patong Boxing Gym was his first port of call.

“I showed up on the doorstep of the Patong Boxing Gym with nothing to lose.” He may have felt he had ‘nothing to lose’, but the first thing to go were his illusions.

“Training twice a day was a massive shock,” says Erik. “All I did was train, eat, and sleep. If it wasn’t for that spontaneous decision to travel to Thailand and immerse myself in the sport, I doubt I would have achieved as much as I have so far.”

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Thailand has been good to Erik, rewarding his dedication and persistence with opportunities that should encourage any aspiring fighter.

“Training and fighting in Thailand made me love the sport even more!” he says. “The atmosphere of the streaming-hot stadiums, packed full of people yelling and gambling on the fights is a rite-of-passage for everyone serious about Muay Thai.”

Erik can also claim the unusual experience of having his first fight in Thailand.

“My first proper unpadded fight was in Thailand,” he says. “I had trained hard and my trainers had confidence in me, which meant I had confidence in myself. [When] I went into the ring [I was] nervous but composed; I gave it all I had and got the win. I think that most of all, I wanted to impress my trainers with good technique!”

After a series of strong performances, Erik found himself a fixture on one of the most distinguished events on Thailand’s Muay Thai roster: The King’s Birthday Celebrations.

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“I got home after a hard day working construction and checked my messages. One of them was from my friend at the Patong Boxing Gym. He asked if I’d be interested in competing at the King of Thailand’s birthday celebrations.” Erik was swift to seize the opportunity.

“As if that’s even a question!”

Shortly after, he was back on a plane.

“I headed over and stayed for about four months this time. I trained very hard and had a couple of warm up fights [first]. I fought a more experienced Brazilian fighter named Manoel Dias Moeira Jnr. He was on a six-fight winning streak in Bangkok’s stadiums.”

After a hard contest, Erik succeeded in coming away with the win.

“I managed to beat him on points and establish myself as a serious contender [in the process]. It was an incredible experience and still the highlight of my career!”

Erik also faced his toughest opponent in Thailand.

“Kampaan Santaweesook. It was a MASSIVE step up for me!” he says. “I’d only had about twenty fights from memory and he’d knocked out about eighty-odd opponents in the first round alone!” Not to be deterred, Erik had faith in his trainers and his preparation and took on the challenge.

“We went the distance and he took the win on points, but what I took away from the fight was invaluable. I gained a new-found confidence in my ability.”

Travel has remained high on Erik’s agenda, the added bonus of seizing his Muay Thai dreams.

“The year before I fought at the King’s Birthday, I travelled around South East Asia for a few months with my partner, Nicole. I visited a few gyms and got in some really good training at places such as the K1 Fitness and Fight Factory in Vietnam and at the Cambodian Olympic Stadium Gym (which doubles as some sort of military base), with legendary brothers Eh and Ot Phuthong.”

In addition, Erik immersed himself in the Burmese version of Muay Thai, Lethwei. While very similar in style, Lethwei also allows the use of head-butts.

“I started training at the Yangon YMCA [in Burma]. I also trained at the Myanmar Ministry of Sport alongside some of the nation’s champions.” It sounds a little different to the set-up at the Australian Institute of Sport.

“They were some of the harshest training conditions I had ever seen,” says Erik. “The floors were rough concrete; paint tins were filled with cement and used as weights and there were goats and chickens running around.”

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As is so often the case, the tougher the training, the tougher the fighters. “In what most people would view as rough training conditions, some of the toughest fighters I have ever met [were produced]!”

The political situation deteriorated before Erik had the opportunity to test his skills in the ring, however.

“We were there in 2010, right when the uprising in Egypt was taking place and things were getting tense. As the situation deteriorated [in Egypt], revolutionary fever started to take hold in other parts of the world.”

Evidence of this was visible by a heightened military presence around town.

“We started to notice an increase in military in the streets, sporting some pretty serious weaponry. There was an uneasy feeling in the air and we decided it was best to leave.”

Erik’s sights are now set on climbing the international ladder, a goal that is becoming increasingly attainable since he began working at Geelong’s Elite Training Centre.

“I was working in construction as a mobile plant operator and labourer. It was very physically demanding and sometimes impacted on my ability to train. [Now], working at the Elite Training Centre in Geelong is my day job. I take Muay Thai classes and personal training sessions there with a range of clients. It’s a very rewarding job that provides me with the opportunity to train twice a day.”

The offer was so good, Erik was willing to make the daily commute to Geelong from metropolitan Melbourne.

“I love living in Melbourne and can’t see myself moving from here for a very long time yet.”

Erik’s experience in Muay Thai has given him a solid basis for his career as a personal trainer.

“A lot of my clients are looking to lose weight and build lean muscle,” he says. “After years of research into various training and nutrition methods – which I have usually tested on myself – along with the ability to cut large amounts of weight for fights, I’ve developed methods of training that yield outstanding results.”

As with the best trainers, Erik considers experience to be the most important qualification of all.

“Rather than just telling them to do something, I explain why it’s necessary so that it makes sense and they remember.”

These values are consistent, whether he is training someone whose goal is to drop five kilograms, or someone who wants to step into the ring and fight.

“For my fighters, I place a large emphasis on both technique and fitness. You can have the best technique in the world, but if you aren’t fit enough to carry it to the last bell, then it’s useless.”

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