At the end of March, Coach Chris Tramell traveled to Beijing, China, for a week to represent the United States in a sanda match against one of China’s top government sponsored fighters. Sanda, or free fighting, is one of China’s most popular martial arts. Compared to the Muay Thai that Chris teaches and practices at Easton Training Center, sanda incorporates elements of kung fu and wrestling with elements of Western boxing. In sanda competitors are allowed to use throws as well as punches and kicks.
Chris’ fight was organized by Coach Yi-Yuan Lee. Coach Lee hails from Taiwan, and is currently an instructor at United Martial Arts in Texas. Coach Lee had previously taken his team to train with Chris while Chris was teaching in Amarillo, and Chris jumped at the chance to go with him to China. They traveled with one other coach, and seven other American fighters, staying at an on-campus hotel at Beijing Sport University (BSU), which boasts China’s premier sports training facilities. The majority of students at BSU are athletes, and the remainder study sports management, medicine, physiology, and other related fields.
The fight took place in the BSU Gymnasium. It was televised on China’s major sports network, and was viewed by millions of people. Chris’ opponent is well known in the Chinese martial arts community for his speed and hand work. He is sometimes described as China’s Mike Tyson because of the level of fame and success he has attained in his career.
Though Chris went into the fight feeling calm and collected, his opponent had a great deal of power and speed, and the fight ended in the second round. Looking back on the fight, Chris was pleased with his clinches and kicks, and thinks he would have been better served by playing to his own strengths. “I think I made a tactical mistake by trying to stand and brawl with him, trying to counter his aggression with aggression. I have good footwork, and if I were to do it again, I would choose to move around more, and create more angles and confusion.”
Even though the fight didn’t go his way, Chris had a great time in Beijing. He has always been fascinated by China’s history and culture, and over the course of his visit, he was able to see a number of historical sites and their group enjoyed some delicious meals.
One of the highlights for Chris was an impromptu game of American football with Beijing Sport University’s club team. The team had just received their first set of pads and helmets, and as the American fighters passed by the field, the football players invited them to suit up for a game.
Traveling to Beijing to fight has re-invigorated Chris’ competitive drive. He is excited about fighting professionally in a way that he has not been for some time. Realizing that kickboxing and Muay Thai can still provide him with opportunities to travel the globe and compete against world class athletes has made him even more committed to improving his striking game. He feels more invested in reaching his peak level of performance, and has been training harder since returning. After facing the number-one fighter in a country of billions on national TV, Chris has no fear. When asked about his fighting philosophy, Chris said, “If you fight with a free spirit, you’ll win more than you lose.” He is currently looking for another professional fight in Colorado, and is looking forward to competing stateside again.