Going back to when I started traveling I never thought I would be doing any sort of martial arts. I thought I would travel the world, see the sights and meet people both locals and other travelers alike. I’ve done all that and a simple remark from a new friend changed everything.
That would not have happened if I wasn’t open to the possibility, if a conversation hadn’t made me change my plans because in Taiwan I wanted to train and I did with my friend Mike. There was the hunger, the need and want to push myself physically in a way I didn’t think was possible.
I thought I was going back to Thailand for a month or two and then move on. Instead I blinked and I had been there a year and a half and since leaving Pai, Maehongson, Thailand I have missed training, kicking the bag, doing pads and sparring in ways I never thought would be possible.
My first month I felt so insecure, I felt like Charn Chai Muay Thai was not for me, that I didn’t belong training among everyone else at the gym. I remember seeing the fighters train and I just thought I can’t do that, that isn’t me. I felt like why am I doing muay thai, what in me needs to kick the bag.
That first few weeks of muay thai was just me putting my head down and going for it, of never saying never and even though I know I looked like a fool that I was not going to give in or give up because I had done that too many times already. I wanted to get the most out of my time doing muay thai and it took me a lot longer than it did a lot of people to get comfortable with what that meant.
I have known failure intimately but for which success is a rarefied air never breathed and that thought it one that I have had to banish many times but always returns in force. When you first start training since its something new you can feel the progress as you are get stronger, being able to go a little farther each time.
Then you hit the wall and I feel like I slammed into one and it took me a long time to get out of it. Since I was there for a long time once I hit a certain point it was hard to feel like I was getting any better. It wasn’t until I had a fight in front of me that I really went at it and did the runs and the steps and more and more.
I needed a goal, a focus to get up and run, train and spar. I know that in whatever I do I will not wait for someone to give me a mission I will find my own be it to write better, to run faster or maybe something as simple as talking to “that” girl.
I am a diabetic with bad eye sight, a smashed digit (finger) how could I ever amount to much in a world where you are picking, punching and taking it to get to the other side of the crucible. I wanted to fight around the beginning of 2016, I thought I could do it, I had developed enough skill but I really didn’t believe and it would take nearly a year or more of just training every day, consistently before I would ultimately get into the muay thai ring.
I guess you can say consistency is my super power, I only missed a few sessions in that year and a half. I got up and did it every day if I was able and that has taught me so much about not limiting what I think I can do and believing it is possible and before I got in the ring I had already won for me, because it was proof that I could conquer the fear even if it was just for a few moments.
I was scared, how could you not be of the pain, of disappointing everyone who has helped to get you there and of proving to yourself that you can’t. It was when my friend who I met in Pai who was an animal on the bag, had more passion for the sport than anyone in the gym and who was lightening fast with every punch left that I knew I had to do it.
What happened is I got serious, I started doing the runs in September in the midst of getting hurt, getting pink eye and fighting in the town I come to consider my home away from home. There were several others from the gym fighting that cool October night.
A french guy, an American, some of the Thai fighters and Bee’s son. In the weeks leading to that first fight I doubted I could match their intensity. They more or less trained together while I was just doing my normal routine, running anywhere from 6 to 10 km every morning and doing at least 4 or 5 rounds of pads.
I saw all the guys preparing for the fights training together but I wouldn’t couldn’t join them because I wasn’t one of them, I was not their equal, in my mind I was a pretender, I was someone you would say good luck to as they say to each other hopefully he doesn’t get too hurt.
The American guy always looked so intense, the french fighter had a few fights under his belt already and was former military and then there was me. I randomly showed up and just keep going. I will always remember that first fight, I had to watch everyone else go before I did.
I was the last fight of the night and I let go of a need or a want of having to win and instead focused on the fact just being there to fight in Pai where I had lived, trained, explored, partied at and ran was an honour. I owed my opponent my very best effort, to be worthy of all their training and my own I gave it everything I had, I could do no less than that.
You stop training a few days before the fight, to rest your body in preparation for the oncoming pain that’s just part of the sport. While all the other fighters knew what they had to do I felt like I had to will myself to get there. I’ve always been more the loner and this continued to be the case up to this first fight.
I had to fight myself as much as my opponent, I had to quiet the doubts and fears and just be in the moment. This wouldn’t always be the case in other fights to come on this night it was. The only thought on my mind when it was my turn in the ring is that I hope I can put on a good show for those that bothered to stay to watch it.
I’ve written about this fight before on Medium but having distance from muay thai in general has given me time to appreciate what it meant to me personally. It was a release from my self hate even if it was just for a little while. It’s funny I’ve never been an athlete and it’s just not in my nature but doing muay thai day-in-and-day-out for a year and a half was a fundamental shift for me.
It allowed me to gain a physical confidence that I didn’t think was possible and I want, no need to continue to train not to fight specifically but so that I can continue to improve. To be unpredictable, to have no fear and to be willing to go the distance not just in the ring but in life as well, that’s the lesson I will carry with me from my time at Charn Chai Muay Thai.
It was proof that even though I started doing muay thai from nothing that I could get into the ring. I may have needed more time to get there both physically but more mentally but I got their of my own accord with the support of everyone at the gym and at home even if I didn’t realize it at the time.
What I’ll remember most about that night was being told that I had heart, that meant a lot to me in more ways than I will ever voice. I didn’t have the best technique or the most power but I hope that if I get into the ring again I will have the heart to keep on going even when my says to stop.
I told myself before the fight that if I was asked to fight again, the only answer I would give is a yes. I ended up fighting 4 times in as many months and on balance I won two and lost two so I have to go back and win my next fight. There is no other option but that and I don’t do it to fight but to go to limits of what I can endure and see how much farther I can get.
You can’t rely on anyone else when you are there in the ring and if I can do it I think anyone can. I was never a fighter but I want to get back into the ring at some point. There is something about training and preparing for a fight, of being able to give and take, to counter and get into that is thrilling. I want to make sure that I go into the ring with everything I am, I promise myself that the only outcome of my next fight will at weight to my win column.