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The Lowest Point in My Muay Thai Journey

September 2, 2011

Muay Thai Skipping

I’ve been unable to train in almost a week because of injury and illness. This has given me plenty of time to muse over my current situation. I’m facing some uncomfortable realities. I feel less ready to fight than I did two months ago – even then the challenge felt out of my league. I also realise that much of the fun has gone out of this Muay Thai journey. It is now fear of failure that is keeping me going more than anything else.

Giving Up or Facing Reality

I feel trapped between two opposing ideas. On one hand I always knew that this was going to be a challenge. I strongly believe that facing hurdles is what makes me strong and avoiding them is what makes me weak. Stepping into a ring to fight Muay Thai is probably the scariest challenge I could have set myself – that is what makes it so appealing. My own vanity means that I can envision that such an achievement will inspire other people. I look forward to boasting about how I went from useless drunk to a Muay Thai fighter.

The reality is that I do not feel ready to fight; even less so now that I’ve had a week off sick. My ribs are once again knackered so this means that I will be unable to train at full throttle. I have a book to write so I really need to fight within the next couple of months. I just cannot imagine how I will be ready in time.

Muay Thai fights are a serious business and people can and do get hurt. Mostly it is just cuts and bruises but stepping into a ring unprepared could mean more significant damage. I’ve no real worries about the pain, but the possible consequences do bother me because I have a family to support. If I needed to pay for hospital treatments, or if I need to take a few days off work, it would hit me hard financially. Do I have any right to take such a risk if I do not even feel ready to fight?

I’m Not a Fighter

This journey started because I love martial arts – that hasn’t changed at all. I gave up training during my teens so that I could devote my life more to alcohol. It was a decision that I deeply regretted afterwards. It took me almost a quarter of a century to put things right. I now feel that I’m back on my martial arts path, and I’ve no intention of leaving it.

I’m attracted to these combat systems as an art and not so much as a means to fight people. I just do not have the same killer instinct that a lot of fighters seem to have. From the beginning this has been about challenging me and not about challenging somebody else. It is all about mastering techniques and pushing my body as hard as I can. I do appreciate fighting a lot more now, but I still do not feel fully mentally on board with it. To be honest, it sometimes feels like I’m pretending to be something I’m not. Maybe in the future I will develop more of a fighter’s mind, but I do not have it now.

So What Now?

I believe people when they say that in order to fully appreciate Muay Thai you have to step into the ring. That is why this fight seems so important to me now. I might not ever fight again, but at least I will have experienced it one time. There is also the book to think about; a fight is the most obvious thing to hold it together. I am left with the following choices:

– Train on with the aim of getting a fight in the next couple of months. Maybe I’ll feel more positive once I’m back training hard
– Refuse to fight until I feel ready – will I ever feel ready?
– See if I can get an amateur fight (this was suggested by somebody over at the MuayThailand Forum). This is what happens in western countries, but in Thailand they prefer to throw people in at the deep end. An amateur fight would be slightly less of a challenge. The problem might be finding one.
– Focus on traditional Muay Thai where the emphasis is on the art rather than the sport. This is a path I do want to take, but I’d hoped to have at least one fight first of all.
I honestly have no idea about the best path to take here. I’ve spent considerable time mulling over each one.

Any suggestions?


No Muay Thai Training So Far This Week

August 31, 2011

I haven’t been to Muay Thai training at all this week, and I’ve also missed out on my morning runs too. This is because I’ve been hit with a double whammy of misfortune. Not only are my ribs still sore from the last training session (see here), but I’m also suffering from a bout of food poisoning.

Warning – You Might Want to Avoid Reading Further if You Have a Squeamish Disposition

Sore ribs and food poisoning really are a terrible combination. The nausea began on Monday night. I’m convinced that this was due to a packet of dodgy tasting nuts I ate just before going to bed. I woke up a couple of hours later wanting to vomit but unable to. The problem is that retching causes agonizing pain in my ribs. This prevented any attempt to clear out my stomach contents.

I’ve spent the last couple of days feeling nauseous and unable to eat. I know that I’d feel better if I could vomit, but the rib pain means that this is out of the question. It also means that I’m unable to exercise. I suppose the good news is that my lack of activity this time should not lead to any weight gain.

I do feel a little better this afternoon so hopefully this means that I’m on the mend. I’ll try eating something a bit later. If you can possible avoid bruised ribs combined with food poisoning I’d highly recommend you do that.

Busted Ribs from Muay Thai Clinching – Again

August 27, 2011

In this video I discuss how my ribs have once again been damaged while training Muay Thai. Forgive me if I sound a bit negative in this episode

If you want to listen to the audio version of this episode just click here for the podcast.

Little Cuts can be So Annoying in Muay Thai

August 25, 2011

One thing that I’ve noticed with Muay Thai training is that little cuts can be a huge pain. This is particularly true of cuts on the hands and feet. These parts of the body are being used all the time in training so it slows down healing. It also means that tiny wounds can worsen and become infected.

A couple of weeks ago I grazed my big toe. It must have happened during sparring, but I didn’t even notice it at the time. It was only afterwards that I noticed a bit of blood. I cleaned it up and it wasn’t much more than a scratch. I put a plaster on it with the intention of just forgetting all about it. The plaster came off at the next training session, and the side of the toe now looked inflamed with suspicious looking pus coming out of it. It got worse over the next few days, and I had to apply more elaborate coverings so that I could continue training. I’m a qualified nurse, but this tiny injury had me scratching my head for how to deal with it.

For about a week I was cleaning the wound daily with betadine and redressing it. It is only now fully recovered. It is just amazing how such a small injury could require such attention. This happens a lot in Muay Thai. At the beginning of the year I had a tiny cut on my knuckle that just wouldn’t heal no matter what I did – it must have lasted for months. Before beginning my Muay Thai journey I would have only considered the big injuries as having the ability to derail training. It appears that these much smaller cuts and scrapes can also have their toll.

Progress Update

I seem to be maintaining my current fitness level, but daily runs and attendance at the gym. I broke from my diet last Saturday to celebrate my birthday. I only ate a couple of cakes and a large chocolate bar, but I felt sort of guilty afterwards – I didn’t even enjoy them. I’ve still no date for a fight, but I’m hoping that it will be in the next couple of months.

If you have any experience with little cuts, or just want to say hello, please leave a comment below.

I Now Regret My Lack of Enthusiasm for the Muay Thai Fight Last Week

August 16, 2011

I’m starting to regret missing out on the opportunity to fight last Sunday. Maybe if I’d been more enthusiastic it would’ve gone ahead. It would be such a relief to have this first fight behind me. It would have removed a lot of pressure from my life. I could have gone back to Muay Thai training for fitness instead of preparing for a fight.

Caught in a Holding Pattern

In some ways it feels like my life is caught in a holding pattern; just like plane trying to land during an air traffic controller strike. I need to maintain a high level of fitness until this fight happens. It’s a struggle to drag myself out of bed each morning at 5am to go for an hour run. Keeping my weight down isn’t too much of a hardship, but it would be nice to ease up a bit.

The fight has become an obstruction in my path that I need to get past. Just pushing it into the future isn’t helping. I’m expecting the build-up to the fight to be stressful, but at least when it’s done it’s done. Delaying isn’t going to make the stress any easier to deal with. I need to fight so that I can get my life back. It is hard to keep going when I’ve no idea where the finish line is going to be.

I want to focus on writing the book about my Muay Thai experiences. I told the publisher that I’d have this complete by the end of the year. I won’t be able to finish the manuscript until after the fight.

Next Time I’ll be More Enthusiastic When Offered a Fight

When the trainer mentioned the opportunity fight it caught me off guard. One week to prepare just didn’t seem enough. The gym owner mentioned that there were going to be more opportunities to fight in the coming months, it made sense to delay. There was no more mention about the fight last Sunday, and to be honest I felt relieved. I’m kicking myself now though. I won’t make the mistake next time. I’ll be more prepared to fight at short-notice, and when the trainer offers me another fight I’ll bite their hand off – metaphorically speaking.

My Wife Told Me Not to Go to Muay Thai Today

August 10, 2011

It isn’t often that my wife puts her foot down, and to be fair she didn’t go so far as this today either. She did ask me not to go to Muay Thai this afternoon, and so I haven’t gone.

Tomorrow there is a Mother’s Day celebration at my son’s school. He’s going to be dancing with the rest of his classmates– it’s the first time he’s done anything like this. Parents are invited along to watch. I’m expecting it to be a great opportunity to use my new video camera.

My wife is worried that I’ll pick up more bruises if I go to Muay Thai today. This isn’t an unreasonable worry – I’ve picked up facial bruises from my last three sessions. I already look like a panda, but my wife is confident that my face will have healed by tomorrow – I don’t share her optimism. It did seem wise to skip the class just to keep the peace even though I don’t think it will make much difference. I will feel a bit bad if my bruises mean that I can’t go tomorrow.

Why Do I Pay Money to be Beating Up in Muay Thai?

August 9, 2011

Broken Muay Thai Face

Now that I’ve gotten a lot better at sucking up a punch I really need to learn to dodge them more. My face took a bit of a pounding yesterday in sparring. It’s not sore, but it just looks bad. I feel guilty because my 4 year old son got a bit upset when he saw the state of me. He didn’t cry or anything, but I could tell by his questions that it worried him. I’ll need to stay in the car today when I bring him to school so that his teachers don’t see my face. My wife just thinks I’m crazy. I suppose it would some odd to a lot of people that I’d pay money to be beating up in Muay Thai.

Now that I Can Take a Punch I Need to Learn to Dodge Them

Over the weekend I felt quite proud of the fact that I’m much better able to take a punch now. In my last video I mentioned how I’ve stopped acting like a turtle but instead focus on counterattacking. I’m landing some good hits of my own; although most of them end up being ineffective or going wild. The thing I was feeling good about was more that I’m no longer afraid of getting hit. This is something that I never would have thought would be possible.

Yesterday I went through another few rounds of sparring. The novelty of being brave has worn off. I realise that I’m taking far too many hits to the head. My body just feels clunky and so I’m not getting out of the way of attacks. I also received quite a few blows to the side of the head. They rocked me, but I tried to keep on pushing forward. I can’t imagine that sucking up these hits is going to do me any good if it continues long term.

Strange Days Indeed

There are a few guys who just train in the gym without sparring. I sort of envy them. I doubt I would have been ready, but in some ways I regret not having this fight on Sunday. At least it would have meant getting it out of the way. Maybe after this first fight I’ll never want to do it again. This will mean that I can just go train at the gym without having to put myself through a beating each session. I’ve no idea how people can do this all the time.

Fighting sports are an odd thing to be involved in. If such beatings occurred in the outside world the police would be involved – people would go to jail. In fighting sports not only do people volunteer to be hit, but they also pay for the privilege. I’ve only been involved in a few real fights, and the beatings I got were less severe the ones from my Muay Thai lessons -strange days indeed.

Fighting Now Not Fighting Muay Thai

August 7, 2011

In this video I talk about my recent opportunity to fight Muay Thai.

If you just want to listen to the audio you will find Middle Aged Muay Thai Episode 14 here

The Possibility of a Muay Thai Fight in 10 Days

August 4, 2011

Yesterday one of the trainers asked me if I wanted to fight on the 14th. I wasn’t expecting to be climbing into a ring so soon, but I told him to find out more from the promoter. I can’t really say no because this might be the best opportunity to fight this year. It is difficult to find somebody suitable near my age and experience. I’ll find out more tomorrow.

I’ll only have a few days to get ready if this fight does go ahead. I’ve been running in the mornings, training at home in the afternoons, and getting to about three Muay Thai classes a week at Sitsongpeenong. I’m still lacking in sparring experience. I’m in fairly good physical shape though, and at the moment I’m injury free. Maybe it is time to do a poo or get off the toilet. The idea of going ahead with this fight terrifies me, but it is a nice type of terror – sort of.

I’ve been feeling a little bit negative about Muay Thai training recently. Sitsongpeenong is packed to the rafters with new people. The class now starts an hour earlier, but I can’t make it at time. Training is well under way by the time I arrive. Even though I’ve been training there for over a year I still feel like a bit of an outsider; it doesn’t help that there is always a new group of people every few weeks. At the moment the trainers are really busy with the extra workload, and by the time they get to me they are usually too tired to push me hard. Hearing about the possibility of a fight has rejuvenated my efforts.

Young Kids Fighting Muay Thai

August 2, 2011

I must admit feeling a bit conflicted in my views about young kids fighting Muay Thai. Martial arts can be great for children. It teaches them discipline and increases their confidence – I know this from personal experience. One of the things appealed to me about my son’s school is that they teach Tae Kwon Do. He isn’t even four yet, but I still feel that martial arts will benefit his life.

Muay Thai as a Way Out of Poverty

In Thailand the sport of Muay Thai is way out of the limitations of rural living. Those of us who have been brought up in cities can glamorise the life of a farmer, but it isn’t easy – especially in a place like Thailand. Muay Thai is not only a way to change the life of the child but potentially their whole family. I’ve worked in a Thai village schools and know that education only offers slim opportunities for success in later life. The expectation is that children get a basic education before going to work on the family’s land – an expectation shared by many of the teachers. The kids are far from stupid, but getting an education past secondary level can be too much of a financial hardship. Young children will often work in the fields from a young age; it has always been that way. Sending them to learn Muay Thai can be a far more attractive proposition than life as a farmer or taking their chances in a village school. I can understand why parents might see things that way.

I’ve lived in Thailand for a good few years now, but I still struggle to understand the culture sometimes. This is because it can be difficult to see beyond my own cultural assumptions. I can intellectually accept how cultural blindness causes ignorance and misunderstandings, but it is hard to be completely open-minded. I’ve gone to the other extreme as a new arrival; thinking that everything about Thai culture was right and everything about my own was wrong.Thankfully I grew out of this naive view. My knee-jerk reaction to kids fighting Muay Thai is that this is wrong, but maybe this is because of my cultural expectations of what a child should and shouldn’t be doing?

Is Starvation Preferable to Child Labour?

In some parts of the world the only way for a family to survive is for everyone to work – including young children. Just saying that child labour is wrong is a bit too simplistic. Which is more important, leisure time for children or preventing starvation for a family? Of course, the response to this is that child shouldn’t be starving in the first place. Unfortunately ‘shouldn’t’ does mean anything and plenty of young children need to work to stay alive. Families can’t just sit around waiting for poverty to be eliminated by world governments; they will all be long dead before that happens. It would be wrong for me to suggest that these kids should stop working and starve just to fit in with my moral worldview.

I doubt that there are many Thai kids that get into Muay Thai because the family is without food. Starvation is rare in Thailand. Poverty does exist though, and many of these young fighters are coming from this type of background. Muay Thai is their way out. A good thirteen year old fighter will often be able to earn more money than an adult working on a farm. They will also be living in a camp where their food and accommodation is free. These young kids will be learning a skill that may one day make them very rich. Working on a farm will never bring riches. The fact that they’ve been accepted by a camp usually means that they have at least some talent for fighting.

I Don’t Know if Children Should Fight Muay Thai

Kids can get badly injured training and fighting Muay Thai, but I doubt it is as common as people might expect. It does seem too high a price to pay for the chance to win what would be considered small sums of money in the west. The idea of young children kicking the shit out of each other for adult entertainment also disturbs me a lot. This is not what it is all about though – at least I hope it isn’t. Muay Thai training teaches discipline and students learn to become masters of their bodies. It builds confidence. These kids are like other top athletes around the world. They are going through the same process as someone like Tiger Woods went through to achieve his dreams. I doubt he regrets the hours given up to golf as he grew up.

One of my Facebook friends described a particularly disturbing instance that occurred at a Muay Thai match here in Thailand. It involved a kid who was being physically beaten by his father for losing his match. No cultural differences could ever excuse this type of behavior. The father only sees his kid as meal ticket. Any affection he has comes with a price. This makes me sad.

I remain conflicted in my views about young kids fighting Muay Thai. It is a complex topic, and I don’t think black and white answers can serve it justice.
What do you think?

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