Suck It Up Buttercup: Getting Muay Thai Tough

Muay Thai Tough

I was not always Muay Thai tough. When I was twelve, I fell onto the edge of a broken log while running through a park. It felt like a basic scrape, something I was accustomed to getting now and then because I liked to play outside. ┬áMy mother reached out her hand to me, helped me up and instantly tilted my head up. “Don’t look at it,” she said.

I did as I was told and we started walking to the car. It didn’t hurt that bad, I told myself, but I did feel some blood trickling down my leg. “Don’t look!” My mother reminded me as we hurried toward the parking lot.

Once inside the car, my mother began driving to the closest hospital. I tried to close my eyes, but I couldn’t help myself. I looked down at my knee and saw a gaping hole in the knee cap about two inches long and an inch wide. Instantly a searing pain registered in my mind and I began to cry.

I always wanted to be a tough girl, but I never felt very tough. I whined when I was sick, cried when I got injured and felt hurt when kids made fun of me. I played basketball, but not very well and not nearly as good as the girls who started on the varsity team.

Fast forward to 2002 when I found Muay Thai, fell in love with the training and decided this would be the sport that toughened me up proper. I loved every part of it: the bruised shins, the sore muscles, the tired legs from running, even the blisters on my feet from learning to pivot on my kicks.

Muay Thai is a rough sport. Minor injuries are common even if you don’t train to fight. But another aspect of toughness that Muay Thai teaches you is mental. Most of what we consider pain is mental. Ever see a kid fall? They don’t cry right away. If it’s a small tumble, they pause and often freeze momentarily, waiting for an adult’s reaction. If the adult freaks out they cry; if the adult laughs and smiles at them and picks them up, they usually just move on and keep playing. We learn how to be tough. Even if we don’t learn from our parents, I’ll argue that we can teach ourselves later if it’s important to us.

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How to Become a Champion Fighter

muay thai fighter tattoos

I was not a likely fighter. I was twenty-four, soft, nonathletic and felt pretty uncomfortable in my own skin, let alone a boxing ring when I first started Muay Thai. I did however have one thing going for me; I was ridiculously disciplined. I would show up to train every day. I worked hard. I did my road work. I didn’t complain (much). This discipline was enough to develop skills and techniques that would make me a good fighter. But that was it, I was just good, not champion material yet. To be great, to be a champion and a professional I needed one more quality – Conviction. Conviction for me took time to develop. Due to my lack of previous athletic skills I was used to seeing myself as the same girl that was picked last in dodge ball and who sat the bench at varsity basketball games. These views of yourself take time to change, but eventually with enough hard work, self discovery and winning fights my confidence improved. I started to go into the ring thinking, “I got this!”, instead of “What the fuck am I doing in here?”

There are three qualities that make a great fighter:

Discipline, skill and conviction.

Now that I coach fighters I find I am often thinking about these three qualities. In my opinion to be a champion you must excel at all three. Of course desire is the fourth that all fighters must have, but I leave that out, as it’s obvious that the desire must be present or the fighter won’t even want to fight.

There are some good fighters out there that excel at just two of the above three qualities, and are simply average or sub par in the third. They can skirt by for a while, but eventually they get beaten by those that have mastered all three as they rise up the ranks.

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Training for Your First Muay Thai Fight

Are you training for first Muay Thai fight? How do you know when you’re ready?

I had been training for about six months before I had my first Muay Thai fight, not something I recommend to my students today, and not something I specifically planned for either, but nevertheless, I found myself at a smoker at the Muay Thai Academy in North Hollywood. The small gym was hot and crowded with students, family, friends, random fans of a sport not yet popularized in America. The ring was small, the canvas patched with duct tape and blood stained. I geared up in the small, one stall unisex, bathroom, put my Thai shorts on, my sports bra. Took out my jewelry, which at the time took about fifteen minutes, as I had ten or so odd piercings in my body.

I remember little of the fight, hopped up on an adrenaline and buzzing with nerves all I remember is getting punched hard a couple of times and thinking, “Holy shit, this girl wants to hurt me.” It was an unsettling realization. As strange as it sounds, the fact that this was a vicious sport hadn’t occurred to me yet. I was just a girl who loved to train Muay Thai.

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