My attitude is that if you push me towards a weakness, I will turn that weakness into a strength. – Michael Jordan
I used to suck at pull ups. My reach is two inches longer than my height, and therefore I have a long way to pull myself up. Great for punching people, horrible for body weight exercises and pressing heavy things over my head. However, today I can do several pull ups, and my favorite lift is the kettlebell military press.
As an athlete, I know that the secret to getting good is to shine a magnifying glass on yourself, pin point your weaknesses (because you know your opponent is doing that) and get better at what you suck at.
When I first started training Muay Thai, I gravitated towards being a puncher. I loved everything about the jab and cross. I used the occasional kick to set up my straight punches. I was a forward fighter and somewhat one dimensional. While certain strengths can carry you far, I knew that I wouldn’t be turning pro if I was a one trick pony.
This picture, taken three years after I started training; my cheeks still look chubby, and it reminds me of being new to the sport 🙂
Do you remember all your fears about the first day of a new high school or college? Worrying if you could find the right class room, wondering if you were overdressed, under-dressed, or had picked the right image to present yourself to your new classmates. You nervously checked your schedule, trying to figure out where to sit, or if you were in the right place at all. Looking around the room, wondering who would be a good person to talk to and become friends with, trying to figure out if you were cool enough to be their friend. Well thank God that’s over for me, and for most of you, but I like to remember that feeling because it can be a little like the first day of school for people when they walk into a Muay Thai gym for the first time.
If you have been in the fight scene for a while, you forget what it was like when you first started. For a newbie, instructors, fighters, and other students are intimidating. Muay Thai traditions are completely foreign. You don’t know a Thai pad from a kick pad, Thai oil smells funny, three minutes of jump rope feels like an eternity, and you have no idea how to take 180 inches of fabric and somehow with what seems like 37 different twists and turns, wrap it neatly around your hand without either cutting off your circulation or having the whole wrap fall apart after the warm-up.
At my gym, I try to make beginners feel comfortable and explain to them all the things they will need to know before they move on to the mixed level classes, but I will probably always fall short. It’s so hard to remember all the things beginners don’t know because it’s been so long since I was one.