This is me in January of 2006, in my pajamas, REALLY excited about Muay Thai! Why, yes those are cherries on my pants. 😉
It’s easy for me to get nostalgic about my early days of training. When I discovered Muay Thai it quickly became my sole passion. It did for me what true loves does for most people. It captivated me, thrilled me, challenged me and made me want to be a better person. Not everyone may feel this way about a sport, but everyone that becomes a fighter or even just becomes good at Muay Thai feels at least a little like this at some point and remembers it well.
I started Muay Thai in the spring of 2002 in Philadelphia when I was 24 years old. I was dating a guy who trained and he wanted to show me what it was about. At the time I was just bartending in the city after graduating college. I hit up Bally’s to workout a little on occasion, but had very little clue about fitness other than what I gathered from playing basketball in high school and reading Shape magazine – and I had definitely never taken a martial art in my life.
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 even picked the right image to present yourself to your new classmates. Always checking your schedule, trying to figure out where to sit, trying to decide if you should raise your hand or not in class. Looking around the room and wondering who would be a good person to talk to and become friends with, wondering 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.