I hope you enjoyed my teammate’s response last Friday. Today’s post is my response—a bit personal and (almost!) without humor—it’s a departure from the norm, but please enjoy it all the same. Maybe I should title it “I need my hands to type; what am I thinking?!?” But I answer that question below. My thoughts:

Why am I in the emergency room...and smiling?

Why am I in the emergency room...and smiling?

“The answer to why I want to be a Thai Boxer stems from the rationale I had for walking into KnuckleUp Fitness in the first place: to develop myself physically and mentally.

It had been long years since I had put myself in a situation that forced me to develop those two aspects specifically. From that first 6:30 a.m. Monday class, I knew that this would provide the challenge I needed. Dry-heaving in the bathroom around 7 a.m., I wasn’t daunted; if anything, it motivated me to push harder. Rinse mouth. Wipe face. Return to class. Repeat.

The instructor, a Thai fighter who trained in Thailand, worked elbows and knees into our bag work combinations. I liked that a lot, and it made me want to learn more and develop those strikes. Learning that such moves were distinguishing marks the Art of Eight Limbs, I began to take an interest in Muay Thai.

This was a key point. Kickboxing was no longer a cool, productive workout that helped me lose the weight I’d been carrying around for years, sapping me physically and mentally. I began to think more and more about kickboxing as art, which was reinforced by talking to my instructor about his experiences. It became apparent that he took Muay Thai seriously; I really respect that. And it further bolstered my desire to learn. For me—as with many martial arts students—finding the right teacher is vital. And I felt (and feel) I had.

Attending the Muay Thai competition at Bangkok Fight Night and witnessing the fights, including my instructor’s, was another motivating experience. On many levels, I was further drawn in. While it was fun to watch fights live with a Guinness in hand and my friend, who initially clued me into KUF, sitting beside me, I gained a deeper respect for Muay Thai. Specifically, the traditions I saw: sealing the ring, Wai Kru, the traditional music, the respect—they resonated in me. Tradition and respect are important to me. Accordingly, witnessing that these are integral to the art of Muay Thai made me feel that committing myself to the practice thereof was, for lack of a better word, right.

That evening, my friend noticed how into it I was and joked about my getting into Muay Thai competition. I thought that would be great, but didn’t think I could do that. Now, being a Thai Fighter— having studied, trained, competed, suffered injury, and still wanting to learn more—I’m amazed that I’ve become such.

G's pushkick, as seen as I was knocked toward the opposite wall.

G's pushkick, as seen as I was knocked toward the opposite wall.

I find joy and satisfaction in passing on my

knowledge, however sophomoric it is, to my son, who takes to the instruction quite well. If he keeps this up, I might have to ship him off to Thailand to train at 12. My teammates are a tremendous source of motivation as I turn to their examples when I feel I’ve run dry. Without them, I wouldn’t be half the fighter I am.

Last week, I took my phra jeads “arm bands” off the wall, where they’d hung, still

Phra jaeds by Tony Jaa

Phra jaeds by Tony Jaa

tied together, since receiving them from my coach after our competition. I put them on my one unbroken arm and threw a few slow elbows and hooks at the mirror. I can’t describe how good it felt. And it reminded me of how much I’ve missed training, missed our team, missed the art.

So, why do I want to be a Thai Fighter? It’s not because I feel the need to knock some poor sap’s ribs in (cool though that is!). For me, the act…the art of striking my opponent’s solar plexus with my knee is not as important as the ability…the art of striking my opponent’s solar plexus with my knee. Perhaps that betrays a lack in my understanding of Muay Thai. But it also demarcates my motivation to be a Thai Fighter: to develop myself physically and mentally. Now, Muay Thai—”an art to practice” as opposed to “a workout to go through”—is, I feel, the context in which I can develop myself as never before.

I just regret it took 34 years to find it.”

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