It takes a special type of person to get in the ring. Determined, disciplined, hardworking are just a couple of qualities it takes to be a fighter. In this article I will go through what it means to train and/or fight in Muay Thai. I will be covering a range of things, from training camp right through to the fight! The ups and downs of training camp can be intense. One day you can be feeling on top of the world, hitting the pads feeling sharp and on point, other days you can be feeling sluggish, tired and frustrated. It is all part of the journey, all part of reaching your peak ability and preparing, both mentally and physically, to be able to challenge either life or an opponent.
Most fighters will train pretty much daily with the aim to keep learning and pushing themselves to be the best they can be. When fight camp starts it is a whole different ball game. Training sessions intensify, nutrition begins to get reined in and scrutinized. Family and friends begin to see a different side to the trainee, and see that they have a more focused almost tunnel vision perspective. This is natural when they have “training for the fight” on their mind.
They train twice daily covering every aspect of the game, strength and conditioning; technique, pad work, sparring, clinching and the list could go on. The blood and sweat that goes through the gym is that, which only their teammates will understand. Usually, not only will they work in the gym, but outside the gym too! Roadwork is imperative for any fighter. Aiming to build endurance and their cardiovascular system up. Running can vary depending on the individual and their background really. Some don't particularly like running so will go for a short intensive run, often called interval training, other more seasoned runners will go for a longer distance. Both running styles are very effective for building endurance and stamina for training and fighting.
I read an analogy a little while ago that will always stay with me and it relates to nutrition and what we put into our bodies. I can't remember where it came from, whether it was a documentary of some sort on YouTube or Netflix. Many an hour was and still is spent watching videos of people training, fighting and documentaries about Muay Thai and its origin and all about today's advocates for it. "Your wouldn't fill a jet plane with poor quality fuel, so that's why we don't put poor quality foods into our systems." It might not be right word for word but I am assuming you get the gist of it. To have the proper energy for a 2-hour training session and to fight, the body needs to correct fuel to be able to run efficiently.
To be able to cut weight to get down to your division can be a very tough task in itself! Some people spend years trying to lose weight; these guys lose a surprising amount of weight in just 8 weeks. Granted it isn't a sustainable way of living or maintaining but to get there is a big achievement in itself! Eating clean is vital! Leafy greens, non-refined carbs, single ingredient foods, good quality proteins and all the other types of food play an important role in how the person feels throughout the day! I mean, all of these points I am touching on briefly here will eventually become articles in their own right! After 6-8 weeks of fight camp, the emotional rollercoaster, hours and hours of grueling punishment all leading to be able to then endure 15 minutes in the ring! I have only ever had one experience in the ring and what an experience it was! I do hope, one day, to be able to get in the ring again but I take my hat off to all people who have done so. I mean, the feeling of knowing that the other person has gone through something similar to you over the past two months and is now here to try and inflict as much on you as they can.
Crowd going crazy, chanting, screaming, friends and family praying for your safety, you mentally preparing for what is coming, your corner men giving you your last bit of advice before that bell rings. And then it's just you, and the guy opposite you. Heart racing, sweating from the warm up and the lights shining down on you. As much as Muay Thai is about your team and family at the gym, at the end of the day there are only two people in the ring. You and your opponent. Again, that tunnel vision comes into play, you are thinking about everything but nothing at the same time. Your mindset is totally in a state of flow. You are watching your opponent’s every move.
Calculating what is coming next, assessing what attack or counter you will be throwing or letting loose. After the 15 minutes have run out, or one of you has been knocked out, or stopped usually it ends with the fighters hugging it out in the middle of the ring. To have that respect for each other that you have both just given everything you could have. Poured every ounce of anything that you have left inside you into trying to get those extra points or the knockout. If the fight ends after the final bell and the decision goes to the judges it is out of your hands now, you have done everything you can to try and show them what a warrior you truly are! It's a funny world we live in, the situations we put ourselves in, what we put our bodies through, our friends and families through too. All for that buzz of getting your hand rose as the winner! I don't know what it is about Muay Thai that is so addictive.
Maybe it is the knowledge that you have pushed yourself and challenged yourself both mentally and physically further than you could have ever imagined. I mean, you don't have to be a fighter to feel as though you have achieved something. Being able to do fifty kicks on the heavy bag without stopping, when at first, you had to do three or four and then take a break. Maybe it is the adrenaline, the rush you get when it kicks in, making you feel like superman and as though you could fly to the moon! For some people it can be used as an outlet to channel pain and anger, to be able to give it a place so it doesn't overspill into their personal lives. There are no set reasons why people participate in training. Every person has his or her own agenda for doing so. But we all end up in the same place. In the gym having a mutual interest for the martial art that we all know and love. Muay Thai.