What We Learn from Punching Each Other
One thing I’ve learned from my training is that things aren’t always what they appear. As I scan the sweaty room of big dudes, dudes with big muscles, grim-faced tattoo-covered dudes, I know it’s the girl in the corner with the British accent holding the baby who could kick all their asses (she’s one of the teachers and a former serious competitor).
I started training in Muay Thai five years ago as a fun way to keep in shape and learn some interesting, possibly useful new skills. Unexpectedly, it’s become one of the most important parts of my work week.
As point of reference, I’m the founder/principal of an advertising agency in Northern California (in business since 1999) and also have been a partner in multiple start-up ventures.
What most people miss about Muay Thai is how close two fighters become in the ring. I’ve been a highly competitive athlete all my life, but nothing will take you to the end of yourself faster than fighting. First, your body is not just exerting physical effort, but also managing the anxiety, adrenaline and heightened awareness that goes along with knowing how you perform in the seconds ahead will not only determine whether you win or lose, but also whether you’ll get hurt or not — really hurt. You have to keep a cool head and draw on all your training, mentally and physically, and frequently find a way to push through the greatest exhaustion you can ever imagine while managing the input of someone trying their best to punch, kick and knee you.
Whether you win or lose, there is a great elation which comes from having gone to that place and surviving. And there is an incredible appreciation for the person who took you there, even more so for those who made it the hardest it could be.
So the great irony is that two people trying so hard to hurt each other are actually giving one another the greatest gift the other could ask for: the opportunity to go to the farthest depths of your own potential. That’s why fighters hug each other after fights. There is true love that comes out of the ring.
I train at a particularly special school and there are many lessons learned in our training. One of the early lessons I learned is to train yourself to respond to being hit by hitting back. So if someone kicks you, in the split second their leg is beginning to recoil back, your leg is in reflex coming back towards them. The movement of protecting yourself from a punch plays on that same momentum to springboard into a flurry of punches and maybe even a few added kicks in return.
If you saw the recent Ronda Rousey vs. Cat Zingano fight (UFC 184) you witnessed one of the greatest examples of this. Most people getting attacked and falling to the ground would be pretty much focused on how to break that fall. When Rousey hit the ground however, it was a trigger that initiated a return attack that resulted in the fastest submission in UFC history.
My agency is very collaborative in nature. I love seeing projects reach greatness as the complementary talents of two people, multiple teams, or the agency and client come together. We had an opportunity like that where our agency was focused on the online component while another agency was focused on traditional media on behalf of a client. As usual, we went into this collaboration with open arms and excited about what could be achieved. The other agency however decided to try to steal the entire account. I hit back.
Recently I sat in the same board room where all that went down, smiling as I reflected on the rewards of having had that client all to ourselves for the past five years.
I have extreme gratitude for all the gifts of my training at PHAS3. Two years ago I had the opportunity to show some appreciation by producing a short documentary on the people who make that school what it is and provide some insight into the special world of Muay Thai and how it’s not just two people hitting each other. If you have 27 minutes to spare, here’s my film, “Win. Lose. Forgive.”