Becoming Muay — Life changes & Muay Thai

Receiving the first Mongkol after passing the first Muay Thai Boran ‘exam’.

This is not a story of how fighting saved my life. It is a story of how Muay Thai changed my life.

Lots of fighter stories start with a hard and difficult life and with fighting being the only way out. This isn’t one of them. It’s not as dramatic and not as Rocky or Creed as others. Still I feel like sharing it since, even though it did not save me from poverty, it changed my life. For the better.

First things first (I’m the realest!). I haven’t been into Martial Arts before. Pop Culture references like this one, yes, Martial Arts, besides watching Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Tony Jaa and Wrestling, no. This also means that I didn’t start Martial Arts, Muay Thai in particular, up until when I was 33. Crap, that’s old.

Fascination Martial Arts

I have always been fascinated by Martial Arts but always thought fighting is not my thing. Still, for some reason, I always wanted to try Muay Thai. Simply to see how it feels and whether or not I’d be capable of doing it. One late Sunday afternoon in Bangkok, while sitting in public transport and checking the ‘meetup’ application for interesting events around town I came across the “Muay Thai meetup”. It looked pretty casual and, being held in a public park, it didn’t look as intimidating as heading to a gym where everybody already knew their stuff and only go to hone their skills. So I thought and signed up.

I went to this open air intro to Muay Thai a few times but quickly became a little dissatisfied by the lack of development and improvement. That’s no criticism towards the coach, he has to work with what he got and if there are always new people joining, he has to teach everything from the start. Hence I was thankful for the introduction but also eager to learn more. The more often I practiced, even the very basic steps that I learned in the beginning, the more intrigued I became. This feeling led me to eventually head towards I ‘real’ Muay Thai training. And little did I know that this would be the training that would change my life.

One of the first classes with Kru Suphan

Getting real ‘Muay’

This first ‘real’ class took place in a very very small gym in the middle of Bangkok somewhere down narrow sois (small streets) and street food stalls. The facilities aren’t that great (but tidy and everything is in great shape, it’s simply not fancy or big) but the t̶r̶a̶i̶n̶e̶r̶ Kru (teacher in Thai language) even more so. It started quite basic with lots of warm up and games but, as we should realize, there was a plan behind it. With his playful, yet still intense, attitude and approach towards teaching Muay Thai Kru Suphan took away the uncertainty and the ‘strangeness’ of doing something, well, ‘strange’ while still making sure to teach and focus on what is important to him and the perseverance of Muay Thai and Muay Boran (the predecessor of modern day Muay Thai) and Thai culture as a whole. Up to this day I enjoy taking those classes on a regular basis since they provide me with lots of insight into Thai and Muay Thai culture (e.g. learning the “Wai Kru” or the “Mae Mai”).

Having that said, this is not the only training I started. Thanks to the introduction to Muay Thai as an art rather than ‘just fighting’ I developed even more interest in the art and decided to take it a few steps further. Soon after having completed my first classes as mentioned above I joined a more ‘fighting oriented’ gym and, a few weeks after, started with sparring. I still don’t consider myself a ‘fighter’ type but I do appreciate the intensity of the training and focus and concentration one has to develop when doing sparring. I did get ‘marked up’ quite a bit in the process but that is simply part of the learning process. It’s still great fun and the only thing I regret is that I didn’t start much sooner with training this beautiful martial art.

Without actively realizing it I’m now doing Muay Thai almost every day and if I’m not in the gym I’m still doing shadow boxing (in Thai: “lern lom” — “playing with the wind” — isn’t that poetic?) in order to improve my skills and stay on it. From a pure physical standpoint Muay Thai helped me to get into the best shape I’ve been in ages (I also do lots of gym workout though to improve my overall performance in the ring) but what is even more important is the psychological part of it. It does help to improve the confidence and while I certainly don’t walk around thinking I could beat someone up it is just nice to be more confident in your daily appearance. What is way better though is the increasing awareness in regards to your own body and mind. Realizing how your body and mind react to certain influences is fascinating and it the challenge to train your mind and body to overcome challenges in the ring (you won’t believe how much and how fast you have to think when you’re in the ring) are probably a few of the most positive aspects that Muay Thai brought to my life.

Won’t stop, can’t stop.

After having started taking Muay Thai more serious, or better, after Muay Thai has become a bigger part of my life, it took me to a few more impressive moments and happenings. I was lucky enough to meet quite a few cool professional fighters and experienced how humble they are while they could easily kick ones ass. I met the arguably best Muay Thai fighter on the planet (Saenchai) and saw how nice, humble, and damn quick he is which is not only motivation but also inspiration and, moreover, I met lots of people from all different walks of life that I would have never met any other way.

Besides that I’m also on the way of passing Muay Thai / Boran ‘exams’ (god, I’ve been really nervous before I took the first one) in order to climb up the ladder on the way to, hopefully, being able to teach Muay Thai one day by myself.

Overall I can honestly say that I would have never thought how much Muay Thai would influence and change my life. Starting with it was probably one of the best decisions I ever made and I can’t imagine a life without it anymore.

Muay Thai, Chai Yo!