Muay Thai for life
By Madhvi Ahuja
December 7, 2014
Recently, I joined a regular gym. You know, the one with cardio and weight training machines and equipment. It had been so long since I was part of such an establishment, that the contrast between the fighter gym and this was as stark as a Thai boxer at the World Economic Forum (forgive the lame analogy, my imagination is running a little slow on this lazy Sunday morning). It got me thinking and so of course, I had to write about it!
In life, you find experiences, but some experiences find you. They find a way onto your path unexpectedly, and then become an integral part of your journey. You can’t imagine carrying on without them. Over 5 years ago, I had such a “thing” enter my life path: Muay Thai.
Muay Thai wasn’t a workout or a form of self-defence for me; it has been a journey in itself. Even though I learnt about this great ancient contact sport, in the process, I also learnt a lot about myself.
I may not be a star Muay Thai natural, crazy- kicks- a- minute, duck- and- weave kid. But I paid attention, I learnt and most importantly, I pushed myself hard. And when I couldn’t, everyone else damn well did. And I am happy for it. At the time, it didn’t seem like too much work, it was that much fun!
It was astonishing to jump from can’t- breathe- after- 10- skips on a rope to keep up skipping with the trainer for 40 minutes.
It (still) is a miracle to be able to do push ups, knees-off- the- floor. Trust me, every time feels like a first time!
It was remarkable to be able to keep up with a 90-minute to 3-hour class.
And, to earn respect from people in class on the basis of your progress never gets old.
With each small step, I felt stronger…better. To know that you can totally kick ass at kicking ass was a high in itself. For the first time, I understood the feeling of “invincible.”
For me, the attractiveness of Thai kickboxing was that it was a form of martial arts that required discipline and respect that wasn’t based on a belt colour, or on a format of people standing in rows screaming, “1! 2!” Respect was earned from trying harder, and getting better. It wasn’t earned by being a sissy in the corner complaining like a delicate diva about how hard it was. In a Muay Thai class, you weren’t cute when you behaved like a damsel, you were low kicked, told to get over it, and get back up.
Respect was gotten from joining in and going all in with four four- minute rounds on the pads. Contrary to what I learnt before Muay Thai, discipline didn’t equate respect. Respect came with putting your hands up, covering your face, getting hit, taking it, and coming back for more.
Muay Thai clubs have to be experienced, you respect your trainers by kicking them, you respect your gym by putting back the equipment and you respect each other by fixing a technique or taking a low kick without flinching.
Over the course of training, we have abused out loud, laughed out loud, participated in unorthodox sweat suit running, and training sans fans and ventilation. We have taken videos while training and yes, “fuck” has always been an appropriate word—when you hit too hard or when you get hit too hard. At a fighter gym, it is always ok to just be. Judgment free.
I learned to be part of something like I owned it, and worked towards making it better. Everyone contributed to the gym with respective passion, which filtered through the thousands of discussions of fights or breaking down a move seen on a crazy training video from Thailand. It created a bond in and out of the club over coffee or a beer and chicken. It was more than just training at a club; it was sitting together, laughing together, eating together, and just being comfortable.
If you didn’t already guess, my love for training intensified over time.
Muay Thai treats complete strangers like family. All Muay Thai clubs welcome everyone without discrimination. So far, there have been Thai boxing gyms in every city I have visited. Each place is different, but it is still familiar. All Muay Thai gyms are like coming home; there is an understanding while training together. Anyone can join in, and once they walk in, whether 2 classes or 200, they are always welcomed back. It is a place you enter, and everyone is like- Heeey!
The passion gets more intense as the training gets tougher. You want to get better with every punch. Muay Thai just does that to you.
Training makes you humble. I saw the boys at our gym calm down as they got better at their game. Where else will you get hit on the head to actually stop being violent by nature? You learn to laugh at situations instead of heating up.
Once I entered the world of Thai kickboxing, I just didn’t want to leave. A bunch of strangers happen to meet to learn how to fight. Over time, we partnered with each other, and learnt a lot together, we made more than great friends; we all became the family we chose. Today, Muay Thai is HOME to me. The family has been in and out of each other’s lives, but we are family. So we might peace out, but eventually, we come right back to the bags.
You either get the club family culture, or you don’t. But till you experience it, reading about it, watching videos, or talking about it will not bring you any closer to getting it.
Muay Thai for life
By Madhvi Ahuja
December 7, 2014.