It was a Friday afternoon and as I glanced over the floor to our Tactical Fight Team in Advanced class that I was inspired to write this blog. At that moment it dawned on me that we have quite an unusual occupation. How is it that we can be such good friends one minute, yet want to kick and punch the crap out of each-other once we have popped the mouthguard in?
Boxing and Muay Thai are extremely effective forms of self defence, the fitness benefits and demands at competition level are amongst the highest of any sport in the world and it is a lot of fun so it’s popularity comes as no surprise. But what makes a fighter?
When, how and why does one choose to dedicate their lives to the tireless hours of training and sparring to fight in the ring against a fellow human being? What type of person “has what takes” and where did they get if from?
One can understand how Mike Tyson found his talents if they have read any of the horrific stories of his upbringing and life as a child-living in the ghetto of Brownsville Brooklyn. Tyson grew to be (as he confessed) a “thug” and he has learned to thrive through fighting after a local kid tore the head off his pet bird. Tyson impressed onlookers as he found his gift and over time earned himself a reputation for beating grown men at the age of 12. No matter what you think of the man, Mike Tyson grew up to be one of the greatest boxers of ever.
The “stare down” (right after the weigh-in before a fight) has always interested me. So often we see a perfect example of how personality types and mental condition affect the performance of a fighter. It is so common for one fighter (seemingly boiling under the skin), to try and intimidate his or her opponent with aggressive body language (including physical contact). A look of hatred and despise in their eyes as if they want to kill their opponent and dismember their body. It is now the job of the opponent not to flinch, remain poised and flexible, to return the threat with an all too comfortable smile, as if to say “you don’t scare me, it is you who is afraid of me”.
The history of Muay Thai and it’s origins leave a footprint of yet another type of, and very different fighter. Thai Boxing was originally a military fighting art of the Siamese soldier. The original format included weapons and hand to hand combat. This gave them the capacity to disarm another soldier of their weapon, hence the use of big range of motion in the sport. One can imagine a weary and unarmed conscript being left vulnerable and open to attack in the middle of battle. An adversary spots the soldier and seizes the opportunity to thrust his spear for an easy kill. As the spear tip breaches the soldiers range he catches the spear by the shaft, with his knee already raised and cocked when he leans back to push kick with the ball of his foot to his opponent’s chest plate, sending him to the ground and disarming him of his spear. Now the tide has turned!
Back in those days any male aged between 14 and 40 were deemed ideal candidates for military service. Each conscript (mostly peasants) were broken and rebuilt in to soldiers by military training. This has been replicated across the world for over a thousand years. In modern day Australia our defence force is well aware that not everyone is cut out to be a soldier and they spend a lot of money on pre enlistment screening to minimise damage and liabilities. Without this discretion however, can you take anyone and turn them into a fighter or does it take a certain type of person?
The same question is asked from time to time in the ring. It is not uncommon to find an individual who has amazing talent in working the pads or a bag, even sparring. Yet when it come to the crunch it takes that little bit more to accept the realities of a fight and take the bull by the horns. All of a sudden you are competing with someone who desperately wants to win and will hit you as fast and as hard as they can. Question is-Who wants to win this the most and can you take it?
I remember once being told that you have ten seconds to act, when faced with a perceived threat before your body is flooded with adrenaline, leaving you clenched and shaky. Two things you do not want when in any danger. This happens because your sympathetic nervous system goes into overdrive as the reptilian brain screams “either run or fight”! Your heart rate is increased and blood supply is being diverted from your digestive tract to the muscles in your body and limbs to prepare for survival. Negotiations at this point seem futile as the aggressor smells your fear. You better hope you have a really good joke lined up or act fast. “Always throw the first punch” has been advice handed down from father to son for as long as anyone can know. Not necessarily the right advice in all situations though is it? There is no shame in running… so they say.
So how is it that a combative sports competitor can spend many hours waiting, training and visualising in that locker room before their fight is called? It’s common to share the locker room with some or all the other fighters of the night, with the roar of the crowd to be heard through a single brick wall. When the wait is finally over a Thai boxer embraces a traditional routine which begins with donning his or her Monkon (head band), traditionally Buddhists would weave the bones of their ancestors or hair from loved ones into these pieces or adorn them with sacred amulets for spiritual protection. The fighter then enters the ring and performs the Wai Kru (ritual enactment) out of respect to their trainer and opponent, before being sent to their corner where they will pray with their trainer before awaiting the referee. All of this takes a lot more than ten seconds. Just how do they keep those nerves of steel for so long and then fight to the end of every bell?
Mental preparation begins the moment the fighter gets a fight. Every individual has their own response to the processes that takes place, but the processes themselves and the steps they take to manage them are nearly always the same. Some of these techniques include:
• Focus Focus on your training, your body, and master every drill.
• Visualise Visualise the fight and how you will control it, visualise winning.
• Control Control your mind, meditate, and harness controlled aggression.
• De-humanise Your opponent represents a threat which triggers that flight or fight response. The best way to overcome this is to view the opponent as a challenge. You are the hunter and they are your prey!
• Condition Pre fight training is a bit like having a fight 6 times a week for weeks and months on end. Sparring classes turn to a blur and leave you feeling like you have been hit by a train every day.
Our fight trainer Matt Gardner once told me “You have to walk through that wall of fire, before you are ready for a fight”.
Whether you are a peasant chosen to sacrifice his life for country, an unstable and hell raised thug, professional athlete with a dream or any one of our many friends here at Kick Tactics that share a passion for Boxing and Muay Thai. We all have one thing in common.
It takes pushing your body and mind above and beyond limitation in order to succeed in the ring. Extraordinary effort from a unique type of individual.
A true warrior. Do you have what it takes, Why not find out here?