Every time I sit down to update everyone on life over here in Thailand, I only think of my upcoming fight. I have two entries half way written. I end up stopping and googling some fights on youtube or looking up clinch techniques.
It’s my first fight. I don’t feel like I’ve trained hard enough. I am nervous. I am afraid. I am excited. With three weeks’ notice… I think I’ve trained an alright amount. I’m still unsure, but there’s nothing I can do about it now that I am a week out. One week from today, I will be stepping into the ring to fight for the first time. My opponent is 47 kilos and has had a few fights. I am currently 58 kilos (on a good day) with 0 fights. I am quite a bit heavier than her, but that doesn’t really matter here. No weigh ins, no head gear, no shin guards. All contact. I have trained harder in the past. I was working in with the fight camp in Tampa before I left for Thailand. My strength and cardio training has decreased drastically, but I feel I have focused more on technique, learning from and watching the kids at the new gym. Getting ready for a fight is so different here, maybe that’s why I feel like I haven’t pushed myself as much as I should have. Everything is so casual.
The gym owner took us out to dinner after training recently. We both have fights coming up. He ordered a five course meal, asked if Dan wanted a beer, and then gave force fed us cakes. He was shocked, I mean SHOCKED, I was 60 kilos when the idea of me fighting was first in question. Now, I’m still around 60 kilos, but here… take some beer and have some cake.
Dan and I showed up to train last week and it turned out three kids had fights, so the trainer told us to go home and he would take us. I couldn’t tell a difference in their training. No one was there for extra hours, no one was on a special diet, no one stressed. We went home, ate, and jumped on the back on a single moped to meet the others in town. Dan hopped in the back of a truck with several others while I was ushered into the cab with three other adults. Tight fit, but it worked. We drove out into the middle of nowhere. In the center of the middle of nowhere was a ring surrounded by a festival of sorts with kids jumping on a trampoline and families playing carnival games. Mats were placed on the ground and the fighters got ready right there sitting on a folding chair.
On a side note, one of the mothers of a set twin fighters became my new best friend. She sat next to me in the truck and then we walked together to the entrance, she made sure to take my 20 baht so that she could give it to the right person for me. We walked around together looking for the fighters and then she patted the mat next to her when we sat down so I could join her. Dan eventually found all of us and we started talking about the ride over. Mid-sentence, she gets my attention and tells me we are going to the bathroom. I politely declined and then she said kept on saying bathroom. So, off we went together, besties heading to the bathroom. She still raddles away in Thai to me when I see her, I just smile and … smile. It’s a good friendship. =)
Anyway, the matches ran like clockwork, fighters in, someone wins, fighters out, next; all while Thai’s gathered, shouting, placing bets, laughing,
Two out of three of our little fighters won their rounds; one with a first round knockout by kneeing the kid in the face and catching him with a kick on his way down. And then we were headed home.
That’s how simple it is here. No celebration, no congratulations.
On the way home, I sat in the cab next to the boy that had just TKO’d his opponent in the first round, his head now rested, sleeping on his friend’s shoulder, gone was the calm killer gaze he had just twenty minutes ago. Fighting is so relaxed here. Even in the ring you’ll see fighters crack a smile and they seem to be dancing, flowing through the motions. I train a couple hours a day, sometimes twice a day. Not nearly as much as I should, but I am so caught inside my head that I’m not sure extra hours would do any good. Right now, I am trying to preserve my body. Make sure my cuts and bruises have relatively healed. Make sure my mind has healed. Make sure that I am as ready technique wise as I can be. I know I am going to have to push for the endurance and that I am going to be exhausted, but I want to be technical, I want to be proper. I don’t want to look like some massive foreigner coming in to just throw punches at random. I want form to be essential. I want to make everyone proud. I want to be proud of myself. I’m not so concerned with winning or losing, maybe because I haven’t trained enough or as much as I will for my next fight. If I lose and I did the best I could, then I am fine with that. I know I will learn so much, so a loss isn’t something that concerns me.
I’m scared, scared of dealing with pain. Will adrenaline take over? I’ve blocked kicks with pads and without pads at less than half speed. Will I be able to take it? I’d like to say I will. I want to say I will. But there is this tiny thought of, what if I don’t? I’m terrified. I hate attention and for 4 3 minute rounds, it will be all on me. I’m anxious. I know she has trained harder than me, longer than me, and has more experience than I do.
But I’m going to do it. I know I have the heart for it. Pain will happen, but even with my tiny doubt of whether or not I can take it, I know I do not have the heart to give up if it does. I’m going to do it. If I was only scared and didn’t of have moments of excitement, I wouldn’t go through with it. But there are these moments, rare… small moments when I feel like I can beat her, where I feel like I am strong enough and excited enough to put what I have practiced to use. If not for those moments, I would know that this sport wasn’t for me. But I have them. I had a taste of what a fight would be like when I had a smoker fight sprung on me. Just before I left, I jumped in the ring with my friend Danielle. It was odd, being friends and all, but oddly comforting because I knew she was just as nervous as I was. Regardless of nerves, we both went through with it. I loved it. It was such a great feeling and I know that during those rounds I was timid, unsure, and confused. But I kept going. I’m hoping with all the focus I have put on technique I will feel more at ease as the rounds go on now. Everyone says an actual fight is a much different feeling and I can imagine it is. I’m sure Danielle and I both held back a bit because we are friends. This time will be much different. No gear except a mouth guard and gloves to protect me, no smiling face in the other corner, no trainer in the ring.
Whenever my thoughts veer from being far away from home on Christmas and what New Year’s will bring, I dream in jabs and crosses, body shots and leg kicks. Constantly thinking of combos and reminding myself to be quicker, to be stronger, to keep going. When I train I think of everyone I trained with at home. Some of them I am chasing when I run, others are repeating words encouraging my endurance when I work clinch. I don’t want to let any one of them down. I have a hard time believing in myself and I am lucky to have a few people who believe in me. They got me here and I’ll be damned if I don’t give it my all for them when I get in the ring. I’m going to get kicked and hit, who knows maybe this will be the day my nose breaks (it’s certainly a big target =)), but I will keep going, keeping going until my muscles burn, and when they start burning, that’s when I’ll go harder.
Fighting is part of the norm here. Like I said before, we didn’t even know three kids had fights coming up. They may be fearless. I’m not. So many quotes revolve around being fearless. I think it should be embraced, used as motivation. What is more gratifying; to be fearless or to admit fears and then to conquer them? I want leave to it all there, everything. All my stress and anxiety, all my confidence issues, all my insecurities, every single doubt I’ve had about myself, every negative thought. I want it to be fuel.
I want to burn it.
I’m now a three days away from my fight. And this has been a hard week. Christmas so far from home, my very first away, Dan’s fight tonight, a visa run tomorrow, and then my fight on Monday. I’m anxious, I’m nervous, I’m emotionally a wreck. I just want to get in the ring. I’m antsy.
I go to the gym in the mornings to shadowbox for a little while and it’s so hard to maintain focus. I’m tired of waiting. I feel like I’m at the top of a roller coaster. It’s been a slow struggle to get here and now I’m just dangling over the edge, waiting for the drop. And I don’t mean the fall. This isn’t a downward fall for me, I’m waiting for the beginning, the adrenaline drop, the first hit. I am as ready as I am going to be and this time waiting around is the worst. I am emotionally drained, stressed, and I was on the depressed side. But I don’t know, I don’t know when this thought occurred to me and it really should have occurred to me sooner, but I realized it’s up to me to make this fight everything I want it to be. Holidays come and go, and my family still loves me and I’m lucky I was able to skype them. And even luckier to be able to spend Christmas with Dan. I have to let that go now, move on, accept change.
This will be my night. I should be excited, not depressed. Anxiety will happen, nervousness, I’m not going to shake that. But I suppose that’s okay. Dan has me watching these videos to get me mentally prepared and the guy made a good point, if you’re not feeling anxious or nervous before your fight, you’re missing something. You are supposed to feel that way and you can control it, use it, embrace it. It’s all part of the experience.
This is my fight. I’ve been watching videos, reading articles, and seeking advice all about first fights. They all basically say the same thing. It’s mental. My body can take the rounds. A friend of mine back home said it well, I have put my body through much worse than rounds. Countless burpees, pushups, pullups, situps, kicks, punches, miles, all leading up to now. This past year I haven’t been training for a fight necessarily, but I knew the day would come when I would take one. Still, I didn’t train for a fight, I trained for myself. I wanted to feel strong, so I made myself stronger. I wanted to be more confident, so I pushed myself to do things outside of my comfort zone. I wanted to be educated, so I practiced technique. I came to Thailand to visit Dan initially. My training wasn’t priority. I lowered the intensity when it came to conditioning in the past couple of months, but my body knows what exhaustion feels like and how to push through it. I didn’t work so hard all year to “gas out” in my first fight. I know that if I start to feel like I am, it’s not real. It’s my mind giving up before my body. I can take it. More than that, I’m not just going to take it, I’m going to own it. I will never have a first fight again and whether or not I win, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that I put to use all the strength, confidence, and technique I have worked so hard to acquire. It’s time to use what I have fought for myself all year.
Night before my fight
Dan had his fight on Friday night and won with a TKO in the fourth round.
We arrived at our trainer’s house and he ran through all the stuff, asking what Dan had or didn’t have. I told by idly holding Dan’s foam roller. I’d be going through basically the same list in just two days. Mouthguard. Forgot the mouthguard. Back to the house we went. Not a huge issue, we live ten minutes away and the fight was only twenty. So, we had time. I was nervous. Not really thinking about my fight. Just about Dan. I had so much confidence in him and was so proud of him already, but I was worried about his knee. He had such a serious injury a few months back and this would be his fight time truly testing it. The little trip back to the house gave me a buffer, a little time to relax before we hit the road. When we got back we all piled into our trainer’s truck, me, Dan, “Mama” (We think she is his wife’s mother), and his brother-in-law (who trains at our gym and had just fought at Lumpini). Dan slipped on headphones and was lost in focus. I’m not really sure what I was thinking about, just kind of in a daze. We arrived at a temple… not really where I thought Muay Thai fights would be held, but okay we’ll go with it. The temple looked like it was a part of a carnival. Random lights were scattered on the grounds, neon green, yellow, and pink. Among the random lights were odd neon windmills and an electrical plane light thing. It was exactly that, no other way to describe it. SO, that’s where we arrived. And it was loud, really loud. There was a band with dancers on one side of the field, some sort of pageant play on the other, a bunch of food stands, and in the center was the ring. Dan and I dropped off our stuff on a mat our trainer laid out by the ring and headed to look around the temple. Dan went inside, while I chose to stay out… but not for long. A random Thai was talking to me in Thai and trying to get me to go inside. I didn’t want to go inside and had no small bills to pay for anything, so I declined. Then all of a sudden Mama was behind me and Dan had just stepped out of the temple. Mama insisted we go inside and so off we went. Mama paid for everything and I felt so guilty, but even when Dan tried to pay, she said, “I Mama. I take care.” So, we kneeled inside the temple and place a fleck of gold paper on a black ball. I really have no idea what any of this meant, but I went along with it (Dan did as well, even though he had four fights until his own.) We continued to be ushered around the temple, gave a book to a monk and got splashed with water, then moved to five other black ball things surrounding the outside of the temple to place more gold flecks. I wish I could’ve understood what was going on, but absolutely no one spoke English. SO… it was an experience. We rushed back over to the ring and Dan was two fights away. He started getting ready. I was given a chair and sat for two seconds before they took it away to give to Dan to get his hands wrapped. I was told to go away, basically give them space, but I wasn’t in the way to my standards, I wasn’t moving. I watched the other fights going on and grabbed the food I packed to eat my feelings. I was anxious. Very anxious. I took pictures when I could and kept watching the fights. I didn’t really think of anything specifically. I just dazed out, eating. One of the other trainers came over and grabbed my little bag out of my hand… stared at it and laughed at me. Not sure whether or not he was laughing because I’m heavy to them and I was eating or because it was a bag of crumbs. Dan was getting a thai oil massage and I stole my chair back. Then I hear behind me, “My name Jenny” and then someone poked me. I turned around to discuss my name. For a while at the gym everyone thought my name was Jenny.
Yeah, I can’t write anymore. I will definitely finish Dan’s fight night story, but right nowww.. not so much. I just thought I should add what I’m feeling right now. A little like I am going to throw up. I’ve been nervous all day, tingly even. I want to get to tomorrow night. This waiting is the worst. I have been picturing all day different combinations. Practicing the Wai Kru in my head. Sometimes it feels like I can’t really breathe I’m so anxious. I ended up seeing the girl I am going to fight, fight at Dan’s fight. Not sure how to take that. I was supposed to fight that night, so was she locked into the fight? And just took mine because … she thought it’d be easy? I don’t know. But whatever her reason, I am going give her one hell of a time all five rounds, either that or knock her out in the process.