As I write this I am downing a bag of DELICIOUS banana chips. Part of my eatwhateveriwant phase of training. Although, I will regret it in 15 minutes when I go train. I don’t know if banana chips count as a preworkout food. Anyway,
Alright, I can do this.
Almost 4 weeks out. I haven’t been training like I used to, but I can change that. 1 month is a long time to get fight ready.
Uh 2 weeks, no thank you. I think I will pass, actually I will definitely pass. I messaged my trainer and told him I didn’t think I would be ready, that I wasn’t in good enough shape. I told Dan, my family, and my friends I wasn’t fighting anymore. They were all supportive of my decision, saying if I wasn’t ready, I wasn’t and that was ok. There would be other fights.
P’Tom did not see it that way.
“No, win. Fight? Ok? Ok. Win.”
P’Tom has this unwavering faith in me.
“Can I tell you Monday?”
I was on a mini vacation in Chiang Mai and just finished a beer, a beer I shouldn’t have been drinking if I had a fight in 2 weeks.
Monday rolls around…
“Tonight, I will tell you tonight.”
“Ok Fight? Ok. Fight. “
“Alright. I’ll fight.”
He wore me down and I was fighting in 2 weeks, while balancing struggling with teaching and nutrition school, and other everyday life things. Rough 2 weeks.
I was initially supposed to fight a girl named Ta-Ta. I was told she was tall and thin. I was the big guy. She had good knees. I went to work. Up at 4:50 to go to the gym before school, left school at 4:30 to go train. It was a hard schedule to get into. I hadn’t done two a days in a few months and my body was not prepared.
I slowly got back into the swing of things, but still not feeling confident. Off handedly one day my trainer mentioned that she was big, I was small. I stopped what I was doing completely. What do you mean I’m small? I am always the “big guy.” She must be the biggest Thai girl in Thailand, if I’m small.
“No Ta-Ta. No.”
What happened to Ta-Ta tall and thin? Ok. Well, ok. I was now fighting Fahmai. My trainer told me she had two children.. I was now fighting a mom. I went from fighting a girl to fighting a mom. Thailand. You just never know who is going to step into the ring with you. I just let the idea of her float out of my head, big.. small.. it didn’t matter I suppose, a fight is a fight. I wasn’t going to back out of a fight because I’m smaller than her. I was actually pretty stoked… a Thai girl was bigger than me! I’m not the big guy!
I kept thinking of a particular training session back in the states. It was a Friday evening happy hour sparring session. Someone went a little too hard and I ended up with a bruise the size of Africa and maybe Russia combined plus a pretty bad limp. It was probably silly for me to keep sparring with this person, but I did not want to back down. I specifically remember my leg buckling under the pain and I specifically remember myself begging myself to raise my damn leg and check the kick. I thought about this session a lot while training for this fight. If she was bigger than me, her hits were going to be heavy and hard, but I kept thinking… there is no way she could do worse than what happened that one training session back home. If I could manage that, I could manage her, all I had to do was check and return.
I was a wreck pretty much the days leading up to the fight. I didn’t need to cut weight or anything because she was bigger than me. I felt out of shape and to slow. I felt like I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t prepared. I needed more time. Time was not something I had and I just kept knocking myself down.
I don’t know why I do that. I knock myself down in training, at school, in life, in relationships. I never think I’m enough. I guess it’s good in a way because I push myself to do more, but when is enough? When can I be proud of myself? How can I be proud? What is being proud? Eating what you want? Having a drink? A good pat on the back? To some that may seem like an easy task. You accomplish something, you do something you’ve worked hard at, you are proud of yourself. I just don’t have that ability to see the accomplishment. There’s always something I want to improve or change. It’s exhausting and frankly, making me sick. I put so much pressure on myself and then when I talk or write about it, I feel weak and think of other people and how many people are actually struggling with horrible things I can’t even fathom or how people are accomplishing amazing things that help thousands of people. I think too much. I need to slow down and just be present and happy in the moment.
That is so easier said than done.
Dan reminded me to enjoy the process. He reminded me that I’m usually so happy after a fight; I should learn to enjoy the fight from beginning to end. I tried. I really did. Unfortunately, I let all these other feeling override enjoyment. I gave into feelings of self-consciousness, doubt, frustration.. god, you name it, I felt it. My stomach was uneasy all the time. I compared myself and my training to my friend, who was also preparing to fight that very same weekend back home. I wished we were training together. I felt guilty. I didn’t feel like I was training as hard as she was. I cried. I lost the joy in training and I couldn’t find it. I just wanted to fight.
But just wanting to fight wasn’t going to make the fight come any sooner, so I kept at the training. I was fighting on the same card as 2 others from my camp, Wut, late 20 something, and Saksit, 32. Both are amazing fighter with TONS of experience. I had the opportunity to train with both. Saksit more so than Wut. Sparring with Saksit was like sparring with a dancer. He’s short, maybe a little shorter than me, and all lean muscle. He jumped and switched and sashayed around me. His footwork was amazing to watch, sometimes I’d get caught in a trance of just watching during a round and then he’d throw a jab and BOOM, I was back. He reminded me of TJ Dillashaw in his fight around Renan Barao, so light on his feet and a look of calmness, of ease on his face.
Saksit even taught me some of his moves, not just techniques, but a Wai Khru also. I hadn’t practiced the Wai Khru in a while and was a bit rusty, so I asked P’Tom if he could help me with it. He told me mine was beautiful and that I didn’t need help, but I kept asking and he had Saksit show me one. He helped me with each section carefully. I never really had anyone show me exactly step by step the entire Wai Khru. It was awesome. He told me to make my arms beautiful and essentially to be graceful, except in not so many words. We did a lot of mirroring.
Two days before my fight, I took it reaaaaaal easy. I got to the gym and did 15 min of jump roping then received a Thai oil massage that burned because I was already sweating. OUCH. Everyone made fun of me as I walked around the gym with my arms extended blowing on them to jokingly try to cool down. I did a few rounds on the bag, shadowed, then called it a day and made it home before a storm rolled in. The next day I went to school and then relaxed.
I went through my normal routine; make breakfast, relax, and go get a movie. This fight’s choice was Hanna. Pretty bad ass movie. I snacked and got ready for the night, picked out my outfit and started to braid my hair. I was so anxious. I braided and rebraided and I just couldn’t get it right. It frustrated me. I gave up, we were late and I could do it at the event. We headed over to the gym to me up with my trainer and the others that were fighting. We picked up coconut water on the way, that seemed to relax me a little, and I had my red bull ready for later to give me an extra zip of energy. We arrived at the gym and the gym owner tried to tell us something about my opponent. We gathered that there was going to be another girl there, someone I was supposed to fight, and he was going to show her to me. We really didn’t understand, but nodded “okay” and since we had extra time told them we’d meet them at the gym after we grabbed some dinner. We went off in search of a Thai omelet with vegetables. We went to a place we knew would be open and while our food cooked, I went up to the bathroom and tried to calm down. I took my time braiding my hair and tried to just focus on the strands of hair I was twisting with my fingers and let go of the anxiety.
The event was held at a school specifically for athletics, so it was inside. We arrive and immediately I hear my name. Apparently, the gym owner and my trainer had been looking for me. I was ushered over towards a food stand and then I looked up and was introduced to my opponent. The gym owner something like, “ she big very big, up to you. I think no fight, but up to you.” No fight? What? She just stood there looking at me in jeans and a tee shirt. They had me stand next to her. She was a bit taller than me, I think I stood close to her shoulders, but there was no way I was not going to fight because she was …. taller than me. I told them I wanted to fight. They said, okay and we shook hands. It was strange. They presented her. Turns out at back at the gym the gym owner was actually telling us I would probably not fight because she was too big, but he would let me meet her.
Alright, so I was told I would fight fourth or fifth. I waited two fights, maybe three and then it was time to wrap up my hands. I plugged into my headphones and zoned out. This time around I had a play list of really girly, happy, pop songs and I am not ashamed. It put me in a good mood. I drank my red bull and I wanted so badly to get in the ring. Once I got there, my stomach dropped. I was so nervous. I tried to calm myself down while doing my Wai Khru. My opponent didn’t do one, so there I was all alone going through the motions while she and everyone else watched. I tried to not let that play with my emotions more.
I want a good fight.
I want to be proud of this.
I went over to my corner and got ready.
It’s like my whole body is tingling with anxiety. I can’t calm down. I am never having a full red bull again. Relax, relax. We have a bit of an exchange and then I go down. I bet that made her happy. Hell no. I am not losing. I don’t care how big she is. She will not take me down again. The anxiety kept building. I couldn’t find a rhythm. I couldn’t relax. I don’t think I was even breathing. The bell rung and I took a deep breath while walking over to my corner.
What the hell was that, Jill.
I remember my corners telling me to remember timing, to go for the body. “She no heart, you heart. Go for the body.”
I tried to think of timing, of kicks, of anything. But nothing came; it was like I was frozen. Sure, I was moving and fighting and doing things on the outside, but it was like it wasn’t me fighting. I don’t know how to explain it. My body wasn’t doing the things I wanted it to do, but then again I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do except to keep going. She got me with kick or two, and a bunch of knees. I kept trying to bring her head down to my knee, but she was too tall. I abandoned that idea and went to elbows. She kind of rested on the ropes and the ref gave her a standing eight sending me to a corner.
Okay, get your shit together.
You can do this. You can do this.
You’re better than this.
And then it was over, he called it.
No. What? Keep going!
The ref grabbed my hand and spun me around. I walked over to my corner in a daze. They grabbed me and took pictures with me. I was confused and felt like I was going to cry.
It’s over? What do you mean? She just gave up?
I didn’t hit her hard enough for her to just give up. Did I?
I didn’t think so. I was so upset. I was embarrassed. Everyone kept congratulating me, taking pictures with me, and telling me I had a good heart. It was a blur. All I could think of was how she just stole my fight. She took away my rounds, the rounds I wanted to improve in. She gave up. I wanted to do better. I was going to do better. It was the second round. Why did she give up? Did I really hurt her or did she just not want to fight anymore? My technique was sloppy. I wanted to be better. I could have done better. I wanted those rounds.
Dan once told me about an article that basically said, in fighting there are so many things you are going to be down about, don’t ever be down about a win. I couldn’t help it. I wanted to be happy. I was ready to be happy, but I couldn’t get past it. I was embarrassed. Dan was frustrated with me. He reminded me a win is a win and that I should be very happy and proud. Proud. I guess this would be the time I should be proud, but I couldn’t be proud of something that I know didn’t do my best in. It hurt. I wanted to be proud of myself, but I just couldn’t. Even on the phone with my mom, I couldn’t fake happiness, she could tell. I tried to get myself to be in the moment and to be happy that I won and that I wasn’t the one who gave up. It just wouldn’t come, the happiness just wouldn’t come.
During the next few days, I thought about the fight more and more. Finally, I sat down and wrote down what I learned from the fight and towards the end I realized that yeah, maybe I did not perform the way I wanted to, but I was NOT the one sitting on the ropes. I did NOT give up even when I felt anxiety at another level and a degree nervousness I hadn’t yet experienced.
I did not give up.
Things I learned:
Relax. Stay calm. Trust yourself. Trust your skill. Trust your training. Believe in yourself unconditionally. Shadowbox sufficiently before you fight even if everyone is starring at you. It’s important. Size doesn’t matter as long as you trust yourself. Believe in more than your ability to keep up, believe in your ability to excel. Timing is everything. Be proud of yourself for everything you have accomplished, be proud of yourself for your ability to want more, for never accepting failure, for the desire to keep going.
That’s something I can be damn proud of. I will never ever give up.