JUMP IN WITH BOTH FEET
I found Muay Thai late in life. At 27, I was stressed out from my job and looking for something fun to do that would keep me in shape. I had spent my university years training and competing as a freestyle wrestler. And like most athletes who graduate and start working in the “real world”, I felt a large void in my life.
I was introduced to Muay Thai through a friend and it instantly spoke to me. It was beautiful, deadly, dynamic and steeped in tradition. I gave a lot to my practice over the next 5 years, but I didn’t give it everything. I was married and a business owner AND fighting Muay Thai at an amateur level. Essentially I had three full time jobs. And anyone knows that having three full time jobs means you are doing everything at 33%.
And then, in the span of 6 months, the two other constants in my life were gone and I was left with Muay Thai. It was the only thing I had. Right when my world started to unravel, I went to a meditation retreat at the suggestion of my coach. I started a diligent practice of Vipassana meditation. I shed layers and layers or emotional baggage, self doubt and co-dependency. I battled through thoughts of leaving my professional career behind and finding safety and stability in a cushy office job, I thought about running away from Calgary and becoming a new person somewhere else. I thought too much. I thought too often. And I thought too loudly.
I kept my meditation practice going and slowly my mind started to slow down. I started to calm down. I sat with myself for hours and hours, navigating through my own B.S. For the first time in my life, I gave myself permission to do what I wanted. I dug deep and with great honesty I decided I would be a professional Muay Thai fighter and give it everything I had. I would jump in with both feet and not look back. I would ride the spiral to the end.
I tightened up my work schedule. I cut down on my commuting time by living close enough to work that I could walk, and close enough to my Muay Thai gym that I could run there. I took my training seriously and gave it everything I had. I took care of myself spiritually, made time for friends and family for the first time in years and found a flow that worked. I then I waited for the fights to roll in. And they didn’t come.
It is challenging enough to be a busy male Muay Thai fighter in North America. Now add to that my gender, my weight class, my record and the fact I live in Canada and promoters don’t want to spend the money to fly me in to fight on their cards. My dreams of being a busy professional fighter came to a screeching halt. I had changed my entire life for this and it didn’t work. I questioned whether or not I should keep training. I thought about retiring and “getting a real job” and carrying on with “normal life”. Things I am sure my family would prefer me to do.
The problem was, I still had fight left in me. And I knew that if I stepped away now, I would never forgive myself. I have one chance at life on this planet (that I am conscious of) so it's now or never. I want my (future) children to see that I followed my heart and did not let anything stop me. I want to live an authentic and honest life. So it became a matter of adaptation. Adapt or die. I did the thing I SWORE I would never do. I decided to start fighting in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).
When I started fighting Muay Thai, I made a promise to myself to stay pure. To study the art and not get distracted by any other. To do one thing and do it brilliantly. Now, I was entering the world of being good at many arts. Stepping away from the pure into the complexities of the multiple. Stepping away from something I know, love and am comfortable with into what I affectionately called “the darkside”.
So again, I jumped in with both feet. If I was going to learn MMA, I would have to pare down my already pared down life even more. I moved my work schedule around to accommodate 4-6 hours a day of physical and technical training. I stepped away from the Muay Thai gym that has been my home for 5 years and joined an MMA gym. I started training wrestling again, Jiujitsu, boxing, grappling and MMA. I started UN-learning my art, fighting my muscle memory and adapting my art into a new form. And to be completely honest, for the first months, I hated it.
I was in mourning. I missed my team, my coach and my martial art. It was all melting away and I was fighting it hard. I was self sabotaging left right and center...telling myself I hate MMA..telling myself I cannot do it...getting injured as I resisted change...dragging my ass to practice and fighting back tears the entire time. It was a make it or break it moment in my career.
And then I came across a quote by Richard Strozzi Heckler:
“The path of the warrior is lifelong, and mastery is often simply staying on the path”
It became very clear to me that the key to my success and getting through this was simply to keep coming. And then I was reminded by my coach of the concept of “anicca”. Anicca, in Theravada Buddhism, is the belief that all things, including the self, are impermanent and constantly changing.
These two things became my mantra. Stay on the path and know that everything is constantly changing.
So here I am.
Learning, training, adapting and changing everyday. I am set to have my first MMA fight sometime in the New Year and for the first time since I started training MMA, I am excited about it. I have jumped in with both feet and will ride this spiral to the end.