As I watch his fist fly towards my face, it lands square on my chin and I (not so gracefully) fly through the air and fall to a heap on the floor.
As I sigh to myself and finally open my eyes to see my boyfriend stood over me, we pause for a moment, before he laughs, outreaches his boxing glove and helps me to my feet whilst I shake my head and profess “I should have kept my guard up”.
No, this isn’t domestic violence at its finest.
This is Muay Thai.
Let me rewind 8 weeks and start from the beginning.
You know those kind of people who have terrible spacial awareness, whose closest relationship is the one with the floor? Those types who could burn themselves in the same place not once, but twice? As graceful as an elephant ice skating, has the hand and eye coordination of a worm and always described as a bull in a china shop?
Well hi! That’s me.
I decided it would be an awesome idea to take up Muay Thai. Not only that, but I’d like to train to fight too.
I’m training with my boyfriend who has a year on me of Muay Thai experience, and 29 years of Karate, Krav Maga, Boxing, MMA, Judo, Brazilian Jujitsu, Origami, and just about every other martial art he could get his hands on. To summarise, we are starting my journey on an equal playing field of course.
It’s the first session, so Aaron, our friend Kieran and myself all go for a run. I haven’t run at this point for… I couldn’t even tell you how long. About 18 months? Not a run that was further than the fridge anyway.
I want to take the time for just a moment so that I can expand a little bit on this run of ours. I thought the request of “break me in gently” would require a circle of the block.
We start down the sandy track, away from our house, with the mountains in the background. I’m thinking, “this is beautiful. I can handle this”. We go down a small hill, hang a left hand turn as we hit the black tarmac of the road. We pick up the pace, so far so good. We turn left to the base of Wat Pra Thad Mea Yen Temple (we live in Pai, Thailand). I see the sudden steep upwards hill to get to the start of the 554 steps to climb up to our intended destination.
Herein was the internal dilemma. My legs at this point were not amused I’d left them unused for so long. My lungs wanted to recreate the movie “Alien” and make their escape through a self-formed chest cavity, I had that sicky taste in my throat, (you know the one where your body’s punishing you for being so lazy for a long period of time and all you want is some water?) and I am sweating so hard, my shirt looks like a second skin.
But. My man is right here, and I don’t want to wimp out and give up. Plus I’m stubborn and don’t like to quit.
I put my momentary self-pity to one side, I tell myself in my sternest, most tough girl voice, and say, “come on Coster, you’ve got this”.
The next while of my life wasn’t without a few breathing breaks and outbursts of profanities. The boys encouragement definitely made an impact, so eventually, slowly, (a little slower than I care to admit, but surely – we conquered the top. And oh my god. It was worth it.
We made it back (in a much better condition than I expected) and made a start on the technique.
For those of you that don’t know, Muay Thai is the Martial Art of 8 points of contact; Fists, Elbows, Knees and Shins.
Even in 8 short weeks, when I look back on my training to my first few sessions. It makes me giggle.
I was awful.
I was jerky, I punched like a wibbly spaghetti noodle with as much power behind it that was probably as effective as a wind turbine on the moon. I was so self conscious and in my own head about every single move that got called out when practising on the kick pads, I’d get frustrated with myself and end up doing the opposite of what I meant to. I couldn’t do a push-up no matter how hard I’d tried because I’d convinced myself so well that I couldn’t do it. Some days I’d get so frustrated with myself I wanted to stop because I felt stupid I couldn’t get it and embarrassed because I thought I looked rubbish and just generally was being a self conscious girl pants with her knickers in a twist!!
Something happened though.
I kept going to my sessions, even in the afternoon when in my opinion I had performed terribly that morning. I listened to what my coach (and boyfriend – who’s been an absolute superstar throughout) – even when I felt it contradicted something I thought was already doing right. I kept doing my drills and practising on the bags and in the ring. If my left hand side was weaker, I’d work that side twice as hard. I kept doing the runs (most days we only run up to the river and back which is challenging enough, but now I get excited when I get to the stairs so I can beat my last performance)
I didn’t suck anymore.
I started to get out my head. I began to have some confidence in myself and my body that actually, what I’m learning, I’m getting a lot better. I’m still months away from where I need to be but I know what I could do better so I just work on it.
I look great, my body’s changed quite a lot in the last few weeks. I’m no supermodel but there’s definitely noticeable definition in my arms and legs and my tummy looks awesome.
I feel good. We eat healthy mostly, and because of training, we eat ALOT. It’s not unusual to order 5/6 dishes when we go for breakfast because the amount of energy we’ve burnt in the training.
I definitely sleep better and my mood overall is noticeably uplifted. I had some anxiety and self esteem issues before. I’ve found being in the ring, whether it be sparring (you don’t have to if you just want to do it for fitness) or just practising technique with the trainer, or whether you’re on the bags, completely helps with getting out frustration, also the adrenaline gets you pumped and excited for the day ahead.
Lastly, I found I actually enjoy being hit! (Although you’re supposed to block against that!).
I train with all walks of life, kids as young as 5, men and women into their 50s. I get to socialise with all sorts of cultures and experiences, it’s great to learn from those who’ve been training for years, or helping those that it’s just their first time (you can tell as they’ve got the same “I’m in my own head” expression as I had screaming off my face and posture. That’s totally fine though. Everyone starts at the same level, I mean – you didn’t come out the womb walking right?
I’m glad I attacked those stairs on the Buddha the first day and I’m glad I didn’t quit, because my training has helped me a lot and I absolutely love it, and I would love for more people to do the same, whether it be for fitness, confidence – or just to meet a bunch of kick-ass (literally) awesome, friendly people to socialise with.
My only advice would be to stick at it, relax so you’re not a Jerky McJerkison, and most importantly – enjoy the experience.
Oh yeah – keep that guard up!
Alia is a twenty something nomad from England. Having lived all over the UK and in Spain, she’s now in Thailand. Lover of the outdoors, sports and good food, you can catch more of her on instagram.