From Coward to Muay Thai Fighter
What happens if a middle-aged ex-drunk decides that he wants to learn the toughest fighting art in the world?
In three months time I intend to step into a ring and fight Muay Thai. This is going to be the toughest challenge I’ve ever faced and the prospect of a physical confrontation both thrills and scares the hell out of me. Many of those who know me think I’m mad to even consider such a risky venture, but this just feels so important to me.
For many years I wallowed in alcoholism. I believed this to be the easy path through life. Of course I was wrong about this; my attempt to skip hardship brought me through hell. It did teach me at least one important lesson though; the easy path does not take me anywhere I want to go. I’ve found that life is about achieving dreams and to do this I need to keep pushing my limits. A famous saying in martial arts is that the only person we are really fighting is the person we were yesterday.
From Coward to Muay Thai Fighter
I’m not a natural fighter – quite the opposite in fact. I can usually talk my way out of trouble; I’d rather be viewed as a coward than deal with violence. On the couple of occasions when my words were ineffective the fight didn’t last long. An attacker never needed to hit my twice; after the first blow I’d roll up into a ball. The threat of violence terrifies me but I’ve found that wonderful things can happen when I face my fears.
It’s a bit ironic, but despite my terror of confrontation I’ve been obsessed with martial arts for most of my life. I began practicing Kung-Fu in my early teens. Bruce Lee inspired my efforts and I wanted to be just like him. It turned out that the ability to defend myself in the gym wasn’t always transferable to the outside world, but my love of martial arts has remained consistent. I’m convinced that it was lessons remembered from martial arts that eventually helped me find my way back from addiction.
Muay Thai is the toughest martial art in the world. They call it the science of eight limbs because you can attack and defend with every part of the body. Years ago I attended a training course in Ireland led by Master Sken; a Muay Thai champ that is credited with helping to bring this martial art to Western Europe. He impressed the hell out of me with his speed and power. During my years living in Thailand I’ve seen many more Muay Thai fighters in action and my respect for this fighting art has increased. Looking at these fights I would fantasise that it was me in the ring; I assumed that I was too old to make this a reality.
The urge to learn Muay Thai persisted until eight months ago when I made up my mind to follow this dream. I signed up with the nearest gym to my home in Bangkok. The training is tough, but the fact that I’m now middle aged isn’t too much of an obstacle. Sure, I’m never going to be a Muay Thai champion but there is more to martial arts than this. Over the next few months I’m going to increase my training until by July I’ll be training full-time in preparation for the fight. Even though I’m in my forties, and alcohol abuse almost destroyed my body and mind, I’m working towards the highest level of fitness I’ve ever experienced.
Sharing My Muay Thai Experiences
Not only do I plan to fight Muay Thai but I’m also going to document the experience. I intend to demonstrate how achieving dreams is still possible even after we have taken many wrong turns in life. I want my wanderings into Muay Thai to be inspirational, or at the very least entertaining. This fighting art is an important aspect of Thai culture and I’ll share what I learn from the inside. There are now many westerners who are interested in coming to Thailand to learn Muay Thai and I hope my experiences will be of interest to them too.
My first book Dead Drunk dealt with my experiences of escaping addition at a Thai temple. Defeating alcoholism saved my life and getting my account published was as dream come true - I’m proud of both achievements. Fighting Muay Thai is a different type of challenge. I’m going to have to push myself physically and mentally beyond anything I would have previously considered possible. It is going to be tough. If all goes to plan there will be a book in 2012, but in the meantime you can follow my progress at http://middleagedmuaythai.com/