As an amateur Nak Muay back in 2004, I was blessed to have earned a World Kickboxing Association amateur national championship title in Virginia, summer of 2004.
Under the tutelage of Jason Strout, his guidance made it possible for me to stop my quarter-final opposition in the first round and then my semi-final opponent dropped out of the tournament. It helped me go on to win the rest of the tournament and come back to NYC as the 165 pound amateur national champion. As with anyone who is stopped in the first round, a rematch is usually the first thought in mind to prove that there is more fight within them. As the warrior that I believe I am, I jumped at the opportunity to defend the title. My mindset immediately kicked in, as the IFMA Muay Thai Word Championships 2004 were only a few months away in Bangkok, Thailand. It would be my first trip to the Land Of Smiles to fight, and the first substantial US team to represent the United States of America.
What automatically popped in my head was, “To earn my spot on Team USA, I want and need to defend my title and street cred against the hungry opposition”. If I lost the rematch/title my dream of finally making it to Thailand to train and represent our country would be just that: a dream. Although my training intensified to prepare to end off the year (2004) with a busy schedule (National Title defense, trip to Thailand) I clearly remember my will power and desire driving me through all the ups and downs of becoming battle ready. “Win, defend the title, and become my dream”, was the mindset I had ingrained. Being a single dad, I wanted to show my 6 year old son at the time that any dream is possible once you set the picture in your head, stay focused, and stop at nothing! Even though fighting and training quenched every part of my being, my greater wish was that my son would learn life long lessons watching me struggle for what I wanted. These were all the conceptions that were swirling in my head as 29 year old warrior, hungry for a legacy.
The title defense was set for Sept 2004 at the Mayhem On Mulberry show in Nolita, NYC. We were the main event and I believe we gave the crowd what they came for, a 5 round war that left everyone cheering for more. To this day I have never gone in to a fight thinking about a KO win, but I was able to drop my adversary in the fight for a standing 8 count that had us both gunning for an early stoppage. With the fight going to the score cards I earned my spot with a unanimous decision to make the journey across the world, to the Mecca of Muay Thai.
If you understand the rigors of Muay Thai, winning doesn’t always mean coming out unscathed. Like any proper Muay Thai ring war, both sides endure some sort of damage. The swollen left eye and battered quads were just minor set backs. I suffered a major shin clash that left me concerned about getting back to training for the world championships. With a huge dent in my right shin (my power leg), limping and tender to the touch of a breeze off the East River, I was left without my main weapon at the time.
Once again, my mindset took over and helped me believe that nothing was going to stop me from hunting down my goal. With 6 weeks in Thailand on the horizon just a couple months away, not only did I have to train hard but I had to learn how to train smart. Just preparing to go to Thailand was one of the tougher challenges along my path. With virtually no use of my dominant leg other than walking and standing on it, my fight training needed to evolve. The switch kick at that point in my career was my least favorite technique of choice but with this injury I needed to change my habits and attitudes.
In November of 2004 I landed at Bangkok International Airport after a 23 hour trip with my right shin swollen as if I’d been attacked by a swarm of bees on the plane ride over. My vision for training for the next 4 weeks was to sharpen my left leg to the point of mastery. As always, training tested my physical and mental capacity but I knew I was stronger than my injury.
The entire 6 weeks was a game changing experience for me and how the warrior mindset dictates all. I was able to imagine with all my mind, believe with all my heart, and achieve with all my might that your body does only what your thoughts tell it to.
To keep your mind, body and spirit tuned up your training should simulate what happens in the ring; full out effort, high intensity, composure and grace. I do these types of work outs to keep me dynamic and ballistic (long after my competitive career came to an end) but can still keep you Nak Muays sharp and ready to scrap.
Check out the tutorial below and GET TO WORK!