Author

About the Author
My name is James Gregory. I study under Ajahn Coban Lookchaomaesaithong at Coban's Muay Thai Camp in Manhattan. My Muay Thai story is one of recovery. I didn’t find Muay Thai until I was 29, ironically after returning from Asia to the United States. I spent the close to seven years before that living and working in Tokyo in journalism and marketing until I burned out from an alcohol and drug addiction, which forced me to return home and restart my life. My discovery of Muay Thai filled a gap in me which substances had before—the intensity, completeness, passion and people of Muay Thai have been integral in my continued sobriety. Every time I practice Muay Thai is a new moment of thanks for me. Practicing any art is a privilege, and being given one as beautiful and demanding as Muay Thai after so much self-destruction is a blessing I cherish. Nutrition has been another key piece of my sobriety and return to health, as well as my ability to train, recover and make weight. In addition to my “day job” as a freelance writer and translator, I run FastPaleo.com, a recipe sharing site for the paleo diet, which emphasizes whole, unprocessed foods for optimal health. Paleo has been something which has helped my overall health and training tremendously, and the site began from a personal desire to help others find similar happiness through a useful, free resource. I hope that my writing will be a way for me to give back to an art which has given me so much.

Martial Arts and Fighting

By James Gregory –

My amateur Muay Thai record is now 2-7-2, well 2-8-2 after I began this draft and lost another decision this past weekend. While I have had some extremely close ones, from a competitive standpoint, in no way is that a “good” record. While neither is it a good feeling to come up on the losing side of a decision, or to be knocked out three times, I feel that I have gradually become a better fighter, and I am having fun. I enjoy training and fighting Muay Thai. It makes me feel human. 

And over the course of the now almost six years since I first stepped into a gym, my life outside of the gym has also improved dramatically. I have regained my health after ten years of struggling with alcoholism and substance abuse. I’ve become strong enough to have a real relationship with the person I love rather than stringing together superficiality and shying away when it was time to stop pretending there wasn’t a person on the other end. I was diligent enough to stick with a new idea long enough for it to become a successful business despite not beginning with any knowledge or experience in the field. I have, I hope, developed a healthy concept of confidence, a belief in myself, not cockiness, a belief one is better than others. 

That said, I’m sure I’m also trying to justify a jealousy of those more competitively successful than I am. I’ve always heard that “fighting’s not for everyone,” and I’ve always wanted to convince myself—am still trying to convince myself—that I’m one of the select few who it is for. Everyone wants to be one of the cool kids, at some level. 

And to be honest, I am frustrated. I’ve learned from some of the very best teachers; I feel like I do my work, actively work to absorb new techniques and get better, take the matches that are given to me—some against better fighters, some on short notice—and I would like to think I fight with heart. I’m developing a complex of sorts. I wonder why everyone else is able to win and not me; what is wrong with me; what do all the “winners” have that I’m missing. Where is the line between pushing yourself and being kind to yourself, between working to become better and self-abuse, between a healthy desire to win and an obsession to be better than others. A lot of the time, I just don’t feel like I have the qualities it takes to be a fighter, and it’s a heartbreaking feeling, especially when contrasted with how much I love Muay Thai. 

And then I step back and take the long view: realizing everything Muay Thai has done for my health, happiness and sobriety, the positive human relationships it’s allowed me to form, the challenges its helped me face outside of the ring, the possibility of teaching others later in life, and again, the simple fact that I enjoy doing it. Every day of my life, it’s where I most want to be. It’s a constantly deeper descent, or ascent, into profound self-reflection which is simultaneously terrifying and gratifying. 

When you step onto the mats of a Muay Thai camp, even as a first-time student taking an intro class, you are immediately placed into a situation of confrontation. You find yourself surrounded by other people, being asked to do something very difficult with your body in front of those people and have your efforts critiqued. You will need to do things incorrectly, to fail, hundreds and thousands of times to have a taste of proficiency and the feeling of having learned, and earned, something. And for that process to continue, it must remain unchanging. You must simply be open to failing at higher and higher levels, and be open to critique in more and more minute detail, being put in a brighter and brighter, and in the case of fighting, a literal spotlight.

This is where martial arts become a microcosm of life, and where the pixelated mysticism surrounding the “magic” of the martial artist resolves itself into clearer focus. If you repeatedly place yourself into situations where you must perform; are repeatedly willing to fail and to see your failures only as opportunities for improvement, and come to view the process not as a “30 Day Challenge,” but as an essential and eternal philosophical state of being that applies not only to your art, but to your entire life, on top of the physical benefit of fun, regular exercise, it is near impossible not to see holistic improvement throughout your whole being.

I believe this process is very much possible whether or not you fight. While the scale of intensity may be magnified, fighting is still a similar process to martial arts practice. Both require the same type of vulnerability and humility, if at different levels. What level you pick is relative to yourself, to your goals, and to your own happiness.

But what is the essential difference between the act of fighting and martial arts? I think one oversimplified answer is to say that if you’re not fighting, you’re not “really” doing martial arts. After all, it’s not a mit punching, bag kicking or board breaking art, it’s a martial art, right? People will point to arts and practitioners that don’t spar, or don’t get into the ring, and say they aren’t doing what it’s “really” all about.

I can see both sides of this. If you never fight, never even spar with contact, but are confident in your ability to fight based solely on theoretical study, I suppose my question would be, “How do you know?”

At the same time, it’s also a very strange idea to me that the “practicality” of martial arts is defined solely in their value as a form of hand-to-hand combat. In the six years I’ve studied Muay Thai, outside of the twelve match fights and five smokers I’ve competed in, I’ve never once been forced to test its “practicality” in a street fight. So, if I judge the practicality of something I’ve put thousands of hours into by the yardstick of something I’ve had to do zero times in the “real world,” how much sense does that definition make?

Even those who fight for a living, or for their family’s living, and even those who are unfortunately forced to do so, ultimately fight under a somewhat contrived premise. Instead of using force for sheer survival such as the defense of their country, or homes, or family, or their own person, it is for others’ entertainment, spectating, and even wagering. It’s called a “show” for a reason, because it’s spectacle. And the added irony is that I don’t believe anyone who fights does so at all for the people watching. It’s much too difficult a thing to do for reasons as extrinsic as people you’ve never met looking for a place to drink beers on a Friday night. Be it the desire for personal challenge, or economic need in the form of the “prize” that the prizefighter fights for to put food on his or her table, I don’t believe any of the reasons the folks who step into the ring do so really have to do with the crowd.

I in no way mean to trivialize the fact that many do make their living, and many a very meager living, by fighting—only to say that they are not fighting their opponent directly for their next meal, but rather to receive payment from a promoter, and ultimately from the spectators who come for fun. Everything is one step removed from itself. This is also why in many martial arts circles, particularly in my experience in Muay Thai, there is little animosity between fighters, rather a highly refined craftsmanlike sense of mutual artistry and respect. How else could you fight your friends?

But to return to the question of the difference between martial arts and fighting, I think the real answer is most likely “same same, but different.” I believe the goal of martial arts in our age is for many is the betterment of self. One may never be a great fighter, but if they are able to take the sharp extremity of fighting and direct it toward other areas of their personality or life to better them, the fight is very much practical, and very much beneficial to them. It is the highest level of practice leveraged toward the highest level of life.

One can be a great fighter yet never see that greatness wash through the rest of their life. You can have a great fight career and then end up a broken person because that’s all you allow  your greatness to become, and without it, you have nothing left to hold onto when your body can’t fight another round.

At the same time, I’ve seen people start Muay Thai much later in life, come to class diligently, and grow and become happier as a person, family member, and businessperson, without ever stepping into the ring. A person just like this, who I draw continual inspiration from at the gym, told me, “I don’t see myself ever actually fighting, but I do Muay Thai because during class and learning sparring everything is completely real. I want to learn how to be right there and give everything I can—mind, body and heart. I think the practice has already changed me quite a lot for the better—especially as a parent.”

The truly legendary people, those for whom the arts are their entire lives, and a big part of the lives of others, are those who have the talent and dedication to become accomplished fighters, but who also channel their greatness toward teaching others, building and maintaining gyms, and positively impacting their students and the people around them—the greatness they have developed in the gym and the ring transforms into a greatness that shines throughout their entire lives. Or perhaps better put, the two have always been the same.

Even after fighting for three years, I feel extremely conflicted, and often entirely clueless, about what I’m fighting for. I don’t believe I have many of the qualities it takes to be great: youth, natural talent, a certain selfishness that puts one’s own training always first, and perhaps most ironically, I have no desire to hurt people or even really to win. Simultaneously, I know that if I want to help people by passing on the ring and life knowledge Muay Thai has given me, I want that knowledge to be as authentic as it can be.

Despite, or perhaps because of this internal conflict, I still feel that the way out is through. And I can at least take peace in the fact that I challenged myself and had an honest experience, albeit a difficult and humble one. I think a lot of this thing is a figuring out as you go along, the meaning becomes apparent only through the process.

I also must remind myself that, by most measures, three years is an incredibly short amount of time. I was speaking to a good friend and fellow fighter with a similar amount of experience who told me, “I feel like I am only beginning to understand Muay Thai.” You look at the standout folks that go from amateur to pro quickly in the US and it can be quite humbling, but for most, I believe myself included, the road is long, and you have to trust and enjoy the process. I’m only just beginning, and there’s no real carrot at the end of the stick. You have to just take every day and every fight and take joy in the process and the learning.

“People say that what we’re all seeking a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”—Joseph Campbell

Muay Thai is a Mountain

—James Gregory is the author of Paleo for FightersHeart of 8: What Is Muay Thai?Primal Deliverance: How Paleo Saved My Life from Addiction, and Japan: Stories from the Inside

I didn’t fight my first Muay Thai fight until I was 31. I didn’t even wrap my hands, lace up a glove, or crack a Thai pad until I was 29. I’ll be 34 next month as I’m writing this, and I have a tiny fraction of the fights fighters in Thailand have when they retire—when they’re nine years younger than I am.

Conventional wisdom says eight fights at 33 doesn’t leave too many years for a pro career. Fighting Muay Thai is also not the only thing in my life. I could just as easily spend it on my writing, or my business, or traveling, or any number of other things. But how at all am I benefiting myself by limiting myself, by being realistic? As it’s tough to go wrong quoting Bruce Lee when writing about martial arts: “If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”

I’ve decided not to limit myself, and I’m planning on fighting again in a few months, and probably more after that. And, I know plenty of active fighters older than myself who have chosen similarly.

In life, and in Muay Thai, we have to craft our own meaning. I may not end up with 200 fights and know what it’s like to give my entire life to fighting. And that’s ok. I’m also not satisfied going to class a couple times a week and then ending up never having known the feeling of stepping into a ring—not that there’s a single thing wrong with that—it’s just not me.

What I get from Muay Thai first is my sobriety. It’s the finger that scratches the itch I almost scratched to death with cocaine and alcohol in the past . I’ve trained four to six days a week since I started four years ago with the exception of rest weeks every few months and a broken collarbone and dislocated shoulder, and I was still present at camp even when I was injured. I don’t say that to brag, because it’s not a chore. It’s what keeps me sane; what allows me to challenge things in my life outside of camp, to be a good person and to feel healthy and strong. As a writer and online business owner, it’s also what gets me out from in front of a computer screen and into “real life” every day. It’s what makes me happy.

Fighting is a lesson about myself. I battle with anxiety and the inability to step out of my head and into the present moment on a daily basis. If there is any place on this earth where you must overcome these things to be successful, it is in a fist fight.

It is also a lesson in perseverance and focus—you have to finish strong and with grace and skill in the very eight minutes after you have just completed an arduous training camp.

And, it’s a test of emotional control—for me, a test of whether I can turn on the tough-guy switch within me when it comes time. You can train hard, be fit, take care of your body and know technique, but when you step into the ring, as the saying goes, it’s a fight. You have to be ready to really want to hurt another human being—something that, for me at least, doesn’t come naturally.

There is the idea of the “path” in martial arts. I think you could liken one art to one mountain. I and most everyone reading this are on the Muay Thai mountain. Like an actual mountain, there are different paths to the top. My path is laden with anxiety, over-thinking and gentleness. Those mental obstacles are the streams, boulders and fallen trees I must cross, climb and hurdle on my way to the top of the mountain.

Maybe your goal is to get in shape and know how to handle yourself if you were faced with a fight. Then, fitness, courage and technique would be parts of your path. Maybe you found Muay Thai much later in life, and you want to have something new to learn. Your path involves maintaining an open mind. Maybe you came to Muay Thai young, are naturally tough and athletic, work hard, and are blessed with talent. Your path involves sticking with it until you find yourself fighting for a belt in a stadium on the television.

We can all meet at the top, but only if we understand and decide to walk our own path. You may be in competition with the person you are stepping into the ring with, and you and your camp mates may push each other to work harder and be better, but you are never in a race along the path, because each path is unique to the one walking it. Yet we all climb the same mountain.

Why am I doing this? How will it make me a better person? How does it make me happy? What do I want to look back on and take joy in? It’s perfectly fine not to know the answer to all of these—that search for answers, and even for the right questions, is part of the process. But, the one thing you must realize is that the path leads only inward.

The Gift of the Fight

—James Gregory is the author of Paleo for Fighters, Heart of 8: What Is Muay Thai?, Primal Deliverance: How Paleo Saved My Life from Addiction, and Japan: Stories from the Inside

Once you hear the ripping, nails-across-the-chalkboard tear of the duct tape being wrapped around your gloves, there is no turning back. You have to walk out in front of hundreds of people, three-quarters-naked, and get into a fist fight—and not just any fist fight, but one that should be dancelike in its grace and fluidity. If you are performing the wai kru, then you actually have to dance on top of that. You must simultaneously be a dog in a fight and a link in an ancient artistic chain, a proverbial jasmine blossom in the phuang malai floral garland that adorn the fighters for good luck before the fight.

In my first few fights, all this made me incredibly nervous. I wasn’t scared of my opponent so much or even of getting hurt, or “scared” at all really. It was—and there is no more accurate descriptor for it—”performance anxiety.” “What if I get in here and totally freak out?” “Am I going to be able to throw the technique that we worked on?” “I hope I can represent my camp well.” More than anything, I would get nervous about being able to do the one thing that it is all about: showing good Muay Thai.

Part of how I began to escape from this anxiety was by getting out of my own head and into the moment. This is one of my biggest challenges in life, yet one that I have achieved gradual, albeit still incomplete release from by knowing when it’s time to analyze, and when it is time to simply “flow.” Once you are in a performance setting, it’s no longer time to think, but to do. Make no mistake about it, there is no harder performance than a ring fight.

You have to trust that the years and months and weeks and hours and countless repetitions and pushing-through that make up your training will simply glide from your subconscious, through your muscle memory, and into a good performance, a good fight. Once I got to the place where I realized, “all you have to do is fight,” my mind became clearer, and I could get in there and just do the thing. Better than before, at least.

Since moving to Jersey City this April and beginning to train with Ajahn Coban at Coban’s Muay Thai Camp in New York City, I’ve been fortunate to get a glimpse into what it means to have grown up as a Muay Thai fighter in Thailand. In the United States, Muay Thai seems to attract mostly educated, often artistic, and often otherwise professionally accomplished practitioners. Yet, from what I have glimpsed, in Thailand, many fighters begin fighting as small children to escape poverty. While many of us have to go out of our way to find something hard, a hard life is all they have ever known. Meditating on this has given me a lot of gratitude.

During the last few days of my training camp for my fight at Warriors Cup XVIII earlier this month, I had the pleasure of meeting a fighter I had long followed and admired, “Boom” Whattanaya, as he finished his training camp for his WBC championship fight with Rami Ibrahim. Just before meeting Boom, I had read an interview with him in which he describes his life of fighting as a child so his parents could eat, of 5am-to-11pm days split between factory work and training, a life he continued for years. And yet despite this—or perhaps because it— he was one of the kindest, brightest souls I have ever met.

There was one particular line in the interview which resonated with me: “All fighters are friends and everyone respects each other. Nobody trash talks and all fighters are treated equal and are grateful for their opponents.” While the idea of respect is indeed one of martial arts’ greatest gifts, this time, it was the last bit that really stuck with me: grateful for their opponents. Grateful for someone who has trained for weeks and is going to do everything in their power to physically hurt you as much as possible. At first counterintuitive, but to me now, resoundingly true.

Muay Thai has given me more than perhaps anything in this world: my sobriety, physical health, happiness, a real hobby, a social life not at a bar, friendship, a reason to get out of the house every day…and the gift of being able to compete in—to perform—something that both includes and transcends sport. Of all the other terrible places I could be or have been in my life, I’m on the mats with a fit body and a good mood, surrounded by real friends doing something fun and beautiful. When it’s time to fight, my opponent is the one person out of all the people in the whole entire world that is directly allowing me to realize my dream in its ultimate form. What more could I ask for? How much more grateful could I be?

I had heard plenty of times that “the fight is the fun part,” and for the first time, it truly was. Locked in with the shiny red tape around my gloves, the mongkol on my head and my campmates behind me, for the first time, I felt elation. I couldn’t wait to get in there and enjoy myself, to get to do something very few people ever get to do, and something that brings other people joy through its beauty, its martial art. The tape that had been plastic handcuffs imprisoning me in eight eternal minutes of anxiety and violence transformed into colorful ribbons that sealed the wrapping on a rare and beautiful gift, the gift of the fight.

Muay Thai Is an Island

Muay Thai is an Island 

James Gregory is the author of Paleo for Fighters and Heart of 8: What is Muay Thai?, from which this essay is taken.

I have a new ritual since moving to New York City and my new camp. After training, I walk a block down the street to the corner deli and buy a cup of fresh-squeezed orange juice and container of cut water melon.

The deli is well-lit and well-stocked with an ample hot and cold salad bar and tons of cold drinks that I like, like sparkling water, coconut water, and the fresh orange juice, which is nearly orgasmic after a long training session. The entire 35th Street side of the deli is made up of a fresh-cut flower stand, rows and rows of colorful, neatly wrapped flowers, the aroma of which mixes with the grunge of the city to form a mélange that is uniquely Manhattan.

Planter

The planter at 35th Street and 7th Avenue

The sensorial energy of the place is compounded by its intense busyness. This is a short walk from Madison Square Garden and the Empire State Building, a street corner swelling with cabs, tourists and people trying to make a buck to get through the day.

At times, people seem to be driven by the collective energy as much as they create it. And at times you see things that seem crazy, but probably commonplace to a long-time New Yorker.

The other day I saw a man run out in front of a taxi in the middle of the street; the cab driver cut him off and nearly hit him; the pedestrian kick the rear cab window and then spit in the cab driver’s face; the cab driver spit back in the pedestrian’s face, the pedestrian walk back to near where I was standing, exchange a pleasant smile with a woman who had seen the whole thing happen, laughingly tell her “I told him I would break his shit,” and then them both chuckle about it, like they had just seen a small child do something funny, or a puppy chasing its tail.

I watched this all from the place where I always eat my watermelon and drink my orange juice, leaning against a four-foot by four-foot planter that sits directly in front of the deli on the 7th avenue side, right next to two public phone booths, which, since nobody really uses public phones anymore, have transformed into cigarette-smoking and cell-phone-talking alcoves.

With the feel of the warm sun shining down, the taste of the fresh-cut watermelon and fresh-squeezed orange juice, and the smell of both the fresh-cut flowers and the seasonally planted tulips and dirt of the planter, it’s like a tiny, organic island I can get away to for a few brief minutes on my commute home through the concrete and steel cityscape.

I think it’s very easy to confuse activity with vitality, and Manhattan is one of the places in the world where this confusion is most pronounced. While it is indeed bustling and full of movement, sites, smells and sounds, it is at the very same time a 23-square-mile block of concrete, steel, and plastic through which life flows in and out of choked, dilapidated bridges and tunnels.  Cut off from these artificial lifelines, it would die very quickly.

And this is not to pick on Manhattan. Our entire modern world is like this, supported by energy dug from the ground thousands of miles away, shipped on trucks down stretches of asphalt highways, always just enough to keep us going for a couple days. We live a life removed—often far removed—from the source of what actually keeps us alive.

Muay Thai is an island in a very similar way for me, an organic and pure respite from a world that has become both very contrived and, under the surface, often very much lifeless.

The second that I walk into Coban’s Muay Thai Camp, everything suddenly becomes organic and alive. Before I even reach the door, the noise itself transforms, from the clashing, mechanical, metal scramble of Midtown to the primal grunting of human effort and the thud of living flesh against leather pads.

As I open the door, I transition from a world where politeness seems to be a thing long forgotten to one where it is still ritualized: I wai first to show respect for the space and the beautiful thing happening there, then to my teacher if I catch his eye, who I address as such, Ajahn. The students are equally as courteous to one another—soft-spoken, deferential, kind, and welcoming to newcomers. I feel that the people there are nurtured by how they treat each other as much as they are by the graceful physicality of Muay Thai.

IMG_1264_2

Ajahn Coban teaching me the Wai Kru

Graceful, and at the same time, simple. In our modern world the pureness of something that requires only your body, mind, desire, and a bare minimum of physical objects to devote yourself to, even to devote your life to, is very fulfilling. So much of our world is so contrived that we find great comfort in the primal and pure.

This is certainly the case for me. Much of my day outside of Muay Thai takes place in a very contrived world—one that I love, but one that is contrived nonetheless. Even the act of writing this—something I love very much—is one of sitting in a locked and unnatural position, tapping away at a hunk of molded plastic to make lighted symbols appear on a screen of more plastic, glass, and metal. It feels good to shake away and unlock my body, mind, and spirit into something freer.

For those few hours of the day I can wear nothing but my shorts and gloves, feel my body move powerfully and freely, be in the very moment with the technique, in a space that is simple and unadorned, with people who are there to feel the same thing I am—who know that feeling, and respect it— I am unattached, unbound, unfettered. And, for those few hours, I am happy.

 

The Paleo Diet for Fighters

– by James Gregory –

James is the author of Paleo for Fighters

I hesitated to use the word “diet” in the title. US society has bastardized it to the point that it conjures up nothing but the unpleasant: pain, struggle and impossibility. I hesitated even more because it represents a special kind of pain for fighters. “Dieting” is feeling constantly hungry, eating flavorless, fatless chicken breasts, microwaved broccoli and maybe some oatmeal for weeks on end and clawing your way through training camp until you’ve malnourished yourself enough to make weight, fight, and then go on a donuts-fried-chicken-greasy-Chinese-food-tacos-and-soda-and-MOARDONUTS!!! bender until it’s time to roust yourself from your food coma and get back into the gym before you’re 25 pounds over your fight weight—typically a week. So, not that. “Diet” in the sense of just the foods that we eat.

If you read my last article, “Why Fighting Solves Everything,” you’ll know that Muay Thai was part of a change to a healthy lifestyle that helped me overcome an alcohol and cocaine addiction, a change that was truly life-saving. Part of this change, in addition to not dumping poison in my body, was a mission to find exactly what I should put in it. After having nearly killed myself, I really wanted to know what it felt like to be truly healthy.

When I started training, I ate what I at the time, and I think most people in general, would consider healthy: mostly whole foods, a good amount of whole grains, not a lot of junk, but some amount of processed sugar, including sports drinks. I weighed around 180-185lbs at 5’7” and trained as much as I do now, 4–6 days a week. Obviously, I don’t have to tell anyone reading this that Muay Thai is good exercise, so it wasn’t like I wasn’t putting the time in at the gym.

I just felt like there was something missing, something I wasn’t doing right, something that could get me leaner. I’ll fully admit, in addition to wanting to feel and be healthy, I wanted to look better, wanted a six pack. I think vanity can be a natural motivator for anyone, and provided it does not become excessive, possibly a healthy one.

At the time, I trained with a doctoral candidate in paleontology at the University of Pennsylvania. She was the one who convinced me to give paleo eating a go. I was fortunate in the fact that she was a real-life paleontologist, but it wasn’t just that. Emma was (and is) a good example of the benefits of paleo eating: healthy, energetic and lean. This is also the exact combination of qualities you also want as a fighter—the whole idea is to be as lean as possible while maintaining enough energy to train and fight well, lean and strong.

After around three weeks to a month of paleo eating, I got what I had been looking for. I dropped 15-20 pounds, all fat. I kept all of my muscle, had more strength, more energy to train. I recovered faster, my moods were more even, and I started to just get more done and in a better way than before. I evened out at around 165lbs, pretty much what I walk around at now, and have fought at 147 and 155lbs. Read More

Why Fighting Solves Everything

– by James Gregory –

James is the author of Paleo for Fighters

There’s a popular t-shirt among Muay Thai fighters, black with “Fighting Solves Everything” embossed in big white block letters right across the chest. Of course, this is poking fun at the idea of using our words and not our fists, talking things out, walking away, and instead saying, “Screw that, just punch them in the face!” Obnoxious t-shirts are the best, and it is a guaranteed conversation starter.

But at the same time, there is a very resounding and likely unintentional truth in the meatheadish message of the t-shirt. Muay Thai tests your entire being—it is as much physical as it is emotional and intensely intellectual. You can have the athleticism but not the technique. You can have the technique but not the fitness. You can look like a Greek statue and still freeze like a deer in the headlights once you step in the ring.

Because of this, it makes other things in life comparatively easy. To do it competitively, even at an amateur level, you need self-discipline, physical and emotional awareness, a sense of life balance, and, determination. Fight training is grindingly intense, you push your body to give absolutely everything it has while your mind simultaneously deals with the inevitability of getting into a fist fight in front of hundreds of people. Read More