Inside-Out Girl

My focus of late has been “getting in.”  At my size, it is conceivable that I will always be shorter and possibly lighter than my opponant.  Only the former...

My focus of late has been “getting in.”  At my size, it is conceivable that I will always be shorter and possibly lighter than my opponant.  Only the former poses a technical obstacle, for which strategic training must be employed.  The obvious, or immediate, answer is to fight on the inside, thus cutting off the height of my opponent and thieving the advantage.

This is not a “try using your left kicks” strategy.  There is very little that is physical about training this tactic and I have, thus far, had incredible difficulty accomplishing it in sparring situations.  Perhaps in a euphemistic way, I blame my inability on my inherent “politeness.”  I have yet to pin-point what it is, mentally, that prohibits me from charging in, pressuring my opponent, and taking control of the inside.  I am afraid to get in.

In the movie “Red Belt,” the primary character and jiu jitsu instructor demonstrates to a wounded female character that there is a wider range of safe areas than there are danger areas in a fight.  He has her stand far out of his reach and asks if she is in danger, to which she responds, “no.”  He moves closer, so that he is right up against her, and asks if he can strike her there and, again, she responds to the negative.  When he backs up slightly, so that she is right in his reach and asks her if he can hurt her there, she says, with some level of true fear in her voice, that he can.  The instructor says simply, “don’t stand there.”

In my mind, I can comprehend this lesson.  To a degree, I appreciate and even believe it.  At my size, especially relative to a larger opponant, coming in is a transition into greater safety for me and greater danger for my adversary.  But the mental and physical do not agree enough to actually force me to charge in.  It is possible, probable maybe, that this is a byproduct of my bad habit of mirroring: if my opponent stays on the outside, so will I.  It is also possible that I sympathize my opponent with myself, and knowing that I am more dangerous on the inside, I trick myself into believing that she has the same advantage and I am, in turn, in greater danger on the inside as well.

What is frustrating about this process of learning to come in is that, again and again, it is my primary focus in sparring and I am unable to accomplish it at all.  In failing to achieve this simple goal, I am failing the entire exercise.  I have experienced consequences in my attempts – receiving painful push-kicks or getting my arms tangled in close range, such that I cannot land, or sometimes even attempt, punches – but none so devastating that they should prevent me from continuing in my efforts and figuring out avenues and tricks for success.

This frustration and self-doubt is not unprecedented; it’s not even surprising.  When I was a teenager and went cliff jumping with my brothers, I was unable to force myself off the edge.  I watched time and again as others, including my sister, leapt from the cliff into the water below, emerging thrilled and unscathed.  There was clearly no lethal consequence.  Everyone else was able to enjoy the experience without damage or mental breakdown.  Indeed, what I failed to do, more than failing to throw myself from a cliff for the sheer thrill of it, was to overcome my mental judgement that this act was not in my capacity.  Going over the ledge and dropping into the water below is the result – the thrill is permissable because – of the ability to overcome the mind.  The physical is mechanical obedience.  My mind, in a schizophrenic fit, could not choose the 1 over the 0, although it is clearly capable of either outcome.  Once you start moving, you’ve already won.

Why can’t I move?  Why can I understand mentally that the physical is a simple result of having overcome the uncomplicated choice of saying “yes” instead of “no”, and yet I cannot actually make this choice?  I’ve made it, conceptually, but I have not believed it, committed to it.  It is my constant downfall, without having experienced the jump.

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A 100 lb. (46 kg) female Muay Thai fighter. Originally I trained under Kumron Vaitayanon (Master K) and Kaensak sor. Ploenjit in New Jersey. I then moved to Thailand to train and fight full time in April of 2012, devoting myself to fighting 100 Thai fights, as well as blogging full time. Having surpassed 100, and then 200, becoming the westerner with the most fights in Thailand, in history, my new goal is to fight an impossible 471 times, the historical record for the greatest number of documented professional fights (see western boxer Len Wickwar, circa 1940), and along the way to continue documenting the Muay Thai of Thailand in the Muay Thai Library project: see patreon.com/sylviemuay

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