by Emma Thomas [written in July 2013]
After my last fight, I wasn’t feeling my best. I’d given a poor performance and felt like I’d let down and disappointed a lot of people, including myself. It was also my third consecutive loss. Those three things all felt pretty bad, but coping with loss isn’t such a hard thing to do. It was the bombshell that followed that was difficult for me to deal with.
The morning after the fight, I was approached by someone who is very close to me, who I highly respect, and who has been a large influence on me both inside and outside of the ring. I expected to be given the usual condolences, followed by a stern telling-off for my mistakes during the fight. However, I received neither. Instead, I was told simply and plainly that I should stop fighting.
I was gobsmacked. I never expected anyone to tell me that I should give up doing not only the thing that I loved doing most, but the current main focus of my life. I knew that my last fight was poor, but had it really been that bad that I should never be allowed to step into the ring again? Perhaps it had. My instant reaction was to cry – a lot.
I couldn’t argue, as the person who’d told me this was someone I respected and whose opinion I held in very high regard. Also, I was so emotional that I couldn’t have said anything even if I had a response to give. That advice was undoubtedly given out of love and a concern for my well-being, but to me it suggested that I was a failure, which I refuse to be.
Why do I do Muay Thai? It’s certainly not because I have an outstanding talent for it, because I’m actually not even particularly good at it. I’ve been training with Master Toddy for a year and a half, but he still sometimes had to shout at me for things that he was shouting at me for when I first started. I often need to be reminded of things that I’ve been taught a hundred times before. Fighting doesn’t come naturally to me at all. I have never been an aggressive person, and I find it really difficult to be one in the ring. I have to maintain a difficult lifestyle, which involves training early in the morning and working until late at night six days per week, having zero social life and having no family and almost no friends around me. At 5ft 2” and 110lbs, I’m not particularly physically strong. So, why do I put myself through it?
The person who gave me this advice always told me that there is no point in just being a fighter if I don’t become a champion. They told me that I should make it my goal to get a few belts and then ‘call it a day’, because ‘there is no point in fighting just for the sake of it, like you do’. I can definitely understand and respect that perspective, but it’s not one that I share.
I’m not training and fighting with an aim to be a champion. My goal has never been to get titles or belts, nor has it been to achieve a certain number of fights. I am doing this simply because I want to challenge myself and feed my passion. I enjoy the learning process. It’s a difficult one, especially when I get my arse handed to me in front of my friends and family, but that doesn’t mean that I have to give up. Nobody has the right to tell me that I should stop doing what I love to do. If I was to stop fighting, it would be because I wanted to, not because someone else told me to.
Plenty of fighters have long losing streaks before going on to be great. I certainly don’t expect to be able to become a great or even a good fighter without learning some hard lessons first. Of course, many people are natural fighters, and fight with great technique without having a huge amount of experience. I realise that I am not one of those people. In reality, I am just a baby in this sport. I didn’t even begin to train in Muay Thai until I was 22. I am now 24 and have had only 11 fights. I never had any amateur bouts, and went straight into fighting in Thailand. I also don’t have any previous experience in any kind of combat sport. These are not excuses for my losses, but reasons why it would be stupid for me to give up so early on in my career. I have huge opportunities in front of me, and the world of Muay Thai is only just beginning to open up to me.
While I appreciate and understand the advice I was given, I simply couldn’t respect myself if I gave up fighting now. I believe in myself enough to know that giving up isn’t the right thing to do. Most importantly to me, Master Toddy does, too. I’ll write a post about his thoughts on this very soon.