It’s one day before my 24th fight, my 12th fight here in Thailand since returning 5 months ago. I have now officially fought more in Thailand than in the US (as I had 3 fights in Thailand two years ago) and as of tomorrow night will have doubled my number of total fights since setting foot on Thai soil this past April. That’s kind of crazy, but also wonderfully unspectacular feeling. I say that because there will be so many more; it’s one of many, assigned significance through its number or date or whatever.
There is very little objectively remarkable about this fight tomorrow. It’s a rematch against a girl who beat me in our first meeting, a rematch that my main coach, Den, has been eager to bring about since he was kinda pissed that I lost the first one. It’s been slightly longer between my last fight and this one than what I prefer and what has been my general pattern, giving me two full weeks of training between fight nights. I did that once before, when my nose was broken, but since this time it was not a matter of recovery but a fluke involving the promoter moving my fight back a week, I didn’t have any legitimate reason at the forefront of my mind for why these fights have been farther apart and, indeed, they feel very far apart. I wonder if I’ll have “ring rust” after three weeks.
My training has been very good with attention paid to minor details that will help correct my overall performance and abilities as a fighter and not so much specifically aimed toward this fight with this opponent. I know Den wants me to cut off the ring better, but he hasn’t worked with me on it specifically, although I have done a lot of work with my husband in the afternoons to become more automatic in my ring control. I’ve worked specifically on spacing, trying to stay in range at all times rather than using distance as a defense, which is a little funny because all the Thai opponents I’ve faced have been very deliberate in keeping distance – so it’s a matter of rounding out my abilities more than solving an issue I’ve faced a lot in fights. Although, my ability to stay in range while someone is trying to run from me should make a big difference in being able to land more attacks rather than spend so much time covering distance across the whole ring.
Between my last fight and this one I’ve also had much more sparring practice, although still not nearly as much as I would like, and I also have been training clinch in the afternoons with Chopper. Because I don’t train with Thai girls my size, but rather Thai men and Thai teens, there is a pretty broad disparity between how my opponents clinch and how my trainers/training partners clinch, but any practice is good practice and I definitely feel more confident in clinching than I have before. I’ve been thrown so many times I hardly notice it anymore – I just get up off the mat the same way you just take a step forward when you’ve been knocked backward. Automatic and without judgement.
If I were to assign significance to this fight in particular it would be, ideally, to bring about the next “stage” of my development as a fighter. In my last fight I was able to win on points, which was a minor change but felt like a major accomplishment for me. I don’t reckon I’ll be winning most of my fights by decision, but having that mode of winning as a possibility has brought about change in my mental picture of fighting. It’s another feature to my progress, the same as being able to maintain range, keep my hips in or landing kicks to the body. Each one of these things is a minor accomplishment which adds to the legitimacy of my progress as a fighter.
What’s remarkable to me, however, is not so much the addition of skill – the new ability to land a hook or defend a kick where I couldn’t before – but rather the elimination of excessive movement or thought. Blocking a kick is a skill, one that is acquired, but doing so automatically is not so much an acquisition as an elimination of the thought and effort previously required to make it happen. My balance has improved significantly and with it the accuracy of my strikes. That happened through repetition, through deliberate practice, but it continues to happen now because I have eliminated the unnecessary movements and efforts around those motions. As much as progress is the addition of skill it is also just as much the subtraction of the superfluous. Not only do you build a better fighter through experience and training, you also carve a fighter out of that experience and practice. You are left with both more and less than with which you began.