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I've been meaning to write a blog post about this for a while and recently, as I think it's an amazing topic. A lot of folks who become dedicated to Muay Thai find it to be a form of therapy, out outlet, a time for themselves away from the pressures and stresses of family/work/school. Muay Thai is empowering, but it can also tear you up; but for most of us, Muay Thai is something that has forever changed us and keeps forming us the more we work in it.

I came across this post from a woman who has found her experiences at her gym (Onyx MMA in Singapore) to be helpful in dealing with her Depression. For whatever reason, I think Muay Thai beckons to those of us who are struggling with ourselves and gives us a set of tools and a process through which we can translate that struggle.

This thread is to share our thoughts and experiences on the usefulness and challenges of Muay Thai as therapy.

For me, Muay Thai is an incredible outlet. Physically pushing myself is, at times, a very real necessity in dealing with my personal demons. But it's also difficult because all the things about Muay Thai that make me feel empowered and strong and capable, ALSO make me feel useless and stuck and self-critical. A mirror is just a reflective surface - it's YOU that interprets what you see in it. Muay Thai is like that - some days it shows me beauty and some days it shows me a monster. But I do feel that I'm able to work through things on a personal, emotional and psychological (even spiritual?) level through the language and art of Muay Thai that I wouldn't be able to address otherwise. It gives me the courage to keep trying, I think. And I can see improvement; it's measurable, whereas being a more stable or happy or good person is harder to gauge. But man... sometimes it just crushes me, too.

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I love love love this post. Muay Thai and my amazing trainer are the reason I'm coping at all! Muay Thai gives me strength, courage and belief in myself.

In recent times I have had to deal with distressing workplace physical violence and am currently watching helplessly as my parent dies.

I used to smoke. Now Muay Thai saves me. Every day. Even when I have a shit day at training, I know it'll be okay and I just push through.

 

I absolutely know, without a doubt, that my mental health has been maintained and improved by Muay Thai.

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This is a powerful post that she wrote! 
It is really interesting to see why and how people come into martial art. 
I remember I started judo (this was the only martial sport in my island) when I was a kid, because my dad was worry about me. Since I am a girl, it is most likely that I would get trouble when I get older (harassment and such). I didn't really liked it mostly because I was forced, and also because I had that urge to punch.
When I finally moved from my small island, I had to support emotionally my mom who was in depression, dealing with a lot of new thing (new country, language, culture, people, etc). I fake being super happy for about a year, I was struggling with bulimia and trained 7/7 kickboxing. I had to stop going to the gym because of an injury and health problem, you probably all know how doctors don't really like boxer (and if you are a girl, this is not a sport for you (!) ... I was at that time in a really machist country). Stopping training got myself into depression too. I partially blame it on the country and moved again.
After 2 years of doing nothing, I wanted to go back to kickboxing, and by mistake register for muay thai.
For me muay thai became synonym of freedom. Daniel Pennac said in one of his book "learning is first to learn how to 'master' your body"; but for that you need to overcome emotional and mental barrier. 
I've learn that it is not about what happen to you that matter, but what you do with it. They kick you? Grab that leg, make them fall. Got hurt? Train harder!
Same in life, if someone hurts me or if I'm down, I don't blame it on the other, maybe I'm not strong enough, maybe I could have avoid it.
(For me) Muay Thai is freedom of mind/body, plus when you train you don't have time to think about how sad you were earlier that day :) 

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I highly recommend that no woman face menopause without Muay Thai. Kidding...sort of. I started training when I was 48, and am still gamely at it while I'm looking down the barrel of 53. The hormonal roller coaster, and all the freaky physical, emotional, questioning everything in your life shitstorm,  is a lot easier ride when you know you've got a solid hour of training coming where you won't be able to think of anything else, you get in a monster work out and you secretly start hoping some fool will try to jump you in the parking lot so you can beat the daylights out of him (I really am kidding about that last part...not the first part though) 

It's well known that regular exercise helps alleviate mild depression, and a martial arts practice is no exception. I get a little skittish about admitting something along those lines, as the prevailing attitude towards women in any martial art is that they train only because something is wrong with them. But screw those fools, my experience tells me otherwise.

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I love love love this post. Muay Thai and my amazing trainer are the reason I'm coping at all! Muay Thai gives me strength, courage and belief in myself.

In recent times I have had to deal with distressing workplace physical violence and am currently watching helplessly as my parent dies.

I used to smoke. Now Muay Thai saves me. Every day. Even when I have a shit day at training, I know it'll be okay and I just push through.

 

I absolutely know, without a doubt, that my mental health has been maintained and improved by Muay Thai.

So sorry to hear about your parent, Cilla. And the trouble at work sounds awful.

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I highly recommend that no woman face menopause without Muay Thai. Kidding...sort of. I started training when I was 48, and am still gamely at it while I'm looking down the barrel of 53. The hormonal roller coaster, and all the freaky physical, emotional, questioning everything in your life shitstorm,  is a lot easier ride when you know you've got a solid hour of training coming where you won't be able to think of anything else, you get in a monster work out and you secretly start hoping some fool will try to jump you in the parking lot so you can beat the daylights out of him (I really am kidding about that last part...not the first part though) 

It's well known that regular exercise helps alleviate mild depression, and a martial arts practice is no exception. I get a little skittish about admitting something along those lines, as the prevailing attitude towards women in any martial art is that they train only because something is wrong with them. But screw those fools, my experience tells me otherwise.

YES!! I love reading this. So often women's narratives are handed to us as what's wrong with our bodies, but the "my body is gong through changes so I'm going to turn it into a monster that's on MY SIDE" is just awesome. You've totally inspired me today.

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Training regularly basically saved me from a severe depression. Training in combat sports allowed me to face my own fears and to learn that I have the tools !and the strenght to overcome them. People mock me saying I'm a fitness junkie because I train every day, but for me it's a way of life that keeps me balanced and healty.

Thank you for this topic, Sylvie

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Severe drug addiction and alcoholism run in my family and I am no exception - total garbagehead. It is not uncommon for fighters to treat their addictions this way; Kevin Ross is a prime example.  Exercise put a damper on my problem until college sports ended, then I had to seek help which I did.  So I no longer use sports (or substances) to regulate my moods and basic personality although I remain addictive in every sense; I freaking love combat sports and Muay Thai in particular.  Now its just passion though :)

Two years ago my son was bedridden with an unknown illness for nearly a year.  We made the rounds of doctors including two different big city hospital systems and my own very expensive East/West (allopathic and alternative) doc.  We even brought him across the country to the famous Mayo clinic to try and get him diagnosed.  He was nauseated every. single. day.  for months.  Time was creeping by so slowly and I had to be calm and positive for him.  I was also beyond furious at every patronizing _(*&*( _{#%*{)(  doctor who treated me like a stupid hysteric.  To compound it I had (and still have) differing views of the situation than my spouse.  There would have been total mayhem had I not been training boxing and Muay Thai.  One of my trainers knew the situation and while not delving in (to keep me from crying), displayed every kind of empathy and kindness available to a sparring partner and padholder.  It may not be your grandma's idea of empathy (violence rather than hugs and tea), but for me it worked and I am eternally grateful.  My son is better now, but never had a diagnosis.

I am charmed by laurakg's prescription for menopause.  As I approach it I am definitely becoming a battle axe in every way and its ever more fun to train Muay Thai.  

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Training regularly basically saved me from a severe depression. Training in combat sports allowed me to face my own fears and to learn that I have the tools !and the strenght to overcome them. People mock me saying I'm a fitness junkie because I train every day, but for me it's a way of life that keeps me balanced and healty.

Thank you for this topic, Sylvie

That's a very different kind of "fitness," one that I think a lot of people who are outside of these experiences simply don't understand. 

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Severe drug addiction and alcoholism run in my family and I am no exception - total garbagehead. It is not uncommon for fighters to treat their addictions this way; Kevin Ross is a prime example.  Exercise put a damper on my problem until college sports ended, then I had to seek help which I did.  So I no longer use sports (or substances) to regulate my moods and basic personality although I remain addictive in every sense; I freaking love combat sports and Muay Thai in particular.  Now its just passion though :)

Two years ago my son was bedridden with an unknown illness for nearly a year.  We made the rounds of doctors including two different big city hospital systems and my own very expensive East/West (allopathic and alternative) doc.  We even brought him across the country to the famous Mayo clinic to try and get him diagnosed.  He was nauseated every. single. day.  for months.  Time was creeping by so slowly and I had to be calm and positive for him.  I was also beyond furious at every patronizing _(*&*( _{#%*{)(  doctor who treated me like a stupid hysteric.  To compound it I had (and still have) differing views of the situation than my spouse.  There would have been total mayhem had I not been training boxing and Muay Thai.  One of my trainers knew the situation and while not delving in (to keep me from crying), displayed every kind of empathy and kindness available to a sparring partner and padholder.  It may not be your grandma's idea of empathy (violence rather than hugs and tea), but for me it worked and I am eternally grateful.  My son is better now, but never had a diagnosis.

I am charmed by laurakg's prescription for menopause.  As I approach it I am definitely becoming a battle axe in every way and its ever more fun to train Muay Thai.  

I have alcoholism in my family and I can see the ways in which each of the four kids in my family have dealt with that inheritance. We've all thrown ourselves into things that are microscopic on a scale of general interest but we've each blown that single line out to become the whole frame. And I know exactly what you mean about the empathy of physical contact that isn't, from the outside, "embracing." I cannot tell you how many times my trainer has put more pressure and pain on me when I'm in a difficult place and it feels exactly as comforting as a hug or shoulder cry... complete with about as much snot.

I'm sorry about the years your family went through the insanity of an undiagnosed illness. I reckon doctors really hate not being able to give answers and the more asshole-ish among them turn that into the patronizing of patients, and mothers. Glad your son is doing better now. My cousin had undiagnosed Lyme for years. It was a nightmare for the whole family.

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I have alcoholism in my family and I can see the ways in which each of the four kids in my family have dealt with that inheritance. We've all thrown ourselves into things that are microscopic on a scale of general interest but we've each blown that single line out to become the whole frame. And I know exactly what you mean about the empathy of physical contact that isn't, from the outside, "embracing." I cannot tell you how many times my trainer has put more pressure and pain on me when I'm in a difficult place and it feels exactly as comforting as a hug or shoulder cry... complete with about as much snot.

I'm sorry about the years your family went through the insanity of an undiagnosed illness. I reckon doctors really hate not being able to give answers and the more asshole-ish among them turn that into the patronizing of patients, and mothers. Glad your son is doing better now. My cousin had undiagnosed Lyme for years. It was a nightmare for the whole family.

Love that - all of you blew up one line.  Beautiful, positive way to describe a type of focus that some people pathologize but I see as the root of genius. 

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" I cannot tell you how many times my trainer has put more pressure and pain on me when I'm in a difficult place and it feels exactly as comforting as a hug or shoulder cry... complete with about as much snot.

You say the most amazing things. I can say that as your husband, because they still strike me from afar, like an arrow.

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Wo, I love what you said Sylvie that it feel like a hug, it is so true and I wish that my trainer tonight would have put some pressure on me like he does usually instead of being too comprehensive and telling me I should rest.
Our mental is so powerful, I'm feeling really down since a while, and I've been "faking being happy" in my work, I pushed my limits and ask a lot of myself not just in my training, but also in my work, my studies and my different projets.
But at some point we can't fake it anymore, I couldn't train properly today because of my anxiety, my mind keep thinking about decision I should make or not. Then I called my mom which is always so understanding of everything and she told me "maybe you should train less muay thai and work more on your thesis". I fell into tears. Obviously she couldn't understand, that the only thing making me wanna wake up in the morning is going to the gym.
But I'm glad I read you all tonight, it actually felt like a big warm hug : some people, somewhere, understand me. So Thank you!

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Obviously she couldn't understand, that the only thing making me wanna wake up in the morning is going to the gym.

 

Not much people, who didn't experience it also, will understand that feeling!  :wink:
 
I also had some difficult times and MT was also the thing to get me through it! I also didn't want to wake up in the morning, didn't want to do anything but firstly forced myself to keep going to the gym! And that felt great!! Clearing my mind, trying to think about nothing, feel nothing just pushing my body over it's limit and train like crazy.
Thanks for being their, Muay Thai.
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I've posted about my chronic and invisible illnesses in the women's section before. In short, I am a bipolar woman with autoimmune thyroid disease and fibromyalgia. So if anything goes one way or the other, I'm a hot mess. Finding muay thai was probably one of the best circumstances to fall upon me in the past few years, as it gave me something to focus all of my pent up rage and energy on. I used to be a very angry person, who didn't get along with anyone, not even my own husband and family. Now with muay thai I've become much more calm, much more patient. Learned to turn all the negative into positive, and to sometimes just let things be. Pick and choose my battles. If you all knew me personally, and seen me and the way I used to be, the difference is considerably significant. Muay thai therapy has done more for me in the last two years than sit down therapy has done for me in the past twelve.

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  • 5 months later...
  • 3 years later...

Muay Thai really is my anti depression. I was in a mentally abusive relationship a few years ago just as I lost my Dad to cancer and it left me a little bit fucked in the head. I’d find myself falling into depression for no real reason. It was like my brain was used to those emotions. Muay Thai pulls me out of those thoughts. 
I too have Had bad addiction problems, like most emotional artists we drink or do drugs and especially in the groups we keep. it’s acceptable to get completely smashed and talk junk. Or drink after gigs etc. Muay Thai has helped me to stop all those things. Sober 5 years, no drugs, no smokes, no alcohol. 
Spirituality it has helped me so much too, I have a few Sak yants and amulets etc. I try hard to follow this way of living 🙏🏼 
 

bugger I should of totally submitted THIS response into the new competition! 
🤘🏼😜😂

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Wanna know something? You all have to just take my word for it, but a conversation like this has never - could never - come up in *any* guy's locker room in *any* gym, in *any* country so far, in my training memory of doing the sport. Never. Would be unthinkable.

Even though half the locker room or more probably has dudes with stories just like you all describe. 

Maybe Corona's making people more open now. Like, so much more messaging between family and friends these days. Don't ya find?

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11 hours ago, Oliver said:

Wanna know something? You all have to just take my word for it, but a conversation like this has never - could never - come up in *any* guy's locker room in *any* gym, in *any* country so far, in my training memory of doing the sport. Never. Would be unthinkable.

Even though half the locker room or more probably has dudes with stories just like you all describe. 

Maybe Corona's making people more open now. Like, so much more messaging between family and friends these days. Don't ya find?

I think it depends what type of gym you are in, Or what culture you are living in.

I’ve heard males discuss their mental health and addiction problems before and They are well respected in the MT community.  
I don’t think it’s uncommon for fighters to talk about their heart.

for example MikeTyson admits he is an emotional guy. 

🤷‍♀️ 

I Do agree though that this virus is getting more people to connect and open up. 
 

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42 minutes ago, SHELL28 said:

I think it depends what type of gym you are in, Or what culture you are living in.

I’ve heard males discuss their mental health and addiction problems before and They are well respected in the MT community.  
I don’t think it’s uncommon for fighters to talk about their heart.

for example MikeTyson admits he is an emotional guy. 

🤷‍♀️ 

I Do agree though that this virus is getting more people to connect and open up. 
 

Oh of course, there are examples for sure at the super successful level, Mike Tyson like you say. And more recently Fury would be the obvious one.

Am Eastern European myself, where culturally it's something that's just not spoken about. It's drilled into us early on that complaining must be avoided - it's even shameful. Don't mean complaining about money and bills etc - that's normal. But on personal issues.

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1 hour ago, Oliver said:

Oh of course, there are examples for sure at the super successful level, Mike Tyson like you say. And more recently Fury would be the obvious one.

Am Eastern European myself, where culturally it's something that's just not spoken about. It's drilled into us early on that complaining must be avoided - it's even shameful. Don't mean complaining about money and bills etc - that's normal. But on personal issues.

Ah I’m hearing you! I’ve got Eastern European blood too and culturally I see differences too. 

My fathers side is italian which is completely opposite hahaha! 


it’s all very interesting. 

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On 4/4/2020 at 6:22 AM, Oliver said:

Wanna know something? You all have to just take my word for it, but a conversation like this has never - could never - come up in *any* guy's locker room in *any* gym, in *any* country so far, in my training memory of doing the sport. Never. Would be unthinkable.

Even though half the locker room or more probably has dudes with stories just like you all describe. 

Maybe Corona's making people more open now. Like, so much more messaging between family and friends these days. Don't ya find?

I've found the blending of the feminine and the masculine within Muay Thai (from my very fresh eyes mind you) to be one of the most fascinating things about it.

As a person who's learned more and more about my own identity as time has gone on, finding a focus and a confidence through this art makes it a powerful space for me.

Knowing that Saenchai exists right along side Buakaw, that -Grace Balance and Beauty- are just as important as -Power Speed Resilience-, that it's a dance as much as it is a martial art. I'm just in love!

This community seems to capture all the complexity of that. Blessed I've landed here amongst you.

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This is such an engaging topic I've followed for a while but been reluctant to post because I find it so hard to discuss my mental health openly. 

Although I too feel muay thai can do so much to empower you, I feel it can easily break you down. If you're in a vulnerable mental state, training in a Thai muay thai gym can add tonnes of bricks to the mental stress. It's hard to deal with hard sparring when feeling like you're made of glass and you're stuck behind a wall and you can't really hear anybody else but the critical loudspeaker in your own mind. And also especially since relationships in Thailand are so important and maintaining relationships can be draining or impossible when you're in a state where you cannot even maintain the relationship to yourself. Add to this promoters with other interests than putting on a good fight card. Or trainers demanding respect. 

Further, as a woman, there are so many invisible barriers to climb. And sometimes it doesn't matter what you do, doors simply don't open. 

I think for me personally, I might have at one point taken on too much and probably should've stayed away from the gym and all the relationship maintenance for a while until I was stronger. Instead of trying and trying and getting disappointed. 

Even though I'd go back to my gym in a heartbeat if I could (my plan was to be in Bangkok right now to fight) my mental health benefitted tremendously from training at a gym with no active fighters and having the space just to push myself how I wanted and play around for a while. 

Anxiety is awful, it's like a dragon in your chest clawing. But at least there's some kind of moving energy. Depression is how I imagine dark matter. It just swallows you. 

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Something my gym was doing before the corona lockdown, was working with local doctors as something people with depression could be prescribed to see if we could help them by giving them free training/physical activity. 

I agree with LengLeng, it's a double edged sword. One of my students is a trans-man, who is going through the process of transitioning and all the mental health problems that can come with that very stressful life change. Muay Thai helps him - but it also creates challenges that can in of itself be stressful.

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