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On April 5th, 2017, it will be five years since my husband Kevin and I arrived in Thailand. The next day, April 6th, marks the day we arrived at Lanna Muay Thai in Chiang Mai, our ultimate destination when we decided to move to Thailand in an effort to get as much time training and fighting and writing about it as possible. Incidentally, I’ll be arriving in Chiang Mai this April 6th for a fight, bringing it around.
above – this was my very first vlog when arriving here in Thailand 5 years ago, not knowing what was in front of me. Not yet comfortable in front of the camera. We had just launched this website, 8limbs.us – and these are things I was thinking, driving across America to my parent’s house in Colorado.
It’s hard for me to even remember those initial days and weeks, maybe even months, of being in Thailand. We’d been here before, again at Lanna camp but for a shorter stay of 5 weeks, then another 4 weeks down at Sasiprapa Gym in Bangkok. Once we got back home to America – more accurately before we even got on the plane to go back – we knew it was just a goal of putting our heads down and working hard so that we could find a way to get back to Thailand for a longer stretch. When we got on the plane to move to Chiang Mai in 2012, we knew we could make 6 months, we had saved enough for that, and if we were really lucky we might get a year. One year. And here I’m staring at the date that marks 5 of them.
In my first year having moved here I fought 28 times, in my 2nd year 33 times, my 3rd year 38 times (whew!) and in my 4th and 5th years I’ve fought 34 times each – 167 fights in 5 years
Five years is an amazing stretch of time. I’m in my early 30’s, so all my references for lengths of time are either school or relationships. High school seems like a really long stretch of time, but that’s only 4 years. College, as an undergraduate, is also 4 years – I consider that experience of having roommates and living on campus and being away from home as a young person to be a very considerable chunk of time; and this is one year longer than that already. If you don’t count Kindergarten the 5 years is basically an elementary school experience, which if I think about it on those terms is a really long time; an entire childhood in many regards, bringing you right up to the horrors of puberty. And 5 years is just over half of my marriage. Those 5 years carried me out of my late 20’s and into my early 30’s, which is significant anywhere in the world, no matter what you’re doing. To be here, doing this during that time… it’s a lot.
So, having established that I never thought I’d have more than a year, let alone 5 amazing years, in Thailand, I can also add to that inability to see this achievement my inability to ever guess that I’d be closing in on 200 fights. My goal when moving here was 50 fights, and that seemed rightly impossible given our time frame and just what seems possible to a rational mind. It’s an unexpected 5 years, but I’ve filled it with a great deal of similarly unimaginable things. Maybe one of the most incredible things, upon reflecting on this 5 year anniversary, is that the time line has expanded enough to kind of slow down. When you first start fighting, each round is incredibly fast. They seem to start and be over in an eye blink and you never had time to do what you intended to do. It’s like you’re always running out of time. It’s the opposite of growing older, where as a kid time moves so slowly and then as you age it feels like entire years are passing by you at rapid speed. With fighting, time slows down. A round is still 2 minutes (that’s the time women get), but the movements have slowed down because my heart rate and focus have slowed down. That’s a good thing. It’s like a Sherlock Holmes movie that Guy Ritchie directed where you see the fight scenes in super slow-motion to really pull out the detail and focus of the movements, rather than the Bourne Identity “I just threw the film in a blender and then taped it back together” approach to editing action scenes, where you can’t see or comprehend anything other than a general sense of disorientation. I think that at the beginning, a year didn’t feel short at all but I always felt like I was rushing, because I didn’t know how much time I had left, really. As the years have passed and I’ve grown into this process, it feels like the years go by faster (I am shocked that something that feels like it was a few months ago is actually sometimes 2 years ago), but I feel like I can focus on and comprehend so many of those details that were flying by me before. The passage of time is the same, the experience of time itself is contracted, but the experience of all those things contained within that experience of passing time is protracted – laid out in ornate detail. Like when Professor X stops time and you can still move through space, or like how Quicksilver sees every detail as he moves at rapid speed through a scene, moving bullets and eating a sandwich while saving the day.
me writing at my window in Chiang Mai, when we lived there my first two years.
I think part of my ability to see all those details, aside from actually being less frantic about not knowing how much time I have (because I still don’t know) is this incredible gift of patience. When you don’t have time, patience is an adversary because you just can’t calm down and let things unfold. There’s an urgency that is useful in that it has pushed me to accomplish a fucking lot in a short amount of time, but that urgency blinds you. You can’t see punches coming, you can’t plan how your own strike or movement will set up the next one. When patience becomes a power, when you accept it and can use it, you become like Quicksilver. You see more, you keep more. I’ve been given a great many things in this time and, with very few exceptions, every trainer I’ve had has been generous in what they’ve offered me. But above all others, the greatest gift has been Pi Nu’s patience. His gift is offering me his own patience, just smiling and staying chill while I panic and wear myself out, knowing that I’ll either figure it out or not – both are fine. He just keeps his own pace and as you figure out how to match it, you suddenly see more. “Oh,” you say, “this feels good.” It’s not going slow, you can still be sprinting – again like Quicksilver – but even at rapid speed patience becomes this kind of mutant power with which you can slow the world down around you and see everything, feel everything, let things unfold and adjust as you go. Five years is a long time, but it’s also a short time. If I had to leave tomorrow, 5 years would feel way too short. But in the past (nearly) 3 years that I’ve been at Petchrungruang, this gift of patience has allowed each of these progressive years to feel more valuable. I’m putting the same effort in, but getting much more out.
And a lot of that is just me maturing as a fighter as well, being able to grasp these lessons now because I’ve grown into them, rather than finding a guru or something like that. We launched 8limbs.us at the same time we moved out here, financing the home of all this content with the help of a Kickstarter campaign. I shot videos of training, did vlogs and tried to write in blogs about the dizzying experiences of being a western woman in a Thai male environment. In these 5 years the content has changed so much. I write differently, the videos have changed, the content has shifted and expanded and proliferated. We made 8limbs.us as a way to build a nexus point for the different social media platforms I had going on: Youtube and blog mostly. People who knew me on Youtube didn’t know about my blog and people on my blog might not know I had a Youtube unless a video was embedded in a post. Now I have even more content, even more different platforms and you know what’s crazy? People are still rarely aware of all the different rooms in this fortress. I used to sit down and write a contemplative blog post on some profound realization I’d had during a few weeks or even a month of training. Like writing a poem about a single snowflake and all it’s beauty, then being thrown into a blizzard and trying to grasp the whole of it. That’s where I’m at now. I still see these ornate pieces, but these experiences are sometimes more than once per day and my proximity to the “newness” of these experiences has telescoped. When you first launch into space, you describe the atmosphere and the stars and maybe what Earth looks like from the distance of the moon. And most people can imagine it. But when you’ve been in space for 5 years and you start trying to describe the daily experiences where references to Earth are very distant, it becomes much harder. You don’t even use “up” and “down” anymore, the dimensions and directions have multiplied to a place where gravity is disorienting, rather than the other way around.
But that, too, is this incredible thing. It’s like reading the diary of a woman who set out on her sailboat to see if she could spend 6 months or a year at sea, discovering all she could about herself and that little vessel along he way. It’s a great read, it’s a great adventure. But that same girl who has now been on her sailboat for 5 years; well, that’s a very different read and a very different adventure. And it just becomes more incredible as it goes, for her, for the sailboat, for the ocean… for every witness to it. I guess what I’m getting at in comparing my 5 year anniversary to an astronaut in space or a woman living at sea is that there is this incredible expanse to what I’m doing and experiencing. There’s no point where you say, “well, that’s space done,” or “I’ve finished the ocean, let’s call it quits.” There’s something worth celebrating when you look at covering ground for 5 years, or seeing the number of blog posts and videos and viewers going up – like a stack of books on a writer’s table or a pile of maps on an adventurer’s wall. But if you’re heart is in the ocean, or directed toward the limitless stars of space, you see that you’ve barely moved. There is just so much more to learn, to see, to understand, to feel as it awakens in my limbs. And the only thing that allows that kind of growth is time. So, for my 5 years I am grateful and looking back I can see where I’ve come from; but my heart absolutely aches for how grateful I am that there is more in front of me, and it leaps at not knowing how far I can go – 5 years, 10 years. You just keep the boat in the water, make micro-adjustments to the steering on a shuttle; it’s breathtakingly exciting to be experiencing this adventure through the superpower of patience.
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Thank you to everyone who has lifted me up, and made everything possible.
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