Hills and Valleys – How 10 Minutes Can Make or Break Your Training Day

What makes a good day good or a bad day bad? Some days, everything goes right, and on some really horrible days everything goes wrong. But generally speaking, it’s...

What makes a good day good or a bad day bad? Some days, everything goes right, and on some really horrible days everything goes wrong. But generally speaking, it’s one thing that flavors your interpretation of an entire day. Yesterday was like this for me. In my mind, it was a hard day and I failed. When I really stop and go through everything that happened, it’s about 10 minutes that made the day a failure; literally every other part of it was pretty good. I was pretty good, but I held on to those 10 minutes where I sucked rather than holding on to the better parts.

Okay, so what happened? I was tired. I didn’t sleep well the night before and my body is sore; nothing very unique, but the lack of sleep definitely put my emotional compass on a spin. At 3:00 I dragged my ass to WKO for the first afternoon session, which is lots of shadow, some bagwork and pads with Sakmongkol. I’d done my first class back at Karate the night before and so Sakmongkol and I commiserated together about our mutual fatigue. He came over and showed me how he wants me to change my shadowboxing to incorporate more angles, which I adjusted and got a few grunts of approval – those are good things. And, tired as we both were, when Mong called me into the ring for padwork I felt light and alive; with only 5 days until my next fight, all I have to work on is my fight energy. Nothing else matters.

And I did well. My kicks were fast and hard, my movement was mostly good and active – not standing in one place or blindly plowing forward. In our second or third round together I grabbed Mong in the clinch and threw a few knees, then stepped behind his right leg and gave a turn that caused him to tip backwards. He almost caught his balance again but then didn’t, making his fall to the canvas kind of in stages and slow – to the extent that I could watch and comprehend what was happening as he went. He caught himself with his arms and let out a surprised laugh before getting up. The whole gym stopped. I’m the only woman there and pretty much every guy there right now is a massive 6 ft., 190 lbs dude; and Sakmongkol isn’t a small man, not to mention he’s fucking impossible to off-balance because he’s made of iron and has a very wide stance…and is Sakmongkol – I’m sure I just caught him by surprise. But I got him to the canvas, little 105 lb me, which left the whole gym in shock. I tried not to over-celebrate, but I was pretty proud of myself. Even though I had some struggle through the rest of the rounds and it’s going to take twice as much finesse to ever even off-balance Mong again, I have that one moment. Just those 20 seconds could make an incredible day.

We finished up our rounds, two of which were agonizing because I started to experience incredible pain in my abdomen – this is the monthly female burden men just don’t know. If any of my readers think that this is “over sharing” I believe women stating this should be as a matter of fact as men saying getting hit in the balls hurts – it’s the same kind of thing. It disappeared again, but it was hard to stand up straight for a minute there.  I put on my sweat jacket and shadowed for another 15 minutes, then ran out the door to head to Petchrungruang.

I arrived there sweaty and fatigued, but I was already warm so I could go straight onto the bag, keeping my sweatjacket on, cutting weight the “Thai” way.  After my 10 sped-up rounds, which were good rounds, I was called into the ring for clinch. Tong has just arrived back at the gym; he’s small, maybe 45 kg, but incredibly strong and fierce – he has fight energy or nothing at all and the day before I’d put him on the ground, which shocked the hell out him and he spent the next 20 minutes getting me back and then some. But today he’d been hurt in sparring somehow and wasn’t going to clinch, so it was just me and Alex. Alex is still smaller than I am, but growing fast. He’s about 46 kg now, which is the weight I’m fighting at on Tuesday, so I walk around about 2 kg more than he does now. He’s going to be bigger than I am in no time at all. For the most part, I’m stronger than Alex. When we clinch I dominate 95% of the time and at times I’m frustrated that I’m not put against the bigger, more difficult boys more of the time for my own growth. Because no other boys were there and Tong had tapped out, it was just me and Alex. We’re both fighting in 5 days, so we clinched for about 40 minutes straight.

The first 20 minutes of that time was all me. I was tired, but I was crushing it. Then I got more tired and Alex didn’t. He got more animated. His energy increased. For the next 10 minutes it was a back and forth and then after that it was all Alex and I was dying. Pi Nu and Filippo watched Alex just kill me, after watching the opposite of this for months now, and remarked to themselves how strong Alex looked today. But Pi Nu shouted to Alex that he was losing already, to make him keep going harder. Alex knew he wasn’t losing – don’t be ridiculous – but he capitalized on his dominance and totally overwhelmed me. I was able to throw good scoring knees every now and again – enough to keep me in the game at least, but it felt like it was not even close. Afterward I felt awful, just emotionally maxed out. I went and sat in the other room for a few minutes while all the younger boys did knees on the bag, then did my own knees when they cleared out.

After everything Pi Nu came up and looked at me with concern, telling me I clinched like ass today. “I know,” I said. He asked if I was tired and I said I was, but that wasn’t what happened. I’d actually done well for the first 20 minutes, okay for the next 10 minutes, and then totally sucked only for the last 10. So, 10 minutes had ruined my whole day, basically. I felt totally defeated and like a failure because of 10 fucking minutes, after having put a Lumpinee champion twice my size on the canvas. I guess you only remember what happened last.

So why does this matter? It matters because my 10 minutes of suck could have been only 10 minutes – or, with the right attitude it could have been 0 minutes and I simply would have lost in training, which is no problem at all. Instead, I let those 10 minutes affect me the rest of the evening and, indeed, retrospectively turned the whole day to shit. It overwrote the good I’d done already.

Training 6-7 hours every day means that a lot gets washed away from your memory. Things you did well, things you did poorly, they all get swept away by simply doing it again. It’s not even 24 hours since my afternoon training yesterday and it feels like forever ago; which means if I still feel shitty about it, I feel like I’ve been mourning for days, whereas if I let myself feel good about something I did, it can propel me through several sessions as well. Of course there are hills and valleys in all of it. Your highs and lows aren’t necessarily spaced out and it can feel like a roller-coaster. If you stretch it out over time, it’s a mellower ride, but it’s not easy to get that perspective all the time – because you’re in it, all the time.

I didn’t do poorly for those 10 minutes yesterday because I’m a terrible person who is shitty at Muay Thai, as much as I’d love to tell myself in my darker moments. Rather, I got owned because my hips weren’t in and my mind was too distracted to solve the problem. Likewise, I didn’t get my trainer to the ground because I’m an awesome person who is the greatest at Muay Thai, but because my hips were in. The difference between a hill and a valley is as simple as that: hips 2 inches forward or 2 inches back. What a simple fucking fix that is. But you have to get out of your own mind enough to make that small adjustment. If you can’t realize what your in while you’re in it, your mind can let you drown in a puddle – or it can let you walk through oceans.


If you enjoyed this article, you may like to check out the rest of my articles related to Mental Training.

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Mental Training for Muay ThaiMuay ThaiSakmongkol

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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