My last fight – you can watch it here – left me with a souvenir of 8 stitches, right between the eyes. That’s a lucky number for me, I’m into it, but returning to training with a cut on my face is always a slightly tricky process. Surely, everyone who has been with me in the gym for these past 5 years is used to me by now – I’ve been called “Cyborg” and “Iron Lady,” “The Machine,” and “crazy,” because I’m always right back at it. Most of the time, resistance to my ways acquiesces into a small degree of pride, as people greet me with my black eyes, stitches, shaved parts of my scalp, etc. You fight 200+ times and a lot of stuff happens. Every now and again, Kru Nu takes it upon himself to do the worrying on my behalf and forbids me to take part in some areas of training. You know, for my own good, or whatever.
By the time I arrived back at Petchrungruang, my stitches were already out. I filmed some with Namsaknoi in Bangkok and did other Patreon work. My wound is healing very quickly, but no matter what you do they stay this angry red color for a good bit of time and, like I said, it’s right in the middle of my face. Hard to miss, impossible to hide. There is always a stigma that comes with stitches in Thai gyms, no matter how badass you seem, it’s just part of the territory. So upon return Kru Nu hasn’t been holding pads for me. Usually once the stitches come out I’m back to full on training, but he’s exerting his break on me. I’m usually back in the gym 2 days after my fight, this time it was probably 5. But he tells me to take it easy. Usually the stitches come out, everything is back to normal. They are out, but he’s still holding me back. He’s exerting his influence, its part of our rhythm. I even asked outright for padwork and he told me outright, “pak gohn,” (rest first). He wouldn’t let me clinch or spar, which makes some sense. Usually I’m out of clinching until my stitches come out, but even these past few days back I’m still given a firm, “not yet.” I respectfully accept. I won’t stay away from the gym though (which also hasn’t been suggested, to be fair), so I’ve been doing endless rounds of bagwork and shadow, basically anything and everything I am responsible for myself. One of the other students at the gym, Shae from Australia, asked when I would be kicking pads again because he’s been having to do the dreaded 50 kicks alone (usually we’re paired up). I said it was up to Kru Nu and added that I hate being limited. I feel like a dog pulling at the leash. Shae grinned, “I can see that,” he said. After a few moments he acknowledged that when you’re injured or sick, all you want to do is train. When you’re healthy and exhausted from the training, you take it for granted. For sure.
The Mental Difference
But here’s why I’m writing this post: today, I got to clinch and spar again. Still no pads, although I was invited to do those fucking 50 kicks… by myself… this morning. Man, every moment of those sparring rounds and every second of clinch was a blast. I was so happy. And it wasn’t just a “we let Sylvie off the leash and she can do zoomies around the yard,” kind of happy; it was because I’d actually learned some things by doing my own work for all those days. Normally, and I’m being very honest with myself here, I’d have sulked all through these 4 days. This has happened many times for me. I’d have done the work, hitting the bag and shadowing, but it would have been “busy work,” more or less because of my attitude about it, just waiting to be let back into full training. I hate being left out. I hate being limited. I hate being decided-for. Certainly it has something to do with all the mental training I’ve been doing for the past years, including when my choice was to sulk, but this time I focused. Okay, you won’t let me work with anyone, I’m going to do everything I’ve been focusing on by myself, then. I’ve been working on eye-contact, so since I had no partners, I kept my eyes on the spot of the bag where eyes would be. Training my face to feel how it would if I were looking someone in the eyes. I made sure my feet were outside the stance of where my opponent would have feet, even though the bag doesn’t have any. I practiced head-kicks, lead leg kicks, punches, elbows, turn offs… everything I’d wanted to be working on in padwork, sparring and clinching.
So, what happened once I was allowed to play with others? All those things I’d been working on were there. Like I’d been doing prison-cell workouts, all confined-like, but once I was allowed to put those same movements into context, holy shit – it works in context, too! My eye contact I was practicing was popping up all my blocks like crazy fast in sparring. I was landing every single Namsaknoi switching punch I had been practicing. Follow kicks were all landing. I was completely in a zone, almost like never before. This means a lot to me, because it’s 100% a difference due to mentality. Physically, work is work. This is why there’s that saying that “it’s 90% mental,” but I’ve amended it with an asterisk that this percentage actually goes up the better you get. It starts at 90% and goes up as you improve. And it means that all the hours I’ve put into my mental training is coming through in my fighting, sure, but it’s coming through in how I train now, as well. That’s very exciting. Because I didn’t make up my mind to do it, I just stopped being such a brat about it, grew as a person and decided to make the best use of every minute I have in the gym. I’m proud of myself. It’s important to take stock of these kinds of changes, you let yourself know you are on the right track and are going where you want to go.
If you are interested my recent mental training work you can check out my Playlist of videos I shot doing live mental training in the gym, during my practice sessions: Mental Training Live
A Sidenote on Eye Contact
If you are interested in the eye contact I was working on, you can check out this technique vlog where I talk about it a little. As a patron you can watch the full 10 minute technique discussion: