It has already been a difficult year. I found myself consumed by work, and pulled in different directions in my personal life. I had a couple of sprains and strains, which also kept me out of the gym. I felt unhealthy, exhausted and unhappy. I couldn’t find much success in any one thing. That’s what happens when you spread yourself too thin.
With the holidays just a week away, I was ready for the break. People at work had given me some holiday gifts centered around my favorite things. My Muay Thai partner suggested that I open her gift and then join her for a class. I hadn’t worked out in a while.
I figured that I could. Classes wouldn’t be full so close to the holiday, and I could try to see how my injuries were healing.
The instructor that day was every bit intimating. He’s a professor fighter, tall and dedicated to the sport. Outside the ring, he’s a sweetheart. Inside the ring, he takes it seriously.
The coach smiled and welcomed me back after a long absence. Then he addressed the class. To my horror, we were going to spend the next hour sparring one another. Including him.
There’s two kinds of sparring in this gym. There’s technical sparring, where you lightly hit your opponent, working on moves and defenses. Then there’s just good old regular sparring, when you just hit your opponent with just enough force to practice and feel the effects of your own skills (without knocking someone out or injuring them).
Sparring involves a certain level of athletic ability. It involves a clear mind that’s motivated and ready to go. I had neither.
It was disappointing, because prior to this year, I had worked on doing well in Muay Thai. My coach drilled me endlessly on footwork, speed and different combos. I am very short, so I had to develop good footwork and angling. I had to have different combos in mind and I had to be fast. I worked hard, and I was good at it. I became a good technical student. My cardio could always use work, but I could still keep up.
But that was a while ago. As I stood in that class, I became worried. I had stopped going to class months ago. Because of my crazy work schedule, I wasn’t eating the best. My injuries were healing, but not enough for sparring. Whatever athletic ability I had, had diminished in the months of “taking it easy”.
Each round was a struggle. Each round chipped away at my self confidence. My classmates were always amazing. Consistent training only made it better. I was getting hit more often than I was used to. My combos were not as fast as they used to be. Each blow to body was a blow to my ego.
After a few rounds, it was my turn to spar with the coach. I am under 5 feet tall. The coach is over 6 feet. As a professional fighter, he’s on his game. As a professional office hobbit, I wasn’t.
My mind had already betrayed me before my round started. The coach continued to help me as we sparred.
“Good fast legs. Stop looking down. Try harder. I’ve seen you faster than this. I seen your combos. That’s good, now try hitting harder..”
His words, though encouraging, broke me. I already felt the heartache from my previous rounds. I didn’t feel confident. The shame in my heart was so heavy, that I couldn’t bear to look at him.
Then, it came. While drowning in my own self pity, the coach swept me; his muscular leg expertly hitting my rear supporting leg. I didn’t see it coming, and down I came.
It felt like one of those slow motion moments in your life. Everything that had been eating away compounded, and I felt everything just unravel. As I fell flat on my back, I was stunned. The final slam was the last of it. I had enough of it all.
The coach coaxed me to get up and continue fighting. Slowly, I got up and tried to look at the clock. How many minutes were left in this awful round? How long before I could run away?
The coach told me to stop looking at the clock. “Keep fighting! Don’t look there, look at me. You keep going. Just. Keep. Going!”
But I couldn’t. That fall was it. Any confidence or motivation that I had was gone. With tears in my eyes I struggled to keep going. When the bell finally rang, I retreated to a nearby bench and bawled.
It was hard to explain to anyone how I felt. I feigned back pain and sat out the rest of class. I could have left the gym completely, but I was ashamed.
Once class was over, the coach came by to comfort me. I bawled again. I mumbled about being a quitter and failing. He thought I was only referring to class. He didn’t know to what extent things were affecting me. My teammates also continued to support me, but my mind had already been made up. I was a loser.
I left the gym, wondering when I would ever return. The holidays soon followed and things got busy. That incident turned it to my one of my very last Muay Thai classes. A month and a half later, I discovered that I was pregnant and had to abandon those ways for a while.
It’s been two years since that fall happened. I can’t look at the mat or the coach’s face without some guilt. I never made a return to redeem myself. Now, I’m so far from a healthy lifestyle that I wonder if I’ll have ever a chance again. Maybe…someday.