When I cast my mind back I can still feel the metal bar connecting with the top of my head again and again. I think it was a weights bar. It left a gash that was at the time two inches deep. They had hit me so hard the doctors thought my skull had been fractured, but the rest of my face was too swollen for them to tell for sure. My own mother wouldn’t of recognized me. When the wound healed the scar stayed. I can feel it when I run my finger over the top of my head. Big and ugly. A reminder.
When I cast my mind back I can still remember standing in the lift trying to explain, begging to explain when the first punch hit me smashing my nose and dropping me to the floor dazed and barely concious. I remember the pain. I remember the blood. The explosion of violence that followed seconds afterwards, all the kicks and the stamps that followed as I was curled into a ball were a pre cursor to what happened next. All of that I can remember. Just like it was yesterday.
But I adapted and I survived. I was different then. I wasn’t strong. Or maybe I was, but perhaps the strength came from inside of me rather than on show, all the tattoos telling my story. All my ‘war paint’ showing you a little of who I am. Of what I have inside. These days I’m a warrior. These days I walk tall. But I’ve always been a survivor. And I’ve always know how to adapt. And I know that I will never let anyone hurt me like that again. I swore it all those years ago and it’s become my truth.
When I first started fighting there was a lot of fear attached. A glint would appear in my eyes when I watched the boxers step in a ring and face off, poker faces out, calm and ready and I thought that it would be the same for me. When I got my first match up I was excited up until the point the name on the black board started to grow legs. The dusty white chalk writing turned into a six foot two Thai boxing veteran who ate people like me for breakfast. Nice guys like me.
When fight day arrived the nerves had begun to subside because I’d trained hard. At least I thought they had until I realized that the show I was on was a lot bigger than expected. I can still remember being told quite casually there would be about 500 people watching and me and my mate Maria looked at each other, both equally nervous. It was her first fight too.
I can remember feeling a growing acceptance that this was happening and I was here now like it or not, as the hour approached for me to step up. When I finally climbed into the boxing ring the young lad in the other corner looking just as nervous as I felt inside surprised me. Wasn’t he meant to be six foot something? And then when I was in the fight, fear took a back seat. I couldn’t feel anything when shots landed. Being honest I still don’t. A punch these days is just an impact. A kick is a dull thud and ok, a knee can hurt. Even still the adrenaline takes the worst of it away.
I remember the feeling of tunnel vision and the crowds yells and cheers sounding a million miles away. Like they were in the next room. My corner were a faint echo that I could hear when I focused. It was a close fight and although I lost, I walked away smiling because I’d done something I never in a million years thought I would do. Everything I wanted was indeed in that ring. I’d cut my teeth and become a fighter. All I had to do next was win.
And it took it’s time. It got to a point where I think people were expecting me to lose fights just so they could tell me ‘well done mate!’ the runt of the litter. The underdog at the bottom of the pile. The nice guy who boxed anyway regardless of win or lose. The punch bag anyone could beat. At least that was what I started telling myself. But then everything changed.
It changed because I won. And then I won an area title. And suddenly I realized that everything changes when you begin to adapt. And the biggest change for me was my mentality and attitude towards the fight. I wanted to succeed so much that I did. I trained twice a day for my title fight. I sparred with one of the toughest boxers in my gym with a wealth of experience who would kick me across the ring if I wasn’t focused enough and it did nothing but help me. I went through hell and back. It wasn’t the first time I’d been there so I adapted and I survived and I got better. And in the end it paid off.
And then the fights started getting a bit harder. A bit tougher. And I told myself that I was getting too old for this now. That I wasn’t improving. I pulled every excuse out the book before they were beaten into submission by the fighter in me. And although the last couple haven’t been great (although the one before last was pretty awesome to be honest despite it being a draw) I’ve taken a lot away and I’ve realized just like with this and everything else in my life I need to improve and adapt to succeed. To survive. Muay Thai is a hard martial art no matter what level you fight at, be it amateur, semi pro or pro. Anyone that’s looking for an easy life should maybe try kick boxing. You’d probably get on with that.
So coming back to the here and now, I know that I’ve got a lot of work to do if I want to get back on track and turn a few negatives into positives. Have they really been that negative? or has it really been all about learning? I’ll find out next time I’m in that square ring. I’ve learnt that what’s been and gone can’t be changed but that nothing is permanent. Nothing has to stay the way it is and will not stay the way it is when you set your intention. When you stay strong and move forward with resolve. I say that because once upon a time, there was a young man who made some very big mistakes that cost him dearly. He was very brave and despite everything that happened he changed things in his life. I know that if I can do that before I can do that again. And again. And again. Have a good week. I’ll see you on the road.