For three months late in 2015 I travelled to Thailand to train in the martial art of Muay Thai. For the unfamiliar, it’s basically kickboxing, but you can also strike your opponent with vicious knees and elbows if you so desire! Fun right?! Ok, so it’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but whether or not you like martial arts there are clear benefits to a trip like this, such as keeping physically fit, experiencing new cultures and escaping Western philosophies for new perspectives, to name but a few. Having just returned for a few more days of training I had some reflections on my first trip.
Here are five of the lessons I learned during my time in Thailand. They will stay with me forever. I hope you find them useful too!
Being punched in the face in front of 200 cheering and jeering people is incredibly humbling… if not somewhat unsettling! And whilst personally, it’s not something I wish to do on a regular basis, it showed me that I can overcome fears and stretch myself without breaking into a million pieces. I went three rounds in an amateur fight with a lad from Australia. He was 15kgs heavier than me, and so when he hit me I knew about it! He won by decision, but I was still standing at the end of the fight… just about!
Test yourself in as many ways as you can. You’ll see that win or lose: bruises heal, discomfort subsides, you reflect, you learn and you improve.
As I ran around the second major corner of the famous ‘Big Buddha Run’ in Phuket, Thailand, my eyes saw a hill, the likes of which I’d never desired to walk up, let alone run up. This was the start of a grueling 5k climb that even the fittest of fighters found challenging. Not exactly at the peak of my physical fitness, I was truly not enjoying the experience. As the morning sun beat down and sweat poured from my exhausted body, I was pretty much ready to collapse by the roadside. But when training at Tiger Muay Thai, quitting is not an option! I learned that when my mind tells me “No more!” that I can reply with “A little further! ... See, I told you that you could… Now keep going!” The next time I ran up that hill my mind knew that I had made it up before. Sure, it wasn’t pretty, but I had made it and I could do it again, quicker and stronger. I removed the negative self-talk from the equation and I look forward to struggling up that hill again and many more like it in the future!
Force yourself to stretch out of your comfort zone. Your brain will accept the new limits you introduce it to.
If you’ve ever worried about what people think about you, if you’ve been worried that people will laugh at your failures or sneer at your best efforts, then you must go and watch live martial arts contests. Everybody loves a warrior. Everybody cheers the fighters who show the most heart, who give it their all, who leave nothing in the ring. The only comments that were worth a damn to me were from those people who have been in the ring themselves. They understood my struggle, they supported me, picked me up and taught me how to improve.
Ignore the idle negativity of those on the sidelines. Put yourself in the ring. Get yourself out there and give it your all.
Read, workout (get punched in the face a few times) and create something new. This was my routine for 3 months. The daily habits you hold shape who you are, what you can achieve and what your immediate future holds. As fortunate as I was to be able to take 3 months off in Thailand, the habits of reading, working out and creating have stuck with me. I’m now in the process of creating complimentary habits, which will help turn my dream future into a reality. It’s not easy… but the best things in life are rarely easy.
Identify the habits that hold you back. Imagine a healthy replacement habit that would help you achieve your goal. Envisage how life would be if you had this habit and then make it so through relentless repetition… Just try it with something simple!
Coming out of my first ever fight having been in a battle for just a few of the longest minutes of my life… It was very apparent to me that I had a great group of people around me. Some there to pick me up and say I’d done great and some to push me over, have a laugh and remind me that my worries and perceptions didn’t need to be so serious. Support networks have been shown time and time again to help us be resilient and to enjoy life to its maximum.
Find the people who have qualities you admire or wish to emulate. Find people who bring the best out in you. Find the people who challenge you to do more, to be better, to have fun and to enjoy each moment. Find these people, stand amongst them and you will flourish!
If you enjoyed reading this blog, then I'm sure you'll love this video I made on How To Stop Worrying. Check it out!