On Faithfulness

It started a little over 2 years ago. The initial encounter was pure luck, taking place across the street from a place where I used to get lunch regularly. I figured I’d give it a shot, at worst it would just be a case of one and done.

The first time was really difficult. I wasn’t sure I could go through the whole thing, but I stuck it out. I triggered memories from before, when I had had similar experiences.

It took me a week before I did it again. Then twice in one week, then I hit my groove and it took place three times a week on a regular basis. Always during lunch time. An hour, then a quick shower, then back to the office. A perfect break in the monotony of the work day. The irreplaceable experience of the physical proximity, the sweat, the rhythmic motion, the back and forth.

I started feeling better and better. I looked better. My mood improved. I even felt like it was noticeable to others, like I had developed a newfound confidence that I hadn’t had in a while. It might be all in my head, but I thought women were looking at me differently, like they knew some sort of secret I had.

I was enjoying it more and more. It occupied a lot of my free thinking time. I would imagine going through the motions. How a particular move would elicit a response. There was always gratitude from both parties involved, both leaving better off than we had come in, healthier, happier.

At one point when I was changing jobs, I had to work from home for a few months. I had said I needed to take a break, but that I would be back as soon as I could. I would leave the house in the middle of the day, try to recreate the experience on my own. I would also come back rejuvenated, but obviously it just wasn’t the same. Once, by happenstance, I met a new partner. It was fun and I was shown a couple of new things, but sadly it only happened a couple of times.

When I started working in an office again, I came back, not quite with a vengeance, but definitely with motivation. I hadn’t lost a step. The schedule was a little different, sometimes it would happen in the morning, sometimes in the evening. I kept learning more, about myself, about my body.

And this is how I started training Muay Thai.

My latest journey has been amazing. I had taken classes about a dozen years ago, but it lasted only a month and a half because the trainer wasn’t very good and my knees hurt a lot and I was afraid of doing permanent damage if I went back. Then I trained about half a year the year I got married. The trainer was much better – my son trains with him, started a month before I did – but I got a few injuries and needed to stop. A few months later my son was born and I didn’t have anywhere near enough energy to get back to sports. Then, two years ago, my wife started to insist that I do some sort of physical activity. Since going to a gym to work out is extremely boring to me, I figured I could give Muay Thai another shot. And this time, it stuck. I have been very faithful to it! My current trainer is fantastic. He is very technical, which I enjoy because I like breaking down everything into details. Every time he shows a move or combination, he looks picture perfect, like a living, breathing instruction manual. A really good example of what to aspire to.

The benefits have been tremendous. I am in the best shape of my life at 40 years old. I definitely feel more confident physically, not only in how I look but also in how I carry myself. Shirts that used to be a little big on me in the shoulders (I have long arms, so need a large size) now fit right, in some cases are even a little small. I usually manage to go at least 3 times a week, and often even make it four times. There certainly has been additional wear and tear, but I rarely notice it during class unless a specific drill or exercise hits an unhealthy body part the wrong way. As a matter of fact aches generally go away during class. There’s also the limited upside of knowing that you could handle yourself better if you couldn’t avoid a physical altercation, but that is not why I started doing it nor why I keep doing it. I just want to get better at it. I don’t even spar on a regular basis. The other members of the gym are, with very few exceptions, great training partners with whom it’s a joy to punch, kick, knee and throw each other to the ground (we practice elbows, but only on pads). A lot of people do not realize that clinching is a big part of Thai boxing, almost like a separate discipline. It’s also a very different physical activity which takes some getting used to and hits completely different parts of your body.

There’s a very special, specific bond you develop with people that you train with. The knowledge that we can hit each other, sometimes pretty hard, and that it is what makes us improve, is something that I can’t imagine is found in many other hobbies. I imagine the closest thing would be a weight-lifting partner who pushes you to do heavier weights, and more reps, but it’s not the same. Your weight-lifting partner wouldn’t be directly responsible for causing you discomfort like a Muay Thai training partner is.

I can’t recommend doing Muay Thai enough. I hope I am able to keep doing it for many more years. Given that we have had classes where the average age was over 40, it certainly seems doable.

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