I was a punching bag!!!

“I remember the first time I walked into a Muaythai gym; I thought I was a shit. I had a little bit of previous martial arts training and had gained around 15lbs of muscle in the past year and a half from living in the weight room. After about a month or two of training, I seemed to pick up the technique much quicker than the average person, and I thought I was forming up to be a cool little badass.  I had even played around with some light sparring in karate and thought I had it down. So, when the coach asked me if I wanted to spar with one of the fighters, I felt confident I could handle myself. I decided to hop in the ring with AJ Gomez, one of the amateur fighters who is prepping for a competition in a few months. I go up to him, we touch gloves, square off, and he punches me in the face. Next thing I know I’m on the ground! I’m not really hurt, I just fell down kind of confused. I get up, ready to try again, and he taps me in the face with another jab and I’m back on the floor confused. I have absolutely no idea what is happening, he is purposely not hitting me hard, but it’s like I can’t stay on my feet. The third time I get up and try to move around and get some different angles, but when I try to punch it’s like my arms won’t move! Again, he jabs me in the face, and again, I fall down, and the guy gets out of the ring because let’s be honest… a punching bag was better practice. I was so confused as to what had happened. When I got into the ring it was as if all my training had gone out the window. I froze like a deer in headlights and it was not a one-time thing. Every time I got punched in the face I would either totally freeze up or just fall down. All that training and all that gained muscle and I was broken. The head instructor for the gym stopped giving me any attention and pretty much-decided fighting wasn’t going to be for me. If you can’t take a punch you can’t fight, but I simply wasn’t going to take no for an answer! I was determined to fix my problem. Luckily, I ended up getting close to one of the assistant coaches at the gym, Mason Lowe, and instead of giving up on me, he formulated a game plan to turn me into a warrior. For the next six months, Mason forged me through fire. He would put me in the ring with different students and force me to fight. If I froze, they kept the fight going until something in me was forced to make a move. Over time, I went from totally freezing every time I got punched in the face, to learning some decent footwork and becoming very good at running away. This made me pretty evasive, but while having decent footwork and being able to escape being cornered are useful skills, they don’t make you a fighter. I needed to learn to stand and fight, instead of just running away. Mason would always tell me that my technique wasn’t bad, but I needed to be able to stand in front of my opponent and use it. To teach me these lessons he would force me to train with tire drills. I would put one foot in a tire and my opponent would do the same. We would then proceed to box each other without taking our lead foot out of the tire. This forced me to stay in close range and deal with the pressure of infighting and my own fear of taking punches. And luckily for me, it worked! Around six months after working with Mason, I finally got it together and was able to stand my ground and fight in a ring. This didn’t mean all my problems were over. I faced many other trials and difficulties as I grew and actually started taking real amateur fights, but the hardest part was over. I was finally a fighter! I distinctly remember the first title fight I had. I lost by split decision and I was really bummed out. People kept commenting trying to say I did a good job and some people were even telling me they thought I had won the match, but the single most important comment was from AJ. It was the first time he had talked to me in years, and it was a simple statement, ‘Looking good. You’ve come a long way.’ This statement meant more to me than any encouragement I have ever received.  It just goes to show that if you work hard and never give up you can turn the most valid of critics into a supporter and the weakest of men into a warrior.”

(Leonard Charles )

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