The psychological battles a fighter must endure throughout his career can weed out the strong from the weak minded. Adversity is something every fighter will have to deal with at some point, and throughout history, the true warriors and champions have defined themselves on such hard times. Conversely, we have seen fighters with all the talent in the world simply crack under the pressure.
In the world of Muay Thai, weakness is not tolerated. Come fight night, the final act inside the ropes is the culmination of many challenges a fighter has had to overcome just to get there. From murderous training regimes to personal problems and strife, the warrior’s lifestyle is not for everyone. Developing the attitude and fortitude to keep getting back up is what eventually makes a champion a champion.
Mental strength is earned. It is honed inside the gym, much like a great roundhouse or switch kick. It is developed in the early mornings when you would rather sleep than put in roadwork. It is enhanced every time you refuse to give in and stand up for one more round.
If you don’t believe us, take it from these Muay Thai World Champions, who have seen it all and been through it all.
Never Give Up
“I definitely do not consider myself someone with born-talent. When I was young, I was very weak, frail, and skinny and I was a bit knock-kneed (knees bending inwards). I would fall over very easy when I started training. I was only able to get to where I was through hard work and mental toughness. I believe there are 2 types of fighters in this world: some are born with a lot of talent like Nong-O and Saenchai, and then there are people like me who don’t have any talent but achieved success through determination and grit.” – 14x Muay Thai World Champion Petchboonchu FA Group
Not all fighters are “born with talent,” to quote Petchboonchu. For the vast majority of Muay Thai students, it takes time and serious devotion to succeed. This willingness to push through the boundaries of pain and resistance are the lessons which help to create the strength and wisdom to achieve. There are no shortcuts in Muay Thai. As such, the self-belief to walk the long and uncharted roads to follow your dreams is key.
Never give up. Ever. Warfare requires warriors. No soldier or samurai was born with the weaponry by their side, just like no Muay Thai fighter has ever thrown their first low kick in the maternity ward. Once you realize that these qualities build mental fortitude, things will continue to slot into place.
“Take responsibility for your training, and always be honest with yourself if you want to improve.” – Muay Thai Champion and trainer of World Champions Yodkunsup Por Pongsawang
On the surface, this quote may appear pretty simple. Take responsibility, right? Easy enough to understand. However, dig a little deeper – and read in between the lines – and you will find an absolute gem of wisdom in these words.
As good as your team and your coaches are, it’s ultimately you – and you alone – who must face the final battle. All of the missed training, the days when you quit a few miles into your run, those alcoholic drinks or fatty foods you allowed into your mouth, they will be the ghosts on your shoulder when you face off with your opponent. Are you honest or a liar?
In boxing, there is a saying that the ring is the “chamber of truths.” In other words, everything gets found out, including your heart and your dedication. If you are honest with yourself, you will have nothing to fear. Take responsibility, do not ignore your areas of weakness, and enter the “chamber of truths” with the confidence of a pure and honest fighter.
Every Day Is A Battle, Make It Count
“You have to train the way you fight. Use techniques that emulate a real situation. I see too many people smash the pads and pads for the sake of a workout, or to look good and powerful. Use real tactics. Use real timing. Otherwise, it will cease to have real transfer over to sparring or fighting.” – Muay Thai World Champion Saenchai PKSaenchaiMuayThaiGym
Part of the fighter’s skill set is knowing when to “switch it on” and when to “switch off.” When it comes to training, however, and preparing for battle, you must ensure that your mind is as strong as it can be in order to deal with the task at hand. One of the best ways to do this is to “train the way you fight, as Saenchai puts it. Cut out the unnecessary and focus firmly on developing your identity.
This is a hugely important tool. When you know who you are; when your identity is firmly fixed; when you walk into the ropes having fought this fight a million times, your psychology will be on point. As such, you can expect to rely on your mental strength and identity to push through.
Own Your Success And Own Your Failure
“When you win, don’t get over-confident; and when you lose, don’t get too down.” – Multiple-time Muay Thai World Champion Sagetdao Petpayathai
Last, but not least, learn how to control your emotions. Become the master of your mind. Understanding that you are not the greatest thing since sliced bread when you win – and that you are more than capable of bouncing back after a loss – is priceless. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t savor and celebrate your victories. By all means, you want to enjoy the sweet when it comes around. Just don’t rest on your laurels.
One of the most appropriate sayings here is that “pride comes before the fall.” Believe you are the best but know that this can change very quickly. You need to stay sharp and prepare for the next cold-blooded killer who wants to take your crown.
On the flip side, if you have lost, it’s not the end of the world. Unlike boxing, where fighters try to avoid losses in any way they can, a defeat in Muay Thai is seen as a blessing. It is an opportunity to learn and to improve. Every single Muay Thai great has at least one loss. Own it and come back stronger than ever. After all, you have the mind of a champion, and that’s what matters.