I want to share with you a story… it's my story of how I got into Kickboxing and eventually into Thai Boxing (Muay Thai). Not only do I hope to entertain you with my story but also highlight the Benefits of Kickboxing to those who are interested.
Rewind back to 1998, I had just started University and was feeling very isolated and alone. I had gone to University far from home and further away from my comfort zone. All of my friends from back home had gone in their own direction and here I was. A year prior to starting University, I made a pact with myself to get fit and lose weight. I did it, and I did it too fast because I made all the bone head mistakes you can make when it comes to poor nutrition and over training. As a child growing up in the 80's I remember my dad taking me to video rental stores at the weekends and I'd pick the old, cheesy Chinese kung fu films, my fascination for martial arts started at a young age and I took up Tae Kwon Do in my early teens.
When the student is ready, the Master appears
So, there I was, at the freshers fair seeing which clubs and societies I would sign up for. Before starting University, I was hell bent in joining some clubs that will keep me fit as my interest in fitness was growing too. I wondered straight over to the Tae Kwon Do stall to see a bunch of lanky and somewhat nerdy chaps dressed in the traditional Dobok (the Korean name for a Gi, I.e.. the martial arts uniform worn). I enquired about their style of Tae Kwon Do and frankly, it seemed a bit dowdy to me.
I wondered around, signed up to American Football tryouts (I made the team too and I had and still have no clue whatsoever about American Football, I think they were just short of players and the player to cheerleader ratio seemed interesting at the time) I was about done but then someone caught my eye… An athletic guy with bleach blonde hair and earrings – reminiscent of Eminem and I thought, Okay, he looks cool, let's see what he has to offer. It turns out that this chap was promoting the University's boxing program. Boxing sounded fun so I signed up.
A few days later, I'd have another chance encounter with this steel haired guys that all the ladies were drooling at at the freshers fair, only this time it was at the university gym where they had a few punching bags. I watched with interest as he was punching, and kicking the bags. When he stopped I asked him what style he was trained in, he replied he was a Kickboxer… that sounded way too freaking cool and I asked him "Can you teach me?", He replied that he was actually starting a small class up and invited me to come along, I did and from the first lesson, I was hooked! This man was Marcus Kowal. A man to whom I owe a huge debt of gratitude, who was one of my mentors and role models and without him, I would not be kicking ass today!
Kickboxing quickly got into my blood. I was addicted, I wanted to do nothing but train. In between training I would find Kickboxing videos or books to read. Back then, The Internet wasn't what it is today and the University network aka JANET, was slower than a dialup 28k modem at the best of times. I did manage to get onto Amazon and order Pat O'Keefe's book on Kickboxing. I wanted to learn everything! Another thing that Kickboxing soon had me doing was have a circle of friends. I was very much alone at University for the most part until I met up with some great people which continued after I had finished University too and carried on Kickboxing and Thai Boxing. Some of the best people I've met have been from the sport!
After I won a fight in Nottingham
I had always been a fairly meek person and growing up, I remember being afraid of my own shadow. My father rang me one night on my mobile phone to see how I was doing. My parents worry a lot and would contact me at least every other day or expect me to call them. On this occasion, My dad called and enquired how I was doing and what was up. I let him know that I was walking back to my room and was just going down a fairly quiet and dark path with poor signal. My dad was shocked, he asked if I was alone and not scared and it dawned on me that a few years ago, I would have been paralyzed by fear and not been able to walk down this path alone at night but now, I felt confident enough to do so and replied, "Actually dad, I feel safe, I feel as though I can handle myself should the worst happen" – Kickboxing had given me a sense of great personal freedom thanks to the confidence it had given me. Not only in self defense but also in social situations. I was more self aware thanks to Kickboxing, I was more in tune with my body and my mind.
Reunited with my mentor Marcus Kowal after many years at BAMMA
Incredible fitness that's fun
Fast forward now to more recent times, I have always found that Kickboxing had offered me an amazing workout. In fact, the average hour long Kickboxing class burns about 1000 calories according to experts, that's a lot of calories for an hour but the best part is you're having fun doing something dynamic. The feeling of euphoria you get after is second to none (well, apart from after good sex but we won't go there and only just).. In fact, its well established that exercise releases endorphins (the happy hormone) into the brain when you exercise which elevates mood but the fact that you're also punching and kicking pads or bags really does help to let one take out their frustrations and anger from a stressful day at work in a productive manner!
The best shape of your life
Okay, and now for an admission. After I had finished from University, I decided to go to Thailand for a few months to learn Muay Thai from the masters. One of the main reasons I wanted to learn Muay Thai though was that every time I read about or saw a Thai boxing fight from Thailand, the fighters all had amazing physiques. Not too bulky but ripped toned bodies, huge calf muscles and they could fight! My ideal body image then. I figured if all Thai boxers looked that good, then If I trained in Muay Thai, I'd get that physique too. I can say that Kickboxing and Thai Boxing have contributed to me being in great physical shape. The workouts are demanding yet fun and practical because you're learning a skill that you can use that could potentially save your life. A total body workout that is great fun!
My journey in Kickboxing and Muay Thai is far from over and from the moment I started it, I wanted to be good at it. And not just good, I wanted to be great. I had dreams of being a champion, as many do. In the begriming, at University, we trained with a belt system so my goal was to be a black belt which I achieved but then, the more I got into it, the more I realized the competitive element and so, My dream and journey took me into the competitive arena and into the ring. I have fought on several occasions under Kickboxing, Thai Boxing and Full Contact rules and whilst I have not ended or achieved what I had set out to do, I do hope to continue to fight for as long as possible until I achieve the dream which brings me onto perhaps my greatest benefit I have got
The most profound lesson
Above all, the most profound benefit I have gained from Kickboxing is the following lesson. It occurred to me after I was training one day for a fight and I was thinking about the heavy sparring we did (Sparring for those that don't know is simulated fighting with a partner). and I had this epiphany which made me realize why life was a lot like fighting in the ring. Your opponent or life stands square in front of you, and the only thing between you and your goals and dreams is a guy (or girl) you have to get through who wants nothing more than to knock you out but you have to stay on your feet, keep your heart and keep moving forward! You can't give up! The harder you train, the easier the fight as they say and when you think about life, the harder you work and the more prepared you are, the better the chances for success. You'll get set backs and knock downs and life will try to knock you down but, you have to be strong and fight back, fight for your dreams, no matter how much it hurts, how tired you are, you've got to dig deep and keep your heart! This profound knowledge that I had gained from Kickboxing and Muay Thai has allowed me to be more at peace with myself and perhaps the biggest benefit you can gain from Kickboxing, Muay Thai or martial arts in general is the sense of spiritual and mental wellness.