GREG WOOTTON: MUAY THAI FOR THE SOUL
"When I first put on a pair of gloves I had no clue how the training would impact every part of me"
When I first put on a pair of gloves I had no clue how the training would impact every part of me. I had no idea that the physical side of martial arts also has the ability to train the mind equally as much as the body. When you look at fighters’ physiques you can see the hard work they’ve put into their training but you can’t see to what extent their mentality and soul has developed too.
It starts slowly, with small choices and minor lifestyle changes. You go to the gym, try a class and enjoy it. You keep turning up, hone your skills a bit, feel a little fitter and enjoy seeing the improvements. During the training session you forget about your to-do list for a while. Training becomes a break from the day-to-day problems that normally occupy that space at the back of your mind, which usually prevents you from relaxing and switching off.
You’re enjoying training, seeing the results from it and want these improvements to continue. Now you have a reason to get into bed on time – to get enough sleep, to make healthier food choices in order to have increased energy levels and now you have a valid excuse to turn down that drink you didn’t really fancy at the pub after work.
For me, training and fighting meant I could skip the usually adolescent university culture of getting blind drunk. It gave me a free pass to drink orange juice and go home early. Through regularly implementing these lifestyle changes and choices, I started to form a routine. I noticed that I had more energy throughout the day, slept better at night and woke up fresher. I started to appreciate the change in the way my body looked and how my hard work and sweat made it happen.
It’s true you can get many of these benefits from going to a regular gym but with Muay Thai or martial arts there’s a difference. In a martial arts class you aren’t in control of the difficulty or work rate. You are encouraged to leave your comfort zone and operate out of it. Pushing yourself and training harder than you thought you could raises the bar of what you are capable of doing physically through your mentality. It builds mental resilience and toughness.
This really helped me to apply myself whilst at university, working a part-time job and training to fight at the same time. The beautiful thing with martial arts is that we are all on our own journey but by training together we share the same path. Everyone was a beginner at one point. Everyone started off with no skills, unfit and feeling silly. Everyone gets humbled at some point and continues to be humbled by the other amazing people we meet and train alongside.
When I was 18 I moved to Thailand to train and fight full-time. I got schooled and thrown around by skinny 12-year-old boys who lived at the gym. They trained longer and harder than I could and went to school in between training sessions while I napped, exhausted.
It was an incredibly humbling and valuable experience that taught me to respect everyone and anyone – a reminder that you don’t have a clue about how skilled or strong people are, what they’ve done or what they’ve lived through.
Training creates so many benefits and teaches us some wonderful skills. Competing and fighting intensifies and speeds up the process. You don’t have to fight but if you are brave enough to do so, you’ll learn some priceless lessons real quick. With sparring and physical contact, emotional control is needed to stay calm and think under pressure. Someone throwing punches at your head is definitely a form of pressure you can’t ignore or avoid!
Building emotional awareness and control under this kind of pressure is so transferable to other areas of life. Through fighting I had to keep calm while my opponent was trying to knock me out, to stick to the game plan even though my instinct was saying something else and not to panic if I was losing or at the sight of my own blood.
Thanks to these experiences I am able to stay calm in stressful situations and am more aware of my emotions – and as a result of this, I’m more able to express them. I never thought fighting would make it easier to tell my mates how much I value them or help me show love to the people I care about. All through kicking and punching…
So, why not come and see what it’s like? If you’re training in martial arts, keep training because you’re doing something amazing for your body, mind and soul.
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