No coach or teammate needs to tell me I rely on emotion too much. Strong emotions can be an enormous double edged sword. They give you the power to drive on and feel dizzying highs and drag you down, adding extra weight, draining your resolve.
Light bulb moment
I recently had an epiphany about my use of emotion in Muay Thai competition. I’ve had two vastly different experiences in my competitive life so far; the first being proud of a good effort in my opening contest; the second being the feeling of wanting to never be seen by another human afterwards.
I over relied on my feelings to get through and it cost any hopes of winning both times (particularly in the second encounter). On the day of the second fight nothing seemed to go right. I was sat at home watching a film during the day, waiting to go. Nervousness thinking of what could go wrong plagued my head, and the body responded with tenseness.
At the venue I listened music to pump myself up; bad move. My coach advised me to listen to something calming as I looked “too intense”. This was great advice, if not too late. The butterflies in my stomach had already grown sizeably, putting too much pressure on the performance before I’d even walked out.
By the time I settled in my corner I’d already used up enough energy to win two fights. You can guess what happened after that…
One round of everything I had left actually went pretty well. Looking back at the photos you could be excused for thinking I may have even won, but after heading back to the corner, the tension drained everything; feeling tired and I not enjoying myself.
A few hits to the body in the second that didn’t feel nice landed, leading to the decision I would rather head to the back. My head telling me I didn’t want it. There was no real damage to speak of however; I was fine afterwards, no bruising, no lasting pain, nothing.
The emotions felt that day have taken a long time to fade (albeit not completely). When I went to the changing area my gloves were cut off, I put my head in my hands and had an emotional breakdown. I didn’t want to talk to anyone or see anyone.
I’m very thankful that my teammate Alice (who suffered a similar early loss a month previously) came over, placed a towel over my head and kept everybody away from me for a while.
I didn’t think logically about what I was doing at all during that bout; just running purely on auto pilot. This problem also occurs often when sparring. You just go, hoping instinct and emotion can do the work for you. It doesn’t work (at least for me).
(Nice flurry… too bad the shots did no damage)
This needs to change. Emotion is a powerful tool but you have to think as well as feel. You have to concentrate on which movements will work for you to get into the best position. When in that position, you can unleash all that pent up frustration and anger to make it work as a tool rather than a wildfire. This is the difference between fighting hard and fighting smart in my opinion.
“Dan earned the power of self respect!”
In the movie Scott Pilgrim, the hero Scott attempts to fight the final evil ex boyfriend of his love interest Ramona (Gideon) using the “power of love”. It is a strong weapon, it upped his stats, but it was too wild. It wasn’t what he needed to win.
He lost the encounter after declaring he wanted to fight because he was in love with Ramona. It was during his resurrection (due to having an extra life) that he realised he was fighting for the wrong reason, using the wrong weapon.
When he faced Gideon again, he answered that he wanted to fight for himself and gained the power of self respect. In training for my second fight I felt I was competing for a lot of other people, my team, my coaches, my family and friends. I never thought about doing it “for myself”.
Well what now?
Over the coming weeks I have the opportunity to confront these problems head on. In the UK there is a strong core of clubs that host “inter clubs” to help gain experience without the pressure of having a full fight.
Over the next month there are two achievements I’d like to earn from sparring training and inter clubs; one being to compete with a level head and actively think while sparring. The second is to leave high emotions out of these environments for the meantime. An inter club and a sparring class is a time to learn, and getting hit is no reason to drop your head and get upset with yourself.
Is all that achievable in a short time? We’ll find out very soon. The positive about making those goals is that “knowing” where the problem lies is always the first step.
Time to achieve them.