When one is at the end of a stage, a period in their life, a chapter in their book, they often find themselves looking back at the beginning and trying to view that entire chapter from a perspective, informed by experience. Mistakes are pinned down, the happiest and the gloomiest moments are recalled, and conclusions are drawn. The first chapter in my new Muay Thai ‘book’ is finished, and I am now leafing through the ‘pages’ to evaluate what I have ‘written’ to see if, perhaps, the ‘book’ might turn out to be but this one chapter, a short story of confusion.
I stopped attending my old gym over two weeks ago, but, in truth, it has been about a month since I’ve been ‘gone’ from Muay Thai. A month ago I had a terribly unpleasant experience at the gym, after which I have not been able to salvage my trust for that environment or the people in it. What was worse, however, was that the ugly episode cast a shadow over everything that Muay Thai was to me. That place and those people represented my whole – brief – experience with Muay Thai. Being so deeply disappointed in them, I felt disenchanted with the sport itself.
So strong was the connection between the place and the sport in my mind that, although I knew there were countless gyms where I could train, I felt like I had nowhere else to go. For two weeks after the incident I tried to force my body back into the gym routine, but it was not working. I got a hip injury and my knee pain returned with a vengeance. With the right leg thus out of commission, I was finding it very hard to train satisfactorily. It wasn’t helping that my stomach turned each time I would walk into the training area. I didn’t trust the place at all anymore, and was struggling to focus.
First, I stopped running. It hurt too much, and I no longer loved training enough to justify the pain. I began to work more, often staying up several nights in a row typing on my laptop. Soon, I couldn’t sleep at all, even if I didn’t have any terribly urgent assignments to finish. Training became a chore, no longer enjoyable, interesting or necessary – not even after my old trainer came back following a long absence.
I was only really happy when, twice a week, I got to leave the gym and go to the other side of Bangkok for my Thai language classes. I liked the mental challenge of trying to understand the logic behind a language so very different from any other I’d studied. Besides, I found it relaxing that the people in my group didn’t pretend to be interested in each other: each was there so they could speak with their Thai peers outside the school. All of us students were very unlike each other and would, perhaps, have little in common to discuss even if we tried. It felt great that in class it didn’t matter who I was, or what I looked like, or how good I was at Thai – or Muay Thai – I was anonymous, like the rest of the students. As someone who’s always enjoyed learning, I felt at home at the language school.
Unfortunately, where I lived, at the gym, I no longer felt at home. I began to allow myself to miss training sessions – sometimes my body would just refuse to enter the training space. Before that afternoon incident, whenever I was sick, I would lie in bed, listening to the gym noises upstairs, angry at myself for missing training and hopeful of a swift recovery. No injuries, no number of sleepless nights or missed meals affected my enthusiasm – and there weren’t too many of either of those before. Still, I hesitated to leave, wishing that one day things would get back to how they had used to be, but time was the only thing passing.
Just over two weeks ago I finally packed my bags and moved out. Chapter I was finished. Dealing with some health issues – this time it wasn’t just a little pain here and there – I have had plenty of time to think about whether or not I wanted to, or had the integrity, determination and simply the physical strength to start a new chapter at another gym. Eventually, I decided to stay and try again. It was a strange decision to make, given where and how I made it: at the hospital, with the only person occasionally visiting being the last one in the world I’d want to see. However, even in those circumstances I was still as much in love with Muay Thai as when I turned my back on Everest last season, just to get back to training as soon as I could. I remained absolutely passionate about the martial art itself, although I had confused Muay Thai-the-dream with where and how I had gone about fulfilling it. It was a big mistake – to confuse the end with the means of achieving it, and with the means proving wrong, to feel that the goal was wrong for me also. Fortunately, just like there isn’t just one route to the summit of Everest, there isn’t just one way, I hope, to reach the new goal I have set myself. Muay Thai is still that goal, and while I continue to love it, I will search for ways to keep improving.
I start writing Chapter II when I arrive at my new base in a few days. I will try to leave behind the bad memories, which, having devoured almost all of the good ones – and there had been so, so many! – still make me doubt every step I make in my desired direction. They belong in the past, in Chapter I, and I don’t want them in my luggage as one is not allowed to carry much these days…