By Travis” The Hoodlum” Lerchen
The walk to the ring could be one of the most exciting, or one of the most terrifying experiences we face as nak muay.
The crowd yelling, cold chills, blinding lights that hit our eyes, and the rapid beat of our hearts as we take one step closer to the ring. Now we ask ourselves, is this in fear or excitement that gives us this rush?
Fight or flight kicks in as we reach the steps and give a nod of respect to our coaches and corners. It is at this moment we either win or lose the fight.
A majority of you may have thought that the feeling you get from walking up those steps, over the top rope is euphoric in ways. It is something you have dreamt about that has kept you from sleep… and now it’s there right in front of you.
The ref calls you to the center of the ring. All you hear is silent screams echoing throughout the venue. Suddenly all your training, the weeks and hours you put in, are now just memories. A single ring of a bell sets things into motion. Battle has ensued, and you apply all you know. Now STOP and ask yourself this question:
For whom are you fighting for?
What purpose do you have standing in this ring?
Ask yourself this right now and come up with an answer.
Many of us will say we are fighting for ourselves, that we have something to prove. We are in the ring to be the best, to show we are a champion. As I wrote before, this sport is not for the lazy or undisciplined.
I was told a story about two young boys, both were great fighters, but both were too comfortable with their success and got carried away. As some of you may or may not know in Thailand, muay thai is a way for survival. Children support entire families on their winnings, and that was the case for these brothers.
Both of these fighters lost their way and their purpose. Why they were in the ring. Who they were fighting for.
Their Kru came to them and told them, they had two choices. Fight, or leave.
They have disgraced the name, and had to prove why they belonged there. They would fight to prove they belonged there, but if they lost, they were no longer welcome to train, and their families would starve. So the boys, no older than 13, fought every week, some times three times a week.
The story continued with tears welling in this mans eyes. Both boys were battered, and bruised, with broken bones and open cuts. Both walked to the ring with purpose in those fights. The man telling me this was once a fighter himself from a gym I was asked not to name. Now in America teaching in NYC, he continued to tell me that with each walk to the ring the both became stronger in spirit, knowing that their failure would result in the death of their family.
I looked upon the man with scars across his face, hands mangled and fingers twisted. Curiosity got to me and I had to ask what had happened. His response;
“My brother and I fought for two months, sometimes three fights a week. Our wounds never got to heal, but our purpose was mended.”
This sport is a time to find yourself, to truly know what you are made of.
I myself have a title fight coming up shortly and this has changed my perspective of how my training needs to be. I do not have a family that will starve if I lose. No life is in my hands. I will either walk away a champion, or with a loss and a learning experience under my belt.
You may be thinking, why does this matter? Let me explain:
I was asked who I fight for. The answer was for myself. I have something to prove, and true that may push some to victory. However my eyes were opened to the fact, we never fight for ourselves, we fight for those who came before us, to uphold the name of our nak muay lineage. We fight to preserve a sport, a lifestyle. We fight to hold the right to call ourselves Nak Muay.
We step onto that field of battle with strength drawn from those who came before us, from those who coached us, from their coaches and so on. We take that ring with our comrades who have pushed us threw blood and sweat and tears. We do not fight for ourselves nor do we fight alone. with that being said, now ask yourself…
“What is your purpose in the ring and who do you fight for?”
(Travis Lerchen is a professional muay thai fighter training out Sityodtong Ct / Thornton Martial Arts. He’s scheduled to fight for the WKA title against Cyrus Washington on December 13th for Take On Productions.)