Art Of Eight Limbs, Sport Of Endless Possibilities
Not too long ago, I found myself – a mother in her early 30s, holding down 9-5 gig – fast becoming addicted to this sport. I don’t know if I’m a fighter. I don’t know if I want to eventually train in Thailand. I just know that I fucking love it.
Still, I wonder: “How much can I afford to love Muay Thai?” I have two elementary school aged children, one of whom is autistic. Who would take care of them while I went off to nurture a Muay Thai career? I would never leave them behind in any case. Ideally they would follow me wherever I went to train, but how would I support us all? Children need stability. All of my family, my support base, lives in the States. The precise flavor of me couldn’t be found.
I’m writing this article to speak to those like me – who simply love the beauty of Muay Thai, who want it constantly in their lives. Muay Thai saved me. I’ve been searching for it my entire adult life, but didn’t know it. I am certainly in a minority. But I know if I exist, others must, too.
Muay Thai: Commitment Required
I get up at 5 AM twice a week to commute across town for class. There used to be a bit of light in the sky when I began in late June, but now it’s just dark when I rise. I hate to think of what will happen when winter arrives, that nipple-freezing air ripping through the wind tunnel created by the buildings around my apartment. But I know what will happen: I’m going to get up at 5 AM twice a week to commute across town for class. I’ll just be really, really cold, and probably cry a little.
Five months ago, I accepted an office job as a temp. My last job had me constantly on my feet for six years straight. I was unaccustomed to the inactivity. I developed a bad neck strain and a slowly expanding waistline. My marriage had officially ended in my mind and heart but because I hadn’t the means to move out with my children, I shared living quarters with my husband (still do, it’s very strange and difficult) and drank wine five nights a week.
I’m not here only to talk about the hole that was inside my chest, something that felt like a bottomless pit of pain, but to talk about how training Muay Thai helped to close it.
Pouring bottles of wine down it just wasn’t getting the job done, and I was turning into the mommy that loves to drink wine. I was tired of that – that wasn’t the person I had been before and that’s certainly not the woman I wanted my sons to remember as men. Children don’t judge, they just love, but I wanted to show them a healthier way to deal with their stress and problems.
Muay Thai is my gift to share with my children. In the past, I would see parents strapping hiking boots onto their two-year-olds, putting them on a surfboard in Instagram pictures, or dressing them in mom and dad’s favorite team’s jersey and taking them to their first game. I would ask myself, “what’s my special thing to share with my own kids?” Now I know.
My sons are going to train Muay Thai.
Muay Thai: Motivation Guaranteed
Before Muay Thai, I couldn’t hold on to a new project to save my life. I couldn’t make that dance class. I stopped learning that language. I never finished knitting that scarf. I stopped writing that book. You know that thing that you do well? A natural gift you can’t seem to find the passion to pursue, even though it is effortless for you? For example, I can dance my ass off. I can sing like an angel. I am a talented writer who has never published a thing (editor’s note: until now!), but has kept journals since age four.
I couldn’t make these skills matter. I couldn’t hold onto them. Now, Muay Thai holds onto me.
This art form is special to me in a way that is hard to explain. I sought it on my own and found it on my own. It is mine. External things are external for a reason; they come and go – you can’t put them inside you to stay, and you can’t depend on them to always be there. Some days you just need a hug, but there’s no special person to give it to you. That man or woman will leave you, that bottle or plate will be empty, your kids will grow up and go, the job could disappear with no warning, a hurricane could take your house… You get the picture.
Muay Thai is knowledge that brings with it confidence and strength – pride like the kind your parents and peeps have for you, but you finally feel it for yourself. That simply can’t be taken away. Choosing to learn this art form on top of working, raising children, and negotiating a failed marriage and eventual separation has completely transformed the way I think and feel about myself.
Muay Thai: Challenges Met
Some who are considering taking a class will watch videos of Muay Thai fights, see the blood and sweat, and say to themselves, “I couldn’t possibly do that, that’s not for me.” I saw a picture of a female Muay Thai fighter, and I said to myself, “that’s going to be me. Even if I never fight, I’m going to look like her, I’m going to learn what she knows.”
Three months later, I am sitting here writing this article to you guys, sharing my life – something I never saw coming. I drink probably twice a week on average. Since I’ve started training, I have found that my body simply doesn’t like alcohol. There are moments when I’ve had a toxic day at the office, or it’s a Thursday night and I don’t have to go to class or do my own scheduled workouts until Monday, and I will drink in celebration of relaxation. (Yes, I love Muay Thai, but I do get tired and my body loves and needs the rest.)
There are nights when I swear I would like some wine, so I go buy a bottle, but leave it in the kitchen and go to bed. Other nights, I won’t care about drinking at all, but sit on the couch with my babies before bed, and watch Moana for the 50th time, and be perfectly content. I love those moments. Some nights I turn into a raging harpy after 8 PM, and as soon as those little butts are behind a closed door, I simply crash – but it’s clean. No grogginess, no dizziness, and I sleep through the night. Muay Thai makes my body tired in a way I have never experienced before. I look forward to going to bed at night the way I used to look at a wine bottle: with glee and anticipation.
Hole in my chest? Who cares about a hole? What hole? My bed is calling! I arrange my pillows just so, fold back the blankets, and slide under the covers with so much pleasure, you’d think I was getting ready to do something else. Nope. I get to relax every exhausted bone in my body and recharge for the next day. Sometimes when I wake in morning, I have brand new muscle definition!
That’s what Muay Thai has done for me. This isn’t yoga or Zumba or spin or Pilates or any of those other “mom” activities that I can do to stay fit and healthy. It’s fucking Muay Thai.
I’m so proud to belong to this thing because there is nothing else like it in the world. In fact, I have difficulty calling it a “sport” anymore. At this point, it’s my life.
- Ariel Stewart believes that she can be and do whatever she dreams with hard work, perseverance, and endless patience. She is happy that in the chaos that is life, she can kiss her kids, and run off to the gym to train Muay Thai.