How your past, body & mind collaborate to write your life’s script. Learn to rewrite it to thrive in Muay Thai. . .


Have you ever noticed that some techniques and combos don’t require much effort to master, while others don’t flow no matter how much you practice?

Why is that? And more importantly, what do you do about the techniques you can’t get right?

You can settle with the fact that you will never use those techniques in fights or sparring. Or, you can change the fact that a certain technique is not natural to you. In order to change this fact, you need to first understand why something is natural to you.


PAST – These are events or experiences in your past that make you better in certain aspects of Muay Thai than your peers. Childhood ballet lessons, for instance, may have given you spectacular balance on one leg, leading you to be great at high kicks. Your first coach may have favored boxing lessons focused on punches, resulting you relying predominately on punches. Where you’ve been influences where you’ll go.

PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES – Finding examples of this element are pretty intuitive: tall fighters that use distance and keep shorter opponents away; heavyweights who throw power shots; fighters with muscular legs that throw heavy kicks, etc.

Your particular physical attributes, on a smaller scale, relates to musculoskeletal development. Your hips may not be flexible enough to deliver a kick, or maybe your ankle may not have developed the strength to support your weight on a side step with confidence.

MIND– This is an area that most people don’t think of. This is what you believe of yourself and of Muay Thai. Imagine a student who has only seen exchanges of fights where Muay Thai fighters stand in front of each other and exchanges shots. She would believe that Muay Thai doesn’t require footwork. When presented with combos that incorporate footwork, she could diligently drill them in class or on pads or as part of bag work as her coach prescribes them. But that effort would not have amount to anything usable as she would subconsciously dismiss these techniques as irrelevant.

In psychology, we might refer to this set of static pre-determinations that influence your behavior as a “script.”


Your script about yourself could be holding you back from mastering new techniques. Scripts are stories you tell to yourself or others to describe your identity. These scripts are not so easily identified as causes that set you back in training. It requires self-reflection, which many either defer or avoid altogether. Even if they were identified, they are often met with resistance and even anger.

A generic example is that of a skinny guy who wants to gain muscle, but refuses to lift weights and change his diet. His script dictates that he doesn’t want to become a “meathead”. He remains a skinny guy. Because he is not a meathead. You may say, about yourself, “I am not a brawler,” so you are not aggressive when you need to be. Because you are not a brawler. You may identify yourself as an honest person. When your coach wants you to use fakes, you can’t sell them. Because you are not a trickster.

While not all things are driven by a script, your best bet is to check your scripts when you can’t figure out why you are stuck.


Now that you understand what makes certain techniques natural to you, what doesn’t feel natural are simply techniques that don’t fit into the trinity. What now? To change your current situation for the better, you need to apply changes to one or more of the elements in the trinity.

MIND (short-term) – The quickest element to change is your mind. Determine what scripts you currently hold that contradict with what you are trying to accomplish. It might take some reflection and research. The student mentioned above could study examples of Muay Thai fighters that use footwork. If it is something you believe about yourself, consider ways to shift your mindset slightly. In the above example, consider: aggression is viewed on a range. Fighters that are aggressive sometimes are not viewed as brawlers. You will find that changing your mind facilitates changing the remaining two elements.

PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES (medium-term) – While there are limits to how much you can alter your physical attributes, physical development can bring you closer to your objective. Sometimes this happens by repetition – a lot of it. In the example above, you might simply have to do enough repetitions to the point your ankles can support your movements confidently. Alternatively, you can perform exercises that strengthen your ankles so that it perform the task you require with ease.

PAST (long-term) – Events that occur now will eventually become the past. So you can engage in practices that supports your objective right now. This might come in forms of doing additional drills after class, setting goals to use certain techniques during sparring, etc. The more experience you have with using your technique, the more it will being natural over time.

Adopting new ways will always take time and effort. So be patient! Once you have decided on what you want to achieve, set out a plan and take actions that lead you closer to your goal every day.

It’s only you out there in that ring…

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Matilda Chiu
Matilda is a devoted student of Muay Thai, an amateur fighter, and a hobbyist acrobat from Canada. She is drawn to the grace, resilience, and courage instilled in martial arts. She hopes to share her perspective on a fulfilling martial arts journey.

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