This fight was the first of two that I had in the AITMA Championship tournament, which took place over Naikanomthom festival in Ayutthaya. As I’d had less than 10 fights, I was fighting in the B-class category. However, since I’ve only ever fought in Thailand, this was the first time I had to fight with shin pads and elbow pads. I wasn’t keen on the idea of wearing protective gear, but was happy for the opportunity to fight in my first tournament.
Prior to this fight, I had two fights in ten days. There was only a two week break between the last fight and this one, so my shins still had that bruised and squishy feeling, and I wasn’t feeling confident about my kicks. However, the thought of using shin pads appeased me. Besides, I could worry about the pain after the fight, so it wasn’t much of a problem. I just wasn’t used to having fights so close together at this point, but I was happy for the opportunity to do so.
As I slid under the ropes and entered the ring to meet my opponent, I noticed that she wasn’t wearing shin pads. Instead of her having to put hers on, my trainer quickly whipped mine from my legs. I was a little worried about my shins and also a little confused about why she wasn’t made to abide by the rules and wear the correct protective gear, but in Thailand, occurrences like this are no surprise! Actually, it was nice not to have those horrible, itchy sock-like guards on and do what felt natural. So, I calmly walked to the centre of the ring to meet my first non-Thai opponent, Sarah Brown from Pollet’s Gym, Australia.
I had actually had the pleasure of spending some time with Sarah in the days leading up to the fight (this was before we knew that we would be matched against each other, not that it would have mattered). She was really nice and down to earth, and seemed like the kind of girl I would really get along with. After we were matched, I wondered what it would be like to fight her. Although we’d only just met, I genuinely really liked her. It didn’t bother me, though. Fighting someone doesn’t necessarily mean having any aggression towards them, it’s a sport. As the fight began, I felt confident. However, I felt it was important not to underestimate her. I had only ever fought Thais before, so prepared myself for a different style of fighting.
I expected her to charge at me from the first round, in a much more aggressive style than my usual, Thai opponents. However, she didn’t, which set a more familiar pace for me. Despite this, as the rounds progressed, I somehow felt my stamina failing me. Having fights in such quick succession had left me little time to recover or train, meaning that my cardio wasn’t at its best. You’d think that I’d feel fit and ready to go since I’d just come out of another fight, but in fact, the opposite was true. At this point, I was grateful that the fight was only three rounds.
In the final round, I knew that I was winning. My kicks were out-scoring her punches and she was clearly more tired than I was (although, I wasn’t feeling so fresh myself). Towards the very end of the fight, she seemed to have a vacant look in her eyes, and her hands fell limply by her sides, leaving her with no guard. She later told me that she couldn’t even see me at that point! If that had been any other fight, I would have charged in, looking for the knock-out. However, I didn’t feel that was necessary, for a few different reasons. Firstly, I knew that I had more experience than her, so it was already a match to my advantage. Secondly, I didn’t want to risk getting even more hurt. As this was a tournament, I knew I would have to fight the following day, so felt that there was no need to risk prolonging injury when I could get a sure win and then give my best in the final fight. The third reason was a strange one. Halfway through the final round, I heard my opponent’s corner shout ‘don’t hurt her!’, which can only have been aimed at me. Although I ignored this at the time, I thought about it a lot afterwards, and it provoked mixed feelings. Why would they tell me not to hurt her? A fight is a fight, and both of us entered the ring knowing that we would risk experiencing some amount of pain. If the shoe was on the other foot, would she have taken pity on me? I don’t think so, and why should she? Would my trainer have shouted something like that? Absolutely not. However, I understood their reasoning. I was already going to win the fight, and there was no need to try and cause unnecessary damage. This is something you often see in fights in Thailand. Many times, if the fight has already shown a clear winner, the final round can be very un-eventful. The fighters will often touch gloves a nod, in mutual recognition that there is no need to continue battling until the final bell. After that, they’ll usually walk, bounce or dance around the ring waving their hands in the air for the final moments of the fight. I’ve heard many foreigners become frustrated with this, asking what the point of it is, as if to say that it means that those fighters are showing a lack of heart. However, I can totally relate. For many, fighting is a hobby, but for most of the Thai fighters, it’s a career and a lifestyle. It is not uncommon for them to be fighting every two weeks, or even more often than that, so they want to avoid injury as much as possible. For them, unnecessary injury would stifle their income and career. I also feel that this kind of action also highlights one of the reasons why I love Muay Thai – the element of respect. While they’re fighting, they manage to maintain and show respect for each other, which I think is quite admirable.
Master Toddy has often commented that I am too ‘jai dee’ when I fight, by which he basically means that I am too nice. I can totally see where he’s coming from. He told me off for it in my previous fight, too. It might sound stupid, because it’s a fight. However, I don’t fight because I love to fight, I fight because I love the sport, and the natural aggression is something that I have to continuously work on to bring out of myself. I’ll get there, it will just take more time and more fights than it would for some other people.
After the fight, I felt a little disappointed in my performance. I’d won, but I felt that I hadn’t shown an improvement in my skill or ability. However, I reminded myself that this was my third fight that month, and that it wasn’t possible to constantly be on top of my game. So, I spent the rest of my evening icing my shins and preparing for the next fight, the final of the tournament.
See below for a gallery of images from the fight.