Twenty isn’t a large number, but it’s one I never thought that I would reach in my fight career. When I first started, I thought that I would have one or two just to have the experience and move on because I never thought that I would be good enough to even consider pursuing it any further. When I passed those numbers, I thought that I would have ten fights, a number which was definitely possible but still distant at that time. Fourteen months later, I’d arrived there. After that, I stopped setting numerical targets, mainly because I was going to carry on regardless and didn’t have any plans to leave Thailand in the near future, but also because numbers like these were never my main motivation for fighting. The overall goal has always been just to keep continuously improving; to get better and to grow as much as I can. Still, this doesn’t make goals like those any less significant and I am very happy to have now reached twenty. Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu spoke about this in a mini documentary that was made when she had her fortieth fight, ‘Fighting the Dream‘. In that documentary, she said:
“It’s not that setting the goal is unimportant. I think that it’s just putting a landmark somewhere like looking at a tree in the distance and knowing that you’re going to get at least that far, but once you get there, you just keep walking”.
Sylvie just reached her hundredth fight in Thailand.
Along the way, I have sometimes considered my record to be meager and though that perhaps I should have been racking up more. I’ve always thought that fighting frequently was the key to fighting well, but it has at times been difficult to fight as often as I’ve wanted to. To illustrate the realities of my lifestyle here in Thailand and my career so far, I’ve listed some reasons for that below.
i. Scheduling difficulties. For the first two years of my fighting career, I was working six days a week. In the third, I’ve temporarily changed my work schedule to part-time in order to remedy this, but it still means that I have to work weekends, which is when many fight nights take place and means that I’m unable take fights requiring long periods of travel if I can’t make it back in time for work. Unfortunately, this has still left me somewhat limited and there have been countless occasions on which I’ve had to turn down fight opportunities because of work. However, my job is what allows me to stay here long-term and I really love doing it, so the fact that it limits my fighting schedule is a small price to pay.
ii. Cancellations. This is unavoidable. Opponents sometimes pull out, often at the last minute. Sometimes, shows are cancelled altogether. I’ve had some cancelled because of political protests, some due to promoter’s budgeting problems and some for no apparent reason. It’s all part of fighting here. I’d go as far as to say that up to 50% of the fights that I’ve accepted have later fallen through for one reason or another. Thankfully, living in Thailand means that there is usually a fight opportunity around the corner.
iii. Being told to give up after my eleventh fight. After travelling to the UK for a fight that didn’t go my way in 2013, I was advised by someone there to stop fighting altogether. You can read my post on that here. This was a huge blow to my confidence and sparked the beginning of a long period during which there was constant training, but no fighting. This was later prolonged by cancellations, sickness and injury and unfortunately ended up lasting six months altogether. I wrote this post on that time, how it affected me and how I used it, ‘What I’ve Been Doing with my Down-Time‘.
Although there have been bumps in the road that have meant arriving at this point a little later than perhaps I could have, I’m very happy and grateful to have travelled it so far and to still be on it now. Here are a few of the thoughts that have surrounded this stage in it for me.
Always be ready. It can sometimes be difficult for some to stay consistently motivated without the prospect of an upcoming fight to act as a driving force, and when I’ve trained hard in anticipation of one only for it to fall through, it would be easy for me to say ‘fuck it‘ and fall off the wagon, but I can’t risk not being ready for an opportunity when it comes. Funnily enough, I’ve mostly found that wasn’t the fights that were planned weeks or months in advance that came through, it was the ones that cropped up unexpectedly, just as my last three fights did. I quickly went from having no concrete fight plans to landing three fights in three weeks. This was partially because of a new promotion being launched at Asiatique, where fights are now taking place six nights a week. I have already fought there twice and the promoters seem interested in having me fight there regularly. Now that I have been presented with an opportunity to fight more frequently, it looks like things might start moving a little faster for a while.
Another thing that I feel is important for me to remember is not to be too critical in comparing myself to others. Sylvie’s milestone of one hundred fights in Thailand is an example. She has just hit a mind-blowingly awesome stage in her career and I’m thrilled that she’s done so because it sets a marker for other women as well as being a huge achievement for herself. Sometimes, I might look at the rate at which Sylvie is fighting and think ‘I need to be doing that!‘ You can see some examples of other Westerners who’ve fought a lot in Thailand in a post that Sylvie just published here. I might sometimes also look at other fighters who appear to be progressing much more quickly than I am and conjure up irrational, negative feelings about my own progression or perceived lack thereof on a bad day. It’s wonderful to have examples like these set and people to look up to, but I remind myself to never feel as though my own personal journey is of any less worth just because it might not be similar to those of other people. My journey may be different, but it’s just as valuable to me. The wonderful thing about trailblazers like Sylvie is that they’re not just showing us what they can do, they show us that we can all do what they do, if we work hard enough.
The day after my last fight, I was faced with the idea of taking a ‘forced break’. I hate stopping and starting because it’s difficult to keep making progress that way and always makes me feel as though I have to make up for lost time. This was something I was very aware of when I first started fighting as many of my friends here were outside of the gym and I often felt like I had to juggle two worlds. However, for the last few years and after those friends left Thailand, my life has consisted almost solely of training, fighting and working, so this hasn’t been much of a theme. I was only reminded of this recently, when a group of those friends returned for a wedding and a two-week reunion vacation. In this instance, as with many others, as much as I wanted to see my friends, I hated the idea of tearing myself away from the gym. However, there are times like these when it can’t be avoided. Other examples include when I had my wisdom teeth removed (although I still did some light sparring the day after surgery) or my annual trip home. I call these ‘forced breaks’ because I never seem to want them at the time but have no option but to take them. This one was no different. After having three fights in three weeks and reaching my twentieth, it might have seemed like a good time to take a break, but that is exactly why I wanted to keep going. I felt like I was making progress. The train had started picking up speed and I didn’t want to jump off just yet, even if only for a few days. The same reason that some told me I deserved a break was the same reason that I didn’t want one. When I did, I felt uncomfortable for the first few days. It may have been due to being out of my routine with training and diet or a lack of outlet for energy release, but it didn’t feel right. After those few days, I realised that I had to just let myself go and enjoy my time off. Once I did that, I had a great time and I came back to the gym afterwards feeling energised. It seems silly now that I let those feelings bother me at all in the first place!
I came back to the gym last Thursday and have been back into my usual routine ever since. I don’t have any solid fight prospects as of yet, but there are some in the works and they’ll come together as I keep training. I’m just going to keep going and am looking forward to whatever is to come from here. All I hope for is to hope to keep fighting for as long as I enjoy doing so. Whether that means having ten more fights or one hundred more, I don’t mind. It’s the experiences along the way that I’m in it for. As they say, ‘the journey is the reward’.