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Converting From Muay Thai to Boxing

It started almost like a joke. Sometime in late June 2016, somebody, I can't remember who, said half in jest, half sincerely, "why don't you try out boxing?". The idea floated through my mind for a few days and took root slowly, growing from a snarl of doubts into a simple "why not?". At that time, I had been doing Muay Thai regularly for a couple of years, so it might prove to be a nice change, a fresh breeze to breathe into the workout routine. Even if I didn't continue with it long-term, boxing would help improve my striking in Muay Thai. I wouldn't be a complete newbie either, as there is punching in Muay Thai too, and the techniques, jabs and crosses and hooks and uppercuts, would be easily translatable. Or so I had initially thought.

The 2015 Onyx Muay Thai Fight Team. I was still a Nak Muay and never considered converting to boxing.

Then I tried out boxing for real and I felt like a complete newbie. Haha. Nothing could have prepared me for how out-of-depth I was. Although the techniques were similar, the movement and tactics were totally different. The most fundamental thing, the footwork, turns out to be the hardest thing to learn. For Muay Thai, the starting position is wider, because one required a good balance to execute a variety of kicks and knees. Footwork, for me at least, is also slower and more deliberate, because it is more difficult to approach in Muay Thai, in case of push-kicks or Superman punches etc. The rhythm was much faster for boxing, the angling was something I had never thought about so deeply, the feints were more elaborate yet precise, and this was before I even started learning how to slip and weave. It only got more confusing after that.

For the first few lessons, my forehead became best friends with the pad because my reactions to incoming punches were always two seconds too slow. I would slip to the left into an incoming jab, or weave into a hook, or walk right into an uppercut, as if my torso was secretly sabotaging my head. It was a comedy of errors. I could only look on in envy at the other students in the class who have learnt boxing for a few years, mesmerised by their fluidity and their grace in movement, and their sharp viper instinct when it came to punching.

The transition was frustrating, to say the least. For Muay Thai, I could execute certain combos and hits comfortably, without much thinking or effort. But for boxing, I floundered around like a fish on concrete. My feet would get tangled up with each other, or lag behind one another. My hips are stiff and not used to crimping in certain ways, and my calves and thighs cry out after 1-2-step-back-step-forward-1-2-3. Somehow, my body was not my own and it was dispiriting. Discouraging and disappointing, because I didn't know how and when I would be able to regain control, if and when I would be able to translate my intentions into proper boxing actions. I was halfway decent somewhere else, and in boxing, I was a total dud.

I was just beginning to explore competitive Muay Thai, and had luck on my side for a couple of fights.

So I put my pride aside and trained. And trained, and trained, because training was the only thing I knew to have helped in Muay Thai, so maybe it would help in boxing too. At first, it felt like it didn't. After a month, I was adjusting better to the movements and could pull off some combinations during padwork, but that only made me aware of how much more I had to go, which seemed infinite. If it was not power, it was precision. If not precision, it was agility. If not this, it was that. It was learning from scratch all over again; there isn't any shortcut or any way around it. There was groundwork to be done, and it only worked through grinding. "HARD WORK AND DEDICATIONN!," as Onyx's boxing coaches, Iskandar and Zim, would drill at every training session.

After a few months, I was asked if I would like to try competing in boxing. Training had been going well, and it was heartening seeing myself progress, slow and intermittent as it may have been. The millennial part of me yelled "YOLO!", so without thinking too deeply, I said yes. Soon after, there was a competition coming up, and an opponent was found. Suddenly, I had 7kg to lose in 2 months. I had forgotten about the weight cut.

The weight cut has always been the part of fight preparation I dreaded the most. Run 7km? Sure. Do suicides? Hmm alright. But give up on rice and bread? TORTURE. Bid goodbye to cakes and chocolates? Such cruelty. For my last competition in 2015, I sustained myself on sweet potatoes and salads and tuna sandwiches. I remember my stomach grumbling continuously and how tired I felt every day, needing to train but not having enough to eat: after a 3 hour training, all that I could have for the night was a glass of chocolate milk. The days got progressively harder, as my energy levels dipped from a lack of proper food or getting sick of what I was eating. It was a state of wretchedness: not wanting to push during training, still training anyway, and seeing the weight dropping only slowly.

The pain was getting to me, to my mind, and affected my performance during training. I wasn't a strong defender against the lures of food to begin with, but clean eating took a toll on me. The reality of a being a fighter slowly set in deep within me, and past a certain point of clean eating, I was dreading every moment, often questioning my mettle and strength to survive through it all.

Just like that, one day, Chocolate brought a piece of news that was like a godsend. She told me that a nearby western food place, Ministry of Ribs had heard of my weight cutting woes and offer to prepare my meals for me! I immediately offered my 90 degrees angled bow and kowtow-ed to the ever pretty big boss Chocolate.

Ministry of Ribs @ Pandan Gardens where I will visit and wait eagerly for my specially arranged daily meals.

Every day, the steakhouse provided me with hearty and wholesome meals. It was all the good stuff: Iberico pork steaks, tender smoked ribs, grilled chicken breasts with my favourite (and slightly cheating) wild mushroom sauce. The proteins came with sides too, crunchy broccoli and cauliflower and sautéed carrots. Their meals were always substantial and satisfying. It was the first time that I looked forward to the weight-cutting process. I felt energetic and strong, training hard and eating well and healthily. The physical workouts were taxing, but for once, I felt nourished, with a full tank of fuel to tackle things. Mentally, I was untroubled too, as I didn't have to worry about nutrition or crack my brains about where and what food to get. Ministry of Ribs was a saviour and I cannot thank them enough for helping me through this journey.