The Art of Eight Limbs

4 Aug

The sport of Muay Thai has saved me more times than I can count.

I don’t mean in the way that I defended myself with Muay Thai skills when I was attacked in some dark alley. My redemption is more of the emotional kind. In that 16 ft. square ring space, I feel in control. So, when I had to leave it and settle for a general purpose gym space, sparring against the bag and Thai pads instead of a real person, I sort of became undone.

But that’s what happens when more than a year ago, I suffered a concussion in that space that I love so much. Sparring against my regular Uruguayan partner, everything was coming along as usual. He was egging me to take more risks, throw more combinations instead of my jab-right-step-back routine. We were not even 30 minutes into it when he suddenly swiped me on my unbalanced legs while I was throwing a punch. I never even saw the floor coming up to meet me. All I remember is a roaring in my ears like there was a massive bell ringing next to it.

I don’t know how long I was out but it was enough to open my eyes to worried looks from a crowd of people who came up to the ring to see me. The rest of the night was a daze as I pressed two ice packs on my suddenly overheated head – I had just enough sobriety to drive home.

Months later, a year later, I could not bring myself to seriously spar again. Added to my fears is D’s adamant refusal to let me do it again. “Your brain is the most important part of you”, citing articles, one after the other, of how even 1 concussion can significantly affect the health of the brain, especially in old age.

These days, I still train in Muay Thai. But I feel like I’m slower on my feet, although that could be age or the ligament partial tear on my left knee from a soccer injury in November 2010. I see newcomers to the sport and witness their bumbling attempts to do the roundhouse kick correctly. And I also witness their progress – some all the way to fighting on the amateur level.

And I get envious and upset and vengeful all at the same time. My form and technique are much better than theirs. Much, I tell myself. I was told by one instructor when I started how much potential I had and how he would train me if I ever wanted to fight. Two other instructors offered to do the same. But vanity stood in the way – I did not want my face (cute by some people’s accounts) to be disfigured. When I got over it and felt ready to fight, I found myself in a maelstrom of losing my job, changing cities and a broken heart. And of course, the concussion.

Just like in life, there is an instinctive recoil when you see that blow coming. You fail to counteract decisively. That moment’s hesitation can cost you a fight, an opportunity.

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3 Responses to “The Art of Eight Limbs”

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