MMA: All in
You may recall back in 2012, while on a short break before starting work at Bannistar, I spent two weeks in Thailand at Rawai Muay Thai, immersing myself in the world of Muay Thai full time. Prior to this, martial arts had always been a part of my life, with childhood spent wrestling and boxing with my brothers on the trampoline, my teen age years spent training in Taekwondo at high school, my early professional life training in Hapkido, and the commencement of my study of MMA when I arrived in Singapore. Up until my Muay Thai camp though, it had always been a minor part of my life. A past time one might say.
Returning to Singapore from Thailand, I was struck with the realisation that the injuries, sweat, and effort would shortly count for nothing, unless I capitalised on it, and continued forward with it as a key part of my life, instead of that thing I did when I had nothing else to do.
So I did. I stepped up my training at Impact MMA. I started taking notes, reviewing my progress, talking to the fighters there, asking questions, getting guidance, and treating it like a proper study, rather than pass time. My regular instructor at the time seemed to notice this, and one day took me aside and asked ‘Do you want to compete?’
It was an immediate answer: Yes. How else would I have the motivation to continue to push myself, to grow, and to study with earnest. It was a no brainer.
Fast forward a few months, and while attending an amateur MMA event, the head coach, Bruce, approached me and asked if I wanted to fight next month in a Sanshou competition. Of course I said yes, and googled Sanshou as soon as I reached home that evening. For those as in the dark as I was, Sanshou, related to Sanda, is essentially the competitive outlet of Kungfu, with rules that allow punches, kicks, throws, and wrestling. Due to it’s considerably open rules, it’s quite common for fighters from other backgrounds such as Muay Thai and kickboxing to compete.
The weeks leading up to the event were spent brushing up on specific Sanshou strategies and techniques, building up my overall conditioning, and a spectacular introduction to Shark Tank sessions. It turns out the prospect of a fight is a huge motivator to pushing yourself further – it becomes a race to see how many hours you can put in before the day. You become conscious of the fact that every session you don’t train, or every drill that you don’t give your 100%, is an advantage that you give to your opponent, and that a fight actually lasts several weeks, with the actual bout being the crux and final hurdle.
The day arrived. After the weigh-ins, the Impact team went off to lunch. Conversation took on a bizarre mix of bravado and humility, and the impatience to get on with it was obvious. As one of the heavier fighters for the day, I had quite a wait. I occupied myself with helping the other Impact guys with warmups and gearing up. And then it was my turn.
I don’t think I breathed for the first minute of stepping onto the mat. It wasn’t getting hit that had me nervous. I had to perform. I had to do well, for my gym, for my instructors, for my wife and friends that had turned up to support. Suddenly, things were very, very real. The bell rung, the referee motioned to start, and my opponent opened up with a kick to my leg. The impact felt surreal. So much adrenaline had rushed into my body, that I could have been on copious amounts of morphine. But it did wake me up. The first round was spent feeling him out, catching kicks, trading blows, and trying to regain my breath. The bell rung again, end of round, back to the corner. Bruce and Shaun started feeding back to me – more push kicks. Keep your range. Don’t let him fight inside. And then the break was up. The referee motioned us back onto the mat, and that was when I realised I was fine. My opponent was slow in getting out off his stool. Slow to walk across the mat. He was breathing heavy. I spent round two keeping him at range, finding openings, and avoiding giving him points. He did manage a double leg takedown, but due to him contacting the ground first, it didn’t count against me.
The fight gave me a taste. It was a low pressure event, yet there were so many nerves and so much excitement leading up to it that it affected my abilities. It was a great learning experience, giving me valuable insight and knowledge on the proceedings before, during, and after a fight. Next time I’ll be ready. I watch, re watch, and re analyse the fight video constantly, watching my technique, watching my responses, observing what works, what doesn’t, what makes him move, what makes me move. I’ve stepped my training up even further, focused more, and every session I do I come out feeling stronger, wiser, and more ready.
It’s just a matter of time now.