“Bird fly and fish swim. And I do this” – BJ Penn
BJ Penn on why he fights.
There is simply no way around this, to be a fighter requires an exceptionally large amount of time. This could be considered the reason for the large dropout rate of guys and girls after their first fight. I have seen countless training partners have the greatest night of their lives win or lose, they had the most massive of smiles. Their body language, as exhausted as it was; was showing complete joy and euphoria. But why then do they only do it once? Why not get a repeat of it? Well as I said, it requires a lot of your time and energy to fight, weather professionally or as an amateur and this eliminates the desire to compete for many. For most, I do not feel it is even the opportunity cost that is involved for most, but the isolation that comes with fighting.
Let me try and explain. From that point that a fight has been agreed upon you essentially enter your fight camp. Typically it is 12 weeks prior to the event. Every gym is different but most places I have been, you are expected to be fighting fit regardless of a fight or not. So you start your day with training in the morning before work; this often means it is still dark out. Cape Town specifically has been super harsh this winter (BY Cape Town Standards at least), I am unsure if this is making it easier or harder to get up. So now training is done, you rush off to shower and get ready for work. You work a full day 9-5 or whatever blasé hours you might have and then as much as you would love to join your mates for that after work drink or meal, you head back to gym. Get some training in. Push your limits to improve in whatever you are working on that evening. Now what? Do you go home and eat? Do you go join your friends and watch them drink and eat crap food that is killing them? Well at first yes you do. I am a super social person and well thrive on being around my friends and meeting new people.
Here is where the isolation starts though. You need to be up early, so you can’t stay late with your friends. That is if you can even keep your eyes open at this point. You can’t eat or drink what they are busy devouring, as it is essentially poison to your body and you need to keep healthy. While most people might not even notice this, but it does play a psychological effect on a person. You being different to your social circle. They might not consciously recognise, but it is there. You probably become quite grumpy too, from the lack of sleep and the watching everything you eat in order to make weight. You keep slogging through. Wake up, train, work, train, sleep. Who wants to be around someone this boring? People tend to avoid you. If you have a significant other, they should probably be quite weary of you in your sleep. I have been known to do anything from excessive fidgeting to hip escapes to having elbowing and denting my headboard. Not fun for anyone involved really, mostly the headboard.
So why do I bring this up? Well I guess it has been playing on my mind of late. Going through a break up will generally trigger some sort of lonely feelings; couple that with the isolation of a training camp and not many peeps being able to empathize why you do this to yourself. Over the years, I have been fortunate to have a super supportive mom and step dad. So thank you guys for everything you have ever given me! My friends, while not quite getting me; thank you for putting up with me. To my trainers and team helping me to get ready over at PFA, I cannot thank you enough. You guys are world class gents and make it possible for me to learn something new every day, which for me is the greatest of gifts Not to mention the constant laughs and joking around.
So why do I fight? This is a question I have asked myself nearly every day of my life. The most honest answer I can give is, it is fun. I remember being asked when I was about 16 the same question and I gave the same answer but with an added “if it stops being fun, I’m out”. Well I’m still here 2 decades into my martial arts journey and so I guess it means it is still fun. I don’t think I would be honest if I said, it was for glory or to test myself or some other self-righteous cliché, I hate clichés. I just want to have fun and I guess that helps eliminate in part some of the isolation, cause who doesn’t want to enjoy what they do? I just can’t see myself doing anything else, it’s that simple.
Lastly, to you guys actually taking time out of your day reading Muay Guy. Thank you. If there weren’t so many of you reading it, I probably would have stopped a long time ago. Thanks for all the feedback so far and I look forward to receiving much more of it.