What’s Your Why?

Katie landing hard knees in Round 3

Truly knowing and believing in your ‘Why’, or your ‘Purpose’, can make the difference between winning or losing in Muay Thai and in life.

All of us to choose to fight for a certain reason. As a coach, the most common answers I get are, “I don’t know,” “to prove myself,” “to compete,” and sometimes, “to be the best.” When we first opened our gym, I’d get the “to smash people” response, but those people don’t tend to stick around when they realize the discipline and hard training that’s involved with martial arts. Or, they naturally change their answer as they get deeper into the training and realize it’s not about violence.

When I started fighting I thought I was doing it just “to compete.” I’d taken up kickboxing after retiring from 5 years of racing motocross. Racing had kept me fit, given me the competition and adrenal rush I enjoyed and brought me closer to my dad. When I retired I found myself slipping into unhealthy practices of excessive drinking and partying but thankfully martial arts filled the void left by racing bikes.
I threw myself into kickboxing headfirst. I was training 4-5 hours a day from day one. My fitness and youth meant I progressed quite rapidly and I had my first fight within a few months and then another two in rapid succession.However, those first few fights were a rude awakening. I lost badly and had to do some serious soul searching as well as revising my preparation and training. I realized pretty quickly that fighting just “to compete” wasn’t enough if I wanted to win.

The truth I realized was that I’d always been drawn to martial arts because I lacked confidence in confrontational situations, particularly when faced with aggression, and I was well aware I didn’t really know how to fight. Johannesburg in the early nineties was also very violent and I wanted to feel like I could handle whatever came at me.

My just “to compete” was a cop out, what I actually meant was “to prove to myself that I could face my fears head on” and later, as I fell more in love with the sport it became “to be the best – and win a national and international title!”

As I’ve matured as a coach I’ve learned to ask the follow up questions whenever any of my fight team seem to gloss over their answer. If i get “I don’t know,” then you won’t be fighting until you do know. Without your ‘why’ you’ll quit the first time it gets really tough in the fight.

If it’s “to prove myself” then time to dig deeper – what are you trying to prove and to whom? “To compete,” as I’ve already said, that’s another cop out. “To be the best,” well why? What makes you want to be the best and how far do you want to take this!

I’ve given you some common answers but you may have a different reason. I asked Katie, one of my fighters, recently about her ‘Why.’ She’s a mother of a young daughter and a fourth grade teacher, she came up with a decent answer about “inspiring her kids,” but it needed some polishing to be truly powerful.

She worked on it that evening and texted me the following,’”Because the fire inside of me is stronger than the storms around me! To be a shining example to all girls (including my daughter) so they know that strong, powerful and courageous is beautiful!”

Kind of gives you goosebumps. And, frankly if your ‘Why’ doesn’t give you goosebumps it needs work.

Your ‘Why’ may not come to you easily at first but start by answering the simple questions, “why do you fight?” – then like an annoying 3 year old whatever the answer is ask ‘why?’, then ask ‘why?’ again, and again, until you feel like you have an authentic answer.

Polish your answer. Refine it over time into one simple clear statement that you can call on whenever you’re tired or frustrated in training. It’s what you need to write out and stick on your fridge and your bathroom mirror. Read it when you’re tempted to hit the snooze button instead of go for your early morning run, or when your friends invite you out for a drink the night before training. My ‘Why’ became a mantra that I’d repeat over and over Marine Corp style in hard training session and on long runs.

In the case of Katie, she came back to the corner at the end of the second round and I knew she was physically spent, I looked in her eyes, and asked her “Why are you doing this – what’s your purpose?” – she answered clearly, without hesitation, ”Because the fire inside of me is stronger than the storms around me! To be a shining example to all girls (including my daughter) so they know that strong, powerful and courageous is beautiful!”

It was as if a switch had been flicked – the exhaustion was gone. She smiled calmly and confidently and proceeded to absolutely smash the final round in a way I’d never seen from her before.

Kru Giles Khanomtom
Owner/Head Trainer Jax Muay Thai

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