Welcome back to my online diary documenting my very amateur experience training in Muay Thai. If you missed the previous entries on Bloody Elbow, read them here.
There's an expression we as MMA writers sometimes use to negatively describe a fighter - that he "doesn't like to get hit." Think Brock Lesnar flopping like a fish at the hands of Cain Velasquez, or the majority of GSP's post-Serra career. Fighters who "don't like to get hit" are seen as weak and inherently flawed.
I've been thinking about this idea quite a bit lately as it pertains to my training. Because if I was writing about me, I'm afraid I would probably say that Fraser Coffeen doesn't like to get hit.
Recently, that desire to be hit has been put to the test quite a bit. As I start my third year of training, our team is really improving as a whole, and have started taking more fights. More fights means more sparring and harder training to get teammates ready, and that means more chances for me to hit and be hit.
With this increase in sparring, results have been mixed. I can tell that I have improved in a lot of areas - I'm less cerebral than before, and I mean that in a good way. In the past, I was far too hesitant to attack, thinking everything through way too much. That's still something of an issue, but now things come more naturally at times. I'm also able to mix things together more, putting shots together into combos (though again, still a work in progress).
But the biggest issue is my reaction under pressure. My primary goal in sparring is to use my reach to keep my opponent outside. Once he gets in, if he's able to start unloading with punches, I often turtle up. Why? If I'm being honest, it's fear. I don't want to take those heavy shots, and so I focus entirely on defense. Analytically, I know that sometimes the best defense is using your offense to push your opponent back, yet I can't always execute that because, well, I don't want to get hit.
The thing is - don't the vast majority of fighters not want to be hit? In fact, isn't that kind of the whole idea behind striking in combat sports - to hit your opponent more often and more effectively than he hits you? And isn't it an instinctive reaction as a human being to want to not be punched in the face?
Yes on all of those questions, and just knowing that helps. It allows me to tell myself that this is to be expected, and that there's a clear way out of it - get hit, get hit, and get hit again and realize that I'm still OK, and I'm still fighting. More than anything, this is a mental game issue. Which makes sense, because in fighting, isn't it always the mental game?
As my training goes deeper, both my body and my mind improve. Now it's time to convince the instinct part of my brain that this is OK, and that sometimes, when I'm being hit, I need to fight against my urges. That's the next challenge, and it's one I look forward to meeting. Head on, as you might say.
Question of the week: For those who have trained - did you pass through a similar point? If so, any tips?