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My Muay Thai Training Diary: When A Kick Is Not Just A Kick

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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.

When I first started training, a friend of mine shared with me a very helpful and fascinating quote (one that was, in turn, shared to him when he first started training under Carlson Gracie):

Before I studied the art, a punch to me was just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick no longer a kick. Now that I've understood the art, a punch is just like a punch, a kick just like a kick.

-Bruce Lee

Now, I am not a fanatic Bruce Lee disciple, but I've always held onto this quote as a perfect encapsulation of what training is all about. At first, you actually kind of think you know, then you realize you have no idea, then you actually kind of start to get it again. For me, punches have, at least to some degree, made their way through this cycle. Clearly there is plenty of room to improve, and I still have a few specific commands I keep in my head when punching (Get that elbow up on the hook! Rotate the right side on that cross! Stick the jab!), but for the most part, when I punch, I can let go somewhat and trust in my form. A punch is, once again, just a punch.

A kick on the other hand...

These continue to pose a challenge. For every kick, there is so much going through my head that it becomes difficult to just relax and execute the move. A list of the things I think about when kicking:

  1. Get the correct range and land with the shin
  2. Pivot those hips
  3. Turn so my belly button is perpendicular to my opponent
  4. Get up on the toes of my lead leg
  5. And rotate on those toes
  6. Get the leg back to position
  7. Now get the leg back to positions faster
  8. Watch my balance
  9. Chop with my arm
  10. But don't chop so much that I leave myself exposed for the counter

It's a lot. And so, with all of this in my head, a kick is not just a kick. It's a complex, and at some times inscrutable set of directions, all of which must be executed in a second, and then done again, and again, and again. And that can, at times, be both frustrating and disheartening. When you work with people who have moved through this and who can make all of these things happen with what looks like no effort, it's easy to get down on your technique. But when I do, I try my best to remember 2 things. First, that "effortlessness" on their part is only because they put in this same effort I am putting in now and came out the other side. Second, in the end, a kick is still just a kick. And it will be for me once again, just as long as I keep at it.

Question for any other trainees (in any discipline): how long did it take for your punches to be just a punch, for your kicks to be just a kick? And was it a frustrating journey at times?

I train Muay Thai under Andre Madiz at Conviction Martial Arts, 4430 N. Western Ave., Chicago, IL. If you are in the Chicago area, come join us, and be sure to say hello.