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My Muay Thai Training Diary: The fine art of being broken

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In this edition of My Muay Thai Training Diary, Bloody Elbow's Fraser Coffeen looks at what it means to be broken in a fight, and how you come back from it.

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.

Breaking a fighter. It's a phrase you hear often in MMA. How did GSP beat Diaz? He broke him. How does Jon Fitch beat his opponents? He breaks them. But how did Demian Maia then beat Fitch? You get the idea. It's an idea tossed around quite a bit, but what does it really mean?

Recently in sparring, I had a chance to think about this. I'd like to be all tough and say it was on my mind because my incredible dominating style broke my opponent's will. But nope, it was me. I broke.

If you've read any of my previous entries (or, you know, the article title) you know I am a Muay Thai trainee primarily. I've been at it for a bit over two years now, and while I'm certainly not any sort of dangerous talent, I feel like I know my way around at this point. At the same time, I've begun dabbling a bit in jiu jitsu. And it was this foray into jiu jitsu that caused me troubles last week.

After the end of training, we were rolling. By my third partner, I was gassed. There are reasons - I had been sick so missed a few weeks of training - but the main reason is I just wasn't in the best shape. This has happened to me before - it's the side effect of being a very part time trainee. The thing is, in Muay Thai, when I'm tired I have enough ability that I can still survive. I know what I'm doing, and can deal with a more fit opponent while minimizing damage. In jiu jitsu, I'm very much a novice, and I don't have that ability yet. So on this particular day, as I was tired and facing a skilled, less tired opponent, well, there's no other way to say this - I got my ass kicked. There was little I could do to stop him from controlling me and tapping me out - rear naked choke, straight-arm kimura, armbar, you name it.

As I was trapped underneath it came to me - this person is too good, too strong, too talented. And the the big one: I can't stop him. That moment? That's breaking - the realization that you can not win.

Of course, it's not actually a "realization" because that implies that it's a verifiable fact. It's not. You may not be winning now, and it may be quite difficult to win, but you can. And yet in the heat of the moment, it becomes a fact, and that's what makes it so insidious and so dangerous.

From there, I tapped out a couple more times, slogged through the last few minutes, and went home. And here's where I was faced with a tough question - what now? Where do I go from here? I'll admit, there was a large part of me that wanted to quit and be done. I'm in my 30s, never going to really fight - how much further do I want to go with this? And I almost did quit.

But the next week, I dragged myself to Muay Thai. And you know what? It was excellent. I was back in my comfort zone, I felt good, I felt like I could do it. The moment of breaking had passed.

But has it? Because it's easy to feel confident when you are in your comfort zone. The real question about braking is what you do when someone pushes you out of that zone. And so far, that has not happened to me. Will it? If I go back to jiu jitsu it will. And how will I respond? That's a question I can't answer. I can only hope that my experience will make me stronger the next time. Maybe it will. Or maybe being broken is like being knocked out - the more it happens, the easier it is to happen again. I hope it's the former, but fear it's the latter. Time will tell. And either way, I will learn.

I train 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.