Fighting requires a giant leap of faith, even if only in yourself and your team. Fight camp drags you out of your comfort zone, pushes you past your boundaries, and shows you who you really are.
As I’ve progressed as a fighter, I’ve learned to be thankful for this process alone; the world is too full of unlived potential.
To achieve balance and consonance
I typically do an 8-week camp, 2 weeks to ease my body and mind into the demanding nature of what is to come, and 6 weeks of my utmost dedication, commitment, and discipline. For the first couple of weeks, I aim to train 4-6 times a week.
I am not training too specifically at this point, just focusing on increasing cardio, flexibility, and endurance. And I cover all bases: technical, bag work, pad work, and sparring.
Within a year of starting Muay Thai classes, I knew I needed to clean up my diet and I have maintained a pretty good clean eating habit, not just from a competitive angle, but because I feel at my best when I put good fuel in my body.
The first week isn’t the hardest, but it can bring challenges in my mind as I know how much work and sacrifice will be coming shortly. I also use this time to assess my body, where my strength and speed levels are, and if there are any injuries or areas of pain that will need treatment or special attention.
It’s all about getting my mind, body, and spirit on the same page so that everything can run as smoothly as possible when I’m asking so much.
Week 2: I aim to complete 6 sessions and bring more consideration towards gaps in my game that need to be improved. I discuss this with my coaches and also watch my own fights back and come up with my own answers too.
I’ll also watch videos of my opponent at this stage, sussing out her gaps, and how both of our strengths and weaknesses can be used for and against us.
Honing the tools of the trade
Weeks 3-5 are usually my favorite. I learn so much during this time and that’s what I love the most about Muay Thai and other martial arts: there is always more to learn, mastery is reserved for but a few. Now, I’ll start doubling up my sessions, aiming for 8-10 a week.
I usually have a lot of energy and I can start to see my skills sharpening. This is my other favorite thing about Thai boxing: consistency compounds results very quickly. I feel good, I feel strong, and I feel excited during this window.
It’s a sport of kings for a reason: you can’t buy or fake heart.
I train really hard, and I bring 100% to all of my sessions. I give my all on pads and bags especially, I put all my energy into every single strike. After about 5 weeks of this, fatigue starts to set in. This is my pain point. I often question my desires, why I put my body through so much.
I wonder if Thai boxing is as full of brave people as it is of those who like punishment. And I think about when I will finally allow myself to have peace. It’s safe to say that as my energy dips, the doubts start to creep in. I did ask for my mind and body to be on the same page, but it’s still funny how my mind weakens as my body struggles with the brutal demands of camp.
Over time, I’ve learned to welcome the demons, they arrive at every fighter’s door, but most of us choose to block them out. But fear, doubt, and worry do not go away just because we pretend they are not there. I usually speak with a coach or teammate to boost my morale.
And I’ll begin to use visualization techniques to keep my head in the game. This is my most challenging part of fight camp because I am drained and there is always some soul searching that needs to be done.
The final stretch
I tend to enjoy the last 7-10 days. At this stage, I’ve done everything I’ve needed to do and I’ve braved the internal storm that always arises. This period is for final fine-tuning, focusing on speed and accuracy.
I tend to have shorter or less intense sessions coming up to the fight so I give my body enough time to recover and feel fast and strong. The final week I’ll usually go back down to one session a day as well.
I rarely cut weight, and if I do, it’s less than 5lbs which tends to come off when I increase my training volume and intensity.
‘A beautiful struggle’
Muay Thai will take you out of your comfort zone. On a daily basis. Period. But fighting is another game altogether. It dangles you over a ledge by your feet and somehow you have to find your calm and focus in a dangerous situation. Or you don’t, but you muster the courage to take that in your stride too.
It’s a sport of kings for a reason: you can’t buy or fake heart. And you either have it or you don’t. If you don’t, choose a different hobby or profession.
Being a professional fighter is the pursuit of mental and physical mastery. You’ll probably never get there, but you’ll keep trying regardless with the same enthusiasm. And on the way, you’ll see what you’re really made of. You’ll figure out what you want and what you’re willing to do to get there.