Trials of the spirit

Oh shit, it’s a new post!

I’ve left this blank since we came home from Thailand because it was primarily to keep everybody updated on what we were doing on the other side of the planet, and since we’ve been home, communicating is a lot easier. But I’ve been getting a lot of questions about my fight, and I’m getting tired enough of repeating myself that I figured it wouldn’t hurt to put down my thoughts in writing.

So let’s get the big one out of the way first- yes, I lost. It happens. Obviously I would have loved to have come out on top, but I’m not really that broken up about it. I know I trained as hard as I could, and I know I went as hard as I could while I was in there. So while it didn’t fall out my way, at least I don’t have to sit here and second-guess everything I did over the last month and a half.

As a fighter, you’re tested on a pretty regular basis, from the little things(don’t eat that donut even if you’re not on your fight diet, fatty, you already ate half a pie yesterday) to the big ones(it’s 100 degrees, humid as hell, the air in the gym is stagnant, and you still have an hour and a half of training left). How you handle these collectively represents your character as a fighter. Do you convince yourself that the donut’s not that good anyway and move on, or do you shrug and gobble it down, figuring you’ll just work a little harder later? Do you grind your teeth and get through your training session and fall over dead later, or do you beg off and stop because it’s too hot? The fact of the matter is, I used to be the latter on both of those, and I’m pretty proud of not being that person anymore. So I bite down on my mouthguard and get through training- as Primo told me once, there’s the pain of commitment, and the pain of disappointment. This is the kind of activity where you’re going to be in pain no matter what you do, so you need to decide if you want a reward out of it and something you can go home proud of, or if you want to go home hurting physically and mentally because you gave up. These are the trials of the body, and of the will.

The fight itself, however, is what I think of as a trial of the spirit. I was explaining yesterday that while you can be put in high-pressure situations in training, and you should be, there’s really nothing that can prepare you for being in the ring other than being in the ring enough times to get used to it. You can spar at high intensity with new partners, you can go through gauntlet rounds where you spar a new person every minute, so they stay fresh while you get miserably tired, but at the end of the day, that’s not the thing that you really need to be ready for. It’s the pressure of the moment, the realization as you’re walking to the ring that this is what you’ve spent the last several weeks training for, dieting for, preparing for mentally and physically, visualizing, losing sleep over, talking about, and NOW it’s finally here. You can be excited about it, or you can freak out about it, but however you handle it, this is the time. This is your moment.

And then the bell rings, and whatever you were planning on doing, whatever big ideas you had about what you would throw and when, are washed away in a blinding red tide of adrenaline. That’s the thing about your first fight(which, for all practical purposes, this was)- your brain will freak its shit. You might know intellectually that this isn’t a real, your-physical-safety-is-seriously-at-risk fight, but try telling that to the chemicals roaring through your blood. It’s like being very drunk, except on adrenaline instead of alcohol. You’re pretty much reduced down to your basic instincts and reflexes, and for me, I trained for a long time to overcome my instinct to turn into an angry berserker when I get hit. It’s kind of a stupid way to fight, especially for someone of my size.

So the bell rings, and the tactical version of Eric who gets in, throws his shots, and dances back out before taking too much damage goes right out the window, and Hulked-out angry Eric comes back out of the box I’ve had him locked in all this time. So this is the trial of the spirit I was talking about. Your conditions for fighting are- unfamiliar environment, with people potentially(and loudly) rooting against you, taking on someone completely new who’s trying to put you down, and while you’re dealing with this fun new experience, your stress hormones are on absolute overload, making you pretty much incapable of rational thought. How do you handle it?

This is why Primo has told me that the whole point of your first fight is to get your first fight out of the way. Given all those circumstances, do you fight your ass off, or do you fold? In my case, thankfully it was the former, even if I came up short. And I’ll fight again, but first I need some time to be a real person again. It’s a little too fast to put my fighter face back on.

So there you go, everyone. These are my thoughts on it after having some time to collect everything together.

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The process

Last time was a bit of a downer. So let’s talk about the awesome island vacation we all just got back from instead! Tryn had a long weekend, so her coworkers rounded us up and we headed to Koh Chang, which is a little ways off the coast near Bangkok. The bus ride to Bangkok wasn’t terrible, excepting the giant traffic snarl we got caught in right outside the city. Traffic in this place makes New York traffic look like tiny little hiccups. The city as a whole makes Manhattan look pretty shabby, so I guess you go big or go home on everything. The night bus to Trat wasn’t so hot, though. Especially when the rain started. When I say “rain”, some of you may be thinking of thunderstorms at home. It’s not quite like that. The weather also goes in for extremes here, and I’m pretty sure we drove through a monsoon to get to the ferry. Thankfully it was all done by the time we got on the water, but I was really pretty sure I was going to die a few times due to falling trees.

By the time we got there, we’d been traveling for something like 15 hours or so, and it felt like being jet-lagged again. Luckily, getting to chill on the beach for three days fixes that right up. Tryn’s got pictures that should be up soon. The island felt remarkably like being back in Belize, actually. Especially when we got to the Mexican restaurant, which was just completely ridiculous with how good it was. Not “good for here, but not like at home”, either. It was freaking amazing and I’m really sure I undid almost all of last month’s work this weekend eating there. And I’d do it again, too. We ended the trip with a 7 hour van drive from Trat to Suphanburi, at which point nobody wanted to go anywhere for dinner, so we ordered a pizza and ate it in the common area downstairs. Definitely had a few college flashbacks from that one.

The weekend mostly made me feel better about the whole “far from home and everyone I know” thing. I mean, I still have occasional spikes of wishing it was October, but they’ve been fewer lately. This coming week, I’m going to be going off in search of a camp in Bangkok. Obviously I’m going to check out Kaewsamrit, because that’s where Primo went, and there’s definitely a bit of “You will go to the Dagobah system, there you will find Yoda, the Jedi master who trained me” feel to that. Doing a few days at each of them should be a fun time, and maybe I’ll find one to stick with for the rest of the time here. This weekend we’re headed down to Bangkok so I can go and buy the entire gear shop I’ve been told about. Tryn is coming with me to make sure I don’t go too overboard, because I have a seriously bad new toy reflex with new training stuff. I mean, yeah, at the end of the day, they’re just shorts and gloves. They do the same thing as my old ones. But still, new stuff!

Overall I’m starting to feel more like an actual person with an actual life again instead of a human-shaped ball of anxiety and stress and homesickness. Not quite all the way there yet, but it’s going decently enough so far.

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Chugga chugga woo woo

We’ve successfully arrived in New York, where I will be eating pizza at every conceivable opportunity for the next few days. The train ride was extremely low-stress compared to the last time we drove down here, i.e., the blown tire. It’s generally my favorite method of travel anyway. You just sit down and someone else is responsible for getting you to where you’re going. All you have to do is entertain yourself, eat if the trip is long enough, and not make a mess all over the bathroom. Some people are better at that than others. The train has a lot going for it as transportation, though. You can stop for food without having to stop. There’s no traffic. It doesn’t leave the ground. Not all of the above can be said about the subway, which we had to hop on after we got to Penn Station, but you can’t have everything, I guess.

Mostly, I’m just happy that we have no more packing to do. If I see another plastic bin before we come back from Thailand, I can’t be held responsible for what happens to it. Most of our entire collected life is currently hanging out in the basement of my mother-in-law’s house, which is kind of an odd thought, that nearly everything we still own can be put away in one room. But we did sort of go through all our possessions with a chainsaw. Figuratively, not literally. Otherwise, packing would have been a lot more enjoyable.

And don’t worry, Rochester people. The weather down here is crap right now too.

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