Your mind should be just as tired as your body after training

Your mind should be just as tired as your body after training

As a youngster training muay thai, I just wanted to hit things.  I would max out on cardio every session, and often went through the motions of fighting with little thought given to the details. I also wasn’t the best sparring partner as I only had 1 gear, and that’s 100% GO.  I got to a good level in muay thai, but I could have gotten there faster. This kind of intensity in training is great for competition and fight camp, but don't forget to also prioritize skill and technique acquisition during the off season. 

When I started Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at 32,  I adopted a new mindset.  One that gave a greater emphasis to learning and overall being more reflective about my training inside and outside of the dojo.  When practicing a new move,  I would tone down the intensity to 30% and really try to bring my mind to the technique and form at hand.  When rolling, I don’t just do what feels right, because what feels right at the beginning might not be what is “technically” right.  I do what is appropriate, and over time that will start to feel right.   As a result of this new mindset, I saw tremendous growth and improvement in my Brazilian jiu-jitsu game in a relatively short period of time.  

Remember, skill and technique acquisition should be an important part of your fight training.  Be analytical, be critical, and  strive to perfect your craft.  Your mind should be just as tired as your body by the day's end.


PS.  With that being side, don't use this as an excuse to avoid those intense workouts!  As a fighter, you still need a couple of those a week!


Receiving my purple belt after 3 years of training BJJ.  Renowned BJJ coach John Daenarher believes that you can reach a high level in any skill set given 5 years of deliberate practice.  Is it really "too late" to start anything if this is true?


One of my toughest BJJ opponents who bested me twice in 2 different tournaments.  I have to thank guys like him because these losses really pushed me to deepen my understanding of the art, forcing me to think more critically about my approach to training.  I want a trilogy. 

My first gold at blue belt!  



My first muay thai class

My first muay thai class

It was Tuesday evening and I had just gotten off the bus at the Kitchener Station.  The original TKO Fighting Arts was located on Charles St. West,  just a 10 minute walk east of the station.  I remember my mind racing with uncomfortable thoughts.  Half excited, and half scared. "How will I do?  Are people going to laugh at me?  Was my friend John right and that I am just way over my head on this one?" (If you guys don't remember John, you can read about him HERE).  These thoughts lingered in my mind as I anxiously walked towards the building;  I remained determined to see this day through.  I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?  I arrived at the location some minutes later in front of an old dilapidated greyish white building and thought, “Damn, this is some Rocky S#%* going on here!”  I entered, walked up a flight of stairs and turned left down a corridor towards TKO.  As I arrived at the entrance, there were a bunch of people just mingling by the entrance way.  Awkwardly, I excused my way through the thickened crowd and was greeted by a young man in a grey tank top built around my size.  I assumed he was the man to talk to since he was surrounded by a posse of students all trying to grab his attention. “My name is Bao, I’m here for my trial class.”  I said tentatively.  He replied in a stern voice with a straight face, “I’m Chris, fill this waiver out and change over there.  Class will start in a few minutes and the instructor’s name is Scott.”  He pointed to the change room directly behind me. 

I got changed and proceeded to the training floor.  This place looked more rundown than in the photos I thought to myself.  I wanted the real deal and I knew after stepping in here that this was it.  As I apprehensively stood there in the middle of the training floor, someone spoke out, “Name is Alvin, looks like your first class.  Grab a rope over there, we are going to start soon.”  I felt a little more relaxed and welcomed as someone actually noticed me!  “Thanks.” I replied, and went to grab a skipping rope.  Some moments later, a gentleman twice my size walked on the floor.  He was wearing some funny looking shorts and towered over the rest. I assumed that he was our trainer Scott.  He directed his attention at us and yelled,  “This ain’t no country club! Start skipping and pick it up!”  I began skipping.

We skipped for a few rounds and then followed up with calisthenics.  Push ups, squats, burpees, situps, all the usual body weight stuff.  After about 20 minutes of conditioning, we paired up. One partner was instructed to wear pads, and the other to get their boxing gloves on.  Scott taught us a few beginner punching techniques and we would practice these strikes on the pads with our partners.  The entire training session lasted about an hour long and boy was I tired by the end!  I knew at that very moment that this is what I wanted to do.  I signed up on the spot.

Reflecting back on that day, I realize that most of my anxiety came from the moments leading up to the class.  The class itself wasn’t so bad!  And the feeling I felt after the class was amazing.  In my head, I had made up all these scenarios of possible things that could go wrong...but that was all it was, "made up" scenarios.  Ultimately, it was just me being afraid of negative judgement and criticism.  I was lucky enough that TKO Fighting Arts was very supportive and  welcoming.  The members were all friendly and had made me feel right at home.  Within the first month, I made some amazing friends and couldn’t be happier about my decision to join.  I love muay thai, but it’s truly the community and camaraderie that keeps me coming back.  You’ll never know what you are missing until you put yourself out there to try something new. 

Don’t be afraid of being afraid.  Be afraid, and do it anyway. 

Former UFC Champion,  George St. Pierre, said it best:

"Before every fight, before every hardcore training session, I was afraid.  Afraid to be humiliated, afraid to disappoint my mentor, and afraid to get hurt. I believe I shouldn't be afraid to admit I'm afraid.  Being scared doesn't make you a coward.  You know what? There’s no courage without fear.”


The old "dilapidated" TKO Fighting Arts building, downtown Kitchener ON.  Some time after TKO moved out, the building was over taken by big tech firms like GOOGLE and given a nice little makeover.


The guy that greeted me upon my arrival for my first class, Chris (left).  That's me to the right of him.  Chris soon became a great friend and mentor of mine.  16 years later and we still keep in touch.


Scott with his funny looking shorts.


The oldschool TKO Fighting Arts crew.  That skinny bald kid standing proud is me.


I would love to hear your story.  Feel free to tell us your first muay thai experience below.



How I got started with fighting

How I got started with fighting

I graduated from the University of Waterloo 15 years ago.  Yes, you guys may think "what a great accomplishment!"  In a way I guess it was, but I barely passed my last year, and it took me 5 years to receive a 3 year degree that I don't give a crap about.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not against school or formal education!  It just wasn't for ME.  Growing up in a traditional Asian family, I never had the choice not to go to University.  So I did it anyways just to please my parents.

Shortly after graduation, between sitting on my ass playing World of Warcraft and watching TV, my long lost childhood passion for Martial Arts was reignited once I began watching PRIDE FC, a MMA organization based out of Japan.  Inspired by fighters like Wanderlei Silva, Kid Yamamoto, and Fedor, I decided to search online for fight gyms in Kitchener.  There were few selections but I remember stumbling onto a muay thai gym called TKO Fighting Arts.  The website was pretty simple, but what caught my eye was how “raw” the fighters and gym looked in the photos.  There was no glitz and glamour, just toughness...I needed toughness.  

When I told my friends about this, one of them (let's call him John) did not sugar coat how he felt about my new found interest. “Dude, there’s no way you're gonna hang with these guys.  You’re just some university kid, you know how tough you gotta be to fight? You won’t be able to do it.”  These words of his still linger with me today.

I don’t know where I found the courage to even consider such a sport. Maybe it was because I was fed up feeling like a nobody and desperately hoped that muay thai was going to be something that could give me direction and purpose. I decided to go try my luck with a trial class…After the session, I was hooked.  I never could have imagined that my simple decision to start muay thai would eventually send me down a path of unbelievable adventures and self-discovery.  

So to everyone reading this; go out there and try something new!  It might be scary, it might be hard, at times you may even want to quit...but do it anyways.  See you in the next post.


On a side note, many years later I did end up cutting John out of my life.  We don’t need friends like John in our lives.