Lessons from muay thai – Power from relaxing

Whether I like it or not, there are many ways I take after my mum, and one of them is our stubborn use of strength. The keyword there being “stubborn”. We’re not especially strong, we’re just….not all that feminine and are unafraid to use what strength we have. We just have this stubborn will to heave and punch and kick our way through obstables if need be – and I don’t mean that in just the figurative sense. She once beat down our wooden front door when she was locked out of the house in the middle of the night. I found her eating breakfast nonchalantly in front of the door hanging off its hinges the next morning.She looked up at me like, What?

So this month marks about one year since I put my hockey stick down and took up muay thai as my main sport.

I’ve done muay thai on and off for years before that, as cross training and conditioning during the summer off season while I pursue (the remarkably insignificant) hockey titles in Hong Kong. After we finally achieved all I wanted in hockey here last year, I packed my kit up and that was that.

In learning muay thai, one of the things I did not anticipate was that strength itself really isn’t all that. To me, or most people I dare say, I thought it was about punching and kicking as hard as you can. Sure you need to kick a certain way and punch a certain way, but once you learn the correct form, you just add strength right? But the more I study it, the more I realise brute strength alone only gets you so far. There is so much depth to “correct form” I feel like I’ve just been scraping snowflakes off an ice cube on the tip of an iceberg.

There’s flexibility, balance, and relaxing. When to do which, which part of the body should do what, and how it all comes together. Relaxing gives you the most power. I didn’t know that.

I tense up to fight. Of course I do. And of course that just gets me beat. In an art like this, blind force gets you no where.

A muay thai front kick isn’t about stomping your foot in your opponent’s stomach with all your might. It’s about how you plant your supporting leg, how you balance your weight, how you tilt your torso in the opposite direction, and when you extend your opposite arm. It’s learning that the actual focus should be on lifting your knee up first, then stretching out your entire leg in a way that looks effortless but will be felt with a bring-your-lunch-up kind of force.

Doesn’t that go for everything really? Sometimes you can’t barge your way everywhere. Relax. Take a step back first before going forward and pushing off again. That’s good technique for a nice round kick – and for everything else in life.



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