The Only Shortcuts to Becoming a Champion
Cover Photo Taken by Yokkao
These methods are proven to get you to the gold sooner than those who skip them over. However, they also serve as a reality check for most, as each method requires more work than the traditional route most take. It shortens the length of time that it takes to get to your dream destination and the champion’s pedestal, but its yang is risk & discomfort.
Each shortcut comes at a cost. Before making the investment, ask yourself how much you are willing to pay in terms of finances, time, and how much of yourself you are willing to leave behind. Here are the ONLY shortcuts you can take to become champion.
1. Moving Out of the Workspace & Into the Gym
Although the norm in Thailand, the opportunity of moving into the gym is much less common in the West. For that reason you must consider your region and plan of action.
Who do you cut in front of by making this decision? You cut in front of those who have the option of “not making it today“. You already are where you need to be. You put in the extra hour of work that the others use to commute to and from the gym.
The boredom that creeps in when sitting at the gym during its empty and slow times creates time for solo work, what I call “training in the dark“. It is the time spent training when no one is watching. There is no pressure coming from your trainer, there is no obligation to helping others during class, and all that you have is yourself. You have the timely freedom to get creative, to sharpen your mind & imagination, visualizing what is to come, upgrading the weapons you seldom focus on.
For example, I don’t spend much time stretching or working on footwork during class. The fundamentals of training, work for a reason, it is why you focus on the pad work, bag work, drilling, clinching and sparring during class. However, there could be limiting factors in your flexibility, mental game, and of being too self-concious to try something new in front of the class.
When you step in the ring, you will only have yourself and this type of training prepares you to depend on only you.
Throughout this article you will quickly learn that there are no shortcuts, you simply have to be willing to make the decisions that others are not. The thought of leaving everything behind and in putting any of these “methods” to work seems ridiculous; this is exactly why it is a short cut.
You cut in line, in front of everyone deeming it ridiculous and not worth their investment, you instantly separate yourself from that section of the crowd. Of course the work does not stop there, but if your mind is strong enough to see past the limiting thoughts of others, it is probable that it is also strong enough to endure what is to come next.
Out of the Workspace. Phasing Out / Quitting Your Job
To some, work becomes an escape from the grind at the gym and the gym is an escape from the stressors of work, which in the end creates a more efficient and focused training routine to the majority of fighters as they work in unison of one another. However, if your goal is to become a top tier fighter, at a certain level you meet opposition with the same athletic predisposition and focus as you. Opposition that is also multiplying the hours put into training as you take care of obligations at work.
Full-time fighters are not full-time workers in most cases, but it is quite possible with specific athletic predisposition, relentlessness and mental focus as “Bazooka” Joe Valtelini exemplified during his time as a top level kickboxer and physical education teacher.
Is quitting or phasing out work a viable option for all? No. But, the option of doing so is much less complicated than most make it out to be. The action step without risking it all comes down to locking in a job with flexibility & obtaining a bit of patience.
During my transition period, I worked as a server and as a coach. In both cases I locked in positions that were in tune with my passion & goals as a fighter – not the other way around. I turned down multiple positions before a mutual understanding was met.
I traded in a short amount of time spent in uncertainty, for a limitless and flexible schedule that aligned with my goals and lifestyle.
My clients as a personal trainer and boxing coach were chosen based on my schedule. This meant that I had to put in the effort to find the leads myself; I couldn’t depend on a full-time position that required me to be at the gym during specific hours or that would limit my trips to Thailand; which at length, would benefit my students and fighters. My “special treatment” in terms of flexible scheduling as a server meant that I had to be exceptional when at work, providing value by being timely and irreplaceable when clocked in.
Grinding early on, short term discomfort & patiently accepting commitments in accordance to your goals creates long term results. We need the help of others in one way or another to make it and for that reason we have to bring value to the table.
2. Marketing Yourself [Inside and Outside of the Ring] & Taking On Notable Opponents
A fighter’s overall record and resume are no longer the only statistics taken into account. We live in a world of social media, stylistic match ups, and story telling; where your value is determined by the overall picture.
A social media presence doesn’t replace skill and talent; without those prerequisites, the following will die. The bigger the crowd watching, the quicker the bluff gets called out. Aim to market yourself as the person you truly are, invest people in your story, and no matter what the result may be, your following will be of organic support. False advertising of who you are is a short term investment. Stick to logs of your daily life, displaying your true personality if you are entertaining, funny, sincere or simply a hard worker.
The size of the crowd, big or small, does not matter, what matters is that you become a model to those who connect with your wavelength of thinking. There will be those who agree with your thoughts and opinions, and there will be those who do not. It’s not a good thing, it is not a bad thing, it’s neutral, it is a filtering system to your crowd and growth.
Marketing yourself isn’t only based on your presence in the online space, I would argue that a majority of it comes from your stylistic performances inside of the ring. Whether you fight with high level technique and intensity, or you bite down on your mouthpiece and showcase how relentless you are, the crowd will appreciate the entertainment that you paint onto the canvas. The promotor will have a seed planted in his head that whenever you are on a card. . . people talk and tune in.
The Muay Thai community does a wonderful job of paying respect to the fighters who have paved the path for us today and the champions who have reached the pinnacle of the sport through the traditional path. But, just as you can see in the world of MMA and Boxing, the best aren’t always the best paid, and they aren’t always the first in line for title contention.
Picture yourself as a promotor keeping his business alive. You may have a fighter with 50+ professional fights, who very few people have heard of, as well as a crowd that is new to Muay Thai and ignorant to the beautiful display in technical differences between the fighters. The investment is high and the return is very low.
On the other hand, you have a star with a local following in a city such as New York. They bring the network attention in the online world, sell tickets in the physical realm and whatever the investment is, the return will supersede it.
Marketing yourself is an organic method to bringing in value, a name and recognition for the promotion & sponsors, which in turn creates a [shortcut] opportunity for your already established talent and hard work to be put on display. It is a way of discovering who you already are; when opportunity meets preparation.
Oh. Also. . . don’t fear the high level competition. One of the only real shortcuts is to take on all comers until a big fight presents itself. Defeating a handful of established, experienced & notable opponents outweighs racking up an undefeated record on buckets.
3. Learning the Method to Winning
As fighters, how often do we keep track of the scoring within the round? We go based on instinct, of how hard we hit our opponent, of how the crowd reacted, but those who are the best in the world at the game of winning are the Thais. They keep track.
When you hear of a foreigner beating a Thai on points [by decision] the community hangs their mouths open in disbelief. During my time training with Petchtanong Banchamek, the focus was “Winning“. Each round, he would keep track of the significant hits that he landed. When he announced, “30 seconds left” out loud, it was a test to my knowledge of how I was doing; whether my body’s response was appropriate.
Do I hang back with the thought of winning the round, forcing the opponent to push forward in an attempt to take the round back? Or do I flip roles, knowing that I am behind, looking to rack up the body kicks and knees?
I understand that this is difficult to do with a lack of experience in scoring or as a new fighter who is more focused on clearing the overwhelming fog. To create good habits and to set a standard, however, if we start early, we will naturally be more in tune with the inner workings of scoring by the time that we become professionals. Here is a well written article by Sylvie who is reaching close to 200 fights in Thailand and gaining knowledge on scoring from the Muay Thai legends of the Golden Era along the way – Scoring Muay Thai Fights by Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu.
“There is Only One Way to Become Champion. . .”
I went on a number of winning streaks as an amateur and started off my professional career with five decisive victories. Of course there were fights where the opposition argued went the wrong way somewhere amongst those streaks. The results never came at a surprise to me, not because of a bias confidence in myself, but because of my confidence in understanding the scoring and crowd.
Real World Example:
I remember my first step up in competition as I fought for a show at Bally’s Casino, Atlantic City. We were both undefeated at 5-0 & 6-0 as amateurs. My opponent threw a ton knees in the clinch, a ratio of 3:1 at the very least. He out struck me in terms of volume in the boxing department. So how did I get the judges to sway my way?
I was patient to pierce my knees down the center, the ones that really score. Slapping the knee on the leg and body counts, but only if there is no response from the opponent. You can slap 15 insignificant knees to look busy, but they are instantly mitigated by the one stabbing knee that you land through the opponent’s body.
You can throw more punches, even hit them. But they are mitigated by a couple of accurate body & head kicks. Where you are fighting should be significant to how you fight as well; Muay Thai scoring depends on the judges at hand.
Example number two comes at a time I fought against Gaius Ebratt at Madison Square Garden. At the time he was the number one light-heavyweight on the East Coast. It was the end of both of our amateur careers, reaching 60+ fights in combination of each other. I won the split decision, not because I outscored him in the Muay Thai department, but because I knew what the judges would see in bias to the entire night of fights. It was a battle of the badges boxing event at Madison Square Garden amongst a Muay Thai show; the judges would favor punches and action [they were unfamiliar with the clinch].
Stacking All Odds in Your Favor [Conclusion]
There are no real shortcuts. There are only methods of stacking the odds in your favor for a shot at success. Through the various studies listed in “The Outliers” [Written by Malcom Gladwell] you can see that anyone and everyone in the .01% column was there through the combination of countless hours of hard work, opportunity, chance and preparation. All required in compliment of one another.
By following the methods above, you are never guaranteed to become an outlier. . . but then again, certainty in risk was never one of the prerequisites *winks and smiles*.
Paul Banasiak is a Professional Muay Thai fighter/addict, 9x champion, trainer, and fitness professional currently living, training, and fighting in Thailand. After leaving medical school without looking back, he decided to fully follow his passion of helping others become the best version of themselves, creating MuayThaiAthlete.com. A website for those who are already passionate individuals that want to take their life, mindset & training to the next level.
Today we begin forging our bodies and
strengthening our limitless minds.
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