MIXED martial arts is a trendy, new way of staying fit. It’s also a great way to learn the fine art of self-defence. As the name suggests, it brings together various martial art forms for a body conditioning you won’t find in a traditional gym. Mixed martial arts, also known as MMA for short, happens to be my kind of activity.
So what exactly does the “mixed” in MMA refer to? Boxing, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, CrossFit, Karate, Aikido, Taekwando. Of this mix, the ones that excite me are Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
My MMA journey started at the beginning of 2014 when I was looking for new ways to stay fit and not look like a hamburger. I was dreaming of looking lean, muscular, and less chunky. I figured that Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu would be the two martial arts with the highest fat- and calorie-burning potential—900 calories per hour for Muay Thai and 500 calories for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Boxing, I learned, was the ultimate calorie burner, at 990 calories per hour, but boxing is not my cup of tea.
True, the whole business of burning calories was important to me, but I was after other nobler things as well: the skill of self-defense, building self-confidence, making new friends, and honing that don’t-mess-with-me look.
Of course, the other wonderful thing is that MMA could help me get my mind off my studies, off the incredible pressure of school. Each time I return home from training, I would be utterly exhausted, falling into the deepest sleep, from which I would emerge like a study demon ready to take on hundreds of sums—algebra, differentiation, quadratic graphs, simultaneous equations, you name it—all with the concentration of a bull. And that has nothing to do with downing my kratingdaeng, my Red Bull.
Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu aren’t just pure fight and destruction. They teach wonderful human values of perseverance, discipline, and respect for teacher and opponent. There’s something uplifting to the soul whenever we start a spar with a wai, that namaste-like gesture when you press your palms together at the heart center and bow to your opponent. I always feel a wave of humility whenever I perform a wai, particularly to my kru, my teacher, who happens to be the Muay Thai world champion, Yodteera Sityodtong. Learning with Kru Yodteera is like learning tennis from Serena Williams—which gives my whole MMA endeavor that special, cool factor.
Add the whole pre-training ritual—hopping on a bus to the studio with my favorite playlists blasting in the ears for a good half hour, while I snooze or space out, watching the world whiz by—MMA is just such an attractive venture.
Such a pity that I can only talk about it today in the past tense! I’ve long given up on it for a year and a half now, that’s all no thanks to the exam that I am about to the sit—the energy-sapping and fret-inducing ‘O’ Levels.
Jiji Setavoraphan, Secondary Four
For more essays by Jiji, visit Jiji Writes.
This essay was written in response to the question:
Describe a leisure activity which you enjoy and explain why you like it so much