So You Want to be a Fighter? The Pressure and Pain of Winning.
This a study of self. A piece that serves as proof that the outcome of life, all lies in the choices that we make; that we are not victims of our problems. That love can serve as a motivator or as a limiting factor, and that pain can play a detrimental part in success. . . just as much as failure. The choice is ours to make.
I believe that it is critical for every man (and woman) to use each and every one of their blessings to their full advantage, all without the fear of losing the attribute of a humble mind; to use every ill event to fuel their motivation, to use doubt as inspiration, and to use love as purpose.
You will notice that this piece is written in a unique format, it is one from the heart; thoughts, modeled behavior and a real story for the human mind’s consumption. It is not a simplistic “5 Ways to Become Successful” kind of post, no key words or repetition to build better SEO or formatting to get the most views.
The purpose and inspiration behind this comes from the events which have unfolded in the past six months. Events of indescribable emotion, love, betrayal, sacrifice, and stubborn choice whose reasoning would take a book to analyze and explain. Instead, I am here to keep you engaged in shorter format.
The End as The Beginning
An insignificant fight was the most significant fight of my career thus far.
It was not because of the stage I was on, it was not because of the pressure I was under to win. Its importance came from the events I had to experience and the things I had to let go of in order to perform on this day.
Full Fight Video and Result (Turn to HD):
Bangla Stadium. Phuket, Thailand December 9th, 2016. Paul Namsaknoi (USA) vs Sam Sinbi Muay Thai (England)
Where was I at the beginning of this trip. . . ?
At the peak of life thus far.
I was not only making, but saving up a comfortable sum of money. I began to see a great momentum shift in my online work, my personal relationships felt healthy. . .
. . .I took three National Titles in every striking division within the US followed by a win on Lion Fight. I continued my travels from Canada, to San Diego, back to New York City, then to upstate New York to complete a weekend of filming. Being asked to do multiple photo shoots and interviews was foreign to me as a kid who once lived above a police station in what you would consider a “village town” in Poland.
I gained the support of my family for the first time since setting out on this journey (My Lion Fight bout was their first supportive attendance of my 30 fight career). I received the opportunity to take off to Thailand once again, to continue this dream chasing journey by hosting the Nak Muay Nation Training Camp and by competing on Buakaw’s Super Muay Thai Promotion in Bangkok for my Professional debut..
Once you witness the beauty this world holds. . .
Once you taste the succulent achievement of something you have never imagined. . .
Once you realize that although it is rare, that there are people of your wavelength. . .
Once you feel your purpose deep down in your chest, once someone replicates your worth, in a way that enhances your current life. . .
. . .The standards are set. Life no longer holds limitations. Too many times were they proven false, and your passions proven true.
This is the point that I hit. Not everything was perfectly in place, as things rarely are, but the momentum was there from all directions. I began to experience things I knew come only once in a lifetime, things that not everyone has the opportunity to experience; all of which fueled the hunger for more. I was there to take advantage of the opportunities I have been blessed with; failing to do so would mean cheating those who have never had the chance (at least that’s how my mind transcribed it).
Hope and faith are easy to hold in such circumstances.
(Perhaps it’s why life begins to test our grip the second that we reach this stage in life. An examination of our resilience. Are we truly worth this?)
There were no arguments, there were no issues. My trip to Thailand kept everyone that was close to me in the upmost importance, my students, my significant other at the time, my family, and my coaches.
Each party appeared to agree for the first time since I started doing this that the trip was critical in reaching my full potential, that this time would never come again. My decision to make the advancement into the professional rankings was inevitable; this minimum six month commitment was presented to me to build the safety and confidence needed in order to be ready. It was a cold season of preparation.
Shackles. Preparation. Swim Baby Swim.
Imagine having to swim from point A to point B. The distance is unknown. It is something that you have never done before, you fear it just as much as those who are concerned for you. If you decide to stay at point A, your soul withers away in the stagnant water. If you make it to point B, you have the mind shifting experience to model to the masses, to your family, and lessons to pass down to the next generation of those you love.
The beauty you experience along the way can only be replayed within your imagination, but the change in character has its own outward appearance. People can read that you are different by simply looking into your eyes; those who look deeply enough that is.
Now imagine if you couldn’t practice this swim, if others said they support you, knowing where your heart and soul lies, but every time that you prepare to get in the water they put shackles on your legs. . . bound to theirs.
Bangkok. Go. Set. Were You Ready?
Here is where the core of the action truly begin. I totaled my car back home, taking this negative experience by paying off any limiting bills at home and coming to Thailand for an “x” amount of time as a result.
I trained full time, worked on the website full time, and released a high production video course with Sean Fagan containing thousands of words of ad copy on the week of my bout. I set out to fight on Super Muay Thai, a promotion that was to test my skillset to maximum against another foreign, and much more experienced champion (IFMA Gold Medalist).
Highlights of the bout (For the Full Fight Video here is the link):
My relationship at the time was the first matter of importance that begin to take adverse effect from this. As I am rather easy going, I can become acquainted with most people; everyone has a story and everyone has a philosophy on life worth sharing if you dig deeply enough.
With that said, although I welcome all ways of thinking and personalities, seldom do I find them connecting to my inner self, mirroring or at least complimenting of who I am. Most people can be stripped bare within minutes if you ask the right questions. A person’s dreams, goals, potential, and their level of thinking quickly becomes apparent. But. . . those who have life experience, those who connect with me on a different wavelength. . . have layers.
I have feared no man since I discovered what true human potential really is. Women on the other hand, I fear deeply. Not in a way that cowers a man, but in a way that limits how many layers are peeled, and I hold many.
We all know that the energy a person carries around them will always infiltrate yours; often resulting in a subconscious emotional reaction. May that be motivation, sadness, insecurity, love, annoyance, fear, or a feeling that you can’t describe in words.
Let’s cut to what happened.
Let’s look back at this fight. If you notice me press forward in the last 10 seconds of the final round (Full Video). . . my opponent bounces off of the ropes tucking his chin to avoid my straight. His forehead thrusts into my nose and orbital resulting in three facial fractures. After an x-ray and multiple visits I am told that I am in need of reconstructive surgery.
I begin to contemplate what to do next. . .
My dream is put on hold, I cannot compete.
I have everything back home to come back to, however, as quickly as I begin to cheat destiny, just as rapidly I become stripped of everything that would stop it from happening. I never had a plan B. From studying elite thinkers, athletes, and their actions all I knew was. . .
“. . .don’t stop until the world has no choice but to recognize you, to separate you from the rest.”
For this one moment, I begin to think of the alternative. . . that I don’t really have to do this. . . for the first time I felt a sense of fulfillment provided by my family and those I held dearly back home. The first night that this thought crept into my mind was the night that it all disappeared. I was left with no explanation, at least not one that I can provide you with. (I aim to be as personal as I feasibly can to serve to the purpose of this piece without providing personal details in respect to those mentioned.)
Once my family realized the one thing I would succumb to was gone, they once again challenged what I was doing (holding the shackles in hand) A last resort to halt me from continuing on. The issue is that water was already around me, at six-foot-four. . . I was neck deep . . . and all I knew or can think about is how to keep on swimming.
Do I mend my relationships back home? I tried. In ways I would never let these people know, the loss of my energy, time, finances, and soul was enough for me to take a deep look at what I deserve. I sit in my room with three facial fractures, a foot contusion that makes walking difficult, my support system no longer visible, and my original plan of building a professional record here being put on hold.
I am alone. . . But I do have a paid ticket back home. . .
The man who already paid for my ticket back home as a part of my work for Nak Muay Nation suggested that I spend my last week on the islands to do a bit of introspective work. Sean (Fagan) suggested that I either go home or I do what no one else would choose to do. . . miss the flight and finish what really made no logical sense.
I left my sponsorship in Bangkok. I arrived on the island and I had nothing else to lose. I put my fight resume and story on the table in front of the legendary fighter and now elite instructor Namsaknoi.
The King of Thailand passed, this meant no fights for at least a month. . . with the choice of not getting reconstructive surgery, the recovery process would be quicker. . . just in time for when the fight ban is lifted.
I received the sponsorship (Namsaknoi Signs USA Boxer – Full Video), I omitted the reconstructive surgery in return for a shortened recovery time (and crooked nose). I stayed out of contact from everyone but Sean during this decision process. The ultimate decision had to be organic. . . it is not a commitment that you can make without feeling it in your chest.
I spent the next few months living in the gym. A season of my life that I will document in more detail, but to keep it short and bring it to a conclusion, it was a time where I stayed quiet and let go of everything. It was a time where I begin to listen, where I forced myself to shut down everything in my mind to make it through the 6-7 hour training days and work.
Coming Full Circle
All of this led to the significance of this insignificant fight.
I had to win. And it had to be flawless. This win came at the cost of my body and the left over pieces of myself, otherwise it would bear no significance. Just another fight among many. This was the ultimate test.
Imagine asking yourself these questions, aware of everything that led up to this moment. . .
Did you conquer your demons to keep a clear mind tonight?
Did all of your sacrifices pay off?
Have you evolved in the least bit?
Are you ready for the next level?
Do you have what it takes to keep inspiring others?
Did the months off from sparring and injuries affect your game and timing?
I won. It was the answer to these questions. But as I write this, I now realize that I didn’t win at the point of when I got my hand raised. . . the win happened after one specific day in the gym, and at one point in the middle of the fight itself. . .
From my journal
“I lay against the wall with cold water running over me, on days like this it is a pleasant shock to my body. I feel disconnected, perhaps I signed up for something bigger than myself. After a round of antibiotics another infection hit my body. . . I am not recovering, these pills are draining me. . . I know that my body is overtrained. I no longer do things on my own terms, my limitless thoughts and aspirations are to go on hold for this season of growth.
If I want to fight I have to continue. I washed the sheets three times this week sweating out a fever knowing that there is another day of training ahead. This is what I felt every day this week. . . but today is Saturday. I finished the hardest part without asking for a way out. . . from here on out my confidence grows.”
In the fight itself I saw everything come at me in slow motion. I didn’t feel like I can be touched, I hit the openings on instinct. I notice that there is a unique state of flow that we can access under those bright lights, it is somewhat of a trance. It has only happened to me in high pressure fights.
The first time that I have experienced this was at Madison Square Garden against the undefeated Jason Van Oijen – when he dropped from a head kick, you see me eyes snap back to reality, a delay to the realization of what just happened.
I didn’t realize what was happening until it was already over. . . the shutters came off my eyes, and I was no longer seeing it from what felt like a third person point of view. . .
. . . I know that the story has just begun.
Proof reading this piece, if I didn’t know myself better. . . I would say that I’m on drugs other than the variety of antibiotics I was put on. I hope that those who have read this far took some perspective from it. I hated every part of this 6 month process. I believe that we too often have a false perspective leading to a jealousy of other’s success and happiness – although I am blessed to be where I am today, it came at a cost.
I am still not done paying my dues, but the investments are beginning to finally show profit. Remember this when life hits like a motherfucker. . . most people stop, most quit. . .but you. . . you will soon separate yourself from the rest.
These were my realities in a Thai owned gym with standards set by one of the best to ever do it. There was a contract that stated my sponsorship and placement within the gym can always be removed. That whether I have a fight or not, I run and I show up to every training session – if I don’t, it’s the equivalent of a future Marine ringing the bell and making the choice to quit.
I had to disclose what I was doing during the day and I had one day to recover before getting ready for the next bout. After 3 months of strenuous training with no breaks, I ended up fighting 3 times with each fight about 12 days apart from the other. My knee gave out on me during runs and eventually dislocated after multiple infections within the joint. The recovery process was long, but the scene is seemingly changing. Western owned gyms provide a bit more flexibility within the sponsorship process for fighters now with a more holistic approach, but is the training held to the same standard? I guess that’s up to you to find out.
Paul Banasiak is a 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.
Today we begin forging our bodies and
strengthening our limitless minds.
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