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.