“Muay Thai is one of the most brutal sports in the world” is probably something that you’ve heard countless times before.
When people say this, they are usually referring to the physical aspects of the sport, particularly all that damage nak muays take in fights and training.
What is talked about far less often is how brutal this sport can be mentally and emotionally,and at no point is the sport more mentally damaging than after a loss.
Training for months for one fight only to come up short is one of the most devastating feelings that you could ever have, especially if you lose by a stoppage. A loss can haunt you and steal your confidence right out from under you.
The question is: how do we confront this very real (and, for a long time, unacknowledged) phenomenon?
How do we begin to dig ourselves out of these holes? Like this:
This is something to do in the immediate aftermath of your fight when you get the gear off and head back home. Remember that you put in a ton of hard work and that getting in a ring in front of a bunch of strangers is something most people aren’t brave enough to do.
Sure, you lost, but you almost definitely improved your overall skill level, and you will probably get the chance to even up the score with that person. Also, you probably cut some weight for this fight, so you deserve something after that.
So do stuff that’s fun and treat yourself (whatever "treating yourself" means to you). Maybe you like partying- then go out and have a night! Maybe you like chilling with the fam- then order some awesome grub for everyone and play some games together afterwards.
Eat whatever you want for a little bit, too, no matter how bad it might be for your body. Oreos? Ice cream? Brownies? Coffee drinks with whipped cream and all that nonsense?
Go hog-wild... for a very short time.
The downsides to short-term unhealthy eating are far outweighed by the upsides of a stable and contented mind immediately after a loss.
2|Review The Footage
Now that we're done satiating our brains, here’s where the actual hard work comes in. If you have a recording of your match, which you should, you’re going to need to watch all of it. If you don’t have a recording, ask the promoter or any other gyms if they have a recording (and remember to get someone to record next time!)
Once you have your hands on some footage, you’re going to need to watch it fully, definitely a few times... and it is going to suck most times, maybe even every time, especially if you got KO.
Before you begin the next step, you’re going to just watch the full video at least a couple of times so that, psychologically speaking, you can get past it. The fact is that the loss happened and from the perspective that you remember in the ring, you might not know why, so you need to see what other people saw to understand it.
Also, if you don’t watch the video completely, you’re just kind of hiding from the loss. Once again, it happened ,and unless you can somehow prove that it is illegitimate (unlikely), it’s not going to change.
3|See What You Did Wrong
It’s unlikely that you just got completely dominated in your loss; in fact, there may have been areas in which you were actually doing pretty well and beating your opponent. (Note those areas: they are your strengths.)
What's likely is you let them do something to you that they were just plain better at. You must find out what you let them do to you by watching the footage.
Where did they beat you? Did your opponent beat you in the clinch, or Did they keep you at a distance so you couldn’t attack, or Did you just get outpaced so you gassed out? These are just a few of the many questions that demand answers post-loss.
When you do find out what you did wrong, DO NOT just walk away! Literally sit down and write those things out. It’s not real until you put it into the world, so be brave and commit it to words.
4|Address Your Weaknesses
Now that you see what you did wrong, figure out how to fix those issues. If they were out-working you in the clinch, figure out exactly what they were doing, then figure out how to counter it and even how to do it.
If they were boxing you up, work on your boxing defense. Etc...
This all might sound painfully straightforward, but it's easy to ignore the reasons you lost and continue training as usual. That's a loser's game to play.
Actively work to improve the areas of weakness exposed in this fight. This should be something that you do anyway even after a win, so there is certainly no excuse after a loss.
5|Don’t Play The “I Should Have" Game
A lot of times after a loss, a fighter will talk and think about "the path not traveled." They will fall into dwelling on the "what-ifs" of the fight.
NOPE. Stop that. Stop that right now.
First of all, it won't change anything. There is a difference between realizing that you could have done some things better and working to improve upon that realization, versus thinking obsessively about scenarios in which you're somehow able to travel back in time and do that same fight over again.
Secondly, that internal dialogue is really negative, as it will only lead to you further beating yourself up about something that already hurts just thinking about. What kind of self-sabotaging person torments themselves with this sort of battering self-talk?
The third thing is there’s no guarantee that if you made that hypothetical adjustment that it would have changed the outcome of the fight. It’s unlikely that one change would have turned the tide of a fight completely, so there’s no point in constantly letting it occupy space in your head.
Fourth, playing that gaming will inherently stop you from being able to do our next point...
6|Get Over It
This sounds harsh, but I kind of have to put it in these words. You need to let it go; a loss isn’t the end of the world in Muay Thai or in the vast majority of things, either. If keep letting it seep into your conscious thoughts, you aren’t going to be able to reach your true potential.
Now, this isn’t to say that you should reflect on that loss and draw inspiration from it, not at all but there can be a tendency to let a loss hover over you and weigh you down. Remember that if this loss is weighing on you, you can probably get a rematch down the line, but if you still aren’t over the first loss, history will just repeat itself.
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