In 2009, I visited Rishikesh in northern India, a city on the banks of the holy Ganges, in the foothills of the Himalayas. It’s often referred to as the home of yoga. The Beatles visited here in February of 1968 to practice transcendental meditation at the ashram of Mahrishi Mahesh Yogi. Thousands of Hindus come every year as a pilgrimage to the holy site.
While I was here, I practiced yoga at a popular ashram on the banks of the river. During one of my sessions, I was the only student so instead of practicing, the teacher and I sat and spoke for a while.
During our conversation he told me:
“We are like clay pots that have been molded into shape by our parents and our teachers, hopefully a structurally sound shape. But a clay pot simply molded into a shape does not serve its purpose. It must be first put out into the sun, or in the heat, in order to set.
However, if the shape is not structurally sound, when put out into the sun, it will begin to crack.
We too must go out into the world on our own, to gain strength and to test the shape to which we have been molded.”
This analogy is particularly relevant in Muay Thai as much as any martial art, as a practitioner who is not technically sound too will crack under the pressure. This is why we grade, and why we do heavy sparring: so that we can begin to test the structure of our art, and solidify what we’re learning. We should begin testing early, this way we can repair any cracks as they appear.
It’s like putting a clay pot out into the sun, bit by bit, so that we can reinforce the shape, and repair any cracks that may emerge.
So whenever things get difficult in training, or you’re tired and your hands are dropping or you’re breaking out of your structure, just remember this story; or if it helps, a middle aged Indian man, with a beard and long hair, dressed in all white clothes and beads and a pot.