Back into Competitive Mode with Irish Martial Arts Academy
It’s hard to get back into competitive martial arts once you’ve taken a long break. That’s not me making excuses, it’s pretty much a fact. Yes, I’ve been Kickboxing from the age of 4 — but that doesn’t mean I’ve been continually training since then. When I turned 14, I stopped up until the age of 19. The normal adolescent adventures had appeared in full swing. I had grown tired of the same routine and wanted to experiment with other hobbies. Music especially.
Myself and a few friends from school had formed a band — influenced by Avril Lavigne and Blink 182 of course. This was 2006, music was very different. When the band had reached its end, another was formed. We were called the Malevolent Pigeons — I don’t wanna talk about it. What I will say is that we had so much fun performing gigs around our home town, and made dozens of friends from it. We each learned how to play an instrument, and I realised my singing potentials. Before that, I was accustomed to my clique from Kickboxing and didn’t mix very much. Everything changed when I ventured into other aspects of life.
I’m always impressed by the kids that have stuck with Kickboxing from day one. However, it’s still OK to discover other parts in life that excite you. I’m happy that I took a break and got to know who I was outside of the sport.
Reintroducing Myself to Martial Arts
When I turned 19, I came across a flyer for a new Kickboxing club that I hadn’t heard of before. It sparked a giddy excitement in me — at that moment I understood how much I’d missed it. The Irish Martial Arts Academy was everything I wanted in a Kickboxing club. I noticed that it was being run by sensei Eamon Lawlor, to whom I’d always looked up to when I was a kid. He could perform intricate tricks that I’d never seen before but had always wanted to learn. We both originate from a more traditional style of Kickboxing, but Eamon had broken the mould and trained outside of the box. So of course, I couldn’t wait to train in his newly opened club.
In the beginning, I was extremely aware of how unfit I was (and arguably still am). I was also very aware of how much I was pushing myself to learn more. My thirst for the sport was well and truly ignited once again. The Irish Martial Arts Academy was, and still is, an incredibly motivating team. Don’t have a car? Someone will help you get there. Struggling with things at home? The academy is there as your safe-space. Many people have the misunderstanding that martial arts will somehow increase your temper. However, it’s the complete opposite. I truly believe that introducing martial arts to children will help later in life with self-confidence and how to be respectful.
I’ve trained with a lot of teams over the years. It’s expected when you’ve been training for almost 2 decades I guess. Some people stay with the same club, some people like to try out other places. When I found the Irish Martial Arts Academy, I knew that this was my home. They ensure pure excellence but with a fun twist. The grading system is exactly what it should be. There’s nothing I hate more than seeing black belts being handed out left, right and centre. Still, the clubs that I have trained with have been nothing but welcoming and warm. To this day, I’m so grateful for having gathered experience from clubs all over Ireland.
Last year I became employed and later promoted as a writer and editor. The schedule can be tricky at times, so it conflicts with kickboxing. It means that I need to create a balance between the two. I love my job and I love to train. So, making sure I get both is incredibly important to me at the moment.
A Lesson Learned
Over the weekend, I competed in the nationals. This specific competition is to earn a place on the Irish team to compete in the World Championships. It’s the first serious competition I’ve done in about 4 years. I hadn’t been training properly, that’s a given. So much so, that I’d already told myself I wouldn’t win — it was just a chance to get back into competitive mode.
The adrenaline I felt before fighting was out of this world. Everything came rushing back to me. I loved it. Although, it was a level of adrenaline that I couldn’t handle. It turned into nerves and anxiety. As soon as I touched gloves with my opponent — I blanked. Tips of advice from sensei Eamon were being called out, which I tried to follow a few times. Unfortunately, ‘a few times’ is not enough. I’ve come to learn over the years that the advise from your coach is the most valuable thing to listen to. They can see from an outsiders point of view, noticing the opponents weaknesses with ease. Take their advice, always. For me, the nerves took over through the middle half, and I simply blanked.
I’m going to be honest — I was maxed out on points. Something that I haven’t experienced in a long, long time. It is what it is. After the fight, I moped about and felt sorry for myself. I’ve always been like that after losing a fight — but thought I’d grown out of it. Evidently, I learned that I’m still a sore loser. As well as this, I’ve certainly lost confidence and I’m surprisingly still weary of an injury I faced a few years ago.
A piece of advice for those that haven’t competed in a long time — throw yourself into the deep end. This competition was hard. I fought a world champion and lost — there’s no shame in that. You have to turn it around and look at the positives in these situations. Try it like this: I fought a world champion, hadn’t competed in over a year, only back training recently — and lost. Try to think about what you would like to do differently the next time around. The key is to not only think about it but try to actually do it. There are many hard lessons I’ve learned over the years. I’m still understanding so many things about myself. Don’t let a loss destroy your goals. If you never lost, you wouldn’t be able to grow as an athlete.