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Feel everything but show nothing – the importance of having a poker face during training and fighting

Muay Thai pushes both your physical limits as well as mental limits. Muay Thai is physically exhausting but it is even more exhausting when you let it get to you in your head. Thinking and obsessing over the fact that you are tired will make you even more tired.

The self-fulfilling prophecy comes into play when your attitudes about yourself start influencing your actions, both consciously and subconsciously. What is the self-fulfilling prophecy? The simplest way to understand it comes straight from Wikipedia: “The self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of the prophecy itself, due to positive feedback between belief and behavior… In other words, a positive or negative prophecy, strongly held belief, or delusion—declared as truth when it is actually false—may sufficiently influence people so that their reactions ultimately fulfill the once-false prophecy.”

Psychology Today
Psychology Today

The cycle of

feeling fatigue to
thinking a perceived inability “I’m tired, there’s no way I can throw another kick” 
actually becomes a reality when you are told to throw another kick and can only do it with minimal power

Exhaustion is as much of a state of mind as it is a physical one. But if you concentrate on being tired, it is yet another hurdle in your training that you have to get over each and every single time you have to throw a strike.

In training we are often told to never show that we are hurt or tired. We have to reel in our emotions from surfacing and are expected to power through. Of course, we are only human and we do feel. But making faces only wastes energy. Saying, “I’m tired” only wastes breath. At the end of the day, it was something you asked for. Nobody forced you to train. Nobody forced you to fight, so complaining and resisting only makes it more difficult for you and your trainer.


To get better, you have to be broken down. If you know this, then allow the current to take you.  Work with the current by giving it your all instead of trying to swim against it. You already know where you’re ending up either way. The same thinking yields the same results

Keeping your emotions from surfacing takes some practice, but it pays off extremely well.
First, you must acknowledge how you feel. Don’t ignore your exhaustion, pain, or fatigue. Acknowledge it because it’s normal to be pushed out of your comfort zone. Afterall, this is why you did Muay Thai and not something else, right?
Then come to terms with whatever you feel. Take a deep breath and tell yourself that even if you’re tired or hurt, you will keep on going. As a fighter, it is part of your job to never let how you feel interfere with your performance. Never allow what’s going on inside to show. But after training or after fighting, allow yourself to be human. Let your emotions out. And when you’re done, get back to business.

If you can learn to never show you’re tired or never show you’re in pain when it matters, you will be a force to be reckoned with.  Your opponent will never know what to think. They will never know to what capacity their strike had on you. And with a poker face, you will not give them the satisfaction or confidence in knowing so.

Fighter, social media manager, content creator and writer. Currently training and fighting full time in Bangkok. Originally from NYC.

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