If you are a regular reader here you know, I have written a of couple times about my experiences practicing Muay Thai. Now that I look back on what I have posted, it seems a bit odd that I haven’t shared more, but I’ll freely admit I have a hard time giving my Muay Thai experience adequate description or the right words ever, no matter the form of communication. Perhaps, that’s because it is such a big part of my life. It’s really hard to encapsulate what it means to me and how big of an impact it’s had in just a few feeble sentences. That said, I’m going to give it a try now because last year I hit major Muay Thai milestone – I became a Kru. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to post little chapters of that story, my Kru Story, and I suppose the best place to start is in the beginning.
When I say “in the beginning”, I don’t really mean the beginning of my Muay Thai journey, but rather my journey to becoming Kru because while closely related they are different. Though I believe I may have always known I was going to go that distance, I didn’t speak that goal into reality until much further into my training.
I began my training at Black Belt USA during Thanksgiving week of 2010 (so I’m coming up on 10 years now), bu I didn’t say “I want to be a Kru” until my second pretest for the World Thai Boxing Association’s Level 2. For each test or pretest, the tester fills out a form that is kept on file at the school and with the WTBA. One of the questions they ask on each testing application is “What are your goals in Muay Thai?” For years and for many tests, I put things like, “To grow stronger physically and mentally”, “To become a better person,” “To be able to defend myself,” etc…etc… But when I got to that Second Pretest for Level 2, it occurred to me that while all of those prior goals were true and very real, I really wanted to be a Kru. I was already on the leadership team, assisting my Arjarns and the other Krus with classes. So I wrote it down – I want to be a Kru.
And that was is where it started, simply vocalizing what was likely already happening. But putting it down in black and white did make it real.
Why did I want to be a Kru? There were several reasons actually.
The Former Teacher
If you didn’t already know, my first career was in education (Yes, I’m on career #2 now). I taught Freshman English at UNCC for a while, then moved into a management position over UNCC’s tutoring program, from that position I moved into a similar one at the Art Institute of Charlotte managing the tutors and the Student Success Center there. Teaching has actually been in my blood for a while – I helped explain concepts to my classmates when I was still a student, lead the youth drama team at the church that I attended in high school, coached gymnastics for several years. But there did come a time in my career, when I was giving out way more than I was being compensated for, and it was changing the person I was in a bad way. I got to a point where I couldn’t continue in that career without becoming something I didn’t like – no matter how much I loved seeing faces light up when someone “got it”. I left the field, and it was the best choice, but that choice did leave a hole in me because I love teaching. When Arjarn and Arjarn Dr. King asked me to join the leadership team, I jumped at the opportunity. I got to teach other people and help them along without the emotional, physical drain that doing it as a professional had become, and I was doing so with something I really loved. Of course, part of being leadership in Muay Thai is progressing toward being a certified instructor. So the former English teacher became the Muay Thai student who was now being offered the path to Muay Thai master. Yep…I wanted that.
Doing What is Difficult
This may sound weird and a little masochistic, but sometimes, I do stuff the hard way just to see if I can do it. Sometimes, I choose to do the hard thing because if I can’t do the hard thing on a day-in-day-out basis, how do I ever expect myself to perform when life gets really tough? I firmly believe that doing the hard thing is training for life, and I want to stay sharp. Weird, I know…but also, me…so…
So a few notes about Kru tests –
- They’re hard…almost impossibly hard, and they are tailored to each tester to be as hard as they can be for that specific person.
- Not everyone gets the opportunity. Testing for Kru is offered at the recommendation of a WTBA Instructor – a Full Instructor – not an Apprentice Instructor (which is what I am now)
- Far fewer women do it than men.
- Arjarn Chai (the champion Muay Thai fighter who brought Muay Thai to America in the 1960’s) decides if you pass or fail, and he’s actively trying to mess you up while you’re testing because it really is a test of form and heart.
To sum up, if you do a Kru test, it will likely be the greatest physical/mental challenge of your life in front of some of the best Muay Thai practitioners.
To further sum up, I wanted to be a Kru because it’s hard to become one and most people who do Muay Thai, even if they are fighters, don’t make it to that point.
Paying It Forward
During my many years in Muay Thai, a lot of people have invested in me and my progress – Ajarn King, Arjarn Dr. King, the Black Belt USA Krus, Kru April (the only lady Kru I knew that came out of our school other than Arjarn Dr. King), teammates, even temporary students who were just training with us while they were in our area. Muay Thai has made such an impact on my life that I owe all of these people a HUGE debt. They corrected me, encouraged me, inspired me, put up with me… The truth is I can never pay them back.
But I can pay it forward.
I wanted to inspire, encourage, correct, put up with, make those connections that mattered. Becoming a Kru wasn’t the only way to do that (I certainly hope I was doing so before becoming a Kru), but it was a way of doing that. A way I felt proper, one that would honor those that came before me.
And so it began.
Beginnings are important. We live in a world of entropy and have a linear experience of time. Without beginnings, we don’t get a middle or an end. So, even though all of the chapters of my Kru Story are essential to it, I have a particular fondness for Chapter 1 on a hot July day in 2015, recovering from a nasty cold (still sorry about that, Kru Amir!), when I scribbled on my testing application, “I want to be a Kru”.