At the end of chapter five of this Kru Story, Ajarn Dr. King has succeeded in giving me the the tool I needed so desperately to make it through the rest of my training and, ultimately, the test itself. Tools are critical to success in most anything, but not only do you have to have the tools and know how to use them, you also have to actually commit to using them. You’re not going to drive in many nails if you abandon the hammer a good friend loaned you and resort to using the flat of your hand.
For me, this meant truly letting go of the thought patterns that were escalating me into full blown panic attacks. Letting go can be a hard action for follow-through, especially for someone like me. I like to feel like I’m calling the shots – even if that sense of control is only an illusion…which by the way, it typically is…for anyone. But practice makes everything come easier. For as long as I’ve known Ajarn King, one of his go-to statements for encouragement is, “All things are difficult before they become easy.” This was no exception.
So – Feeling frustration rise in a round? Let it go. Having a hard time lifting my leg to kick? Let it go. Just do the kick, and don’t worry about where it lands. Feeling like I “should” be running in the midday heat? Let it go. Save it for a day I’m not doing rounds after class. Getting so exhausted my body aches like it’s coming apart? Let go of training for twenty-four hours. This “shouldn’t” have happened, or that “shouldn’t” have happened? Let it go. It did. Move on. The important thing here was to work with reality, not fixate on shoulds.
Letting go had to become a habit, a habit cultivated specifically in those moments that had been escalating until they were controlling me. And over the next few weeks, it did. It became very like an exhale, a turning loose of that which was no longer useful. A shedding of weight (and no I don’t mean literally cutting weight…there was no weigh in), so I wasn’t held back.
It’s a good thing too because about this time Arjarn King hit cruise control with training. And I don’t mean he hit it going 45 or 50 miles per hour. It was more like 70 or 80. I kept anticipating a small deceleration so we could be “fresh” for the test, but it never came. The week before our Kru test, my training partner Michael and I did rounds after every class. We had only one day off. The Krus were told not to hurt us, but they still ran us ragged. Apparently, this was no time for slowing down. The seminar itself would be our recovery time.
On that Friday night (the day before the seminar began), there was a rank test at BBUSA. Michael and I did the Ram Muay and two rounds. Basically, a pretest for our test. In my final round, I took a pretty nasty leg kick to my lead leg. I knew in the moment of impact that I was going to be pre-tenderized for my test. Not going to lie, I felt a burst of anger. Really? This? They weren’t supposed to hurt us. But almost immediately, I knew I had to just let it go. So what, I was going to be sore going in? I was coming out sore one way or the other. One additional hard kick wasn’t going to make or break me, and if it was, I really wouldn’t deserve the rank. And this was my final lesson going into my Kru test – given to me quite fittingly by Kru Schmitt.
You see, Kru Schmitt has been an Instructor at BBUSA since I began my training. He is the only instructor there, other than Ajarn King and Arjarn Dr. King, that has been my Instructor from the very beginning. (Literally he was teaching on my first day.) He gave me my first Muay Thai lesson and my first lesson during a test. It was in my Level 1 test. I had been in Muay Thai a little over a year at that point, and thought I was all tough. It was the first test where someone was really hitting me back rather than just checking my defense on occasion. He started leg kicking me, and at first my thought was, “It’s all good. I can power through this.” Well by about kick number five, I realized I really had to start checking those kicks or getting out of the way or I wasn’t going to make it through the round. I did make it, and I passed the test, but the next day, I almost couldn’t walk up the stairs to get to my bedroom. My first real Muay Thai testing lesson, and my last one… Thank you, Sir. You did right by me.
The following day, I dressed out, packed up my cooler, and drove across town to Dick Harrell Martial Arts. It was brutally hot (it would be even worse the following day), it was intimidating as anything I’d ever faced, my heart was beating faster than normal, and I felt like I was vibrating with every step I took. But thanks to letting go and trusting the training and my teachers, I was ready. My cooler loaded with electrolyte dense food and drinks, I felt confident. Oh sure, I was scared to death and felt I might burst out of my own skin at any moment, especially when Arjarn Chai would come over to check my form. A Kru Test is not something one can really do without fear. (Unless one is truly arrogant and over confident, and that person will be knocked down several rungs and learn some fear and humility before they leave. At least I didn’t have that ahead of me). But truthfully, I was as ready as I was ever going to be.
And at the end of Day 1, exhausted, soaked, and a bit salt-encrusted where some sweat was starting to dry, I knew – there was nothing left to do but finish.