Road trips can be an absolute blast. When I was in college, it was one of my favorite things to do. I mean, what could be better than the open road in a car with your best friends, going somewhere exciting to have a blast together. Now to be honest, most of my road trips involved either the beach or to some incredible martial arts training, and a bunch of the time… both.
However, as I have gotten older, my outlook on road trips has changed a little. I have turned into a homebody. Yep that’s the truth I said it, I admit it … I’m a homebody! Now, the thought of a road trip absolutely kills me. I don’t want to go anywhere; I just want to stay home. In fact, a weekend at home, going nowhere is my idea of heaven.
What changed? The biggest thing is the fact that, besides my regular job in decorative concrete (that I love), I also teach every night at The Edge, which I also love. I’m never home, so when I get a chance to be there, I treasure it.
This is why I thank God everyday for giving me the chance, every day, to do what I love. When I get a road trip scheduled now, I no longer say,”aw man I have to go out of town this weekend.“ I say, ”Yahhhh, I GET to be with my friends and do what I love!!”
This weekend one of my students, Jon Gonce, was scheduled to fight Muay Thai in Northern Virginia almost 4 hours away from our home. We met at the school in the morning and headed down the road to be there in time for weigh ins. Two more of my students drove up with us. Tyler and Kyler were my road trip buddies for this one and I can’t remember having so much fun on trip as I did with them. SO many great stories and at time laughs that had me hurting and trying to breath.
We arrived right on time and Jon made his weight right on the dot, just perfect! Stepping up on that scale we already knew he had done everything he needed to do to be ready. Fight Camp went perfectly. The conditioning, the sparring, the diet just came together perfectly. That was the hard work; now we just had to wait for a few hours to hear them call us to the ring.
If you have never stepped into the ring before, it impossible to know the emotional train wreck it is. Of course our heroes in the armed forces, our police and fire fighters- they know. The others see it as a spectator from a distance and think they understand…they don’t. It takes a special person, someone with a warrior’s spirit to actually train, show up, step in the ring and fight.
Jon had more on his plate than just the weight of competition. He also had the weight of a bad previous fight. Jon had fought a year ago and not only lost but had suffered a brutal knock out early in the first round. There are a lot of people who never return after an experience like that. After his first fight, I honestly didn’t know if he would ever return, even to training, let alone full contact competition again. But he did. I didn’t know if he would ever fight again…but last night…He did!
The time between weigh ins and the actual fight is so intense, it doesn’t even seem to obey the law of physics. One second feels like an hour and the next hour feels like one second. You go through a roller coaster of nervousness, excitement, irritation and exhilaration. I always watch my fighters to see how they are handling the pressure and am there for whatever they need. Watching Jon, I could see he was dialed in. All fighters are nervous no matter what they tell you but looking at Jon, you couldn’t tell.
The time came to tape his hands and start to get ready. He was itching to warm up but experience tell us that timing your warm up right is vital to going in warmed up, not worn out. Every fight is the same thing- you always have a few guys that warm up so hard and long they leave it all the dressing room and have nothing left for the ring.
We are up and they call Jon’s name. I look back and tell him it’s time…he smiles. It’s a good sign. He steps in the ring and the ref calls both fighters to the center for instructions and send them both back to their corners to wait for the bell.
The bell rings and for the next three rounds, both of these guys go to war. Both are well trained and ready and both came to fight. The pace of the fight is fast and both fighters have heavy hands. There is a good exchange through all three rounds and moments when both fighters land great shots.
Back in the corner between rounds, Jon is confident, fired up and focused. We tell him to let his hands go a little more; his boxing is better than the other guys. Round two- he starts putting his combinations together and landing punches. His opponent responds by clinching and trying to slow the pace. It’s a good strategy. The bell rings; round two is done.
Right now the fight could go either way. I tell Jon, “its close, we need this one.” He nods and in seconds the third round is underway. I guess our opponent’s corner had the same talk about it being close because he came out throwing bombs as Jon was firing off his whole arsenal as well. This is Muay Thai!! The bell rings and both men are still standing and punches turn into hugs. You have to respect someone after a fight like that; it’s hard to understand if you have never experienced it.
The ref calls both men to the middle and takes them by the wrist to raise the winner’s hand. The announcement comes and both men’s hands are raised. It’s a draw! No losers in this fight. The crowd cheers and even though both men wanted the victory, they smile and hug and congratulate each other for a moment neither will ever forget and both will be stronger for in the future.
I couldn’t be prouder of Jon for fighting like a warrior but I am ever prouder of his decision to get back on the horse after his first experience. The courage it takes to believe in yourself and get back in the ring after such a brutal knock out is nothing short of inspirational. Yeah, consider me inspired. I have been involved with martial arts for over 30 years and I believe it is the most trying and telling endeavor anyone can take up. It will show you who you really are and challenge you to be better than you ever thought you could. Jon, thank you for setting such a great example for all of us and showing us what is possible if you really believe in yourself.
I know that sounds like the end of the story but celebrating with the team afterwards is one of the best times you will ever have. If you get a chance to be a part of one of these martial arts road trips, trust me- do it. Life is too short to stay at home all the time even if feels like we never get enough time there. Head down the road, support your team, or hey- step in the ring yourself. I promise at the end of the day, you will Thank God that we live in a country where doing stuff like this is even possible. Man, I love Road trips!!