Fighter friendships – blood, sweat, tears and cake


The anatomy of friendships. They punched each other in the face countless times, and swept them onto the ground until they’re black and blue – but their victory is your victory too. And that’s enough to make everyone smile.




Friendships forged through fighting?

The friendships you make training at a Muay Thai gym/camp are born from a common interest. One that transcends ethnicity, age, religion and political alignments. A common love of this ancient form of combat, and the rush practicing it gives us.

And one of the many reasons we love Muay Thai, is that you can get a seriously brutal workout, without having to actually brutalise anyone OR get kicked in the head.  Bags and pads are an amazingly realistic substitute for bosses’, boyfriends’, and enemies’ faces. You get to de-stress, burn a thousand calories or thereabout without having to make a trip down to the Police Station.


The smiles are fake – they’ve been kicking and punching each other for the past two hours

Of course there are the crazies among us who we call the “fighters”. These people take it to a different level. They actually take joy in having live moving targets. Some don’t mind getting hit… and the most extreme ones even enjoy it.

When they sleep, they dream about fighting and sometimes it’s so real, they re-enact their movements while in deep sleep. A few have woken up with dents in the wall and bruises on their knuckles because their dreams got a little bit too much like an IMAX Tony Jaa movie.

And that’s where friendships come in. When you’re training for Muay Thai, it’s actually more satisfying to punch and kick a person you like, rather than an enemy. Although this sounds like a gross typo, it is way more satisfying AND constructive to spar with a kindred spirit. A partner-in-crime. A friend.

Let us explain. We train Muay Thai not for a sense of thrill from hurting someone. The same thing goes for a true Muay Thai fighter. We fight not for the enjoyment of hurting someone, but from the sense of achievement that our Muay Thai skills have improved to the point where we can out-skill another person.

And when in training, it’s best to have a team of training partners on the same page as you. Someone who you can train with, grow with, learn from and share with. They punch you, you kick them, they grab your kick and throw you on the ground. They help you up and you shout them to a coffee after sparring and chat about the latest James Bond movie, and for their opinion on whether you need to work more on your clinch game. You make a date to work on clinching over the weekend.

All’s fair in love and war

You see, fighting is like a game of chess (albeit where elbows are allowed under professional circumstances). And in some cases, a fighter will elbow their best friend/ flatmate in the face, and then go back to the apartment with them and help them to recuperate. Just like a Check MATE. Still best mates who just happen to be the same weight and fighting for the same title.



Pearse and Carl. Best friends and flatmates. Fighting for the same title, and the last piece of cake.

When a fighter meets the other fighter, it’s a little bit like being interviewed for a job. You ask them personal questions most normal people wouldn’t dream of asking. In this case. How heavy are you? How much experience do you have? Is it ok if I punch you in the face?

And the first sparring session is a bit like a first date, it’s always a little bit awkward and a little bit overly polite. “Can you please tell me if I’m punching or kicking you too hard?”

Also, who else but another fighter would understand the crazy stuff fighters get up to? Waking up at 5am before your partner and kids wake up to go running. Crazy? That makes two of us.

The ultimate fashion accessory - a headlamp to look stylish and safe during those 5am runs. *model's pout sold separately

The ultimate fashion accessory – a headlamp to look stylish and safe during those 5am runs. *model’s pout sold separately

And who else but another fighter would understand giving up complimentary Friday night work drinks and driving half the way across town to go and kick someone in the head – other than the very people who will be on the receiving end of those kicks.

Fighter’s messages to each other usually involve updates on training times, pictures of bruises from sparring last night, weight cutting tips, fight updates and intel on potential opponents.



Daria “The Boss” Smith (centre). Muay Thai champion fighter and JAI Auckland’s regular source of baked goods

Like any other relationship. There are tears of frustration, tears of joy, a little bit of pain, some heartache, and a lot of rewards. And cake.

They’re also the other people on speed dial when you need someone to drive you to a sauna real fast, or will drop everything to drive you six hours across the country just so they can hold ice on your bruises and hold a bucket for you to spit into during your fight.

Yes… once you get to know another fighter and you really “click” it’s like hitting a jack pot. Of course, it’s not all rainbows.

99% of fighters really do have a love of cake. They don’t have it very often. But that just makes it more of an occasion when they do. But in between those occasions there are plenty of swapping of recipes for smoothies, steak, killer salads and healthy(ish) desserts.

Just because they care about what goes into their body doesn’t mean they limit the quantities strictly. Muay Thai is called the hardest sport in the world, and training as a fighter is so intensive that most of the time, they can (within reason) eat a lot of food without worrying about the side effects. Now, who out of their pubescent growth streak would want to hang out with people who wolf down three times what they do?

Home-made Whittakers brownies anyone? Payment is 500 kicks

Home-made Whittakers brownies anyone? Payment is 500 kicks

Now, who wants to join our club crazy?


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