Patti Inglis is a Muay Thai Coach at Easton Training Center – Arvada.
How did you get into Muay Thai and why did you stick around?
Muay Thai was a Christmas present from my husband at the time. So I started doing Muay Thai around seven years ago, private lessons, and I fell in love with it. When I first started, I had no idea how to throw a punch, or kick. I had no idea what any of it was, “What is this Muay Thai thing?” But as the years progressed, it was something I found really cool and phenomenal. It’s the hardest thing I’ve done physically or mentally. And as I progress, I’m never going to master it. So every time I step on the mats, I learn something new. And it’s just fun. A lot of it is about the Easton family and my teammates, and the people who come in and train. And I always say, “There is a different level of friendship in Muay Thai because you are punching your friends in the face.”
The friends that I have here are friends for life. I know I could call or text any one of them and they would be like, “What do you need?” It’s a close-knit family. It’s my home away from home.
Why did he think to get you Muay Thai for Christmas? That’s an interesting move for a person who didn’t even know what this Muay Thai thing is!
So, he does Jiu Jitsu. He is actually the owner of Easton Thornton. And he had been doing BJJ for years, and he spent so much time at the school that he was like, “How can I get Patti involved? I really don’t think Jiu Jitsu is for her, but let’s try striking.”
When I stepped on the mat, never, ever in my life did I think I would coach. I was like, “I’m enjoying this, I love training Muay Thai.” But I never thought about coaching. I also never thought I would step into a cage and fight another human! Ever. I still remember. I was thinking, this is really fun, I enjoy doing the classes, I’m good with that. And then, when a coaching opportunity came up, I thought, you know, I might try it. I might like it. And that was 3 and a half years ago.
What’s your favorite thing about coaching?
Meeting new people. Teaching them that they are stronger than they think they are. Seeing that light bulb turn on when something clicks and they just turn around with that big smile on their face that just screams, “Oh my God, I did it!” It’s the best feeling in the world.
That is absolutely one of the most amazing feelings. Let’s look at the other side of the coin. What has been your greatest hardship in Muay Thai and how do you think you overcame it?
I’m going to say it’s when I started sparring. I remember I started sparring under Coach Matt. And at my very first session, he was yelling, “Patti, throw your jab!” And I’m like, “I have no idea what that is.” It was like everything in my head just completely emptied.
Haha, I can relate.
“I should not be here. I don’t know what I was thinking. What am I doing? I’m getting punched in the face.” It’s really hard to go from kickboxing, where you are on the bag, or even pad work, to all of a sudden you’re hitting your friends. You know, for me, what I find is when people move up, one of the biggest hurdles is actually landing that punch and knowing they are going to punch you back. But after that round, after you actually do it, you will say, “That was awesome!”
You learn the lesson once in kickboxing. You learn it again when you move to pads. You learn it all over again when you start sparring. And for me, I would say the greatest hardship is that first sparring session because you get frustrated. You’re like, “What am I doing here? I shouldn’t be here. I don’t know what I’m doing.” But you keep going. You figure it out. And even now, seven years later, I’ll step into a sparring session and I’m like, “Wow, I just got my ass handed to me. I should just take this purple shirt off! Where is that white shirt?” But you stop. You reflect. What did I learn?
So even when you have those off days, even when you’re like, I don’t know what I’m doing, stop and reflect. Where do you need to focus? What did you do well? Because we all do at least one thing well. You defended, or you stuck with it. There were rounds where I thought I should not fight. But when I got done, I was like, “You just made it through the 2 hardest minutes of your life. Now, what do I need to do next?”
And not many people can say that! How many people have gotten into a cage with another person coming at them and survived those minutes?
Even getting ready for a fight is tough. How we do it is a full 6-8 week fight camp. You are pushing yourself physically and mentally. The mental aspect of fight camp is a doozy. I would say physically, you’re tired, you’re sore, you’re pushing yourself to the limit. All while your mental game is running through your head. What happens if I lose? What happens if they do this or that? What happens if I get knocked out? After getting through that, the fight is honestly the easy part. That’s the fun part!
When I was getting ready for my fight camp, I had just lost my oldest sister. She had passed away unexpectedly. And I remember talking to Coach Matt, and I said, “Can I still do fight camp? What do you think?” And he said, “You’re going to totally do it.” It was very cathartic, but I still remember stepping up to him right before the fight, I’m all geared up getting ready to get into that cage and Coach Matt is standing in front of me and he said, “Go have fun. The hard work is over. Go have fun.”
This was actually something I talked to one of my friends about last night – we were watching a Jiu Jitsu tournament and I was saying – every time I go in there thinking too seriously about it, I always fail, but when I go in there with a playful attitude and the idea that I’m going to have fun, that I enjoy doing this, I do amazing.
Yep. It’s funny, I’ve been focusing a lot on that this week, the secret of fighting. Relax.
It’s the biggest irony. Relax when you fight.
That leads into my next question. What advice do you have for new, nervous Muay Thai students?
Stick with it. Talk to your coaches. Talk to your partners. Nothing bad ever comes from having a conversation. Every single student, coach, whoever, who steps on the mats, have all been there. No one has come into this art thinking, “I totally got this.” We’ve all been there. Talk to your coaches. Tell them what you are nervous about.
I just did a private lesson with a student, and the biggest thing they were nervous about was that they didn’t want to hit me. So I was like, alright. For two minutes, all you’re going to do is punch me in the face. And you see the physical reaction of, “I don’t want to do that!” No, you’re going to punch me in the face and I’m going to smile the whole 2 minutes, and we’ll get over it together.
For me, again, it’s having that conversation. Talk to your partners. I get a lot of people when they first come over saying, “I don’t want to be a bad partner.” Well, there is no such thing as a bad partner if you have communication. Everyone trains at different levels. They train with different things going on in their lives, whatever the case may be. If you are with a student, ask them to lighten it up – tell them you are having an off day. That lets your partner know, alright, I’m going to focus more on technique today. I can still get work in, even if I am not going as hard. Or hey, I’m going to work on defense, why don’t you work on offense? That communication between partners is so critical. We are not here to see who’s best. We are always here to make each other better.
That’s right, we are teammates.
Yes, we are teammates first and foremost. And it’s the same speech. You can ask anyone in my intermediate class. I give the same speech. They are probably tired of hearing it. “We are not here to see who’s best. We are here to make each other better.” As a senior student, or bigger student, you have a responsibility to make sure your partner remains safe. You have a responsibility that, if you keep landing something, telling them, “Hey, just so you know, I’ve landed this three times on you. Let’s work on this.” Nothing bad ever comes from having a conversation.
So, how do you think Muay Thai has changed your life outside of here for the better?
It has taught me I am stronger than I think I am. That when I face very hard things in my life, in my professional career, whatever the case may be, bite down on the mouthguard and go. I am stronger than I think I am. The discipline, the motivation, the inspiration I get from everyone here, I carry that with me. When I have bad days, I remember that I will have an hour or two hours where I don’t have to think about anything and get to come to my happy place and focus directly on what’s in front of me. It gives me so much.
And last but not least, why do you think Muay Thai is particularly great for women?
It builds confidence. I see a lot of ladies who step on the mats and I see, whether they say it or not, “I’m not sure about this. It’s a contact sport.” But then I see when they get that lightbulb moment of, “Oh my God!” And it’s phenomenal. To see them build that confidence of, “I can take care of myself. I can do a martial art. I can come in and have the self-knowledge of training with anybody.” Because again, when I step on the mats, we have some pretty big guys. I’m not a particularly big person! But I know they are going to take care of me. And again, it’s that camaraderie. And I see people who come in for whatever reasons; whether it’s that they want to get in shape or that they want to learn some self-defense. But what they are really doing is building that self-confidence. That’s why I see Muay Thai being so important for women. I love the fact that we have so many ladies on the mats right now.
Yeah, you guys have a lot of women!
When I started, it was me and like 5 guys. So it’s great to see. I get to see them come in and see them continuing to progress and their skill develop. And then they start to have that little swagger.
Haha, yes the swagger!
Like, “Yeah, I got this.” It’s phenomenal to see.
It’s so cool seeing from the day I sign somebody up to a few months later, and they are coming in the doors all confident, they are talking to me more confidently, and I can just see how great this is for their spirit, for their body, for their whole being.
Yes, absolutely, and it’s an incredible workout for every part of you. It builds that self confidence. No one ever hopes they have to use it. But in my mind, it’s a little bit of that, “Yeah, you know what, I’m the most unassuming badass you would ever see on the street.”
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