hai Boxing Montage of a great night of fights with the Phraya Pichai Camp

Muay Thai & Myth – The Heroes Journey Part 1

When it comes to the study of myth one of the most influential books has to be Joseph Campbell’s. “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”.

He found that all narratives can be understood in terms of what he calls the “Heroes Journey”. We are all on a journey of sorts and we have a narrative that we share with others and ourselves. Recognising where you are on the journey allows for better planning. As an Instructor I use a students’ personal narrative in many ways but mostly to help inspire them to train harder and more effectively.

“The Hero with a Thousand Faces” has had a major impact on many aspects of my role as a teacher and Campbell’s ideas have been embraced by writers, historians, philosophers, directors, actors and anyone who uses communication as a tool for action.

What I propose to do in this post is use his ideas to demonstrate the mythic structure of the day to day life of a Muay Thai student.

The shape and structure of this journey is universal and can be applied to any narrative that a student gives you about their life. Your job is to listen and take what you need from the student to inspire them to face greater challenges.

Life itself is a journey and many times I have talked about being on a path. In the context of Muay Thai the path can be tough and it can be easy. It is however never always simple.

In this the first of two posts I want to see if any of these ideas resonate with you the reader and hope that by looking at your journey you can learn more about yourself and of others and help them on their journey.

I have always said that having a map is better than not. If your map is impoverished maybe this will help you flesh out the details and help you navigate it through it more freely.

Remember that the ideas that are embedded in mythology have been identified by Campbell and can be applied to any situation.

So where does your story start?

Probably at the beginning!

It starts in the “Ordinary World” where you first have the idea of becoming a Nak Muay (Thai Boxer.)

Maybe you have seen it in the flesh on a trip to Thailand or watched it on YouTube and it has inspired you. It inspired you enough to take that first step on the path. The seed of has been planted.

When you make that choice to water it and nurture it. This is the first heroic action!

You know nothing and you know that you know nothing… and so your first steps are taken with some trepidation.

But you have had the call.

Campbell calls this the “Call to Adventure” and it can be both exciting and daunting at the same time.

At this stage we can often experience Fear and you hesitate at the beginning of the adventure.

You express reluctance because of the fear of the unknown.

I have seen this on countless occasions when people walk past the gym and look in and see everyone training, sweating and groaning!

The coach is shouting and the students are flagging and it is at this point you might “Refuse the Call” as Campbell calls it.

It’s all too common to hold back. To Refuse the Call, but on this occasion you make the effort and you either come back or walk into this strange world of Muay Thai. You have left The Ordinary World behind and enter a new space whereupon you meet the teacher.

This for Campbell is the “Mentor”

The teacher asks you to come in and welcomes you.

Sometimes they appear wise and thoughtful and sometimes a mentor plays the devils’ advocate and is stern and harsh.

The function of a good teacher is to prepare you for the unknown.
To guide you through the training and the fear that you may be feeling.

Sometimes a Mentor has to give you a push to get you started on the arduous journey of Muay Thai.

So you decide this is for you and you “Cross the First Threshold”

You have committed yourself to the path and the adventure begins and there can be no turning back.

Once over this threshold you will be meet with “Tests, Allies and Enemies.”

This might be represented by your first fight where you meet new friends and maybe come across one or two adversaries whose sole job is put you off. We call them haters in modern parlance. You will sometimes be swayed by their ideas and the limitations they will put in your mind. Your Allies will help you and support you throughout and give encouragement. Listen to them and delete the others!

The real Hero uses this as a test and with encouragement from their Allies move onto the next phase of development.

This Campbell calls: “Approach to the Innermost Cave.”

This represents a major hurdle or challenge.

This could be the big fight or a next step in your training. Whatever it is it will take you to the next level of your journey and you resolve to make the “Approach” to the mouth of the cave.

Caves are dark and mysterious and have an effect on humans. They can be both protective but can also harbour danger. Until you enter the cave you won’t know what lies within. For you your personal cave will appear on the path when you least expect it.

The true Hero carries on and enters into it with help from the Mentor and Allies.

In the next post we move to the second phase of development and that Campbell calls the “Ordeal”.

It sometimes means you have hit rock bottom and want to give in or you are about to face your biggest challenge on the path.

That is the topic for the next part of the blog.

Think about your life in this way and see what you make of your narrative. The great thing about narratives is you can always edit it and change the ending!

Become the Hero!

N.B. Metaphors are magical and how we use metaphors can create change in the listener for good or ill.

Be watchful of the stories you tell!

Especially the ones to yourself…