Shayna Schmidt | March 20, 2018
Whether it’s getting to the gym or doing a routine at home, it’s not easy for many to overcome hesitations, fears, and distractions. We are masters of finding reasons to avoid doing things that we know are good for us, and exercise is one of the most common activities that gets neglected. But many people are able to overcome mental roadblocks. And many are not only able to overcome the roadblocks, but also manage to do uniquely outstanding things in the process. How? In this post, we share the story of James Fisher, a Muay-Thai pro with quite an incredible story.
James Fisher entered martial arts at the age of thirty as a way to get himself into shape. What started as an attempt to improve fitness levels resulted in an overwhelming life passion, and James went on not only to compete but also to obtain a fighting record. “After 6 months of learning martial arts, I jumped into the deep end and had my first semi-professional cage fight,” James says. “I didn’t have the best outcome, but it taught me that I could do almost anything I wanted if I tried.”
There’s a big lesson right there: acknowledging your fears but jumping in headfirst anyways. Acknowledging that you may be new to something, but challenging yourself to push past the fears, knowing that doing so is the only way to grow.
James states, “I’ve trained in mixed martial arts for nearly four years now, and to date I have had: two semi-professional cage fights (two losses), six white-collar boxing matches (three wins, one draw, two losses), two novice Muay Thai fights (one win, one loss), and seven non-contested Muay Thai fights.”
While James certainly obtained a remarkable record over his time training, he was challenged every day, both mentally and, in 2011, physically. In an unfortunate non-martial arts related injury, James was struck by a motorist in 2011 and then severely misdiagnosed. It wasn’t until two years later that doctors diagnosed an injury he suffered during that accident. “In 2013, while having several investigations into possible narcolepsy, I found out that I had severe spinal cord damage.” Spinal cord damage?! That’s no joke. Many would have declared “game over” on themselves upon finding out this news. But James did not let it slow him down.
James had continued training (responsibly) between the accident and the diagnosis, despite the pain. He chilled out on the combat side of things and instead adhered to a regime of running and strength training (mostly with kettlebells from his home gym), and even signed up for the Wings for Life World Run. He also ran the Red Bull Steeplechase, which is a rigorous, uphill course sprawling 21 miles and what he could only describe as “spectacularly horrible!” But there he stood, running and pushing through obstacles, as per usual.
Photo credit: Red Bull
And he didn’t stop there. Having completed the Red Bull Steeplechase, James kept on training at home, and ran the Swindon half marathon less than two weeks later.
"I kept up with light workouts… getting to hit the pads always felt great.” He conferred with friends and coaching before doing anything with the pads, but he explains, “Hitting the pads isn’t just about smacking something as hard as you can. It’s therapy. It’s using control, technique, power, and speed, and when you connect, it feels epic.”
Always having had the teacher bug inside of him, James went on to become a coach and ringside support for aspiring fighters (including our writer James McQuillan, who chatted with James for this article). “Just because I couldn’t compete didn’t mean I couldn’t help others,” he says.
James is a truly remarkable example of an individual who persevered through a curveball life threw at him. Instead of letting his own ambition die and his training fall by the wayside, he carried on and furthered his dreams however he could. His life may not have looked exactly how he envisioned it would, but he embraced what was handed to him every step of the way, and and moved through it all with grace and acceptance.
Since 2013, James has successfully trained fighters and built up his own gym: Doctores Muay Thai, providing an outlet and means of building self-confidence and wellbeing for people of all ages. “I had a choice to make: roll over and quit, let life beat me, sit at home crying that life is unfair, or take a plunge and start my own Muay Thai classes. I couldn’t be involved in the way that I wanted to at my old club. So this was the best choice, as it kept me involved in a sport that had already saved my life twice. Now a third time.”
He also adds, “It took a long time for me to understand the old saying, ‘Every cloud has a silver lining.’ It sounded so cliche, but now I know that it does ring true. Most people look down, focusing on the negative rather than looking up and seeing all of the wonderful things that are still there.”
James’ life and perseverance can offer all of us some powerful lessons. There is much in life that we cannot control. The challenge is controlling the way we respond to what’s happening around us. That’s where our power lies. To learn more about James, check out his gym’s page here, his Instagram @doctoresmuaythai, and also these other great articles featuring his story (1) (2).
Photo credit for category image of this article: Urban Monk