Why Veterans Should Consider Muay Thai After Leaving the Military
Successfully serving and protecting your country is a great accomplishment and during this period of your life, you can experience some incredible highs and lows. War is a tumultuous and unfortunate part of our world. For those that serve, leaving the military and joining the civilian world again can pose as a huge challenge for many. It’s important to find that balance later in life, and to fill in the adrenaline rushes that used to be had while in service. Learning martial arts are a great, healthy way to do so.
Chris Susa is a US Navy veteran who managed to find Muay Thai as a great way to fill the void that the Military filled. He attended a Khongsittha training camp in February of 2017. Prior to getting out, he wasn’t sure what he would do, where he would go, and how he could continue living life to the fullest. We interviewed Chris to share his story to other veterans to hopefully encourage them to get up and do something!
KST: Where are you from, and what did you do in the military?
Chris: I’m from Sacramento CA and enlisted when I was 18. I was a Master Explosive Ordnance Disposal Operator in the USN.
KST: How long were you in the military? During your time, where are some of the places you’ve gone, people you’ve seen, and things you’ve done?
Chris: I was in the military for 8 years. I had the privilege of traveling around Europe and have worked with and in a handful of different European countries. I was involved in dive ops all over the place, augmented Army Special Forces and the Secret Service. When I was stationed in Guam my team was tasked with recovery and disposal of WWII ordnance.
KST: What were your thoughts after getting out of the military? Was keeping in shape something that you considered and planned out?
My plan was to stay overseas and make use of the GI Bill provided by the VA. Always, I love physical activity. That's one of the reasons why Thailand was so appealing. Muay Thai is a very grueling and challenging sport. It doesn’t hurt that the food is awesome and the culture is laid back.
KST: Did you have any previous martial arts experience? What made Muay Thai appealing to you?
Growing up I did Tae Kwon Do and some boxing. In the military, we had a couple different programs that they were developing similar to MMA. Muay Thai was always known as being a well-rounded striking art, which is what appealed to me the most.
KST: What kind of camp did you do at Khongsittha?
I did a month-long camp. Fell in love with Muay Thai. The exposure to it that I had through the military did not come close to demonstrating how technical the sport is.
KST: What are some similarities between training in the military and training Muay Thai?
In the Navy, we were expected to be proficient in a handful of disciplines. When I was a new guy I had no idea how much shit we would be expected to master. Diving, Halo, weapons, and then EOD (explosive ordinance disposal). It’s a lot to get into. Just like it’s difficult to explain how complicated Muay Thai is. EOD dudes are not just guys that go disarm bombs. Similar to how Muay Thai isn’t kickboxing with knees and elbows.
KST: What is the main reason for veterans to practice a martial art?
Getting out of the military is tough. It’s important to have hobbies that challenge you the same way you were challenged before you got out. Being apart of a community like a Muay Thai can help with that in my opinion.
KST: What kind of advice can you offer guys getting out of the military?
Chris: Have a plan and execute. It may not be that easy but that is why there are mandatory programs for those getting out.
It's well-documented that trouble coping with painful experiences or losses often lead to depression. Veterans returning from a war-zone can have tons of painful memories that will not disappear in a short period of time. Veterans are also less likely to seek help from professionals; it's that macho, lone-wolf attitude that brings them down in civilian life.
Camaraderie, physical fitness, mental toughness; all of these translate from the Military to Muay Thai. If you're at a loss as how to fill that adrenaline rush, consider signing up to a local Muay Thai gym or coming out to Thailand to train Muay Thai.