"I want to look back on my life as an amazing ride that I was lucky enough to live."
When you're a kid, summers feel like an eternity. But by the time you're an adult, you might have already lived through thirty-five or forty summers. They seem to have lost their magic. And before you know it, you're an old man confused by the kids these days.
We all hope that we've created memories to cherish on our deathbeds. And that's what John Wayne Parr is trying to do: create moments for his old man self to look back upon with satisfaction.
For those who don't know Mr. Parr, he is a multiple-time Muay Thai world champion that has been competing for over twenty years.
This is the last part of the interview. In it we spoke about how martial arts can develop your character, how he deals with self-doubt, how he developed humility, and his most important life lessons.
If you're curious, here's the first part of the interview.
Hope you guys enjoy!
How did your trainers mentally prepare you for a fight?
You just trained so hard that you're already conditioned, so the fight is the cherry on top. You just want the fight out of the way. When the bell rings, you know what to expect.
It wasn't just a matter of fighting. It was a matter of survival. My only income was from my prize money.
Can you talk about how Thai fighters deal with the fear of having a fight?
The majority of Thai fighters come from poverty. They start fighting by the time they're seven or eight years old. So by the time they reach their teens, they might have already had a hundred fights.
"The day of the fight, I have bad intentions. I want to go in there and destroy people. I don't want to win on points. I want to knock my opponent out."
It's just like going to work. Just like a tennis player plays tennis, a sprinter sprints, a chess player plays chess.
This is a way of trying to better themselves. They want to become a superstar. You start making it on TV, and if you're lucky, you'll start making the front covers of magazines. Just like anyone who wants to excel at something, you want to become a superstar and gain recognition from people on the street.
In this day and age, there are a lot of internet tough guys. But someone who actually goes out there, stands in front of another human being, trades punches, kicks, elbows, and knees is a pure warrior in my eyes.
And what about you? How did you deal with the fear of having a fight?
I thrive off of it. I love it.
I was put on this Earth to do one thing, and that's to fight other people.
I've wanted to be a fighter in some sort of form since I could remember. It just so happened that I found Thai boxing. Since that first initial rush, I told myself that this was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Not only am I going to do it, but I'm going to be the best at it. I want to leave a legacy that will live on a long time after I'm gone.
What is going through your mind the day of a fight?
The day of the fight, I have bad intentions. I want to go in there and destroy people. I don't want to win on points. I want to knock my opponent out.
The adrenaline rush after knocking someone out is indescribable. You almost can't sleep for five or seven days after. If you could bottle it and sell it, you'd be very, very rich. That's why it's so hard to retire from fighting. You're always looking for that next knockout.
"My theory is to train hard, have self-belief, and once you start doubting yourself, quickly change the channel in your mind. Start thinking about ducks swimming in a lake."
Let's say you have a physically talented fighter, but mentally weak. How would you toughen them up?
In Thailand, if you're not mentally tough, then you've probably over-welcomed your stay. They don't have time for pussies.
Whereas in Western countries, you have to nurture the student. 'You're doing great. You're fantastic.'
But if you're a real fighter, you fight. You don't need people to prop you up. You do it because you want to.
Before a fight, some fighters imagine all of the possible things that can happen to them. They do so to help themselves mentally prepare for what may come: getting knocked out, submitted, broken bones.
A lot of people have problems with nerves. My theory is that you have to train hard, have self-belief, and once you start doubting yourself, quickly change the channel in your mind. Start thinking about ducks swimming in a lake.
Let's say my opponent has a great punch. I can't let that haunt me. Otherwise, I'm going to be so frightened that by the time the bell rings, he's actually going to hit me. I have to believe in myself and that nothing my opponent can do can hurt me.
Hopefully I've done my homework in the gym. You must rely on your trainers and your game-plan.
You've always given me the impression of being an extremely humble guy. A lot of people if they had your accomplishments, would probably have developed quite an ego.
Is humility something that you constantly struggle with? Or is it something that comes naturally to you?
It comes naturally to me.
When you're around Thai fighters all of the time, you see how amazing they are. You know how strong and technically sound they are. So today I might win, but I know there might be fifty guys in line that easily could take my head off.
When I am lucky enough to be successful, I appreciate it for what it is. I know it's luck that I didn't have any injuries and had a good training camp.
I'm grateful for every opportunity that I've been given: Meeting the right people at the right time, the right trainers, the right sponsors, the right promoters.
A promoter once invited me to fight in Japan. I said, 'Holy crap I get to go to Japan.' I got free airfare, free accommodation, free food.
I know a lot of other guys that just expect it. 'I'm a world champion now. I expect to be flown first class. I expect to be treated like a superstar.'
I believe in good Karma. If you do good things, hopefully good things will happen to you.
You've mentioned in another interview that martial arts can help the younger generation develop character. What character traits do you think martial arts can help them develop?
I think training is just an amazing way to have focus and goals. Today, you might be able to do five kicks. Maybe tomorrow you might be able to do ten or fifteen or even twenty.
You can learn humility when you spar. You might get hit in the face or in the stomach. You might get winded. You might get hurt. Eventually you learn that training in martial arts hurts a lot. So if you're cheeky with people, expect to get punched in the face.
In Thailand, older people demand respect from younger people. Which I think is a good thing. You should respect adults, your parents, your grandparents, and the people who are passing down their knowledge. They've been there, they've done that, and you're just guessing how to do it.
I think fighting changes people's lives. Even if it's just light sparring or semi-contact. It doesn't even have to be Muay Thai. It can be Tae Kwon Do, Karate, or Jiu Jitsu.
To put yourself in a position where you have to rely on your own skills helps you grow as a human being. You can't expect someone to help you.
I love it. I think it's perfect for kids.
"I've been lucky enough to win a few fights, a few titles, but people remember me for being a nice guy. I take pride in that."
What are the most important lessons that you want to pass down to your children?
Be respectful to people. It doesn't hurt to say please and thank you. People remember you when you're nice.
I've been lucky enough to win a few fights, a few titles, but people remember me for being a nice guy. I take pride in that. It's nice to be remembered for being somebody that doesn't have a crazy ego.
We have Australian tennis players right now. They're in their teens and early twenties. They expect the tennis world to give them whatever they want. They don't understand that tennis is bigger than they are.
It's the same for fighting. You might be lucky enough to fight for the UFC, but you're not bigger than it.
And it's the same thing in the gym. If you're that gym bully, bashing everyone, don't expect to be here long.
While at the same time, I'd tell them not to be weak. Be confident.
When it's all said and done, how do you want to look back on your life?
I actually think about this a lot because when you get old, you'll be old for a very long time. You might have twenty years as a fighter, but then you have sixty years as a retiree.
I just want to make the best memories I can for myself to look back upon. I want to look back on my life as an amazing ride that I was lucky enough to live.
I'll keep fighting until the day comes where something breaks, but until then I'll keep riding it as long as I can.