Muay Thai mental training
Perth Muay Thai fighter Alexia Johnson with her trainer, former World Champion Daniel Dawson

IFMA Youth Muay Thai World Championships

Australian Alexia Johnson recently returned from Bangkok, Thailand where she competed in the IFMA Muay Thai Youth World Championships. Over 130 countries were accounted for in the competition. What a sight it must have been to see so many passionate young fighters proudly wearing their flags.

The competition took place in August, 2017 at Bangkok National Stadium. Johnson won her first fight against a game Iranian opponent. She just came short in her second fight henceforth eliminating her from the competition. Yet she was all smiles as she recalled the adventure.

“We were watching about a hundred fights, every day,” said Johnson with a beaming smile on her face. “It was awesome! Everyone was just so pumped, the atmosphere was crazy. I love Thailand as well, I love the weather and the culture.”

“As soon as we touched gloves, I switched on. As the fight went on, I did whatever it took to win the rounds and actually gave my opponent an 8 count in the last round. I won the fight and I was over the moon! I love meeting my opponents after the fight, and she came up to me to talk. It was so cool, we hugged, she was so nice.”

Mentality & Affirmations

I asked Alexia and Daniel what kind of strategies they use to mentally prepare for the fight. Alexia’s outlook is incredibly mature for her age. Daniel went on to say that the two of them work very closely on affirmations and visualization.

“I’d make Alexia read her affirmations to me on the phone, leading up to the fight.” said Dawson. “I wanted her to hear herself saying these things, and to believe they were true. These affirmations are proclamations.”

Alexia went on to tell me what some of the affirmations were.

“I am the fastest fighter here, I am the strongest fighter here. I love the way the medal feels around my neck, I am a Champion. I am a winner. I will overcome!”

These affirmations have carried Johnson through some mentally challenging times, in both training and competition. She explained that the hardest and most challenging aspect of Muay Thai for her, has always been mentality.

“I don’t struggle with training hard or physically pushing myself,” she went on to say. “I love training and just being in the gym. But the hardest part for me is probably the mental side of things.”

“If I’m nervous going into a fight, I’ll just focus on warming up or visualizing what I can do to my opponent to stop myself from focusing on how I feel. This helps me switch on before stepping into the ring.”

“The other part that’s hard for me is saying no to bad food!” We all laughed at this one.

Training Young Fighters

It was at this point where I turned to Daniel, to ask about the methods he uses to coach junior athletes. Being a coach myself, I find it fascinating to hear Alexia talk about the way with which she handles her emotions and nerves. It’s a very mature and guided approach that truly reflects the quality coaching she receives from Dawson. Being a multiple-time World Champion himself, Daniel Dawson knows the importance of fine-tuning emotions and mentality before stepping up to fight. And his approach on training young athletes is fresh and very positive.

“With young fighters, I find they physically learn and adapt very quickly,” he explained. “The challenge is inspiring them to train, making it fun and exciting for them.”

“I think it’s important that young fighters or just children in general that come to Muay Thai classes, need to see improvements constantly. They need to feel like they’re getting better every session and learning new things. Obviously as a coach, we set long term goals for our students but they need to see real progress along the way.”

Alexia Johnson

“I’ve been working with Alexia for 3 years now. I’ll admit it was probably my influence on her, that caused her to take up Muay Thai,” said Dawson, as both him and Johnson began to chuckle.

“Originally, Alexia was a boxer and had no interest in Muay Thai. At her weight though, there was very little opportunity for her to fight in boxing so I coaxed her into trying Muay Thai.”

“I told her there would be more opportunities for her to fight in her weight bracket. Over time, she just fell in love with the sport. Now here we are, travelling to Thailand and competing in the IFMA World Championships”

“The journey has been great fun.” He continued. “She pushes me to be a better coach, like I push her to be a better fighter.”

“We’ve learnt to trust each other, we’ve learnt to work more efficiently. We can be very honest with each other, which I’m proud of.” he reflected. “The truth is, she just loves to train. She loves being in the gym.”

"The Coach/Fighter bond is a critical element in the recipe for success, whether you embark on an Amateur or Professional career." In the latest interview on the ProLeague, I sat down to chat with Perth's own @dantherockdaws and @alexia_johno from MMA 24/7. We spoke about their recent trip to Thailand for the IFMA Championship, Mentally Preparing Junior Athletes and the Fighter/Coach bond. I really loved this interview, mad respect for this duo! You can find the link in my profile guys, have a read! ??? – – #muaythai #nakmuay #blog #interview #perth #perthfitfam #fitness #fitspo #fit #strong #healthy #athlete #fighter #fighters #champion #vsco #vscocam #inspiration #photography #gym #gymlife #picoftheday #coach #goals

A post shared by Shanice Desilva (@theproleaguewa) on

The coach – fighter bond is a critical element in the recipe for success, whether you embark on an Amateur or Professional career. Alexia Johnson has her sights set on competing Internationally in the future, which is entirely possible with her strong mentality and the valuable support of coach Daniel Dawson.

The fighter mirror’s the essence of their coach, as a child would mirror the essence of their parent. Like Coach, Like Fighter.

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Shanice Desilva
Shanice Desilva is a writer and personal trainer from Perth, Western Australia. She specializes in training developing athletes for competition in various sports, including combat sports. She also trains in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Perth, and has done for 6 years. Desilva is a regular contributor to FIGHTMAG, where she writes the ProLeague blog.

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