"Bone Crusher" sounds like the kind of name that would be used to describe a monster truck.
Muay Thai fighter, Nate Delong, earned the nickname after breaking an opponent's arm with his kick. Shortly after that fight, he claimed the Heavyweight Title in Rhode Island and found himself on Team USA headed for Thailand, where he won the world title against Brazil. Nate is currently training at his home gym in Boston for the World Kickboxing North American Championship later this month in NYC. We joined him for a workout and asked a few questions about his sport.
Q: How did you get interested in Muay Thai?
A: I have studied martial arts my entire life and tried many styles, yet as soon as I found Muay Thai I knew it was for me. A friend took me to the gym, and I got my ass kicked for 3 hours. I've been hooked ever since. The efficiency, power, and effectiveness of the striking is just so perfect.
Q: With the rise in popularity of Muay Thai, it seems as though there are many different types of people getting into the sport. Are there qualities, traits, or skills that make a good Muay Thai fighter?
A: The fight game is funny, because it can really bring out the best and worst in people. The best qualities in a Muay Thai fighter are humility, hard work, and remaining calm under pressure. You have to be able to think like a chess player while you're exhausted and taking hits. And not let emotion cloud your judgement.
Q: You’ve competed at a level most fighters only dream of. What do you attribute your success to?
A: I just love the sport, and that motivates me to continue training. The art of Muay Thai is so deep, and I get excited every chance I get to improve. I've also been really fortunate to have great coaches and teammates, who both encourage and push me.
Q: How do you stay motivated and focused on a goal like competing at the World Championship?
A: Once I decided to compete in the World Championship, it was easy to stay motivated. I double checked everything I did against what I thought it meant to be "world class". I would say, I trained hard today, but was it "world class" hard? I was really eager to test myself against the best in the world.
Drinking and Muay Thai don’t go well together.
Q: As someone that balances a successful career in advertising with the highest levels of Muay Thai competition and training, what tips can you share for finding and maintaining balance?
A: For me the balance has been easy, because my sport is just my gym time. It's not like some other sports where you have to work out in addition to practicing, like football. Training is the work out, so it keeps me in shape while refining my technique. I only find it gets difficult when I'm not training for something in particular and I'm trying to balance a social life with casual training. Drinking and Muay Thai don’t go well together.
Q: What has Muay Thai taught you?
A: To start, it has taught me the mentality required to win a fight, which is an absolute belief in victory. It's not about being the best all the time, it’s about training to do enough to win at the right time. It's cliche to say, but a big part of martial arts is self mastery.
Q: You’ve been competing in the sport for a fairly long time now. What is it that’s kept you involved, training, moving ahead?
A: The thing that keeps me involved is the depth of the art. Learning something new in practice and then applying it is really satisfying. As I've gotten older, I've gotten into teaching and coaching, and that’s been extremely rewarding as well.
In muay thai, there is nowhere to hide. It's a beat down, even if you win.
Q: How is Muay Thai different from other combat sports?
A: Muay Thai is the toughest combat sport. Yes I'm biased, but I do believe that to be true. Other forms of kickboxing don't use elbows and knees. MMA is a great sport, but the ground aspect really separates it. In Muay Thai, there is nowhere to hide. It's a beat down, even if you win.
Q: Is Muay Thai a dangerous sport? What risks have you had to accept?
A: Muay Thai is definitely dangerous. I've had my nose broken in a fight (but still won). Broken hands are fairly common. I've seen everything from broken feet to broken eye sockets. Part of the mental challenge is to keep fighting after you get hurt. Instead of freaking out and saying "oh my god my nose is broken" you have to take a second and say "now my nose is broken. what am I gonna do to win anyways?" That's why Muay Thai fighters are the hardest athletes in the world. Quote me on that.
Q: Can you lay out a typical week of Training (Monday - Sunday) to give us a better idea what it's like to be Nate Delong?
I usually work just boxing on the heavy bag for an hour, and then do a 1 hour yoga class. Yoga keeps me loose for training and helps me chill out for the rest of the week.
I warm up with a 4 mile run to the gym, and then train. Typical training is broken down into sets of 3 minute rounds with 1 minute in between to rest (or calisthenics). Usually it’s 5 rounds of shadowboxing, 5 rounds of bag work, 5 rounds of hitting pads, 5 rounds of clinching with a partner, 5 rounds of sparring, and then some kind of cardio insanity. The body improves the most after exhaustion, so a lot of training is just getting the body tired enough to start learning.
Rest day - lift weights and do yoga.
Same as Tuesday. A long run to the gym and then go hard. I usually teach on Thursdays but lately, as I’ve been focused on training for the national championships, I haven’t had much time for that.
Yoga and sparring day.
Saturday and Sunday
I will usually run the Harvard stadium steps or up and down Summit Ave before training, in order to kill my legs before I work on technique. Then it's the usual. 5 rounds of shadowboxing, 5 rounds of bag work, 5 rounds of hitting pads, 5 rounds of clinching with a partner, 5 rounds of sparring, and then some kind of cardio insanity.
Photography by Julie Ciollo