SGPT Interview With Muay Thai Fighter Alex Chang

It was fun to be able to talk to Alex here in today’s interview. You need to make sure to give this guy a follow and show the support!

1) So tell us about yourself and your background.

I grew up in central NJ, then moved to Philly where I lived for 13 years (and where I discovered Muay Thai). During that time I worked as an engineer on naval combat systems. About 5 years ago I made a big switch and moved down to Atlanta to begin working toward a PhD in robotics.

I’m super interested in bio-inspired robotic locomotion; we take strategies that different types of animals use to travel from place to place and apply it to robots to accomplish something similar. So I study how animals (including humans) move and try to code aspects of those strategies into robots. I think one of the things that’s drawn me to Muay Thai is a similar fascination with movement and athletics in general. I think a lot of methods we use to model motion in robotics pretty clear explain or justify why so many techniques used in Muay Thai as well as other martial arts really are efficient and the most direct way to inflict damage.

That fascination aside, I’d been involved in athletics most of my life, either soccer or track. I was almost always kind of miserable at it, actually; always ended up the runt of the litter or relegated to the JV team. But for me, athletics was an out from immense academic pressures piled on me. I grew up in a family where academic perfection was prioritized above everything. During high school, I worked or intensively studied almost 15 hrs a day, 7 days a week, most every week of the year including summers; the only breaks I got from being holed in at my desk, where to eat, sleep and hit the bathroom. Anything less than an A in an already very competitive school system was inexcusable.

Oh my god, I hated it. No hesitation in claiming that. Even though I was shit at soccer and only a bit better at track, though, I loved sports. I loved being challenged to do something I, for once, wanted to actually do and to do for myself. I found that, even if I was far from the best on the team, hard work and perseverance earned respect from my peers regardless. So I kept on with it in one form or another. Then I found Muay Thai as I was finishing college. 6 months later I had my first smoker; won against an experienced opponent who had just spent a month training in Thailand. It was like everything clicked and made sense. All the work and effort I had poured into athletics over the years gave me the critical tools and discipline I needed for this sport.

2) What do you currently do for strength and conditioning? Do you have any preferred routines, or a personal preference?

My routine is inspired by a warm-up/warm-down routine one of my previous trainers, Coban Lookchaomaesaitong, used to have us do. I took the routine and tripled and then quadrupled it. I do it almost every day. Some other fighters at the gym had started calling it the One Punch Man workout. Kind of funny—it really is super straight-forward and monotonous.

Every day run 2-3 miles before Muay Thai class and fighter bag work. Afterwards, suicide sprints across the soccer field. Then physcal training: 260 push-ups, 140 squats/lunges, 180 45-degree incline sit ups, 300 straight-leg sit-ups, 200 leg-weighted side crunches, 300 leg-weighted leg raises, 300 russian twists (15 lb. medicine ball), 300 leg-weighted bicycles, 150 straight arm sit-up (15 lbs. medicine ball), 120 ‘superman’ back raises. Split longer ones into 3-4 sets; re-arrange the sets and exercises however you want. Just get it done well, but within the hour. I don’t think I’ve used a weight room in over 2 years now.

3) What inspired you to get into fighting?

I was a teaching assistant for a class during college. One of my students was like, ‘yo, I’m gonna try to out this BJJ / Muay Thai place, you wanna come with me?’. A friend during high school one time said I had a ‘kickboxer’s’ body. Ever since then I’d had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to try it out. So I ended up going. We actually ended up going on separate days; he went and tried BJJ, thought it was cool and never went back. I tried Muay Thai and was immediately hooked.

At first it was just the thrill of learning a martial art with the intent to actually apply it. I remember those early days where I gave 100% of everything I had at class everyday. I pushed through athletic boundaries that I never thought I’d be able to. It was exhilarating day-in and day-out. I used to take short naps during the day on this futon in my apartment. My feet would be sprawled out and I would be dreaming about fighting in my sleep. It was so realistic. My hands would instinctively fly out trying to punch things in the air; my legs would kick out to teep an opponent that wasn’t there. I remember one time I accidentally kicked this coffee table, in my sleep, clear across room; dented the wall. I woke up in a panic, reset the table, went back to my nap and started doing it all over again.

After a few months, the trainer let me start training with the fight team after I told him I was interested in a smoker. It was when I joined the fight team that I really understood what drew me to fighting. I’d never before, and never since then, found a community as diverse, down-to-earth, level-headed and outright just cool to hang out with. People are super humble. A lot of the most accomplished fighters I’ve known or trained with just want to interact on the day-to-day like they’re any other ‘joe blo’ just hanging out.

Fighters that were seemingly infinite levels above me took time out of their day or stayed after class to spar and work with me on simple things; there was no other expectation other than I listen, focus and work hard. When you talk about surrounding yourself with people who have qualities you want to emulate, for me, this is it. What’s crazier is that I see these same or similar qualities in fight communities everywhere I’ve been and trained: NJ, PA, VA, Thailand. Sometimes I feel like, if the rest of the world could be involved in this community, the world could be a lot better of a place.

4) So here at SGPT we always talk about mindset and how to maintain focus to overcome difficult times. What do you do to keep your mental focus on point?

Mindset has always been the biggest struggle for me. Over the course of my athletic journey I remember several moments where, psychologically, I was about to break. It’s never in the ring, it’s always outside of it, during the weeks and months spent preparing and training. Self-doubt can build up and eventually it comes to a head. Many times I’ve found myself dangling by a thread; that’s the best way I can describe it. It feels like I’m hanging by a thread and that thread can snap at any moment; that I’ll give in and make the irreparable decision and quit, whether the decision will have a smaller or major impact.

Sometimes it becomes hard to see the forest from the trees; I forget the over-arching reason and passion for everything I’m doing. In those times I buckle down, ignore all thoughts and just blindly ‘do’. I remind myself all I have to do is ‘not quit’. Most of the time its harder than it sounds. At the same time, though, it’s not something complicated that’s difficult to understand or solve or that requires you to be a genius to accomplish. It’s something everyone has the ability to do, which is to just ‘not stop’. If you can just ‘not stop’ and keep going and get through the day. The next day will be a little easier. The one after that will be a little bit more easy. A week after that will be noticeably easier.

5) What sort of recovery strategies do you use to bounce back from a tough day’s training, or from a tough fight?

I don’t take a whole lot of breaks, which is something I need to work on and understand how to integrate better. I’ll often train 2 weeks straight (approx. 3 hrs a day) before taking a day off. Even then, the break tends to be forced or due to some serendipitous situation that prevents me from getting to the gym. It’s definitely something I need to work on especially as I’m getting older (36 now) and recovery/healing is much slower.

After tough fights, I’ll still show up at the gym the following Monday. I’ll just take it easy during the next week (less running, less PT) and more focus on skill work and repetition. All the pressure is off and it’s a good time to spend cooling down and trying out new things.

6) Do you have one or more favorite quotes that you like to pull from?

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced 1 kick 10,000 times” – Bruce Lee

I think there are a lot of ways to interpret and apply this to martial arts. One of the ways I like to paraphrase might be, ‘Think about what you’re doing. Don’t just be content with doing it’.

7) Do you have a particular food plan, or nutrition plan that you use to optimize your fight performance?

Over the past 1.5 years, my friend Doug Baez, has helped me tremendously with nutrition; he works with my input to draw up day-to-day meal plans. I have 5 meals scheduled every day during fight camp. Each of those meals consists of a specific quantity of chicken breast, mushrooms, potatoes, bell peppers and brown rice.

Once in a while we mix it up with more variety. If I give him feedback that I’m running low on energy, he’ll send back modifications for the next day. As the fight draws closer, we more frequently adjust the meal plan according to how my weight’s been trending. Other than that, no sugar, minimal on fruit and little to no salt. Ironically, I eat much, much more and lose weight much more easily on this food plan than I ever did when I wasn’t on it.

8) What would you say are your biggest strengths and biggest weaknesses?

My biggest strength is perseverance, especially psychological. I’ve grinded intensively all my life whether it be academically or athletically. It’s something that’s rather natural to me now. The perseverance allows me to keep going when other people will give up and lose focus.

Physically, my greatest assets are my legs; kicks have always been my strong point, ever since I’ve started. They’ve always been what distinguishes me from others.

I’d say my greatest weakness, at the moment, would be my application of tactics and strategy during my fights. It’s an aspect of my game the team and I are working to enhance.

9) Are you preparing for a fight now and if so can you share some details of the upcoming event?

I’ve been in constant fight camp for 6 months straight this past year as well as a month earlier in the year; with PhD responsibilities alongside that, I had no waking moment of free time.

I’m taking a break for the holiday season and working on shoring up weaknesses and acquiring/refining other skill sets. Definitely planning to fight at the IKF East Coast Classic (Myrtle Beach) next March 2019. Might also try to catch a fight in early Feb. 2019. We’re planning 2019 to be a really busy and fight-filled year.

10) Do you have sponsors, or a favorite gear list that you use?

No sponsors. I’ve stuck to Fairtex equipment the past few years; their laced gloves are my favorite.

11) Please include all your social media links here below so everyone can follow you.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chang.h.alex

Instagram: @chang.h.alex

If you’re interested in learning more about how to get into top fighting shape then you’ve got to train with a plan that will get you there. To do this you can start by visiting Brandon Richey Fitness, as well as checking out my program below.

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