Many martial artists ease themselves into a sport. They become involved gradually, and take time to determine if the martial art they’re training is right for them. They may even sample multiple disciplines, looking for an ideal combination of challenge, exercise, and fulfillment that a single martial art may not totally provide. This was not the case when Jalill Barnes took his first Muay Thai class at Ronin Training Center. He was immediately hooked. “I loved all martial arts,” Jalil shared. “But this had everything I was looking for in one discipline.” Jalil’s love for Muay Thai grew, as did his fight record– after 5 years of training, he’s earned an impressive record of 31 wins, 2 losses, and a single draw. Under the instruction of Coach Aaron Boggs, Jalil sharpened his skills and fought his way to being one of the top Muay Thai fighters in America. He credits his many training partners at Ronin for helping him grow as a fighter.
“A great thing about Ronin is there are a lot of people in a class. I was able to see many different styles in training and figure out how to best handle them. My experience against different styles was pretty well rounded because of that.”
With Coach Bogg’s guidance, Jalill eventually decided it was time to take his training to the next level by traveling to the birthplace of Muay Thai. Jalill moved to Thailand and made this sport his life. He recalls the rigors of training in this new place, and how it was much different than back home. “In the US we work, then we train a little. Imagine if Muay Thai was your job, and it paid the bills.The workload is heavier– more hours of training, more technique.” Training intensity was not the only challenge that came with living in Thailand. During the pandemic, he often felt isolated and alone. According to Jalill, many Thai people were cautious of foreigners– they kept their distance when walking, in elevators, and even at red lights. Like many of us, the pandemic delayed his goals due to fight cancellations and other pandemic-related issues. Despite these challenges, Jalill remains undeterred. “I want to become a Lumpinee, or Rajadamnern Champion. With my life, my goal is to live a ‘good’ life according to my own definition, and enjoy life as long as I live it. I will live in Thailand until I accomplish my goals.”
Jalill’s dedication continues to pay off as he builds on his already impressive fight record. It pays off in other ways too. He’s worked through enormous challenges to chase his goals and live the life he wants to live, and he’s also learned about himself along the way. He took one of his few losses in Thailand to a fighter he describes as “smarter, stronger, and more experienced.” Despite this defeat, he walked away with positives. “At one point in the fight, my body hurt so bad that a voice entered my head and told me to quit when he hit me hard again. I fought through the weak thoughts and lost by decision. I am very proud of that fight.”
Jalill continues to build on the foundation he developed at Ronin and has no plans of slowing down. He’s dedicated to becoming the best, and he knows his coaches and teammates back in Ohio always have his back. He credits Coach Boggs for starting him on this journey, and for continuing to support him abroad. Even though they’re oceans apart, Boggs helps Jalill manage contracts and plan fights as if he was right there in Thailand. Jalill encourages new fighters to use Coach Boggs as a reference and ask lots of questions, but also stresses the importance of doing work outside of the gym by studying and researching the sport.
In addition to his team and coaches, Jalill gives credit to his past self. “I love to read journal entries when I talk about the things I want in life, or the qualities I want to have. It motivates me to continue down the path I’m on and stay true to it.” Jalill’s effort and dedication to the sport he loves will carry him wherever he wants to go in life, and his team at Ronin Training Center will be cheering for him every step of the way.
Credit: Logan Rance