Introducing the Art of Eight Limbs
Muay Thai (aka Thai Boxing) is the national sport and martial art of Thailand. It was developed as a form of close-quarters combat several hundred years ago. Muay Thai’s origins are uncertain since much of its history of was lost when the Burmese ransacked Ayudhaya (Siam’s capital city in Thailand) during the 14th century.
The looting of the temples resulted in the destruction of many documents containing all this wonderful knowledge. Those volumes that were saved are now national treasures that are preserved for Thai culture and heritage.
Thai Boxing is also referred to as the “Art of Eight Limbs” because it utilises striking attacks from the fists; elbows; knees; and feet (eight points of contact). The strikes are designed so they can be thrown from long, mid, or close range. Despite the striking connotations in its name, Muay Thai is not solely a striking art. It also utilises a range of clinching and grappling techniques. The clinch manoeuvres are designed to set up knee and elbow strikes or to throw your opponent to the ground.
What is so different about Thai Boxing compared to other Martial arts?
The martial art has a reputation as one of the most effective striking forms in the world! Its reputation has been tested time and time again in competition against other fighting disciplines. More often than not, Thai boxers have emerged victorious from their battles against fighters from other disciplines.
What sets Muay Thai training apart from other martial arts is its emphasis on sparring and competition. Many other martial arts tend to be mired in tradition, gradings, theory and controlled, combat simulations. Thai boxing, on the other hand, focuses on developing timing; reflexes and muscle memory through actual experience with sparring and fighting. This has allowed Thai boxers to gain actual combat experience and physical memory. This experience has proved to be the difference-maker in actual competition.
Knees and elbows
The addition of elbow strikes, knees and clinching has provided Muay Thai fighters with an edge over opponents. It provides them with a greater repertoire of tools for damage than their traditional kickboxing opponents. Thai boxing training camps also have a reputation for superior conditioning in training programs. The trainers and rigorous conditioning providing their fighters with further physical advantages over past opposition. Taking the above into account, it’s clear to see why Muay Thai has been so successful in competition.
The health benefits in training Muay Thai are well documented. Whether you wish to develop self-confidence, develop a high level of fitness, lose weight or compete in the ring. Muay Thai will deliver like a shin kick to the cranium.
Where to train
To begin Thai boxing effectively, you need a trainer to help you develop your skills from the very start! There is definitely no substitution for a real bonafide instructor. A Muay Thai instructor will drill you with the proper technique and conditioning. Something that no youtube sensation or boxercise trainer ever could!
The camaraderie and support of fellow students in Muay Thai classes are another great boon. Many will be experienced students that will coach you and monitor your technique. This extra support will help you improve and iron out any imperfections. Thankfully, it is very rare to find a martial arts class where they are not supportive and friendly. Thai Boxing is generally an excellent way to meet people and network.
The Benefits of Muay Thai Training
The benefits that Thai provides are numerous. Below are what I believe to be some of the top benefits of practising Thai boxing.
Increased cardiovascular conditioning
As a workout it provides excellent conditioning with continuous drills; exercise routines; bag work and sparring all within individual sessions!! The conditioning involved is both aerobic and anaerobic so places a great demand on the cardiovascular system. With continued regular practice, your body adapts to the demands of training resulting in improved cardiovascular ability.
Kicking and footwork play a large role in Thai boxing. Learning how to kick strengthens the musculature of the lower body. Every muscle in your lower body will benefit from practising the various kicks and footwork drills incorporated in the sport. You’ll benefit in the areas of muscular endurance, power, agility, and speed. Not to mention a cosmetically pleasing, toned appearance in the legs. Trust me after a couple of months you will have calves of steel!!
Thai boxing training strengthens and conditions your entire core, from your chest to your glutes. The movement patterns involve much rotation and hip thrusts when delivering each blow, and this strengthens your entire core tremendously.
Furthermore, continuous bracing when defending and the isometric holds from clinching drills all provide the student with a rock-solid core. So a continuous core workout throughout the average session and this doesn’t even take into account the sit-ups and other exercises you will be doing prior to actual Muay Thai practice!
Increased hip mobility
The kicking and knee strike’s involved in Thai boxing also help to develop great hip mobility. Don’t worry if this is something you do not currently possess. Training and a lot of patience will help overcome this issue in rapid time.
Like all of the big important joints having healthy hips is of vast importance as we age. Regular hip exercise can save you from serious pain and numerous terrible medical conditions later in life. Make sure they get a good stretch after your workout. Use other forms of mobility and flexibility training (yoga, pilates) to help you develop in this area rapidly.
Stress relief is one of the best benefits Thai boxing can provide. The majority of us accumulate a fair amount of stress during the average day in modern society. Having an outlet for that stress feels fantastic and can work wonders for our mental and physical health. After a stressful day, releasing pent-up tension by hitting a heavy bag with all your power just feels good.
Additionally, due to the fast-paced nature of Muay Thai, you have to focus…constantly!! You can’t concentrate on your worries whilst training as you will mess up your technique or get hit! Practising the techniques allows you to focus solely on your immediate environment. You won’t have any time to concentrate on eternal stressors! “Watch that kick!!” As such Thai boxing could be classed as a form of mindfulness.
Muay Thai is one of the most effective martial arts in the world
Muay Thai has been tested in competition for hundreds of years. Whether fights have been from inter-village clashes, bloody wars, violent unregulated bouts, street fights and eventually professional competition, Thai boxing has been involved throughout!. The fight experience gained over the ages has resulted in every aspect of the art being refined to an extremely high degree. Muay Thais efficient use of knees; elbows; shins and hands has allowed its practitioners to use most of the weapons available to the human body. Muay Thai makes intelligent use of kicking and punching ranges which enable fighters to adapt to fighters of different sizes and abilities.
Additionally Muay Thai’s use of grappling with the clinch, make it effective in all ranges of standup fighting. Regardless of if the street fight is a straight-up fistfight, close quarter grappling or even if it goes to the ground Muay Thai provides the necessary skills. All of the above show Thai boxing is a martial art that can be transferred to the street for real-life encounters.
Simple to learn
Another great strength of Muay Thai is its simplicity. It is very easy to learn, despite there being many different techniques and methods of training. There are no katas to learn or techniques to memorise. You are taught the moves and can be as creative as you want in putting combinations of these together. As a result, it is accessible to many people of all ages. There are many elderly practitioners continuing to practise the art to keep their fitness levels high.
It is also common in Thailand for children to begin training as early as 5yrs old! On a very basic level, all you need is the moves, footwork and training methods to train alone effectively.
Effective all-around workout
Thai boxing is a very effective form of exercise. With regular training, it will improve your conditioning, mental and physical toughness, dexterity, and cardiovascular abilities. Jumping rope, shadowboxing and running provides an aerobic workout to prepare you for more intense workouts. Muay Thai also builds great anaerobic endurance with exercises like continued punching and kicking on the pads or bags. Add to repeated clinching drills (exhausting!) and you’ll really build your muscular and cardiovascular endurance levels.
Great calorie burner
Thai boxing is an efficient (and fun) way to burn fat and lose weight. Studies have shown Muay Thai training can burn between 700-1000 calories an hour!!
Creates a tough mindset
Alongside enhancing physical conditioning, Muay Thai also helps develop a tough, confident mindset. This is drilled into you through discipline and continued practice in classes. The culture of a Thai Boxing class, in general, encourages a tougher mindset.
Classmates will be vocal to push you through tough challenges. Although they’ll be supportive and encouraging, they will also be blunt enough to tell you if you’re being precious. All done in a piss-taking manner of course! I do remember one Polish brute politely telling me to look in his eyes when I hit him! He also encouraged me to push kick him as though I wanted to break his spine! Crazy fellow but I appreciated his encouragement!
One of the key foundations for the sport of Mixed Martial Arts
Muay Thai’s rightly has a reputation as one of the most effective striking systems in the world. It is no wonder it has become one of the key foundations of the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA). Indeed, many of MMA’s greatest fighters and champions have come from Muay Thai Kickboxing backgrounds. Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Jose Aldo and Cris “Cyborg” Justino to name just a few!
Summary of Muay Thai Benefits
To sum it all up, Thai boxing training can benefit just about anyone. Just make sure you adapt the workout to your level of fitness when you’re starting out. There is absolutely no shame in taking a break or modifying a drill to make it fit for you. Also, remember when practising any sport there is always a risk of injury.
If you are new to this type of thing and indeed fitness it may be prudent to consult your healthcare professional for advice first. Also, let your Muay Thai trainer know of any injury or physical condition that you may have prior to practice.
The goal of this guide is to provide a brief overview of Muay Thai training and some important concepts you need to understand. If you are considering training and want to find a good Muay Thai gym and know what to expect, check out Muay Thai Training Part 2.