Whether it's to get back into the gym, lose weight, or simply to learn a new skill, Muay Thai can be the perfect option for you. There are so many options of self defense training to choose from, each with their own unique characteristics, background, techniques and training styles. For someone looking to learn a new sport, it’s important to research your options to understand which might be the best for yourself and your needs. As a beginner, knowing what to expect for your upcoming physical journey can allow you to make the best decision for yourself on the right classes to take and then be able to walk into your first class prepared for what’s ahead. Today, we focus on the combat sport of Muay Thai, its interesting history that started it all, and what a beginner needs to know.
A Brief History of Muay Thai
Starting at the very beginning, Muay Thai is the national sport of Thailand and can be traced back to as early as the 16th century. It can be characterized by the use of stand up striking along with clinching techniques, a component of stand up fighting where opponents are grappling each other. Similar to kickboxing, Muay Thai operates under different rules including the use of clinching, knee and elbow strikes, as well as punches and kicks. Then, it was used as a peace-time martial art practiced by Thai soldiers within the kingdom of Siam, which was the former name of Thailand. One of the first recorded times Muay Thai was observed and recorded by someone outside of the country was when Simon de la Loubere was sent by King Louis XIV to the Kingdom of Siam in the late 17th century. Considered a combat sport otherwise known as the “art of eight limbs' ', Muay Thai uses techniques that focus on the use of one’s fists, elbows, knees and shins. Originally used as a combat technique by soldiers, eventually, the martial art began to shift into a sport in which opponents competed in front of an audience. Over many decades, it was slowly adopted by citizens until the mid 19th century where Muay Thai became widespread across the country of Thailand as King Rama V found a great personal interest in it. This period was considered the golden age of muay thai. As warfare subsided, citizens around the country began to use the martial art as a form of physical fitness, recreation, and self-defense.
Within the 20th century is where Muay Thai began to hit its stride. In the 1920s, codified rules were eventually put into place for the sport as this was pushed by King Rama VII. These rules introduced the use of official referees and rounds were now timed by kick. Muay Thai began to quickly build in popularity in the 1980s and 90s, where matches were met with hundreds of spectators, gambling large amounts, and large high revenues. As the sport found worldwide recognition, in 2015, Muay Thai was granted entry into the International University Sports Federation leading to the introduction of the first University World Muaythai cup. Now in 2022, there are nearly 4,000 Thai boxing gyms overseas.
The Beginner’s Guide: What To Expect
With such a prominent history, Muay Thai has developed a worldwide community that practices the sport for a wide array of reasons. Whether you’re interested in training in Muay Thai for fitness, recreational, or self defense, here’s what beginners can expect when starting their training journey.
First thing to know is that Muay Thai can be an excellent experience for anyone of all ages and genders. As long as your interest is to get moving, this training is for you. Learning Muay Thai is accompanied with many benefits including:
Excellent form of fitness
The training in Muay Thai can be very demanding right from the start. With a strong emphasis in cardio training, you could find yourself put to the test. While it can be exhausting, you’ll find this training brings in not only better physical stamina and muscle strength, but also the many benefits that come with consistent training outside of the gym including increased energy levels, better sleep, and improved mood.
Create a community of fellow Muay Thai members
Training classes can create opportunities to meet new people and build a camaraderie with others that hold the same interests as you. Together, everyone is working towards a common goal that can create a strong bond that can grow to exist outside of the gym as well.
Builds Mental Stamina
Muay Thai training can push you to your limits, both physically and mentally. With consistent training sessions week after week, you’ll find yourself growing and raising the bar for yourself. What comes from this consistency is a sense of discipline and motivation to keep pushing yourself that will benefit in all the other parts of your life.
If you’re still reading at this point, this means that you’ve understood what Muay Thai can bring to the table and you’re ready to get to the nitty gritty of what to expect for your first class! In preparation to begin your training, it could be beneficial to engage in some high cardio exercises prior to the first training session. This is because, as said previously, Muay Thai is a high intensity cardio focused sport, so be prepared to be physically active and possibly pushed to your limits as soon as day 1. You can prepare by engaging in workouts that improve your endurance and stamina levels such running, swimming or HIIT cardio classes that look to get the heart pumping.
Once you started training... now what?
Once you’ve started your training, you will begin by learning the basic techniques. You will get comfortable practicing with the 8 weapons of Muay Thai:
- Fist strikes
- Muay Thai kicking
- Clinching (aka stand up grappling) otherwise known as Muay Thai’s unofficial weapon
At the beginning of your training, an important tip is to focus on your form first instead of the power of your strikes. Like any sport or physical art, perfecting your technique is essential to growth and mastery as well as reducing any risks of injury. Start with light punches and kicks and then slowly work your way up to a stronger speed and power. This will allow you to perfect your form which will then give you better power down the line.
Whether it's to learn how to fight, or simply to increase the fitness in your life, Muay Thai can be the solution. A reputable martial art with a legendary history, this method of self defense utilizes every part of the body to create a full body workout and experience unique to all others. For beginners, while knowing what to expect can be beneficial, your training experience will be unique to you and your body so remember to listen to it once you begin your training. Hydration, determination and motivation is the key!
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