Benefits of Muay Thai
Today I talk to you about the benefits of Muay Thai, but not the usual generic benefits you get from exercise in general or martial training in general. I want to talk to you about the benefits of Muay Thai that are specific to Muay Thai. I started my Muay Thai journey 2005 in Manchester with Master A’s academy. Apparently, Master A, his brother Master Toddy and friend Master Sken were responsible for bringing Muay Thai into the United Kingdom. But it was just a hobby for me then, couple sessions after work and a few intraclub bouts. Wasn’t until 2008 till I flu to Phuket, Thailand to train and compete Muay Thai in the country in which it was born. Little did I know the 3-month Muay Thai training adventure I had planned, ended up lasting more than a decade.
I had trained and competed in Martial Arts since I could remember, Kick Boxing, Chinese Kick Boxing, Kungfu, Karate, Boxing, Tai Chi. Never done Judo or Brazillian Jujitzu though. The ground game has never appealed to me, at least not as I write this article. My appeal to Muay Thai went beyond the benefits of health and fitness. There were many benefits of Muay Thai that I liked, and I believe helped me not just inside the ring, but outside, in the real world… in the ring of life. first, let’s talk about what Muay Thai is… If you already know this, then feel free to scroll down till you see the big orange title “Physical Benefits of Muay Thai“
What Is Muay Thai?
The Physical Benefits of Muay Thai
To be a skilled Muay Thai fighter you need to have a good general all-round fitness level. You need to be strong, powerful and explosive yet have the stamina and endurance to last the rounds, you also need to have good agility, flexible and great balance, core and stability not to mention accuracy, speed and coordination. Then the skill set of master the techniques of Muay Thai itself… and if you hadn’t noticed, I have pretty much listed The 10 Components of Fitness.
So to be able to obtain a decent level of all these, you can imagine you will have a well even and balanced body, not just from an aesthetical point of view but a functional one as well. Which leads me into my first physical benefit.
An impressive all-round body workout.
When I say all-round body workout, I am not just meaning because you use all muscles in your body, I am referring to the definition of physical fitness, which has been broken down into 10 elements of fitness. To have a good physically looking body as well as functional and healthy one you need to work on all components of fitness listed below. In Muay Thai you will exercise your cardiovascular system by doing plenty of rounds on the bag and pad work.
Stamina is worked in your muscles get tired from kicking and punching but it’s to much fun to stop. Speed, balance, coordination and accuracy are all worked in every limb you use to hit with. Which is funny, as Muay Thai is known as the art of 8 limbs because it uses fists, knees, elbows and feet. But technically, a limb is your arms and legs, so you can only ever have 4 haha, your left fist and the left elbow is still just 1 arm so, therefore, it’s just 1 limb.
The only thing I would say Muay Thai lacks is real Strength and Power, but then a good Muay Thai gym or fighter will incorporate this into their training and if your Muay Thai class doesn’t then I would add it into your weekly gym sessions.
When it comes to the Benefits of Martial Arts, there is a big debate on how many of them are actually practical in a real-life combat situation. A lot of sensei’s teachers will say Martial Arts isn’t just about fighting, which is true. But you know they are the black belt Karate type instructors who are 2 meals away from being obese and couldn’t fight their way out of a paper bag. Muay Thai, on the other hand, does have a very effective real-life application.
In essence, anything goes in Muay Thai when it comes to standup fighting, the moment the fighters hit the floor that when the ref breaks it up. I especially feel the clinch is what would be most effective, in the street fights I have witnessed, there is a lot of shirt grabbing, headlocks, it’s like once they get to close to punch each other, neither one knows what to do besides schoolyard moves. If you got a good clinch game you would murder someone in this position.
The Mental Benefits of Muay Thai
One of the things I liked most about Muay Thai was always having to look strong, never looking weak or tired, don’t show pain when in pain. You ever see a Muay Thai fight when one opponent lands a good shot on another. The receiver would merely nod and smile as if to say (Yea, nice one) not only is this embedded in the scoreboard but also in training. Doing pad work with your trainer, you can’t let them see you feeling the strain, show that your tired or out of breath and they will get exciting “Ooooh Krix Nuyi Laew Nuiy Laew” meaning “Tired Already” they then try to trip you or throw you on the floor and failing that will make you do non-stop kicks to finish you off, then try again at putting you on the floor.
This could also be strewed into a living benefit as well, there is a lot of times in life you have to put your game face on, having to appear confident when your not, putting that happy smile on when its the last thing you feel like being. Training Muay Thai helped me appear the opposite to what I am for my own benefit, inside and outside that ring.
A Deep Inner Emotional Stress Buster.
Exercise, in general, can be a stress release, it also triggers your body’s production of happy hormones like Dopamine and Oxytocin. But when I taught Thai Boxing to the guests at some of the Detox/Wellness centres I worked at. They described my Muay Thai classes as “Releasing a different type of toxin”. We all have these filters, masks, barriers that we use to hide “our true selves” out of fear and I always noticed when I watched people playing sports these filters drop.
You see certain root core personality traits that you would never see in that person at any other time and that’s because, in active sports, your mind is always in the moment. I also noticed this in holding pads for people, this built up aggression, the inner anger comes out, you see it in the faces moments before they hit the pad. Smashing pads in Muay Thai is different to say Tai Kwon Do or Karate, it’s more aggressive, flows a bit more, a different pace. It’s a unique benefit to Muay Thai, a type of inner emotional release and people feel wonderful afterwards, uplifted, inspired, energetic and left wanting more.
We are social creatures, it’s in our DNA, so being in social situations is good for our wellbeing. But a lot of fitness classes you can still feel isolated and alone, you can go through an entire circuit training class without talking to a soul. But in a Muay Thai class that is hard to do, a combat sport requires 2 people and to learn the fighting techniques you will have to be partner up with someone. And there is nothing like breaking the ice than being partnered up with someone whom you have been instructed to kick and to which they have been told to catch your kick. If you can’t take a friend with you, you will certainly leave the class with new ones.
Muay Thai is a tough sport and even though you just might be doing it for fun or the health benefits, the way Muay Thai is and the training can toughen you up mentally. For example, the scoring system for Muay Thai is mostly about looking strong, being the aggressor and being the dominant one in the ring. If you are always moving backwards you lose points, if you get hit and show pain or weakness you will lose points.
That being said the training is naturally devised to make you win, to not show pain, not show you’re tired and keep moving forward. If you have ever trained Muay Thai in Thailand and do pad work with a Thai trainer. If you show your tired, they don’t let you rest they all of a sudden get motivated to work you harder to finish you off because in the ring, your opponent will do the same thing.
My Personal Muay Thai Benefit – The Wai Kru
A random benefit I liked about Muay Thai was the Wai Kru. The Wai Kru is a ceremonial dance the fighters do in the ring before the fight. The dance is to show respect to teachers, instructors, parents and anyone else they feel for. This isn’t a benefit for your average Muay Thai enthusiast but in terms of fighting, in the ring, in front of a crowd, it was for me. Most combat sports you would step into the ring and seconds later the bell rings, and all the fight is on.
In Muay Thai, as the two fighters enter the ring, before the ref talks to them, before they even touch gloves, they start the Wai Kru. Fighters would have their own unique ways of expressing them selfs through the Wai Kru, but for me, it gave a much needed moment for my mind to settle into the present moment. I would walk around that ring as per the start of every Wai Kru, but doing so allowed me to feel the full size of the ring. After the mandatory lap around the ring, the fighters would enter the middle of the ring. But I would continue to walk around the ring spiralling my way into the centre, feeling every inch of the canvas.
The rings can be different sizes, canvas to soft or hard and responsive, the corners can be wet and slippy from previous fights. The Wai Kru also allowed me to get used to the crowd, the noise, the lights, the atmosphere. It also allowed me to feel out my opponent, see where they are mentally and physically. You can see if your opponent is flexible, has good balance, nervous or confident. Sometimes I would purposely get to close to them during the Wai Kru, invade the personal space to see if they give way to me or stand their ground. If they stood their ground they were confident and ready for war.