The ART of 8 limbs
Benefits Of Muay Thai
“Its not just about learning how to fight“
Table Of Contents
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Top 10 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 or martial training. Instead, I want to talk to you about the benefits of Muay Thai that are specific to Muay Thai. I started my Muay Thai journey in 2005 in Manchester at Master A’s academy. Master A, his brother Master Toddy and his friend Master Sken were responsible for bringing Muay Thai into the United Kingdom. But it was just a hobby for me then, a couple of sessions after work and a few intraclub bouts. It wasn’t until 2008 till I flew to Phuket, Thailand, to train and compete in Muay Thai in the country where the art was born. Little did I know the 3-month Muay Thai training adventure I had planned ended up lasting more than a decade.
I have trained and competed in Martial Arts since I could remember, Kick Boxing, Chinese Kick Boxing, Kungfu, Karate, Boxing, and Tai Chi. I have never done Judo or Brazilian Jujitsu, 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. I liked many benefits of Muay Thai, which 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, feel free to scroll until you see the big orange title “Physical Benefits of Muay Thai.“
The Physical Benefits of Muay Thai
To be a skilled Muay Thai fighter, you must have an excellent general all-around 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, flexibility and outstanding balance, core and stability, not to mention accuracy, speed and coordination. Then the skill set of mastering the techniques of Muay Thai itself… and if you hadn’t noticed, I have pretty much listed The 10 Components of Fitness.
So to obtain a decent level of all these, you can imagine you will have a well-even and balanced body, not just from an aesthetic point of view but a functional one as well. So this leads me to my first physical benefit.
An impressive all-around body workout.
When I say all-around body workout, I do not just mean because you use all muscles in your body. Instead, 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 a functional and healthy one, you need to work on all components of fitness listed below. For example, 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 too much fun to stop. Speed, balance, coordination and accuracy are all performed in every limb you use to hit with. This 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 considerable debate on how many are practical in a real-life combat situation. Many 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 an efficient real-life application.
In essence, anything goes on in Muay Thai regarding standup fighting. The moment the fighters hit the floor, that’s 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 are a lot of shirt grabbing and headlocks. Once they get too close to punching each other, neither one knows what to do besides schoolyard moves. If you got an excellent 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 constantly 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 you are tired or out of breath, and they will get excited. “Ooooh, Krix Nuiy 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 applied to the real world as well. A lot of times in life, you have to put your game face on, appearing confident when you are not, putting that happy smile on when it’s the last thing you feel like being. Training Muay Thai helped me appear the opposite of 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, and 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 are different to Tai Kwon Do or Karate. It’s more aggressive, flows more, and has 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 well-being. But in many 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 to learn the fighting techniques. So you will have to 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 undoubtedly leave the class with new ones.
Muay Thai is a tough sport, and even though you might be doing it for fun or the health benefits, the way it 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 constantly moving backwards, you lose points. Also, you will lose points if you get hit and show pain or weakness.
That being said, the training is naturally devised to make you win, not to show pain, not show you’re tired and keep moving forward. If you have ever trained Muay Thai in Thailand and done pad work with a Thai trainer. If you show you are 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 shows respect to teachers, instructors, parents and anyone else they feel for. This isn’t a benefit for your average Muay Thai enthusiast, but it was for me in terms of fighting in the ring and in front of a crowd. In most combat sports, you would step into the ring, and seconds later, the bell rings, and the fight is on.
In Muay Thai, as the two fighters enter the ring, before the ref talks to them, they start the Wai Kru before they even touch gloves. Fighters would have their own unique ways of expressing themself through the Wai Kru, but for me, it gave me 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, and the corners can be wet and slippy from previous fights. The Wai Kru also let me get used to the crowd, the noise, the lights, and the atmosphere. It also allowed me to feel out my opponent and see where they are mentally and physically. You can see if your opponent is flexible, has good balance, or is nervous or confident. Sometimes I would purposely get too close to them during the Wai Kru and invade their 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.