What Is Muay Thai?
Muay Thai or Thai Boxing, is a martial art and combat sport that uses a combination of stand-up striking and clinching techniques. The discipline is known as the 'art of eight limbs' as it involves the use of fists, elbows, knees and shin strikes. A practitioner of Muay Thai is called a Nak Muay whilst Western practitioners in Thailand are sometimes called Nak Muay Farang, which means 'foreign boxer'. Muay Thai was developed from Muay Boran and the history of the art traces all the way back to the 16th century in the Siam Kingdom, where the art was practiced by the soldiers of King Naresuan and was used as a fighting technique in warfare.
Sadly, we live in a world where walking down the street late at night can be dangerous for anyone, if you are female, then the chances of threats increase.
Muay Thai training will help you develop the essential knowledge that will help you in real-life situations. I remember hearing in a Joe Rogan podcast where he says training Martial Arts will get you in less fights and I agree. You become more comfortable in uncomfortable situations and knowing you have nothing to prove, you make more effort to avoid a physical altercation. However, in times when you have no choice, the art of 8 limbs will give you the tactical knowledge and physical conditioning you need to give your opponent a tough competition.
As well as hitting pads and sparring, Muay Training provides both aerobic and anaerobic workouts incorporating a variety of physical activities such as running, skipping and shadowboxing. A 60 to 90-minute hard training session can give you up to 1,000 calories burned. However, this sport is not for the faint-hearted, the round after round of devastating training will immensely test your stamina, strength and your grit.
Core strength is a part of body toning but is heavily ignored. Core exercises will help your muscles work together for stability and balance, making your abs, back and pelvic muscles stronger.
Muay Thai training also increases hip mobility. I know it doesn't sound as good as 'shredded abs' but it is a crucial benefit of Muay Thai, helping preserve and protect you from hip-related pains that comes in your later life. However, you need to make sure you stretch properly after training sessions to keep them healthy.
It is scientifically proven that exercise creates 'happy chemicals', when you train at moderate levels or higher, your brain produces endorphins, dopamine and serotonin. Whilst it takes 20 minutes of moderate exercise for these chemicals to be produced, high-intensity Martial Arts like Muay Thai will only take a few minutes of training to have the same effect. What better way to release stress than to smash a bag with your punches, kicks, elbows and knees?
If you suffer from depression, it is worth knowing that studies have found that moderate exercise is to be as effective as antidepressants for reducing the symptoms of mild to moderate depression. In the US, medication and psychotherapy are common lines of treatment for depression but in other countries like the UK, exercises is a form of treatment.
Exercise can also improve your sleep quality, dopamine is released during training whilst serotonin is released later after the dopamine levels begin to decline. This is necessary in the synthesis of melatonin which is crucial to our sleep as it regulates our sleep/wake cycle and serotonin is necessary to trigger this hormone which assists us with restful sleep.
Embracing The Journey
The way I look at Muay Thai and Martial Arts, in general, is a constant pursuit of self-improvement. After training for a while, you soon realise that it is a long journey and you don't become good overnight. It teaches you a lot of patience, I remember in my first year of University when I started Muay Thai, I would go to the gym before class and practise the same technique over and over again on the heavy bag and my technique still won't be any good but I know that if I improve myself by 1% each day, it will add up over time. You learn to love the process. Like Bruce Lee said:
“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
Each training session will differ and you soon discover things about yourself that school doesn't teach you. For example, how you handle your emotions, how well you listen and how easily you give up when faced with obstacles. It's crazy to think that you learn so much about yourself in a sport like this, to a lot of people, it's a violent sport but the knowledge you gain is above and beyond just fighting. The Martial Arts journey makes you a student of life.