The world of Muay Thai may seem daunting for newcomers, but beginners will find a welcoming environment full of friendly coaches and training partners to help you along your journey through this iconic art – no matter how fit, strong, or athletic you are.
Anyone who takes a look at the world-class competitors that compete in the stadiums of Bangkok or organizations like ONE Championship might assume you need to be a true warrior to train in Thailand’s national sport. They also might need to get up to speed with the intricacies of “the art of eight limbs” – named for its strikes using hands, shins, knees, and elbows.
However, it won’t take long for novices to get to grips with its rules, learn to appreciate the beauty of its techniques and traditions, and even learn how to emulate the heroes that step into the ring.
In this beginner’s guide to Muay Thai, you’ll learn all about how you can easily start to thrive on the Muay Thai mats – even if you’ve never thrown a kick in your life – and how you can get start enjoying one of the world’s most electrifying martial arts disciplines.
All The Right Attire
The best way to understand a sport is to get some first-hand experience of it, and that means joining a Muay Thai gym to learn how to throw some strikes and do everything else associated with Muay Thai.
The first thing you’ll need to do is to get the right gear to take part, but luckily, that’s the easy part, and it won’t break the bank. At first, all you’ll need is some comfortable, loose-fitting clothes that will allow you to move freely and do what your Muay Thai instructors ask. Shorts and a t-shirt are fine, or you can put on a tank top, spats, or anything else you feel good in.
If you want to look the part and wear the ideal apparel, invest in some real Muay Thai shorts. These are usually made from nylon or satin, and are cut off about halfway up the thighs to reduce any friction to ensure you can kick with ease. Plus, there are infinite combinations of colors and styles available, so you can choose a design that suits your style and personality.
When it comes to equipment, you can get away with turning up empty-handed, but we would not recommend that beyond your very first session or two. Though you might be able to borrow some boxing gloves, you will not want to make a habit of it.
It does not cost much to pick up a pair of new gloves, or you could set yourself up for the long-haul with a pair that is built to last from the Evolve Fight Gear store. There are plenty of other sizes available, but for first-timers who are not yet ready to start sparring, 12oz is ideal. A good pair of leather gloves could help to protect your hands from the impact of bags and pads for years.
You’ll also want to get some hand wraps, which martial artists use to protect their hands and wrists. If you’re new to combat sports, ‘traditional’ wraps might seem a bit confusing, but you’ll be binding your wrists and knuckles in no time with a bit of practice and our expert guidance.
Of course, that’s not all you’ll need as you progress in your Muay Thai education. Shin guards, mouth guards, and groin guards are all essential once you graduate to more advanced drills and sparring, but you won’t need to worry about investing in these until you’ve got to grips with things.
The way you conduct yourself comes down to one thing – respect. All martial arts are built on this value that has run through them for thousands of years. Despite the long history, this is a simple concept. As long as you recognize the rules and appreciate everyone in your class, you can’t go wrong.
The first people who demand your respect are your instructors. A conscientious student will receive the care and attention they deserve, so make sure you turn up on time, listen when they are talking, and do what they tell you.
It’s also vital to have respect for your teammates, so everyone stays safe and enjoys their time on the mats. In time, that will mean helping each other out and relaxing when you’re sparring, but when you first start out, it all comes down to personal hygiene! Be the training partner you would want to practice with by keeping your nails trimmed, showering before you arrive, and keeping a towel handy to wipe your sweat away during breaks.
Respect also carries over to the Muay Thai gym itself. Each Evolve MMA gym is a mecca for martial artists, so help to keep it that way. Don’t wear your shoes on the mats, treat the communal equipment like it’s your own, and clean up after yourself.
Respect is a two-way street, so heed this advice, and everyone around you will treat you like part of the family.
Tips For Your First Class
If you’ve set foot in a Muay Thai gym as a newcomer and feel intimidated when you step into a new gym for the first time, you’re not alone. However, there’s no need to worry. You’ll be welcomed as a new member of the martial arts family as soon as you step onto the mat.
While you get your feet wet in your new martial arts family, keep these things in mind to help yourself adjust and adapt.
- Get to know the gym and instructors:
On your first day, turn up a little early to get to know the layout of the gym – where to sign in, where to get changed, and where everything is kept. Also, don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to your instructors – they won’t bite! If you’re nervous, you can explain that it’s your first time, and you can be sure these experienced experts will help you ease into things.
- Don’t be scared to ask questions:
Don’t understand something? Worried you’re not doing something right? Don’t sweat it. Just ask one of the coaches or even one of the other people in the class to help you out. The atmosphere is always supportive and everyone around you knows what it feels like to start out. Everyone was a beginner once.
- Give it your all:
Whether you’ve taken up Muay Thai to get fit, train toward competing, or just to try something new, make the most of your time on the mats. If you can’t do something right at first, don’t give up! Practice makes perfect, and a good attitude will go a long way with your instructors.
- Relax and have fun:
While you should try your best in Muay Thai class, no one expects you to be as well-conditioned as Nong-O Gaiyanghadao, as fast as Sam-A Gaiyanghadao, or as technical as Penaek Sitnumnoi. While you should try your best, make sure you go at your own pace, too. It’s best to take your time and stay loose. That will help with your technique and help you to learn. All that should contribute to a great time.
How To Approach Your Training Regimen
Once you’ve found your feet, you’ll probably wonder how often you should train. The truth is, there’s no right answer.
If you’re just training for general health and fitness, a few Muay Thai classes a week will be enough. You might be surprised about how quickly you’ll see improvements in your strength, cardio, and flexibility after taking part in classes for a month or two.
Of course, the more you train, the more benefits you’ll feel, and if you’ve got your eyes on competition, you’ll want to train as often as you can. If you come to beginner’s Muay Thai classes five times a week, for example, you’ll be well on your way to punching your ticket to more advanced classes, new techniques, sparring sessions, and more. When you’re ready, your instructors will be delighted to promote you.
However, if you’re that keen to throw yourself into Muay Thai, it’s important to know your limits and listen to your body. If you’re tired, it’s probably time to rest for a day or two.
Supplement Your Training
If you’re feeling good and itching to make progress even when you’re outside the Muay Thai gym, there are plenty of things you can do to give you an extra edge when it’s time for Muay Thai.
Anyone can grab their sneakers and go for a run to supercharge their training. How far and how often you go for a jog depends on your fitness level or goals, but a few kilometers a few times a week will give your cardio a big shot in the arm. You could also try sprints for a shorter, high-intensity workout.
You’ll be jumping rope in class a lot, so it wouldn’t hurt to practice on your own time. A rope costs next to nothing, and you only need a small space to do it. A few extra rounds will help your conditioning, and once you learn a few tricks, your footwork is bound to improve, too.
- Strength & Conditioning:
Muay Thai is a demanding endeavor that rewards those who make the effort to boost their power, fitness, and endurance. Any extra workouts will help you, but it’s best to focus on exercises that work the whole body because there’s not a single muscle that won’t get used in “the art of eight limbs.” Evolve MMA’s own WarriorFit classes are perfect for fine-tuning your body.
Increased flexibility and mobility will help you kick higher, achieve better balance, and control your body. Every class will begin with a routine to warm you up, but if you stretch daily on your own time, you might be surprised about how far your body will go. Half an hour when you wake up could work wonders, as would yoga classes.
- Watch fights:
There is no better way to see how Muay Thai techniques are best used than by watching them being put into practice. There are countless videos on YouTube showing everything from legends from the past to today’s up-and-comers. To see some of Evolve’s coaches in action, look back at their bouts in ONE Championship or watch live on the organization’s app on fight night.
Understanding Muay Thai
Before you take the plunge into the deep well of combat content online, it might be useful to understand the sport, which has intricacies that are unfamiliar to many fans of western boxing and kickboxing.
Muay Thai contests are traditionally scored in their entirety in five-round matches. You might still see judges with a scorecard for every round, but when the time comes to determine the winner, they are only used as a guide. That means, for example, if a fighter has lost each of the first three rounds by a narrow margin, they still have every chance of winning if they can make a big impression in the remaining two rounds.
It’s also important to note that it’s normal not to see much action early in the fight. The first round or two might be tentative and slow-paced as the athletes get a feel for each other’s strengths and weaknesses. However, you can expect the action to pick up after that, and if the match is close and competitive, it will carry on that way until the final bell.
The winner is determined by knockout or judges’ decision, which is made based on three factors, including: aggression, ring action and control, and effective technical execution. The latter is the most important, taking into account the landing of techniques, the significant effect of strikes, the posture and appearance of dominance, and damage inflicted.
All of that is most common in Thailand, but more and more organizations promote bouts under the 10-point must system, including ONE Championship. However, that promotion takes the traditional view of prioritizing damage, so if the scores are even but one fighter has scored a knockdown, their hand will be raised.
Now that you’ve got a crash course in “the art of eight limbs,” get out there and give it a go.
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