Muay Thai, also known as the the science or art of eight limbs, is a combat sport originating in Thailand. The name literally translates to “Thai Boxing” and is the much beloved national sport of its country of genesis. The sport combines both stand-up striking and clinching techniques, characterised by the use of ‘eight points of contact’: the fists, elbows, knees, and shins. This exhilarating sport rose to prominence through large international exposure and is now ardently practised throughout the world.
What will you need?
To begin, the first thing anyone will need when starting to train any new sport is a willingness to learn and a positive mindset. In terms of equipment, for your first lesson all you will need to do is wear comfortable exercise clothing and consider bring a towel- you will sweat a lot! Muay Thai is done barefoot so don’t bother wearing sneakers either. After a few lessons you may decide to begin to invest in some handwraps, boxing gloves, shin guards and a pair (or two!) of muay thai shorts. But don’t stress too much about gloves and shin guards to begin with, most gyms will be able to lend you this equipment while you are starting.
What to expect
Upon entering any Muay Thai gym, you’ll probably hear a lot of loud thuds and odd grunts! Don’t be alarmed, this is all normal during training. Make sure to arrive at the gym at least ten to fifteen minutes early so you are able to stretch (this is a very important step which is often overlooked!). After you have loosened up your muscles, your kru (teacher) will instruct everyone to begin skipping. Skipping is an integral component of Muay Thai training as it is the perfect warm-up, burns calories, assists you in your footwork and improves your rhythm. After skipping, your kru will instruct the class to shadow box.
Shadow boxing is essentially “fighting” a shadow, this exercise is perfect for improving technique and working on new sequences of strikes. Most of the time, your kru will be able to tell that you are new to training and will assist you in learning how to shadow box and teach you basic technique to begin to practise. The end of shadow boxing marks usually marks the beginning of pad work. Pad work consists of your partner (or kru) holding large pads on their forearms for you to strike.
This exercise builds cardio and also provides you with the opportunity to learn how to effectively strike moving objects. To begin with, pad rounds will leave you feeling exhausted, so be sure to take a minute afterwards to compose yourself and move-on with your next exercise. This next exercise may be anything from bag work, kneeing a bag or kicking a bag. Once this has finished, your kru will end the class by leading group sit-ups and then a group stretching session.
Aches, pains and recovery
I’m not going to lie, after your first Muay Thai training session you will be sore- it is a full body workout! Make sure to refuel properly after training, which means you should eat a balanced and nutritious meal and remember to rehydrate efficiently- you will lose a considerable amount of fluid through sweating which is of vital importance for you to replace. As for the new body aches you may feel, remember to stretch before and after training. This step is very important in ensuring you remain mobile and your muscles are able to recover. Also consider in investing in Muay Thai liniment which you can massage onto the areas where you are experiencing pain (both before and after training). Just remember that recovery is essential for helping your body remain strong and avoiding injury!
Muay Thai is a beautiful sport, and can become very addictive! For your first few sessions it is very normal to feel anxious and nervous, so don’t worry too much about that aspect. Your kru is there to help you a guide you through your journey of learning an effective and artful sport. Also in saying this, your training partners are there to help as well. Remember to respect both groups of people during your training, and to have fun!