Get Fit through Combat: Muay Thai Training as a Fitness Activity
Muay Thai is not just for self-defense anymore. Although it started out as a martial art, it has become more popular as a fitness activity in the modern age. In fact, a lot of health and fitness clubs now offer their clients basic Muay Thai classes and other fitness routines based on this sport. It provides both men and women a fun and practical alternative to lifting weights in the gym.
Since Muay Thai is a physically demanding sport, a thorough understanding of its mechanics is important before jumping on the bandwagon. Although it is now practiced by men and women of all ages, it may not be for everyone. This guide will help you gain more knowledge about Muay Thai so you can gauge whether or not it is the perfect fitness activity for you.
What is Muay Thai?
Muay Thai is a combat sport that originated in Thailand. It goes by many names including Kickboxing, Thai boxing, and the Art of 8 Limbs. Indeed, it requires the use of 8 limbs which are the shins, the elbows, the knees, and the fists. This requirement makes Muay Thai more complicated than other contact sports that require only a specific part of the body, such as the fists for boxing and the legs for Taekwondo.
In the past, Muay Thai was actually used in combat. It was an important part of the Thai military training during the reign of King Naresuan in 1560 CE. However, it gradually evolved into a sport. Spectators gathered as trained Muay Thai fighters battled in celebrations usually held in temples.
Eventually, Muay Thai turned into a formal sport with rules, a ring, and a referee. The first Muay Thai ring was built in 1921 at SuanKularp. The traditional Muay Thai outfit was also introduced, which includes gloves and groin protectors, as the strikes can be lethal.
There are 6 main attacks accepted in Muay Thai. These are 'chok' (punching), 'tisok' (elbowing), 'te' (kicking), 'tikao' (kneeing), 'thip' (thrusting with the foot), and 'chap kho' (clinching and neck wrestling). Defense, on the other hand, is a lot like that of boxing and other martial arts. It involves redirection, blocking, avoidance, disruption, evasion, and anticipation.
Fitness Benefits of Muay Thai
Muay Thai is a grueling full body workout, and Muay Thai training sessions can burn thousands of calories in one go. The movements in Muay Thai may require a lot of hard work, but they are worth it due to the countless benefits they have on the body. Here is how Muay Thai can help you achieve your fitness goals:
- Muay Thai is excellent for cardiovascular conditioning. It has both aerobic and anaerobic benefits on the body that are essential for strengthening the cardiovascular system. Those who are getting bored with their jogging or dancing routine can try Muay Thai as an alternative.
- It improves core strength. A lot of people who are getting into the fitness craze want physical activities that can strengthen and define their core at the same time. The rotational movements when executing kicks and punches give the core a good workout.
- It increases hip mobility. Muay Thai involves a lot of kicking and kneeing moves, so it gives the hips regular activity. You may not enjoy this benefit right away, but it is something you will be thankful for when you reach your golden years. The important thing to remember is to take your warm-up seriously to prevent injury.
- It develops leg strength. The legs, no doubt, get plenty of action in Muay Thai. The roundhouse kick alone which is a popular move in Muay Thai contributes so much to improving your leg strength, agility, and muscle endurance. As a cherry on top, it helps develop sexier calves.
- It relieves stress. Most modern fitness enthusiasts get physical to relieve stress. It is a fact that hitting something when you are tired and frustrated is even more beneficial. Muay Thai provides that outlet, while getting the mind off of the worries of the day for the duration of the training. It also helps improve focus which can help make office work a piece of cake in the long run.
Downsides of Muay Thai as a Fitness Activity
Muay Thai, like any other contact sport, is no doubt dangerous. While there are few fatalities in the ring, there have been incidents of brain damage and other kinds of irreparable injuries. Using Muay Thai for fitness purposes may not be as dangerous as its competitive counterpart, but it still holds some risks that beginners should keep in mind.
- It can cause bad posture. Like any other form of workout, overdoing Muay Thai can cause serious muscle imbalances that can lead to bad posture. The hunched fighting stance in Muay Thai is also blamed for the poor posture some fighters suffer. The trick here is to supplement Muay Thai training with physical activities that can counteract its negative effects.
- There is a chance of getting shin damage. The shins take a lot of punishment during Muay Thai training so there is a possibility of developing shin-related problems later in life. Some reports even claim that nerve damage in the shin might lead to shin cancer. However, numbers and scientific studies proving this have not been released. The key is to invest in high-quality pads and wear them all the time.
- You might get a few broken bones. This is a fact if you plan to scale the ladder to more advanced Muay Thai training. Unlike other fitness activities such as dancing or running, the injury rate in Muay Thai is high, especially when sparring is involved in the routine.
The same downsides of other fitness activities apply to Muay Thai, such as the possibility of getting muscle wear and tear and overexertion. However, these can be avoided by understanding your body’s limits and moderating your routine as you see fit.
Getting Started With Muay Thai
The right preparation is important if you want to practice Muay Thai for fitness. This is an important first step as Muay Thai involves more dangers than other fitness activities. Here are some steps to take before heading to the Muay Thai gym for your first training.
- Choose a reputable Muay Thai training gym. Since the Muay Thai craze started several years back, Muay Thai training centers have been appearing everywhere. Most of these gyms offer watered down training though. Much worse, some of them may not practice safety precautions. Others even fail on the hygiene department which is a big issue if you will be using their equipment, like gloves and pads. Visit as many gyms as you can and ask all of the questions you can think of before committing. It will also help to read gym reviews on the Internet and to check out forums just to be sure that you are not missing any fine print. Once you have chosen a particular gym, choose a trainer. Again, reading reviews will help, but you also need to consider your personal preference. It is important to be comfortable with your trainer so you can ask all of your questions and you will feel free to move. If you are a woman and you are not comfortable with a male trainer, spend extra time and effort looking for a reliable female trainer.
- Choose high-quality equipment. You will not have to buy all the necessary equipment on your first try as the gym will provide most of them. However, if you do not fancy the idea of sharing a glove with a stranger, it might be better to buy yours right away. The ideal Muay Thai outfit includes a pair of loose shorts and a comfortable shirt. You can use your regular gym sneakers. Men should wear groin protection too as accidents can happen even in less serious sparring sessions. Obviously, you need to buy your own mouth guard if you intend to spar. There are instant or boil-to-fit mouth guards you can find in most sports stores. You simply have to drop the mouth guard in hot water then place it in your mouth to get the perfect fit. This may be good enough for your first few training sessions, but a mouth guard from your dentist is still the best choice.
- Prepare mentally and physically. Heading to your first Muay Thai training session without any form of preparation can be traumatizing. It is a very demanding sport and you might find yourself regretting the decision when you start to hurt in every part of your body. However, jogging for a few days before your first training, and doing simple full body workouts will help make the experience less punishing. Also, reading up on basic techniques and practicing them on your own will help make you feel less awkward when trying them out in the gym.