3 WAYS MUAY THAI TRANSFORMS YOUR LIFE
A lot of people approach me and ask questions like, “What’s it like to do Muay Thai?” or “What can Muay Thai do for me?”
I never know exactly how to answer. Some people are looking for a “get fit quick” program and whilst it is a great way to get fit, Muay Thai requires a lot of perseverance. Muay Thai just isn’t a sport for most people – it’s a way of life. We eat, sleep and breathe Muay Thai. There’s more to training Muay Thai than meets the eye; it transforms your whole life.
Here are some of the great things that Muay Thai can do for you – and what you should be striving to achieve.
ELEVATE… THE BODY
This is where it all starts. No matter how good your technique nor strong-willed your mind, if your body doesn’t comply then you’re not going to get very far.
Flexibility and agility are two key attributes that any Nak Muay needs to be able to utilize (else you’ll be left behind by an opponent that can move faster than your eyes can track.) To improve flexibility and agility, I recommend a few different stretches:
STRETCH #1: BOX SPLITS
Wearing flexible bottoms (preferably Muay Thai trunks) (1) spread your feet apart and (2) lower your pelvis to the floor as far as you can go. Gently ease into it and start off without your hands on the floor – once you need to balance, then place your hands on the floor to steady yourself. Hold this for around 30 seconds and then bring your legs back together.
This stretch helps to make your hip flexors more flexible – and you should be aiming to touch your thighs to the floor. The closer to your groin you can touch to the floor the better, fight through the pain!
STRETCH #2: FEET-TOGETHER SQUAT
(1) Place your feet together and (2) lower into a squatting position, having the backs of your legs nearly touching your ankles, and (3) keep your feet flat on the floor.
This stretch will build up muscles around the back of your thighs to help with balance when kicking and crushing. Mastering this position is one that not a lot of average Joes can do – so it’s a good one to show off!
STRETCH #3: CALISTHENICS
Push-ups, sit-ups, squats, star jumps, burpees, pull-ups, chin-ups, tricep dips – practice any of the above and more. These all-round exercises are perfect for building muscles and ensuring your body works as one well-oiled machine instead of a combination of limbs working at different efficiency levels.
STRETCH #4: THE PLANK
Everyone dreads the plank because, well, it hurts. We all know that it hurts. But we do it anyway. The plank is an abdominal destroyer – it’ll shake you to the core and leave you begging for mercy, but when all’s said and done having an excellent core is a great set of building blocks for more and more muscle and technique.
EMBRACE… THE MIND
This is the most difficult challenge to mount for most people. Finding and embracing the mindset behind Muay Thai is where some people fall off. They’ll quit after their third or fourth session because they can’t handle the heat and want to get out of the kitchen.
Waking up the next day after your second session feeling like you’ve been beaten to within an inch of your life with a baseball bat and having to drag yourself to work isn’t a good feeling. Nor is being kicked in the thigh 20 times while your instructor insists it is “conditioning.” Nor is the thought of getting punched in the face when you first spar. Yet we do it anyway. Hard work and dedication is what got the Muay Thai greats like Saenchai, Buakaw and Nong-O to where they are today.
“It ain’t how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.”
MASTER… THE TECHNIQUE
Whilst the body is the foundation for the nak muay, good technique is their winning condition. Without spot-on technique and well-placed strikes, a nak muay will fall easily in the ring. Not only do they need a good repertoire of offensive strikes, but they also need to know how to defend themselves to a high standard.
Before getting to any of that, though, the basics are learned:
JAB: Standard punch with left hand. Works well as defensive warning shot to keep opponent at range. Can also be used to test range, as it doesn’t leave you exposed. Several variations to choose from.
CROSS: Standard punch with right hand. Much more aggressive punch as it comes across your body, leaving your right side exposed when the hips are turned to get more power. It’s good to lead with a few jabs and then land the cross when it’s unexpected.
LEFT HOOK: (1) Winding up by showing right shoulder and (2) throw left fist in a horizontal “hooking” motion. Be careful not to make it too obvious or with too much wind-up, as your opponent will have an easier job “bobbing” under the strike. An average (usually drunk) schmuck will swing wildly for the fences with a wide and exposing reach. To load the hook with power, when you wind up ever so slightly, place the index finger of your fist just below your nose, then create a distance of about 8-9 inches between your nose and your fist, then thunder the hook in from there.
UPPERCUT: (1) Shift weight onto front leg ever so slightly and chamber it so you’re slightly lower. (2) Bring fist upwards (3) whilst simultaneously exploding upwards from the chambered leg, driving the punch up through their chin.
ROUNDHOUSE KICK (rear leg): – (1) Turn front foot 90o to the left with toes pointing away from rear leg. (2) Raise rear leg, (3) then turn it so it’s perpendicular to the body. Finally, (4) snap the shin into the opponent, aiming to strike in the ribs, head or leg (if you wish to give a dead leg). This is a very offensive kick and needs to be timed properly otherwise you’ll end up worse off as a result. Try setting it up with a few punches to get their guard up, then hit hard when they’re least expecting it.
TEEP (front leg): (1) Assume a crushing stance instead with your lead leg and (2) snap your leg out, (3) planting the ball of your foot on their chest and pushing them away. This is a defensive kick as it prevents your opponent from getting too close – and is a good way to put them off balance if you plan to make an offensive yourself.
MUAY THAI & SATISFACTION
The next time someone asks me what Muay Thai can do for them, I think I’ve got an answer ready.
Whilst it does give you a lot of self-discipline, which can be applied to a lot of other things in life, the key outcome Muay Thai should afford any nak muay is satisfaction. The satisfaction of that perfect uppercut clicking for the first time. The satisfaction of your instructor having you demonstrate your killer roundhouse to the class. The satisfaction of your cup inching closer and closer to the floor week after week, month after month.
When I first started training Muay Thai, I was as flexible as a two-by-four, and I’ve increased my flexibility so much so that I can kick above my head height – and I’m 6’6”. Within a year of training, you’ll begin to see some tremendous, life-altering changes, just like I have.