NEWBIE To Muay Thai Q&A

5 Beginner Questions For A Fighter

I’ve been blogging for quite a few years now, mostly for personal projects.

So when I started Muay Thai, I blogged about it quite a lot and eventually got to connect with other Muay Thai practitioners. From then until now, I’ve fielded a lot of the same questions.

These explanations won’t be of much use to Muay Thai veterans, but they could help the new fighter in the family.

Off the top of my head, these are the top five questions that beginners ask me the most:

“How do I get in shape to start Muay Thai?”

Muay Thai is notorious for being physically demanding, mostly based on the fact that it works both aerobic and anaerobic pathways.  The best thing to do is just start. Not a lot of activities will sufficiently prepare you for a Muay Thai session – you will feel exhausted during and after.

Once you’ve properly “broken the ice” with Muay Thai, you will have an what to expect in subsequent training sessions. If you feel too intimated to jump right into one, one of the best things you can do is run to build up your cardiovascular base. If you are generally unfit, start with slow distance running, then work your way up to incorporating wind sprints. This way, you can work both the aerobic and anaerobic pathways, (almost just) like Muay Thai would.

“What can I do to be more flexible?

Many beginners complain about being inflexible. They blame their inability to throw a middle or high kick on their inflexibility.

Stretching skeletal muscles (hamstrings, quadriceps, etc.) will help to loosen up tightness. But if you’re mostly sedentary and have been for a while, it won’t only be tight skeletal muscles but tight joints as well. Attempting to throw a high kick with very little hip mobility is not only painful, but can cause injury.

Exercising in general promotes better joint mobility because the muscles are being worked and the joints are moving within a normal range of motion. You can either give it time as you progress on your Muay Thai journey (provided you stretch and properly warm up), or use mobility techniques to expedite the process. Hip, shoulder and ankle mobility, as well as strength are very important when it comes to flexibility. Flexibility can be a culprit, but so can technique.

“How do I get better at _____?

Whether it be kicks, punches, knees or clinching, people are always looking for ways to improve their technique. Some people are looking for sound advice, while others seem to think there might be some answer floating around that will magically bestow them great technique.

Wrong. You want to know why the Thais can throw kicks with their hips turned all the way over? Or how they’re able to punch and knee fast and powerfully with ease?

It’s because they’ve been doing this since they were kids. There is one major takeaway here: REPETITION IS EVERYTHING. Nobody was born knowing how to do it, and even the best Thai fighters are not talented to the point where they just “figured it out”. They did it, they sucked at it, and they kept doing it until they got better and better.

“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.”

Bruce Lee knows the truth of this, just like anyone who has ever made gains in practice. This is how you improve; there’s nothing glamorous about it. Anyone who tells you otherwise, or tries to sell you a magic solution that bypasses the natural process of growth, is full of shit.

My ____ hurts. What should I do?”

Injury, big or small, is inevitable in Muay Thai. First thing to do is employ the RICE protocol, stat – Rest, Ibuprofen, Compression, Elevation. Don’t overthink it; just RICE.

People can be stubborn when it comes to the “Rest” part of the equation, especially if they’re eager to get back to the gym, something I completely understand. But I cannot stress how many  prolong their injuries because they don’t rest. Something that could have been fully healed in a week can take a month, sometimes even more.

Use the RICE protocol (especially the first letter), and see a doctor if you are in extreme pain or if the injury does not go away in a reasonable amount of time.

“What Muay Thai terminology should know?”

I think those who are completely new to the fighting arts ought to take some time to learn a bit of boxing vocabulary.

Jab is a straight punch from your front hand; a cross is a straight punch from your back hand. Hook is a punch thrown horizontally, while an uppercut is thrown vertically or almost vertically from an oblique angle.

Orthodox stance means the person is a “righty” (left leg in front, right leg in back) and southpaw stance means the person is a “lefty” (right leg in front, left leg in back). These terms are thrown around in all fighting sports, from boxing to MMA, so they’re extremely useful to know.

If you’re looking for terms more closely associated with Muay Thai, try clinch, sweep and dump – some gyms may even use Thai words in place of the English term.

Clinch is when two people engage in a close distance. In the clinch, people vie for dominant hand position to be more in control; a lot of knees (and sometimes elbows and sweeps) are exchanged. Teep is the Thai word for push kick.

A sweep is when one opponent off-balances the other to make them fall by kicking their ankle or leg. This is sometimes accompanied by a simultaneous push or pull motion with the arms. A dump is like a sweep, but requires one opponent be holding the other’s leg. For example, waiting for someone to throw a knee then kicking their standing leg and making them fall would be a sweep. But catching their leg while they throw the knee then making them fall would be a dump.

Final Thoughts

This is no guide for veterans! To those who eat, sleep and breathe training, it’s of little use to you. On the other hand, the next time a friend or workmate beginning his or her Muay Thai journey asks you these very questions (and you know they will), consider how you might answer to give them the best possible start.

What are YOUR most commonly heard questions from beginners? What do you tell them? Drop a line below!

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Angela Chang
Plant-based fighter, foodie, and aspiring physical therapist. Angela is currently living in Bangkok and training full time.

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