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A Guide to Muay Thai

Muay Thai is different from most martial arts as it focuses on sparring and is competitive. It’s not a sport full of theory or “pretend” fights – it’s about developing your fighting skills and your timing and is a great way to get fit and compete.

The other reason Muay Thai stands out is because you can use knee and elbow moves as well as punching and kicking, making it far more effective against your opponent. You can also throw them to the ground so there are far more moves available then say boxing or kickboxing.

Choosing a professional gym

If you want to learn Muay Thai you need to find yourself a professional gym with specialist Muay Thai trainers. Make sure you choose a good quality gym which offers the full martial art, not a diluted version.
Check out the background of the trainers first and try to find a gym which is focussed on martial arts rather than a one-size fits all type gym that offers everything. This is a specialist martial art so you need specialist to teach you. 

Buying your equipment

When you are starting out you will need to get yourself Muay Thai gloves, suitable shorts and some hand wraps as a minimum. It might be worth investing in some shin guards when you start sparring but you won’t need them initially. You can find things like Muay Thai gloves and hand wraps reviewed over at SportzBits or similar sites.

You need basic Muay Thai gloves – they are different to boxing gloves as the cuffs are shorter which allows you to open your hands to grab your partner. Once you have mastered the basics and you are ready to spar in the ring, you will also need a mouth guard and groin protection before you even think about going into a fight.

Learning the basics

Your goal is to learn Muay Thai so if you have already spent years learning boxing or jiu jitsu or any other type of combat sport then you need to leave all of your techniques at the gym door and be prepared to start from scratch.

If you start bringing in all the moves and habits you already  have you are going to be spending an awful lot of your training time, trying to undo those, rather than learning the new ones so it’s best to come in with a view to learning from scratch.

A good gym and a good instructor will prove invaluable here and they should be correcting you if you start falling into boxing stance or kickboxing techniques out of habit. If they don’t correct you, they are not a good teacher.

Many people come into martial arts thinking they will be fighting on day one. This is certainly not the case with Muay Thai and shouldn’t be the case with any fighting sport. You need to master all of the basic techniques first, before going anywhere near a ring, so that you can safely defend and attack.

Muay Thai takes time to learn and your initial development will feel slow. The aim is to make sure you have the right movement, techniques and rhythm in place, so the strikes start to feel natural and intuitive.

It’s really important to master all the basic techniques before attempting any kind of sparring, otherwise you will pick up bad sparring habit straight away, which will take a lot more work to undo. You could also face injury as you won’t know the right positions and the right way to defend yourself.

If you go to a gym which tries to put you into a ring immediately, walk away as they are not training you properly – don’t take the risk. You need a lot of patience to master the Muay Thai techniques first, but it is well worth the effort. You wouldn’t get straight into a car and start to drive, without having had driving lessons first, so don’t get into the ring until you have learnt the basic skills.

Here is a quick round up of some the basic techniques which you will need to master initially, but always be guided by your gym instructor. They will know when you are ready to start sparring.

The Guard

There are many ways of guarding in Muay Thai but the basic manoeuvre is to have your hands high enough to block an attack. There are more advanced guard techniques but you should never try these as a beginner as you might end up injured. Just remember to keep your hands raised.

The strikes

Once you have your rhythm and guard moves sorted, you need to learn the basic strikes which make up Muay Thai. Initially you will focus on kicks, punches, elbows and knees and only the most fundamental moves.

You should be learning strikes using all of these body parts, including jabs, hooks and cross, as well as a variety of kicks. You need to master these basic strikes before you consider having any kind of sparring match.

It’s a fact that a really good Muay Thai fighter can defeat their opponent using only two or three different strikes the whole fight. The basic moves are the most important so make sure you are patient and take the time and put in the effort to learn these first.

Once you have mastered all the basics and your instructor has confidence in you, then you can start practising the moves in the ring and begin putting them into practice against a sparring partner safely and securely.

Mastering the basics has to be the first step, but once you have taken the time to do so, you will open up a whole new world of martial arts and fitness for yourself as you can then move on to master some of the more complex and advanced moves and take yourself on a journey through the sport.

Muay Thai offers so much in terms of a great way to get fit, hone your patience and concentration, build your confidence, and if you choose to, compete competitively and get into the whole Muay Thai lifestyle.

As long as you start out with a great instructor and learn all the basics first, Muay Thai offers a whole host of benefits to those who practice it regularly and it is a great all round contact sport, with far more technique and opportunity than those limited to only a few movements so why not give it a try?

Guest post by Louise John ​from SportzBits

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