Choosing a Muay Thai Gym
The historical significance of Muay Thai (pronounced moy tie) takes us back in time to the wars and turmoil that occurred during the mid-18th century; numerous battles between the Burmese armies, consisting of the dedicated soldiers within the Konbaung Dynasty, and the Siamese people were taking place. One renown fighter, Nai Khanomtom, was detained and imprisoned during one of these wars in 1767. The king of the Burmese was keenly aware of Khanomtom’s reputation when confronted with an enemy. He proceeded to give him the rare opportunity to fight; rewarding him with his freedom if he won. After his historical win, his captors set him free and allowed him to go back to Siam. Following his victory, he was celebrated and honored with the title of “hero”. His style of fighting which was commonly referred to as Siamese-Style combat-was eventually renamed and branded as Muay Thai. Soon afterward, the Muay Thai style of self-defense was regarded as a nationally celebrated sport.
Muay boran, now known as Muay Thai, was previously referred to by more common names like Toi muay and/or an even simpler version: muay. In addition to being a sensible fighting style with effective techniques (which were soon adopted for use in actual warfare), muay became a spectator sport. The opponents fought in front of a huge crowd who attended the event for its entertainment value. These muay competitions slowly became an important part of many locally held celebrations and festivals, especially the special events held within their temples. Eventually, the once bare-fisted fighters started using lengths of hemp rope and wrapped them around their hands and forearms for protection. The name of this specific style of competition was known as muay khat chueak (มวยคาดเชือก). In addition to Muay Thai, kickboxing techniques were implemented as part of military training and gained prestige during the year 1560 CE during King Naresuan’s reign.
In 1868 King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) ascended to the Thai throne, ushering in a golden age for the sport of muay as well as the whole country of Thailand. The fighting style of muay became very popular and interest in the sport steadily increased during the reign of Rama V as a direct result of the king’s keen regard for the sport. The country was at peace during this time and muay served as a method of physical exercise, practicing the art of attack, self-defense, recreation, and personal achievement.
A Few Centuries Later…
Muay Thai is commonly known as the “Art and/or the Science of Eight Limbs”, as it transforms the entire human body into a weapon. The knee strikes, punches, elbows, and kicks, all using eight contact points which differs from the use of fists (two points) in boxing as well as feet and hands (four points) used in other styles of combative sports, like savate (a French method of fighting using feet and fists) and kickboxing. One who fights using the Muay Thai method is called nak muay. If you are from the West you might hear the term Nak Muay Farang, translated, means “a foreign boxer.” You can witness the transformation and evolution of Muay Thai by reading the following steps below. This will explain how it became the sport it is today:
Step #1: The Various Muay Thai Techniques
³ Muay Thai formal methods consist of two groups:
§ Mae Mai method
§ Luk Mai also known as minor method
Step #2: The Art of Fighting
³ Muay Thai is often referred to as continuous attacks to slowly subdue the enemy, where opponents fight blow for blow with each other. This has been the traditional style in Thailand, however it is not as popular amongst spectators. These days this practice is outdated according to contemporary fighting circuits. The Thai method of fighting blow for blow between opponents is no longer popular. Most of the techniques in fighting Muay Thai style incorporates every movement the body can make; rotation of the hip with each and every kick, elbow, punch, and block the fighter executes.
To quote an actual professional Muay Thai fighter when asked what competing professionally means to him, “Being a fighter in Muay Thai is to be someone who has a lot of heart and determination. One that doesn’t give up. You have to be strong and ready at all times,” he shares. “Muay Thai has taught me respect, to honor not only my parents, but also my teachers. Apart from helping me stay in top physical condition, Muay Thai has helped to supplement me with a good support system in the form of the great brothers and friends I have met along the way.” He adds, “To be at the top of the game, you have to keep persevering, and [you have] to give 110 percent each time. This principle applies to life outside Muay Thai as well. I will never give up — I will also strive relentlessly towards my goals”.
-Bryan Tee, Age 19 Weight 57kg Asia Fighting Championship (AFC) 2017
The Global Popularity of Muay Thai
Going from Intrigued to Involved
For some enthusiasts, the very thought of transforming themselves into a human weapon is more than interesting-it’s a goal. This reasoning has made muay Thai one of the most sought-after sports in the world. There are more schools and gyms offering training than ever before, however many of them do not meet the brief when it comes to being a legitimate training facility. Anyone seriously interested in learning how to choose a Muay Thai gym should study and use these steps in making the right choice:
Step #1: Identify and Commit to Your Goals
³ You must understand that a legitimate Muay Thai boxing facility will teach combat sport techniques originally used in Thailand.
³ Fighting techniques and methods will include stand-up striking combined with a variety of clinching techniques.
³ Muay Thai is an extremely realistic sport utilizing most of your body as a weapon.
³ Ensure that you will be taught how to use Muay Thai in self defense and hand to hand combat situations at close, middle and long ranges.
³ Side effects may include improved physical fitness, increased strength and better circulation.
Step #2: How to Determine Authenticity
³ Don’t waste your time or money signing up with the first gym offering to teach you the true Muay Thai techniques. Learn to tell the real from the fake by:
1. Knowing that the real fighting methods will include the use of knees, elbows, fist punches, foot kicks and clinches plus,
2. Defensive maneuvers for each one mentioned above.
3. Familiarizing yourself with Taekwondo and Karate techniques so you can discern the difference.
4. Instructors should have around 10 years of actual experience teaching Muay Thai. Check their references and longevity. You want a teacher that has been at their location for a while with a good reputation and positive presence in the community.
5. Check to see if your potential instructor is certified by the Thai Boxing Association or a similar organization in good standing.
6. Ask the instructor if they are currently active in any competitions or are planning to train a fight team in the near future.
7. Beware any person pressuring you to fight or compete before you’re ready.
8. Ensure that there is separation of classes. Beginners should not be thrown in as warm up material for experienced fighters.
9. Make sure the gym is equipped with ample training materials and equipment.
Judging the Curriculum
Methods, Drills and Requirements
If the program is a good one, it will offer you a complete curriculum which will include drills, combinations and methods of training designed to give you optimum results. The questions to ask and the things to watch out for are listed in the steps below:
Step#1: Knowledge, Sparring and Boxing
³ Knowledge is power in a sport like Muay Thai. Knowledge of the sport’s history, where is stands in the present and what the future potential is for those wanting to train.
1. The best way to choose your gym is to consider the instructor(s) knowledge of Muay Thai.
2. Sparring should be included as well as shadowboxing. You won’t be landing the heavy blows but the practice is necessary for proper training.
3. Advanced classes should include Thai pad work, mitt work and drills with partners.
4. Bag work may also be included as part of the curriculum and conditioning, but it will not teach you how to fight.
Step #2: Old School vs New School Teachings
³ There will always be new ways and thoughts introduced as a better way of learning and teaching. This is why you must have a general idea what to look for in a Muay Thai gym. Most of the Thai camps and modern minded instructors agree that boxing should be taught along with Muay Thai in order to ensure a good “stand-up” technique.
1. Ask your instructor about “sweet science” (the strategy and forethought related to boxing). If they have never heard of it or disagree about including it in the curriculum, they are definitely old school.
2. If you’re thinking about being an instructor, research and verify the instructor’s certification under the TBA or other authorized Muay Thai organization. You don’t have to know how to hold Thai pads as part of your fighting course however, if you’re going to teach, this is a technique you must learn.
3. Old school teaching’s will include the Wai Kru (the Muay Thai pre-fight dance). This is an important tradition in Thailand and you will not be able to fight there unless you know the Wai Kru dance and are willing to perform it before the fight takes place.
To quote someone who’s been training to be a Muay Thai fighter since the age of 15, “Being disciplined to attend training consistently. Even during training, when no one is watching, you must still put in your very best because you are doing it for yourself and not for others. In a fight, one must have the heart to fight, which means even when you are up against a highly skilled opponent and you are losing the fight, you’re still going to do all that is in your ability to put up a fight,” he adds. “I am excited to put on a good fight and represent Singapore on our home ground. Knowing that my opponent is a much more experienced fighter, if I get a win over him, it would be my greatest win yet.”
-Wynn Neo Age 21 Weight 60kg Asia Fighting Championship (AFC) 2017 POINT
General Observances About the Staff, Instructors and Members
Attitude is Everything
“User friendly” is a phrase we can use to describe almost anything these days, and to tell the truth, this is one of the best examples of using it. Choosing a Muay Thai gym should depend on how comfortable you feel in venting your thoughts and concerns with those in authority. It may not seem important now, but when the day comes when you want to discuss your progress (or lack of), you’re going to want someone who has a genuine interest in your performance to talk to. The only way to get to know someone is to spend time with them. Here are some steps to making that happen:
Step #1: One Chance to Make a First Impression
³ Successful businesses know they are there to provide goods and services at reasonable rates. They also know there are plenty of competitors ready, willing and able to take over their clientele should they drop the ball, so to speak. We all know what it feels like to be badly treated, taken advantage of, or ignored when we try to call them. Other than the physical aspects of your training, take the time to consider how you’ll be treated on a daily basis once you are a regular customer:
1. Are you greeted when you walk in the door?
2. Is the staff busy and attentive to the customer’s needs?
3. Are you convinced that this instructor has your best interest at heart?
4. Do they invite you to ask questions and express concerns?
5. Do they offer beginning Muay Thai classes at times that are doable for you?
6. Are they dedicated to helping you progress and reach your goals?
7. Talk to current customers about how they are treated by the staff and instructor.
8. If you are trying to join a gym that offers cross training in MMA (mixed martial arts); Jiu Jitsu and/or boxing, ask up front before paying as some gyms will charge for two memberships.
9. Inquire about family and cash discounts.
10. Are there programs available for females and kids?
11. What types of materials or books are included at sign up?
12. What are the hours you are allowed to train in the gym? Are there hours available for solo training?
13. How many classes does the gym offer per week?
14. Does the gym keep track of your attendance record? How do they handle sicknesses or unscheduled work changes?
You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t serious. It’s not too much to ask that your gym and instructor be serious too. Muay Thai boxing is exploding as a sport. Any facility who won’t respect you as a person with goals and aspirations does not deserve your business. Try not to get caught up in the excitement of the moment-take your time, talk to members and staff before paying for anything. Ask about policies and refunds in the event of trauma or emergencies in advance.
A Picture is Still Worth a Thousand Kicks
Checking All the Boxes
If you’re consider joining a Muay Thai gym who appears to have quite a few satisfied members and students, it’s a sign that you just might be in the right place. The gym is obviously doing something right. There’s just a couple of items left to check, so the following steps will help you get on your way:
Step #1: Checking Out the Facility
³ If it comes down to choosing a gym offering amenities and a few added extras keep in mind the important thing is the quality your instruction. While this will always be a priority, clean, comfy surroundings are very welcome.
1. Take note of your surroundings. Is the gym and the restroom kept clean?
2. Are the mats cleaned on a daily basis as they should be?
3. Are shower floors, wet surfaces and changing areas regularly disinfected and cleaned to guard against foot infections and other communicable diseases?
It’s just a fact of life; gyms are notorious breeding grounds for viruses and other pathogens. There’s a good chance that anything you come in contact with can be transmitted to your friends and family. Take these things into consideration when choosing the place where you’re going to hang out, train and educate yourself in the art of Muay Thai fighting.
Isn’t it a wonderful thing? Muay Thai fighting as a sport. Bringing with it all the traditions and intent the original warriors experienced many moons ago. It would be most beneficial to close this article with, not my words but those spoken by someone very close to this wonderful sport: “Where the hell is your guard?” She shouts. Damn if she doesn’t sound like Haley. “I’m tired.” “Do I look like I care? You’re getting the hell pounded out of you. If you want to tap out, then tap out, but don’t stand there and let him win.”
-Katie McGarry, Take Me On. Thank you and goodnight-drops glove.
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