Tips For Muay Thai Newbies

Friday, July 25, 2014

So, I'm a newbie to muay thai. I had been to two muay thai centres before and am currently in MuayFit. Honestly, for someone like me, who has only ever been to 'commercial gyms', this is on a whole other level altogether.

Starting out in muay thai, I was scared at first. You know that feeling of that first day in school? That was how I felt. But I was silly to feel scared, it's not that scary. Muay thai is all about partnership – you pair up and you help each other learn. You get to make friends quite easily, actually. You just need to immediately learn to trust that person you are pairing up with (and you might not even know his/her name, yet) because that's what it's all about.

However, I was lucky to have a friend who was already in the gym to guide me through. If you're going in solo, here are a few tips (from my experience) that may help you.

Everyone starts from somewhere, so don't feel too bad if you weigh much more or look much bigger than the others in class. If you can't keep up, take a break, no one is going to berate you for that. Take it slow, learn to enjoy the class and don't force yourself to push too hard. It's a learning experience for everyone, and you are just at the starting point – so be patient with yourself. You will find that with consistent attendance and discipline, you will start to change for the better. It is also a skill based sport, so take your time (and be patient) when learning the moves and the conditioning drills. Everyone knows you're new and no one would expect you to nail it within your first month.

You will have so much to learn, you will be a tangle of limbs – but that's okay. Every great fighter sucked at some point. If it was easy, then everyone would do it, no? So remember that it isn't easy, and that it will take your entire discipline and passion to learn how to be better. This is something that you have to earn through hard effort, – blood, sweat and tears (literally, sometimes). Which brings me to my next point.

You've got to practice in the gym, and out of the gym. Shadow box like you mean it. Shadow-boxing may feel a little silly, but I find that it is useful to practice in front of a mirror, watch your form and learn how to punch right. This is where YouTube tutorials may come in handy. Look for a few combos, and practice on your own in front of a mirror. It may seem stupid to be punching air instead of hitting something solid, but it helps you be better. Start slow, and watch your form, fix what needs to be fixed, and start going faster.

Learn how to hold pads well. As I mentioned before, it is about partnership, so muay thai is not just about learning how to throw a punch or a few kicks. Holding pads properly not only makes you a good partner, but it helps you get stronger too. It may seem like you're just standing there with your pads – but you will need to hold strong and put up a good resistance for your partner. My first time holding a pad, I didn't hold it well enough that my partner's kick sent the pad flying straight into my face. So let me stress the importance of holding pads well – you do not want to get hit in the face by a pad! That really hurts for a bit.

Breathing is important, as I had learnt in yoga and pilates class. It's no different in muay thai, except that if you forget to breathe, you may find yourself slightly light-headed from moving around so much, also from lacking oxygen circulating to your head. Breathe out when you strike, breathe in when you draw back. Breathe out when your partner hits the pad you're holding, and breathe in after they draw back. This is why some muay thai gyms make it a habit to make a 'ooosh' or 'huuush' sound when they hit or hold pads. It is to remind you to breathe.

Just a heads up. Like any other sport or workout, if you're just starting out, your body will be sore. You will get bumps and bruises, but that's just how it is, and there will not be an end to it unless you stop muay thai. Two advice I can give to help: rub out your shins and legs with Thai oil (liniment oil) before you start and to massage your bruises and ice them after. As for muscle and body sores, they will sort of ease off after a few classes. Your body is just getting used to all that action.

As a newbie, we need to do a lot of asking, to help us learn better. Usually my coach would have a good answer for every question I have. If your coach is busy, ask some of the senior students. I know some of those seasoned regulars who have been there for ages, can seem intimidating. But trust me, from my experience, most of them are really helpful and friendly – especially the ones covered in loads of tattoos. Muay thai gyms are great because it is a close-knit community where everyone helps each other out. Some may not be as 'helpful' as others, but most of them usually are, so ask away!

For me, I bought a pair of cheap Everlast gloves (RM60) to start off because I didn't know if I would like it or if muay thai is for me. A few months into it, I guess I can say I really love it (to the extent of blogging this newbie-guide for you guys) – which leads me to this point. A coach once told me, "Everlast, never lasts." The same goes for all gear that comes at a cheaper price (because they are made for light weight commercial gyms that offers muay thai as a side 'workout'). I am getting my new gloves from Thaismai in Thailand which would cost at least RM200+, but can last me 2-3 years. Some other great brands that are used: Fairtex (love the designs, one of my favorites), Top King, Twins, Lonsdale (UK), Yokkao, Boon, Windy, and so on.

"Fear not the man who knows a thousand moves, but the man who practiced one move a thousand times."

Some people use muay thai as a 'cardio workout'. But even once a week isn't enough to do you justice. You need to start with at least 3 times a week. If you're serious, then 5-6 times a week. The more you go, the better you get – slowly but surely. Some people are naturals at it, and some people just take a little more time. But no matter how slow or quick a learner, commit at least 3 times a week. You will start seeing improvements in your technique, your physique – and you will feel lighter, maybe even faster. Dedication ain't easy, but the results are rewarding.

The science behind this is that you improve from watching others, and then try to imitate the same movements. So by watching fights, you learn how some combos are put together, and why some work and some don't. Of course, you also learn a lot more things like movement and posture, just by observing everything the fighter does. You can ask your coach for some of their favorite fights or fighters, so you can start your YouTube education right away.

"Be soft as silk, but also as hard as diamond."

Not everyone is ready to fight, or even spar. Especially me, I'm deathly afraid of getting hit in the face. So it's quite okay if you want to just take it easy and do some pad work with your partner, no one will judge you for that. There shouldn't be any pressure for you to spar, and no one would think any less of you if you don't. Just don't worry about it until you're ready.

Muay thai gyms are where everyone goes barefoot most of the time. So you don't want to be doing your sit-ups or push-ups on the mat where someone has just gone to the toilet, not washed their feet and step onto the mat. That's just gross. Keep your hygiene in mind, and always wash your feet and hands, before and after class.

If you're going hard at it, give your body some TLC with a massage or chiropractic work once a month. Your body have been taking a lot of hits and sometimes that could jack up your alignment. When that happens, it could cause problems later on in life. A monthly maintenance would probably do you more good than harm in the long run.

That's all I have for now. Suggestions and other tips are most welcome! May these help you enjoy and love the sport!

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  1. What did Muay Thai changes you after some whiles?

    1. Hi! Well, I would say it has helped a lot with stamina and overall cardiovascular strength. I don't get out of breath as much now. :)

  2. What did your learn during the first class?
    Basically, what i understand is fitness training for a couple of months then you will be taught by basic skills.Can you share? I train myself at home.

    1. In my first class, I learnt some basic moves by shadow-boxing. It's a lot of repetition and learning how to move in the right way (foot placement) and shifting weight.

      In my second class, I was allowed to practice with a senior student, and also a boxing bag. Mostly learning how to throw good jabs and crosses, remembering to block and also foot stance. It's a progressive sport, so there's definitely improvements from time to time.

  3. Do you any cheapest muay thai classes? Preferably at pj or old klang road

    1. In PJ, there's Muayfit that goes for a monthly fee of RM259 that includes muay thai, BJJ, western boxing, and some other classes.

  4. Did you lose any weight?

  5. Everyone wants to learn Martial Arts in a well environment and well equipped training schools. Muay Thai classes are full-body workouts which hone your skills and develop your power inside and outside the cage. Karate in Connecticut


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