The Ultimate Guide to Muay Thai Training for Beginners

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Muay Thai is by far the most effective striking art in the world. What sets Muay Thai training apart from other martial arts is its emphasis on sparring and competition. While other martial arts tend to do a lot of ‘theory’ and ‘combat simulations’ that take place in controlled environments, Muay Thai focuses on developing your timing through sparring and fighting.

Whether you want to develop self-confidence, get incredibly fit, or compete in the ring, Muay Thai is a sport that is inclusive of multiple goals. There are a million reasons why you may want to train Muay Thai, and at the end of the day, there are no wrong reasons to train.

To train Muay Thai effectively, you need to find a trainer who can help you develop your skills from the ground up. While you might be able to learn a few tips and tricks from watching YouTube videos, as a beginner you need someone watching you performing the technique to give you accurate feedback on your execution.

The goal of this guide is to provide a brief overview of Muay Thai training and some important concepts you need to understand. If you are training purely for fitness goals, then you don’t need to continue reading. However, if you want to learn authentic Muay Thai hopefully this guide can steer you along in the right direction.

Why Choose Muay Thai?

If you are a skeptical person like myself, the first question you are probably going to ask is why I would choose Muay Thai over other striking arts? And that’s a very fair question to ask.

When it comes to the art of striking, Muay Thai is hands down better than any other style out there. While there are other effective striking styles like Dutch Kickboxing, for example, there is nothing as complete as Muay Thai.

The reason Muay Thai is the complete stand-up art is because it utilizes 8 limbs to attack. Instead of just punching and kicking, Muay Thai fighters are able to use deadly knee and elbow attacks to hurt their opponents. In addition, Muay Thai fighters are also masters at clinching (stand-up grappling) and are able to throw their opponents to the ground.

If you put a Muay Thai fighter in the ring against a Kickboxer with a similar experience level (same number of matches etc.), the Muay Thai fighter will win every time. The addition of elbow strikes, knees and clinching make Muay Thai fighters have much more deadly weapons at their disposal. Instead of limiting their striking to kicks and punches, they can attack with elbows and knees in close range. This is why Muay Thai is the de facto striking style for all MMA fighters.

Muay Thai is a sport that was developed in Thailand as a form of combat and eventually turned into a ring sport like Boxing. Because of the competition element, Muay Thai has evolved considerably over the years to incorporate better boxing and movement. In the past 20 years Muay Thai gyms in Thailand began to incorporate Western Boxing directly into their training, which has created a new breed of elite strikers.

The Importance of Choosing a Good Gym

Now that you understand why you should train Muay Thai over other martial arts, it is now time to find a gym. Selecting a gym is one of the most important decisions you will make in your Muay Thai journey. If you end up choosing the wrong gym, you can end up learning a watered down version of Kickboxing with a few elements of Muay Thai added to it.

Looking for a training that has trained authentic Muay Thai in Thailand for an extended period of time.

Choosing the quality gym will ensure that you develop proper technique from the start of your journey, rather than learning from an instructor who only cares about flirting with girls and getting paid. (I’ve had my share of bad trainers.)

In order to choose a good gym you need to look up the background of the instructor who will be teaching you. Just because a gym looks nice on the outside doesn’t mean its a great place to train.

There are plenty of massive fitness factories out there that have hundreds of students, that are terrible gyms. The size of the gym is not an indication of the quality. I’m not saying that all large gyms are bad (of course there are good ones), but don’t be tempted by places that offer you everything under the sun. Muay Thai should be your focus, so don’t get distracted by places that offer you everything under the sun.

Usually, when a gym owner is also the head trainer at the gym, that is a pretty good sign they are passionate about what they do. Try and avoid “factory” gyms that are out there only to make money. You will end up turning into just another number at the gym without a name.

As I said before my goal is to help you find a REAL Muay Thai gym to learn a proper style. If you learn the right style when you start, it will save you countless hours of changing everything when you make your first trip to Thailand.

If you only train Muay Thai for the fitness benefits then you can find a gym that offers a cardio workout and you are good to go. If burning calories is your goal, then you don’t have to continue reading this article.

There are a lot of excellent instructors who come from non-Muay Thai backgrounds. However, if you want to learn real Muay Thai you need to find someone who teaches traditional Muay Thai. Otherwise you might as well be going to a pure Kickboxing gym. If your potential instructor has a background in 5 different martial arts and it says ‘certificate in Muay Thai,’ that should raise some questions in your mind.

If you are completely new to the sport, it will be nearly impossible to know who is good and who is bad. Since you won’t know what proper Muay Thai style really looks like, it is easy to get sucked into believing that you are learning Muay Thai, when you are actually learning Kickboxing with a few Muay Thai techniques thrown in there.

In the perfect world, you would book a trip out to Thailand and get immersed in Muay Thai from the source. Fortunately, there are plenty of good gyms out there, and you just need to find them.

Learning the Fundamentals of Muay Thai

After you have found a gym that has a good Muay Thai instructor, you will then start the process of learning Muay Thai. If you have a background in any traditional martial art like Karate, Taekwondo or Kungfu, this is the stage where you try to unlearn everything you have learned.

If you don’t care about learning a proper Muay Thai style and want to keep your Taekwondo (other) fighting style, that is your choice. Just bear in mind you will never be able to appreciate what Muay Thai truly has to offer if you don’t adapt the proper Muay Thai style.

If you come from a Western Boxing background, consider yourself lucky. You will be able to incorporate all of your boxing techniques into your Muay Thai game, except for your stance, head movement, and boxing rhythm.

Since your goal is (should be) to eventually develop beautiful Muay Thai techniques, you want to start from a blank slate. If you have already programmed your legs to kick a certain way, it can be difficult to try and undo bad habits in order to change. By unlearning what you learned at the beginning stage, it will save you years of frustration when you try to change something that has already been ingrained in you.

Again, this is where a good instructor will come into play. If you have bad habits, they will correct you. If you train at a gym where your instructor doesn’t try and fix anything, your alarm bells should be going off. As a beginner, you will need a lot of correction in order to learn things the right way.

It is important to lose your ego when you walk into the door. If you have an ego and think you know everything already, you will be holding yourself back from learning. Nothing is worse than giving a student advice and having them say, “I know, I know already.” These type of responses indicate that the person is unwilling to learn and is stuck in their old habits.

I wouldn’t waste a second trying to help someone who thinks they already ‘know it all.’ If you come to the gym thinking you know everything, you might as well stay home and train by yourself. I’ve been training for nearly a decade, and I can tell you that I am still learning every day. The moment you stop learning is the moment you stop improving.

The Importance of the Basics

When you are starting your Muay Thai journey, it is important that you focus on the Muay Thai basics. In the early stages of your development, things will move very slowly. The goal is to develop your basic techniques, movements, and rhythm before you can start becoming more fluid and throw strikes without thinking.

Once you master the basics you can work on your elbow strikes.

There are a lot of guys who walk into Muay Thai gyms wanting to spar after their first week of beginner training. While sparring will develop toughness, it will also create bad habits if you don’t have good fundamentals. There is a reason why beginners should not be doing any real sparring until they have developed the basic techniques first.

Trying to spar when you are a beginner is like giving someone a tennis racket and telling them to play a match. Before playing a real match, a tennis player needs to learn how to hit the ball, understand the rules, and be able to serve. If a player plays tennis before learning proper fundamentals, he will turn into a tennis hacker and will cement bad habits into their technique.

Patience is very important when you are starting off in Muay Thai. You will want to learn everything all at once but focus on your basics. I won’t go into much detail about the basics because it would turn this article into an essay. However, I will mention a few points just to start getting your mind thinking about what you need to do.

Stance and Rhythm

Starting off the first thing you need to learn is your basic position and rhythm. Learning where your feet go and how to move around in your stance. This is similar to learning a new dance. With enough practice you will learn how to move like a Muay Thai fighter. It takes years to develop the right Muay Thai rhythm. In fact, if you don’t work on it when you start, it is tough to change bad habits later on. Muay Thai rhythm emphasizes balance and control. At all times you should be able to attack and defend any attack from your opponent.

Your Muay Thai Guard

In addition to your basic movement, you will also need to develop your Muay Thai guard. There are many different types of guards out there, but the fundamental concept is keeping your hands high so you can block incoming attacks. As a beginner you should never try to learn an evasive guard (like Saenchai) because you won’t have the head movement necessary to avoid damage. Keeping your hands up is all you need to know about your guard. You can work on variations of your guard when you get more advanced, but just remember these important two words: Hands UP!

Your Basic Techniques

Starting off, focus on your basic punches, kicks, knees, and elbows. Don’t try to worry about any tricky techniques like spinning back elbow or jumping knee.

When you are starting off, focus on these basic strikes: jab, cross, hook, body (round) kicks and teeps (front kicks)

Afterwards, you can add low kicks, high kicks and elbows and knees, but you want to keep it simple in the beginning.

The bread and butter of Muay Thai is the body kick. This video below will teach you everything you need to know about the basics of the Muay Thai kick. Watch and Learn before continuing.