In this article, we’re going to give you a quick crash course in basic Muay Thai gear and Muay Thai training techniques that you need to get started on your path to be the ultimate warrior. Get your notepad out, because you’ll want to take a few notes.
Muay Thai is known as one of the most extreme martial arts on the face of the planet. Champion combatants are known to have kicks strong enough to break your leg with one sweeping kick, and have complete mastery over their bodies, using every square inch of muscles and bones to defeat their opponent.
As the name implies, Muay Thai is the national martial art practiced in Thailand, but it has since spread across the world, and has become increasingly popular in the Western world, and especially in the United States.
If you look at modern day UFC fights in America, you’ll notice that a large portion of the fighting style is predominantly based in Muay Thai. The kicks and clinches emphasized in traditional Muay Thai are some of the most brutal and tactical maneuvers that any fighter can have in their arsenal, so it’s no wonder why so many fighters learn at least basic Muay Thai over the course of their career.
Essential Fight Gear
Any Muay Thai fighter, professional or recreational will need to have some basic gear before they start their training routine. Muay Thai is a violent full-body sport that is marked by bone-crushing kicks, knockout punches, and powerful elbow attacks. Needless to say, this isn’t a sport that you want to do without proper protective gear.
Muay Thai gloves are very similar to traditional boxing gloves, except they’re usually a little bit lighter in weight. They’ll also be more flexible to allow for the clinching and grappling that you’ll be doing within a match.
When sparring, you’ll definitely want to wear some shin guards. When two fighters legs come into contact during a high-speed kick, the results can be painful to say the least. Unless you want to break your leg while training, get yourself the best shin guards that money can buy.
While you can wear any pair of lightweight workout shorts to train in the sport, Muay Thai shorts are specifically designed to give you a competitive advantage. They are short shorts that only go down to your mid-thigh which gives you an increased range of motion and allows you to make wide, sweeping kicks without long sleeves getting in the way.
Muay Thai punches and kicks are designed to be hard and brutal, and put an emphasis on power strikes. These power strikes can do some serious damage on your wrist and ankles if they bend the wrong way. Before every training session, you should wrap your hands and ankles to keep them stiff and supported.
If you’re going to be doing some heavy-duty sparring, you’re definitely going to want a head guard. This will protect your head from any concussive kicks and punches that you might find yourself on the receiving end of.
Many fighters don’t fully value their teeth until they get knocked out. As a fighter, you’re going to lose at least a couple of teeth over the course of your career. It’s nice to not lose them all in one fight, slice open your lips, and have a $40,000 medical bill.
Moral of the story- buy and use a mouth guard every single training session.
Thought that time you got punched in the balls was rough? Try taking a Muay Thai front kick to the nuts and see how you feel then. If you’re going to be sparring, do yourself a favor and pick up some supportive groin protection.
Warm Drills for Muay Thai Training
Now that you’ve got all of your gear, it’s time to sign up and show up for your first Muay Thai class. Before you get all excited and start throwing flailing kicks, however, you need to make some time to do some light warm ups.
There is no quicker way to sustain an injury than by jumping straight into an intense Muay Thai training session with cold and stiff muscles. You’ll pull your back out and sprain your wrists and ankles before you can say “1, 2, 3.”
First, you’ll want to get the blood flowing a bit. The best way to do this is with some light cardio. Do a couple quick laps around the gym, some jumping jacks, or just hit the good old-fashioned jump rope. The goal is to get your heart pumping, and do just enough exercise to break a light sweat. Nothing too serious, five minutes is all you should need.
Now that you’re sufficiently warmed up, it’s time to do some dynamic stretching. These stretches put an emphasis on doing stretches in motion as opposed to 30-second-long static stretches which can actually make your muscles rebound into a tighter state than they were in before. Dynamic stretches are marked by shorter stretch periods of 5 to 10 seconds each, and multiple repetitions of the stretch.
Train to Crush
With the proper protective gear and your body fully warmed up, you’re finally ready to get to the fun part- training to be the next Buakaw. While Muay Thai does include a fair amount of punching, the emphasis of the sport is primarily on kicks, clinching, and the ability to throw a few good elbows in between.
Here’s some terminology and techniques that you’ll want to acquaint yourself.
The Art of Muay Thai Kicks
If you’ve ever watched one of those Discovery Channel shows about fight science, you’ll remember that nine times out of ten Muay Thai was consistently rated for the most devastating high-impact kicks. Fighters are often able to strike with kicks that match the destructive power of getting hit by a car speeding at over seventy-miles-per-hour.
While it can take a lifetime of training to build yourself up to this level, you have to start somewhere. In addition to these match-ending kicks, you’ll also want to have a fair share of jabs, pushes, and sweeps designed to wear your opponent down over the course of the match and open them up for more powerful strikes.
Low kicks are going to be some of the first kicks that you learn. They’re the easiest to master and are the best way to quickly break down your opponent. These kicks are going to be aimed at the lower half of your opponent’s legs between their upper thigh and their shin. If you land one of these kicks properly, then you stand a chance to completely cramp and temporarily disable them.
Muay Thai Teep
After you learn your basic low kicks, then you’ll want to start practicing your front kicks. These kicks involve you grounding yourself with one foot while striking up with your foot extended. They should be aimed at the upper body and attempt to knock your opponent’s hand guard down or strike them in the stomach.
It’s imperative that you maintain proper balance while performing front kicks as this is the perfect position for a counterattack that the other fighter could use to throw you on the mat with. If you get caught off-guard by one of these, then you’re finished.
For most fighters, mastering the roundhouse kick is one of the hardest things to do. While it certainly feels a bit more natural than a front kick, in order to get the largest amount of kinetic energy out of the kick, you’re going to have to put your entire body into it.
The power from this kick is primarily going to come from your core. To begin, you’re essentially going to twist your body up like a corkscrew, and then as your body rapidly untwines, unleash the power of the spin and transfer energy to your feet. These are the kicks that break legs and render fighters unconscious in minutes.
One of the most important aspects of traditional Muay Thai is mastering how to clinch. Clinching is basically just grappling with the intent of breaking down your opponent’s defenses in order to land a well-placed knee or elbow, or to make them lose their footing in order to hit them with some hard hits.
Every Action Has A Reaction
When you first start clinching, you’re going to lose- a lot. That’s because you need to understand the key concept of every fight. Every action, every strike, every angle that you try to clinch is going to have an equal reaction. Before each move you make, you have to strategically predict what the reaction of your opponent is going to be.
With that in mind, you’ll be able to switch up your combinations and grappling moves and think quicker than the other guy. If you can think and move faster, you’re going to be a better grappler.
Make sure that you don’t lose your balance while grappling. Conversely, if you can make your opponent lose their balance, then you’re going to break their defense and be able to hit them with everything you have.
The best way to maintain your balance is to develop your core strength and always keep your feet planted firmly on the ground and facing your opponent. Be light on your feet and be able to adjust to quick movements and attempts to upset your balance.
Always Have An Exit Strategy
If you sense that you’re losing a bout of clinching, then you need to exit as fast as possible to prevent the inevitable from happening. That being said, exiting a clinch is a lot easier said than done. You’ll need to powerfully withdraw as fast as possible and create distance between you and your opponent before they have a chance to land a kick while you’re retreating.
In addition to your training, you’ll also need to condition your body to withstand the rigors of a Muay Thai match. The three most important things you need to focus on in your workouts are core strength, leg strength, and cardiovascular endurance.
Your stability and kicking/punching power comes directly from your core. You need to make this one of the strongest parts of your body. Focus on sit ups, leg raises, lateral twists, bicycles, and more. You should also condition your core to withstand repeated strikes.
Your legs need to be conditioned for both strength and density. You should be doing squats, lunges, calf raises, and more to increase the strength and power of your legs. Additionally, you should use rollers on your calf bones. This will create tiny micro-fractures across the surface of the bone. As they rapidly heal, your bone will become thicker and harder, which is a massive advantage in a fight.
You can be the strongest person in the world, but 5 minutes into a Muay Thai match and you won’t be able to continue. It’s vital that you improve your cardiovascular endurance through running, jump roping, swimming, and other steady state cardio so that you’re able to keep your energy levels up during those long fights.
Muay Thai is one of the greatest combat sports in the world and has a long and noble history of powerful kickers. If you’re looking for a martial art to get involved in, then Muay Thai is a great option. As you progress, you’ll achieve full-body mastery and eventually, your body will be nothing but an extension of yourself. You’ll be a walking, breathing, human weapon.
So what are you waiting for? Grab your gear, sign up with a gym, and start your journey.