Get in fit, fighting form with Thai martial art
THAILAND’S national sport, Muay Thai, has become a popular sport across the world since the 20th century, though it began as a battlefield fighting skill centuries ago. Muay Thai contests are not only an integrated part of many local festivals and celebrations in Thailand, especially in temples, but also must-see events for tourists.
Regardless of the violence seen in actual Muay Thai competitions, the sport remains a good choice for many exercisers for its incredible benefits. Known as “the Art of Eight Limps,” Muay Thai uses fists, elbows, knees, and shins in combination. The idea is to use eight points of contact, with the body mimicking the weapons of war. Hands become swords and daggers; shins and forearms will harden into armor during training; elbows fall on opponents like a hammer; legs and knees become an axe. You can see many ladies practice Muay Thai nowadays as the sport is famous for its calorie-burning characteristic. Being both aerobic and anaerobic, it can boost the cardiopulmonary system. After a period of practice, the practitioner will notice the difference — the body gets to adapt itself to the high demands of the sport.
As Muay Thai involves a lot of kicking, either using knees or shins, and footwork, it is believed that every muscle in the practitioner’s lower body will benefit from practicing. The practitioner can kick harder and faster, yet every movement is well controlled.
Just like many other popular sports, the core strength will be greatly improved via Muay Thai as well as a fitness goal will be even quicker to achieve. Striking, defensive movements, and clinching will all help a practitioner to strengthen the core.
Although Muay Thai will help increase hip mobility, don’t expect it to just happen overnight. It requires months or even years of hard work. But how can we benefit from highly mobile hips? Well, this can protect us from certain pains and a number of medical troubles as we get old.
If being super fit is not your goal, then Muay Thai may be an option as a method of stress relief. Muay Thai practice is normally fast-paced, which allows little time to worry about pending reports or to-do-lists. What you need to worry about is how to follow the instructor and do the kicks and punches correctly.
As a sport, Muay Thai is hard and physically challenging, yet offers many rewards. It is also risky, with more hidden risks than other sports if you don’t pay attention during sparring. And don’t think getting into the ring to fight against your instructor is cool. Wrong! Get down to the earth and learn the basics like stances and movements.
Conditioning training that involves running, ab work, and skipping are crucial to help your strength and endurance grow. Pad work can sharpen your Muay Thai skills and techniques. So does shadow boxing. Sparring will allow you to discover more about yourself, your attitudes and mental changes in simulated combat.
The well-known warrior Nai Khanom Tom was caught in 1767 during a battle between the Burmese of the Konbaung Dynasty (1752-1885) and Siam (now Thailand). Years later, he was given an opportunity to fight for his freedom as the Burmese learned about his expertise in hand-on-hand combat. He won the match and was freed by the Burmese. Going back to Siam as a hero, his fighting style became known as Muay Thai. Today, Nai Khanom Tom is known as the “father” of Muay Thai. March 17 is the “Muay Thai Day” in Thailand.
Q: Is Muay Thai suitable for everyone to practice?
A: Generally yes. But if you have any medical issues such as cardiovascular diseases, consult your doctors before you have a go.
Q: How many calories can a typical one-hour session of Muay Thai burn?
A: Normally 600 to 700 calories though it also depends on the intensity of the practice and fitness level of the practitioner.
Q: How can I know whether my instructor is qualified?
A: The renowned MuayThai Institute Rangsit Thailand provides instructor programs in three different levels with certificates. However, whether the instructor is truly skilled and competitive in Muay Thai and knows how to help you achieve your goals will be more important considerations. Have a trial session before you sign up for a course.
Q: What should a practitioner do after practice?
A: Stretching is very important to help the muscles relax and reduce the soreness after practice.
Q: How much does a Muay Thai class cost?
A: It normally costs from 100 to 200 yuan for a group class. The price for a one-on-one session (one hour) varies from 230 to 400 yuan. Most gyms offer both types of classes.
With 15 years of experience, instructor Jacky from Master Muay Thai Gym will demonstrate two Muay Thai techniques.
Roundhouse Kick: the mother of power kicks
Start with your Muay Thai stance — your body should be more upright than in Western boxing.
1. Put your weight on the lead/left leg and open up the rear/right hip.
2. Swing your rear/right leg while pointing the rear/right knee to your opponent (sandbag) as you pivot. Your rear/right hip should fully rotate over the left hip while you swing your body.
3. Your kicking leg should be straight as it makes contact with the opponent. Quickly bring that leg back the same way you came in. The leg comes across just like swinging a bat.
The source of power should come from the waist. You can whip the hand down at your side of the kicking leg to generate more speed and power.
Elbow Strike (Slashing Elbow)
Start with your Muay Thai stance.
1. Bend your right elbow against the arm.
2. Twist your right shoulder and swing your elbow parallel to the ground, aiming to strike with the elbow against the face or a sandbag.
3. Pivot right foot and swing opposite shoulder back for more speed and power.
4. Shift weight on feet while pivoting. The heel of your rear foot can lift up as your twist your waist for the strike.
Use your waist as the source of power. Swing the elbow diagonally downward at a 45 degree angle.
Gyms to go
Feiyi Tiger Muay Thai Gym
Address: 777 Wuyi Rd (Inside Shanghai International Gymnastics Center)
Hanunma Fitness Club
(Classes in English available)
Address: 2/F, 399 Xinzha Rd (close to Xinchang Rd)
Master Muay Thai Gym
Address: 2806, 66 Shaanxi Rd N.