When I walked into the Muay Thai gym the first day I didn’t know what to expect. Of course I had many thoughts in my head about how the class was going to go, many of them being fears about how hard it would be. I was very nervous to say the least, I had always been active and played many sports but nothing ever like this. Although this sounds silly now, I was scared that I would get hurt my first class, or even worse embarrassed somehow.
I won’t lie to you, my first class was rough and my shins felt the painful wrath of the heavy bag. I have grown a lot since that first Muay Thai class, and fast forward years later I can honestly say this first Muay Thai class completely changed my life, for the better. Had I let my anxiety and fears get the best of me I would’ve never realized how beautiful Martial Arts can be. I am thankful for my first gym, my first instructor, and all of my training partners over the years.
What is Muay Thai?
Muay Thai is the “Art of eight limbs”, a traditional Martial Art that originated in Thailand all the way back in the 18th century.Many people refer to it as Thai Boxing or Kickboxing, however Muay Thai is much more than just Kickboxing. There is many traditions that go along with this beautiful art, similar to how many other martial arts share values and historical traditions.
Muay Thai is referred to as the “Art of Eight Limbs” or the “Science of Eight Limbs”, because it makes use of punches, kicks, elbows and knee strikes, thus using eight “points of contact”. This is of course opposed to “two points” (fists) in boxing and “four points” (hands and feet) used in other more regulated combat sports, such as kickboxing. A practitioner of Muay Thai is known as a nak muay.
No matter what you call it, Muay Thai has evolved and transformed today to millions worldwide. No matter where you are in the world I almost guarantee there will be a gym within striking distance. With famous Thai fighters like Buakaw and Saenchai fighting worldwide, Muay Thai doesn’t have any plans to stop growing.
What to expect during your first Muay Thai class
The good news is, the gym you go to has more than likely dealt with new people hundreds of times. Rarely will a gym just throw you into the lions den. Most first day classes will involve instruction on how the class is operated, rarely will it involve any Muay Thai sparring. However you should still be prepared to sweat, especially during the warm-up workout.
Nearly all classes start with some sort of warm up, whether it be jumping rope, jogging around, push-ups, squats, etc. The warm up is usually followed by a light stretch (I highly recommend stretching after warming up and after the class). After you are warmed up and stretched out usually your instructor will teach a few techniques and drills.
A typical Muay Thai class:
- Jumping rope (5-10 minutes)
- Shadow Boxing (5 minutes)
- Beginner techniques and drills *mostly just punching combinations* (20 minutes, afterwards we put on shin guards)
- Advanced techniques and drills *using both punches and kicks* (15-20 minutes)
- Intense cardio session (5-10 minutes)
- Cool down and stretching (5 minutes)
A typical class is anywhere from one hour to one hour and a half, of course this can be slightly more or less depending on your gyms schedule.
Class can be held in a variety of spaces depending on your gym size, some gyms do bag or pad work depending on the layout. My first Muay Thai gym was very traditional and we mostly did heavy bag drills and pad drills. I found this to be very effective for gaining strength on my kicks and punches, however it wasn’t the best for learning quick striking combinations.
My current gym has an open space and we are always drilling with another partner. We almost never use Thai pads, but we do use our own gloves as pads. Many americanized Muay Thai classes won’t be traditional Muay Thai, more or less a hybrid of Muay Thai and Dutch kickboxing. Before joining a gym you should talk to the owner/training and find out what type of Muay Thai or Kickboxing that the school teaches (this almost always depends on the instructor).
How to prepare for your first Muay Thai Class
1.Wear gym style clothes
You’re going to your first Muay Thai class which means you’ll sweat more than you probably have ever before. It’s always a good idea to bring a towel and an extra shirt as well. Always wear comfortable gym style clothes to any type of MMA class, you can always get Muay Thai style shorts later on. I wouldn’t recommend wearing leggings or joggers unless they are made of sweat-wicking material. Don’t worry about shoes because chances are you won’t be wearing them.
2.Bring lots and lots of water
Oh boy, I can’t recommend this one enough. You’re going to sweat so much that you’ll need to drink a good amount of water to re-hydrate you. Your body absorbs water best at room temperature, so making sure that water bottle is full and not too hot or cold. This is one of the most important tips I can give to you. The last thing you want is to be running off to the water fountain during class and missing valuable training time or instruction from the coach.
3.Show up early
Don’t just arrive on time, make sure to show up early to your first Muay Thai class. This is important to start a good relationship with the instructor and will give you the proper amount of time to get acquainted before you start your training session. You never want to be late for a training session in general as it’s complete disrespect of your fellow students and your instructors time.
4.Don’t eat too much beforehand
This is important because you don’t want to throw up during your first Muay Thai class. Although it may not matter if you eat or not beforehand, it’s still very much a possibility that you’re going to throw up depending on how much cardio is involved. If you’re not someone who is very active then the possibility of getting sick during your first Muay Thai class is high. I recommend eating one or two bananas 30-45 minutes before class starts, this will give you the energy needed for class, bananas also help cramps.
Things I wish I had known before my first Muay Thai class
There are a million things I wish I had known before my first Muay Thai class. I guess thats the funny thing about life, my Martial Arts journey has been one giant “if I had known then what I knew now” sort of things. This will apply to Muay Thai training as well, there are many bumps and bruises on this journey (literally).
1.Thai shorts are amazing
They may look extremely silly or uncomfortable, but man do these things make kicks much easier. It may not seem like much at first, but Thai shorts greatly improved my comfort and kicks. Also if you do plan on purchasing shorts online, make sure to size up. You can always roll down a wide waistband if it bothers you, however, if you order a pair of Thai shorts that are too short.. well let’s just say you’re gonna have a bad time. Visit our Best Muay Thai Shorts article for a better idea on the perfect fit guide.
2.Spend as much time as you need looking for a gym
This might be the most important piece of advice that I give to you, always shop around for the best gym to suit your wants and needs. First impressions are everything, if the owner/trainer takes the time to walk you around and introduce you to everyone then they are probably caring and much more understanding. It’s great when your trainer personal cares about your skill-set and improvement over time. Don’t be surprised if a smaller gym in the middle of nowhere is actually the best place to train (I’ve had this experience in the past).
3.Clinching is VERY important
You might hate the Muay Thai clinch at first, however it’s one of the most important skill-sets to have. I find that most people attempt to neglect clinching because it’s the hardest part to learn. Not all gyms teach clinching however, mostly only traditional Muay Thai gyms or authentic MMA gyms teach it. Clinching is one of those positions that can give you a superior advantage to your opponent if they don’t have the same experience as you. The clinch is also one of the best positions to throw a knee or position yourself for a takedown, don’t neglect it.
4.Throw kicks every single day
The best way to learn kicks is to do a lot of them, practice makes perfect after all. When I say throw a lot of kicks, I mean 250-500 a day. The best way to learn is by doing, I highly suggest kicking a heavy bag at least 100 times a day (both legs). However make sure to ease into it, you don’t want to end up like me (with bruised shins after my FIRST practice). For beginners I’d suggest 3-5 kicks with a leg, then switch (don’t try and fire them off like Buakaw). Once you hit your goal, let’s call it 100 kicks for beginners, your legs should be tired and slightly sore.
5.Don’t forget to stretch
This is so important, never forget to stretch after a hard workout (lifting or Muay Thai). Stretching relieves stress on your muscles as well as allowing you to become much more flexible. The most flexible you are, the higher your kicks will be. Stretching regularly also lowers your chances of getting any type of injury or soreness. Rule of thumb is: stretch 3 times a day to become more flexible, and 2 times a day to maintain your flexibility.
Learning Muay Thai was one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. I still remember my first class like it was yesterday, I was instantly addicted to the intensity and adrenaline that class gave me. From that first painful low-kick I was hooked, I miss the days when my shins hurt from kicking so much. My biggest advice to each and every one of you is to enjoy the beginning, it’s the best part of the journey.