MindsetMuay Thai will drain you physically and mentally. Maybe not during your first session(s) and not every session, but it will in due course and on a regular basis. This is natural given how intense and demanding the sport is on every part of you. Yet it’s this exertion and output that builds strength, character and mental fortitude – all of which are major benefits of training Muay Thai consistently.
Lose your ego
As a full-contact sport, there’s always an innate temptation to test out your strength and prove yourself against others. At first, this can be hard to shake off and sometimes you’ll need to endure some damage (or get put in your place) to learn the lesson. However, it’s incredibly important that you get rid of your ego and approach training with humility and a willingness to be the dumbest/weakest/most inept person in the room.
Ego will make you emotional and cloud your judgement. This makes it more difficult to understand technique and identify what you’re doing right and wrong. Ego will also make you mad at yourself as you will inevitably get things wrong time and time again when starting out.
The only time ego brings any sort of benefit is during hard preparation for competition and during competition itself. This is because you need to build confidence and mental confirmation that you are the best and are destined to win. Otherwise, ego will only hinder your training performance and quite possibly put training partners off working with you.
When you start learning any new skill, sport, hobby or topic, it’s important to sit back and soak up the knowledge. The Greek philosopher Epicetus was spot on when he said “we have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Take advantage of this by listening closely to your coaches, trainers and any study material you’re watching.
Unless you yourself are teaching (which you shouldn’t be as a beginner), you won’t be learning anything if you’re speaking, so keep quiet and focus on what’s being taught. Listen intently and ask questions if you’re unsure or need clarity – there’s nothing wrong with asking a demonstration to be shown again or to have something demonstrated at a different angle or at a slower pace.
Just as with anything new that you’re trying to learn, consistency is key. You can’t expect to see gains and develop the necessary strength, flexibility and technique to grow in the sport if you don’t put in the time and effort to learn and break yourself in. Malcolm Gladwell coined the popular belief that it takes 10,000 hours of intensive practice to achieve master of complex skills – and Muay Thai is certainly complex.
That’s not to say you need to put in 10,000 hours before you move on from beginner and start to see noticeable development, but it does illustrate the point that consistency of effort and time over a prolonged period are needed to successfully develop. This is especially so in a demanding, intensive and sometimes exhausting sport like Muay Thai.
Your learning shouldn’t be limited to the gym. In fact, watching, reading out and even talking about Muay Thai are all useful ways to accelerate your learning. Just like with any other subject or skill, practice, thought and reflection are all key to development.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to study Muay Thai while away from the gym. Whether it be watching live Muay Thai online (for instance on the One Championship app), watching Muay Thai fights and techniques on Youtube, reading about the history and culture of the sport or discussing the sport with friends (or like-minded peers online in forums). By doing so, you’ll get different perspectives on techniques, movement and skills in a different way and witness new approaches to training etc. which you can then take with you to the gym and try out.
When starting out, it’s easy to underestimate your speed and power. Often you’ll find yourself throwing strikes with too much power and speed and regularly be off balance as a result. Balance is key to proper technique and it’s important you develop strong balance and rhythm as these are the foundation from which you employ strength and speed. When starting out though, it’s hard to understand the difference and how to control yourself.
To develop control, take things slow and work on retracting back to stance and original position after throwing strikes. For example, when kicking pads, focus both on the outward motion and the motion of bringing your leg back to stance (retraction). It takes muscles and flexibility to do this effectively and, once developed, you will have a solid foundation of control.
Embrace the pain
There’s a common phrase is Muay Thai gyms (especially in Thailand) that Muay Thai is pain. Perhaps a little dramatic but it does hold a lot of truth. Proper Muay Thai will test your physical and mental limits. It will leave you bruised, swollen and, sometimes, defeated. After some trainings, you’ll be physically marked, sore and sometimes struggle to sleep from pain. This is all because of the physicality of the sport and the fact that you’re striking solid surfaces that are resistant – whether it be bags, pads or people. Pain though, is only temporary.
Over time, your body will become conditioned and you’ll take damage less easily. You’ll become more flexible and accustomed to the training, resulting in less soreness and faster recovery. Knowing this will help you ride out the tough sessions and painful recoveries that are inevitable in the early days of training and help you understand that there truly is no gain without pain.
Muay Thai isn’t for everyone. Not everyone will enjoy the physicality and mental challenge that learning the full-contact sport entails. However, everyone can benefit from Muay Thai as it brings so many physical, mental and spiritual benefits. That said, it requires time, effort and consistency to truly appreciate and gain those benefits. For a while you’ll have to endure pain and exhaustion without seeing much improvement but it’s important to know that you are learning and growing, it just takes a while to become evident. No matter, you’ll feel a certain type of way after your first and each subsequent session. For most this is a feeling of enthusiasm and appreciation of the challenge – feelings which only grow as your skills and ability grow over successive trainings.