Let’s answer the first and most important question:
Why not study boxing? Why not savate? Why not Dutch-style kickboxing? Why not Kyokushin karate?
Here's your answer:
It's because Muay Thai, specifically Thai Muay Thai, is easily the most complete and effective striking art on the planet.
Muay Thai is also known as The Art of Eight Limbs, and the Thais are absolute masters of each and every limb. Thais are also the masters of the clinch, which feels like an entire martial art on its own.
You’ve no doubt seen Anderson Silva’s execution of Rich Franklin using the “Thai clinch,” more accurately called the “double collar tie.” That clinch is actually only one small part of and is really a beginner’s technique in the vast ocean of Muay Thai clinching. But what have the Thais done to earn such a reputation?
THE MOST FEARSOME THAI KICKBOXER EVER
Even if you’ve just heard of Muay Thai, you’ve no doubt heard of Buakaw.
Buakaw demolished everyone in K-1 and was so dominant, specifically with his clinching techniques, that K-1 changed the rules on clinching completely. (Alistair Overeem had nothing to do with it.) But even after the rule was changed, Buakaw dominated anyhow. However, Buakaw is hardly the only nak muay (Muay Thai fighter) to have shown the dominance of Muay Thai.
Just as the Gracies showed the dominance of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, so did the Thais with their art. Nokweed Davy was a legendary nak muay who weighed a mere 72 kg (158 lbs) and went toe-to-toe, and arguably even beat a young Jerome le Banner who tipped the scales at 107 kg (235 lbs).
Kaoklai Kaennorsing is another small fighter (172 lbs) who fought and even beat fighters much bigger than him. He beat Alexey Ignashov, who weighed 260 lbs to Kaoklai’s 172. Kaoklai would then go on to knockout Mighty Mo, who outweighed Kaoklai by a staggering 108 lbs. Kaoklai was also the lightest and youngest fighter ever to compete in the K-1 World Grand Prix.
To get the "big picture" of Muay Thai vs. Kickboxing, watch the fights that Dieselnoi, Chamuekpet Hapalang, and Changpuek Kiatsongrit had against kickboxers. There are also numerous nak muays that transitioned from Muay Thai into boxing and became world champions, such as Samart Payakaroon who become a WBC champion, Veerapol Sahaprom who became a WBC and WBA bantamweight champion, Somluck Khamsing who became a boxing Olympic gold medalist in 1996, and Saensak Muangsurin who set the record for fastest boxer to earn a world title by winning his WBC light welterweight title in just his third fight.
Now that you know "why" you should choose Muay Thai, let's answer the "how":
STRENGTH THROUGH MOBILITY
As Sean and Paul said in their second point, mobility and athletic development are crucial elements to your success in Muay Thai.
I emphasize mobility first because if you are a beginner, your body will most likely not be used to the ranges of motion that Muay Thai will put you through. Kicking might feel awkward and doing things like kicking high will definitely feel awkward. If you want to learn Muay Thai faster, or any physical skill for that matter, you must build a strong foundation of mobility first.
Why? I’ll let the Olympic silver medalist in Olympic weightlifting Dmitry Klokov answer that:
“You cannot have good technique if your muscles aren’t ready.”
If you lack the mobility to kick properly, though practice will help, it will take much longer to learn how. Learning to kick when you have weak mobility would be like learning to drive with deflated tires. Yes, you will be able to drive straight, but it would be very strenuous to do so.
It is also crucial to try and build your strength and explosiveness starting as early as possible. Strength and explosiveness is something that cannot be expedited. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best coach in the world: there is a limit on how quickly you can build muscle, strength, and explosiveness (even with steroids). You can’t force your body to grow faster than it’s physically capable anymore than you can speed up pregnancy. That is why the earlier you start, the more potential you will have.
Now, I would say that you are more than prepared to get started with Muay Thai, and as Paul and Sean said, always keep your “why” in mind. It is what will get you past all of the rough points in your training, whether you’re just doing this recreationally or as a career. Remember the goals you set out to achieve when you first started. You can get them. Just keep going.
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