SURPRISE! Muay Thai Is Hard


By Rosy Lynch

There are some rather jarring differences between spin group at the local fitness club and a typical Muay Thai class.

Besides the obvious differences, there is an entirely different level of commitment and tenacity required to train in Muay Thai.

The first class will set a high bar for your tolerance.

If you’re feeling a bit unsure about just picking a gym and turning up to a session, here are some tips on what you can expect from your Thai boxing experience:

Class Structure

A typical beginners’ class is likely to include most of the following:

  • You’ll warm up – Maybe skipping, or shadowboxing (yes, you’ll feel like an idiot but I promise nobody else cares), or a run from the gym.
  • You’ll drill – The bulk of a beginners’ class is likely to be focused on practicing techniques and combinations on Thai pads and/or the heavy bag. You’ll probably be holding pads for a partner for some of the class – take this as seriously as you would your own technique. Pad holding is a skill; how good you are at it dictates how good your partner’s session will be.
  • You’ll work on conditioning – Probably mainly body weight exercises such as push ups, crunches, squats etc. Expect a heavy focus on core conditioning.
  • Finally, you’ll cool down and stretch.

But beyond these basic nuts and bolts of the class, what else can you expect? Well, any and all of the following:

You’ll feel like you suck (because you do).

When you look around at more senior students smashing pads, they will have a power, grace and fluidity that will fill you with awe.

You won’t look like that — and you’ll know it.

The way you’re being asked to move may feel awkward and stilted. The sound of your impact on the pads is more likely to be a dull thump than the beautiful whip crack of an expertly placed kick.

But here’s the thing: nobody was born with beautiful, powerful technique. By turning up today, you’re closer to attaining it than you have ever been. Turn up again tomorrow and you’re getting closer still.

It’ll be disgusting.

I cannot lie to you… This is gonna be gross.

Other people’s sweat is going to go on you; yours will go on other people. If your partner wipes their face with their gloves before they hit pads, this sweat may then fly off and hit you in the face. By the end of the session the mats will probably have a slippery sponginess underfoot — yep, this is also sweat.

If you’re a beginner and you don’t have your own gear, then when you pull your hands out of the gym’s loaner gloves they will smell like death. You need to learn to be OK with all of this.

And hey, get your own gloves pronto!

Your personal space will be violated.

Let’s do a mental visualization exercise:

How big is your personal space bubble? Draw it in your mind now, the invisible barrier around you inside which only those closest to you can comfortably approach.

That’s great! Now reduce it to a tenth of that size.

I’m not going to tell you to get rid of it altogether (this isn’t BJJ) but there is going to be a lot of touching. People are going to grab you by the neck, thrust their hips at you, then try to knee you in the ribs. And it’s fun, I swear.

It’ll hurt.

The first time I held pads, livid bruises had blossomed all over my arms before I was out of my post-training shower.

My shins are almost constantly discolored. Even if you never spar, you are thwacking your tender flesh hard into robust bits of leather. It can be sore, and it may well leave a mark.

Muay Thai is also likely to test the limits of your endurance. You will feel at some point in the session that you can’t go on – that you haven’t got another 30 seconds of holding a plank or another squat in you. What you have to do now is give the session everything you’ve got… and then wait.

Wait till the class is finished, when the initial tiredness has ebbed a bit. Then those post-exercise endorphins kick in and make you feel like you and your boxing gloves could take on the world. The moment when you look back on what you just did and think “Fuck, that was fun!” is the the first tiny payoff that will make you go back to the next class.

From there, the rewards snowball and keep you coming back over and over again: the triumph of the first moment you absolutely nail a technique you’ve been working on; the relationships you’ll build from working towards a common goal with your gymmates; the expansion of your physical limits as you get stronger and fitter; the reduction in your stress levels, and all the other myriad benefits that training Thai boxing can give you.

In short, what you should expect from a typical Muay Thai class is that it’s going to be fucking amazing. 

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