How to get fit with one of the ancient forms of martial arts - Muay Thai

Muay Thai

The best parts of any action movie is obviously the action. Haven’t all of us, at some point in our lives, wanted to learn how to kick ass, just like our favourite actors in movies and TV shows. Apart from karate, kung fu, boxing and kickboxing, there are many more forms of ancient martial arts that are great for overall fitness. Muay Thai is one such method.

Also known as Thai boxing, Muay Thai is a combat sport of Thailand that uses stand-up striking along with various clinching techniques. It is rightly called “the art of eight limbs” because it is characterised by the combined use of fists, elbows, knees, shins, being associated with a good physical preparation that makes a full-contact fighter very efficient.

We asked the undefeated National Muay Thai Champion of India, Balkrishna Shetty, to shed some more light on this form of martial arts which has gained popularity even in Bollywood.

What actually is Muay Thai?
The ancient martial art of Muay Thai is known for its tremendous power, maximum efficiency, and raw simplicity. Muay Thai is for everyone: men, women and children. In Thailand, it is actually more common for practitioners to start as young as five or six years old. The conditioning of mind, body and spirit involved in Muay Thai also gives practitioners the confidence needed for real-life self defense situations.

You are a national champion and also the coach of the Indian Muay Thai team, can you tell us in brief what is the training like? 
To start with, outside of your ‘official’ training hours it is good to give time to road work, also known as running. This is designed to help improve stamina. There is a reason why Thai boxers and Western fighters have incorporated long runs in their training regimen for the past hundreds of years. People usually start off with shadow boxing. Hitting Muay Thai pads is an essential element of Muay Thai training. Another area that is used in Muay Thai training is heavy bag training. Hitting the heavy bag is an excellent way to build stamina, and it can also be used to conditioning your shins and knuckles. There also involves a lot of partner drill and clinching. Even though Muay Thai and western boxing are two separate sports, many Muay Thai gyms have incorporated boxing sparring into their training to improve their hand striking. Competing in the ring is the final stage of a Muay Thai training program. This is the ultimate goal because it allows you to test everything you have learned in training and see how it applies to a real situation.

How does one get into Muay Thai?
Selecting a gym is one of the most important decisions you will make in your Muay Thai journey. If you end up choosing the wrong gym, you can end up learning a watered down version of kickboxing with a few elements of Muay Thai added to it. There are a lot of excellent instructors who come from non-Muay Thai backgrounds. However, if you want to learn real Muay Thai you need to find someone who teaches traditional Muay Thai, otherwise you might as well be going to a pure kickboxing class.

How is this kind of martial arts good for a person’s overall fitness?
Muay Thai is specifically designed to promote the level of fitness and toughness required for ring competition as well as for recreational practitioners. Muay Thai also builds great anaerobic endurance with exercises like punching and kicking on the pads or bags, and clinching to work your body to its limits. It is a fun and efficient way to burn fat and lose weight that also builds your core, flexibility and overall strength. It builds confidence and promotes discipline of the mind through the control of emotions and feelings.