Three good reasons to study muay thai

Buakaw Banchamek / Buakaw Por. Pramuk
Buakaw Por Pramuk. Multiple muay thai world champion. EPIC badass.
The absolute worst thing about serving out my time living and working on assignment here in the UK is that I had to leave my Krav Maga school and its people behind. I love Krav Maga. I got to orange belt literally the week before I left the US, and I dearly miss having the ability to practice the art under teachers that I respect- actually, revere.

I tried finding a KM school here, but as is often the case with so-called Krav Maga "schools" outside of Israel, the place that I found didn't teach anything that I could recognise as the art that I know and love.

This is sadly rather common in the world of KM these days; with few exceptions, such as the Krav Maga Federation and a couple of others, most international KM organisations are little better than belt factories. Krav Maga at its core is a non-competitive art that teaches you how to fight using every weapon at your disposal, whereas the place that I went to for a trial lesson ended up looking at fighting through the lens of competitive martial arts like Brazilian jiu jitsu and tae kwon do.

Worthy arts they may be- well, BJJ is, anyway- but street defence arts, they are not.

I was bitterly disappointed, to say the least. So I started looking at muay thai as a way of keeping up my striking and my skills until such time as I can return home to take up KM once again.

Based on my experiences, here are three good reasons you might want to consider taking up muay thai.

Ass-Beating of the Eight Limbs

How to break a man's spirit with 12 easy moves...
This art is known as "the art of eight limbs" because muay thai considers the elbows and knees to be separate appendages, and utilises brutal and quite devastating striking techniques with both sets of joints, on both sides of the body, to deliver extremely powerful strikes at both short and long range. This is a purely striking-based art; there is no groundwork or grappling involved, although there is a lot of focus on clinching and fighting at close range.

Indeed, the art as we know it today is actually a toned-down version of an older set of arts collectively known as muay boran- a good demonstration of which can be found in the classic Thai martial arts movie Ong Bak. Muay thai as we know it today is mostly taught as a competitive art, and as a result the striking is rather less lethal than what used to be taught to the royal guardsmen of Thai kings using muay boran.

Considering what muay thai fighters can do with their skills, that bit of information should give even the most hardened sceptic reason to pause in trepidation. Real muay thai fighters are truly dangerous.

The emphasis is entirely on strengthening the body to deliver maximum offensive power to your striking, and the art is geared almost completely toward aggressive, take-no-prisoners combat. In that respect, once you've learned the basics of how to punch and kick from a few months of studying Krav Maga, you'll know all you need to begin training in muay thai.

Even if you don't know how to punch or kick, a decent muay thai school should take the time to teach you how to do both- though it must never be forgotten that striking can never really be perfected, it can only be honed.

In the process, you'll learn an art dedicated specifically to beating a man to a bloody, broken pulp with every weapon immediately available to you through your own hands and legs.

So why take muay thai instead of a kinder, gentler martial art like tae kwon do or Brazilian jiu jitsu? Here are my top three reasons.

1. You'll Get Tough and Conditioned, Fast

Wallpaper Muay Thai Kickboxing, 1920 × 1200 - Wallpapers
Tony JaaEnough said.
Traditional muay thai fighters are some of the toughest, most highly conditioned, fittest people on the planet. There is a very good reason for this: they train like they're being whipped by demons.

In Thailand, the country of origin of this art, fighters start training as early as 7 years old. Now, muay thai places great emphasis on perfecting one's kicks to be as powerful and as lethal as possible. Kicks to the groin are not allowed, so MT focuses on angle kicks and round kicks. Moreover, the art teaches that, when kicking, the point of impact should be the shin, not the foot- there are lots of small bones in the foot that break easily, whereas the shin is just one long bone that can be used to cut through a target like a blade.

There's just one problem. There is a long nerve running along the shin that really muddapuckin' hurts when you make impact with your shin on something.

Being Thai, and therefore not particularly interested in radical concepts like "self-preservation" and "healthy bone development", traditional MT solves this problem by having young martial artists kick banana trees to build calcium deposits along their shin-bones.

Like this, but less... Belgian

By the time they become adults, they've been kicking trees for so long that they could smash their shins into earthenware pots and baseball bats without feeling any adverse effects.

Quite simply, these guys are terrifying badasses. And they get there through brutal training and the extreme tolerance for pain that this builds up.

You won't be able to do what they do after just a few lessons in muay thai. It takes decades of practice and a slavish dedication to the art to get to that point. But after a few months of traditional-style MT training, where the coaches do their best to put you through hard workouts every time you get on the mat, you'll certainly be much fitter, stronger, and faster than when you started.

2. You'll Learn How to Use a Full Range of Weapons

... Muay Thai kickboxing event that took place Saturday at the Hard Rock
Face, meet elbow. Elbow, face.
Most- though not all- traditional martial arts focus on stances or forms. Some of the better ones, like BJJ and wing chun, focus on actual fighting, takedowns, and simultaneous offence and defence. But very few teach you how to use the full arsenal of weapons at your disposal.

If you think about it, your body has numerous weapons that you can use in a fight. At long ranges, you have legs and feet for kicking. At medium ranges, you have any number of punches, finger-based attacks, stiff-fingered jabs to vulnerable areas, and chopping blows using the blade of the hand. And most striking martial arts will teach you how to use both sets of weapons at the right ranges.

Few martial arts- especially not the competitive ones- will teach you how to use your short-range weapons, namely elbows and knees, properly. (Krav Maga does, which is one of the reasons why I love it.)

Muay thai suffers from no such oversights. Study this art, and you'll learn exactly how to use an elbow to crack someone's skull, or an expertly placed knee to turn a vital organ into paste. (I exaggerate only slightly- muay thai fighters can and do deliver tremendous power in their short-range strikes.)

Elbows are a particular favourite weapon of mine. They are phenomenal tools for making someone bleed. The elbow joint is best thought of as a blade that can be unsheathed and used to cut someone's face. It's also a great weapon to use to stun someone or to put him on the back foot at close range in a fight, as Alexander Gustafsson found out when fighting Jon Jones at UFC 165.

And as Tony Fryklund found out when Anderson Silva hit him with a reverse elbow

Knees are also a highly underrated weapon. Hit someone in the ribs with a knee- or, better yet, in the chin with a flying knee- and he's not going to be attacking you in a hurry. And a knee to the liver, if you can manage it, is a very good way to knock someone down quickly.

3. Your Self-Confidence and Mental Strength Will Skyrocket

Muay Thai
Pain is for pansies
Short of wrestling bears on a mountainside, or hunting lions with nothing more than a spear and shield, there are few things that shape and sharpen a man's character as fast or as effectively as fighting. When you spar on a regular basis, when you're used to taking kicks to the body and hard punches to the head, and when you know how long and how hard you can fight before you get gassed, you will know how to handle yourself in almost any street situation that confronts you.

As with so many other things, the ancient words apply here: si vis pacem, para bellum.

There are few martial arts as physically demanding and as filled with full-contact badassitude as muay thai. By training yourself to endure discomfort and pain, by becoming mentally tough and resilient, and by pushing yourself as hard as you can to be the best striker that you can be, muay thai, like Krav Maga, confers upon its students the benefits of understanding the ancient laws of martial prowess that governed and tempered great warriors of the past.

Muay thai will teach you respect for yourself, respect for your opponent, and respect for the nature of battle. You will begin to understand the importance of never underestimating your opponent, of ending a fight quickly and with minimal fuss, and of the virtues of mercy. These are things that wider society can no longer teach you as a man, because that same society is sick and deranged.

Muay thai, like all warrior arts, lets you rediscover masculine virtues that the rest of society seems to wish we could bury.

Stand Up and Fight

As with any martial art, muay thai has its weaknesses. I personally don't think it's all that applicable on the street, beyond a certain point. There are no weapons defences taught in traditional muay thai. I don't like the way they teach hooks in muay thai- when you're wearing boxing gloves, striking with the back of your hand facing you is fine, but on the street, without hand wraps or gloves or any kind of protective gear, you'll break your hand. I don't like the way they teach you to catch round kicks; in MT, you're taught to capture a round kick by looping your arm over the kick, which still allows the other guy's leg to make impact with your body, whereas in KM we catch the leg earlier, on the bicep, and hook under and up to push opponents off balance and onto the ground.

And muay thai does not deal with what happens on the ground, because it's not even slightly interested. That's what BJJ and judo are for. If you want to know how to defend yourself on your back or get through someone's guard, this isn't the art for you.

But if you want to become fit, strong, and confident, and if you want to learn how to use your entire body as a weapon, then I'd recommend that you look into taking a few MT classes. If you enjoy a challenge and you're willing to push yourself hard, you'll get a lot out of it.


  1. "Like this but less... Belgian." That's truly funny. Tony Jaa's English is better than JCVD's, too.

    1. True. But JCVD has Tony Jaa beat six ways to Sunday when it comes to great cheesy one-liners.

      "Now who wants to go home, and who wants to go with ME?!?"

  2. When you think of becoming the Best MMA fighter in Connecticut, you should focus on not only for your practice session, but also for your all MMA gear which can play a role to be the best.


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