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What Is Muay Thai Kickboxing?

//What Is Muay Thai Kickboxing?

What Is Muay Thai Kickboxing?

Enter any serious Mixed Martial Arts gym in Canada and abroad, and you’re likely to find some sort of Muay Thai kickboxing program or class being taught. Why? Because it’s deemed by many experts to be the most effective striking style for use in modern MMA competition. For this reason, many people want to learn Muay Thai. But just what exactly is Muay Thai kickboxing?

Muay Thai Kickboxing is both a combat sport and a martial art developed in Thailand, and is often thought of as the national sport of Thailand. Called “Muay Thai”, Thai boxing, or Thai kickboxing for short, it is perhaps the most exciting and captivating of the various kickboxing styles that fighters practice and compete in around the world. Thai’s love Muay Thai, and in Thailand children often begin training in Muay Thai at an early age (with limited contact rules) in the hopes of someday becoming a famous Muay Thai champion.

Muay Thai History

The name “Muay Thai” is derived from the meaning of the word “muay”, which means to bind something in a ball. In times past, Muay Thai practitioners would bind their hands in hemp rope to protect them from damage during matches and training. In fact, the unique Thai style of wrapping the hands was even commented on by Europeans who traveled to Thailand (then Siam) in their journals and missives to their superiors back home. This practice of binding their hands in rounded form became synonymous with the sport and martial art, and today the word “muay” is synonymous with boxing in Thailand.

Legend has it that Thai Boxing started during the 18th century, when a famous fighter, Nai Khanomtom, was captured by the Burmese during one of many wars that were fought between Siam and Burma. As the story goes, the Burmese had heard of Khanomtom’s prowess in hand-to-hand combat, and they decided to allow him to challenge Burmese fighters in order to win his freedom. According to the legend, he prevailed, and upon returning to his homeland his people celebrated him as a national hero, a status he retains to this day. His fighting style was immortalized as Siamese boxing, became popularized in the following century by King Rama V (who was a great fan of the sport), and handed down until centuries later it became known as modern Muay Thai.

Muay Thai for Self-Defense

Interestingly, the rough and tumble rules of Muay Thai kickboxing that make it such an exciting spectacle also make it very practical for self-defense. Modern Muay Thai developed from an earlier version of the art called Muay Boran (“ancient boxing”, which is actually a blanket term for several ancient Thai martial arts), which was less focused on competition and sport, and more focused on military and self-defense applications. In Muay Thai as in Muay Boran, a practitioner learns to use their entire body as a weapon, and to dish out devastating punishment using rapid-fire combinations of hand and foot techniques.

This, combined with the very practical training methods, makes Muay Thai a great martial art to learn for self-defense. In Muay Thai competition, the entire body is a target. Kicks to the legs are encouraged, as is clinching and taking your opponent to the mat. In addition to these unorthodox rules, the judicious use of elbow strikes and knees at close range make Muay Thai a devastating self-defense method. And, the fact that you are often working with an uncooperative partner in training means that the skills you use can be applied for real, in real-time. No other striking style can compare to Muay Thai in this regard.

The Sport of Muay Thai

The sport of Muay Thai is often referred to as “the art of eight limbs” or “the science of eight limbs”, because of the use of fists, feet, knees, and elbows to strike and kick during matches. Unlike Western boxing or kickboxing, in Muay Thai competition it is completely legal to strike the opponent’s body or head with elbows or knees, a technique that often results in devastating knockouts in professional matches. Fans of Muay Thai will tell you emphatically that there is no other combat sport on the planet that is as exciting to watch as a good, spirited Thai boxing match.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about modern Muay Thai kickboxing training is the fact that, because professional matches are so brutal, trainers and fighters take great care to make training as safe as possible. No fighter wants to jeopardize their career or professional fighting record by entering a match with an injury. Consider what would happen if a fighter entered a match with an injury… it’s easy to see how fighting at a disadvantage could spell disaster in such a serious and competitive sport.

So, fighters and trainers emphasize hard training on the Muay Thai pads, the banana bag (a 6 foot tall punching bag designed especially for Muay Thai), and in focus pad work using the belly pad (a thick chest and stomach protector worn by the trainer, so the fighter can deliver full power kicks while working focus mitts). They also focus a great deal of training time on supplemental conditioning methods, including shadow boxing, jogging, jump rope, strength training, and calisthenics. This is all done while making sure that sparring (practice fighting) contact is kept to safe levels so that no fighter is injured while preparing for a match.

Muay Thai for Fun

It is this focus on safety in training that makes Muay Thai such a great combat sport for the average person to pick up for fitness, recreation, and self-defense. Because well-trained Muay Thai coaches know how to push fighters into tip-top shape while keeping them safe from injury, they are able to modify the training methods for modern Western recreationists. Any Muay Thai coach worth their salt is able to safely train both serious competitors and casual Muay Thai students who just want to get in shape and learn how to defend themselves.

Try Muay Thai Today!

Interested in taking a class in Surrey or Langley, BC? Call us (604) 725-9797 or contact us right now and we’ll be happy to schedule you for an introductory class.