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THERE’S MUCH, MUCH MORE TO MUAY THAI THAN JUST LEARN­ING HOW TO KICK. HERE ARE SOME OF THE BEST—AND SOME­TIMES LESSER KNOWN— BEN­E­FITS OF THE POP­U­LAR COM­BAT SPORT

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E ver since Jean-Claude Van Damme showed the world just how hard­core the sport can be in his 1989 ac­tion flick “Kick­boxer,” Muay Thai or Thai box­ing has be­come a house­hold name. Con­tin­ued global ex­po­sure—through movie se­ries like “Ong Bak” that pop­u­lar­ized the an­cient roots of Muay Thai and the style’s preva­lence in mod­ern MMA— so­lid­i­fied its po­si­tion as one of the world’s most beloved com­bat sport.

Now, be­sides its com­pet­i­tive as­pect, the phys­i­cal con­di­tion­ing as­pect of Muay Thai has al­ways been a big draw as well. Just look around town and you’ll find an abun­dance of gyms of­fer­ing Muay Thai classes. There’s also plenty of high-end train­ing camps, of­fer­ing ei­ther hard­core tra­di­tional train­ing for pro ath­letes or se­ri­ous en­thu­si­asts as well as ex­pe­ri­ence pack­ages that might in­clude any­thing from spa treat­ments to lux­u­ri­ous ac­com­mo­da­tions.

So, you might ask, if I don’t in­tend to be­come a pro fighter, what would be my mo­ti­va­tion to try out Muay Thai? If what I’m look­ing for is a new ex­er­cise op­tion, why should I con­sider Muay Thai when there are so many other op­tions avail­able? Now, to an­swer that one, let’s look at some of the most im­por­tant ben­e­fits of the sport as well as those that are unique to Muay Thai:

tO­tAl BODy WOrk­Out

To say that Muay Thai train­ing is phys­i­cally in­tense would be a mas­sive un­der­state­ment. Of course, that also means that the pay­out will be just as big. First and fore­most, Muay Thai in­cludes both aer­o­bic and anaer­o­bic ex­er­cise, which puts ex­tra de­mand on your car­diopul­monary sys­tem. Once your body even­tu­ally adapts to keep up with that de­mand, you will def­i­nitely no­tice a sig­nif­i­cant jump in your phys­i­cal con­di­tion.

BuilD Mus­cle

This part goes with­out say­ing. How­ever, there are quite a few spe­cific ben­e­fits that you can get from Muay Thai train­ing. A lot of the move­ments in the sport is ro­ta­tional and is driven from your cen­ter of mass. Add to that clinch­ing or oc­ca­sion­ally get­ting hit, and you will strengthen all the mus­cles in your trunk—your core.

Since kick­ing and foot­work play a ma­jor part in Muay Thai, the mus­cu­la­ture of your lower body will def­i­nitely ben­e­fit from train­ing. All the kick­ing and knee­ing will also help de­velop hip mo­bil­ity, which will help you avoid a lot of painful con­di­tions later in life.

MinD Over MAt­ter

Now, this one sound like one of those clichéd say­ings that’s so of­ten thrown around in mar­tial art cir­cles. But it is true. Muay Thai train­ing can be hard, bor­der­ing on tor­tur­ous. And some­times you will need to start a new drill or step into the ring with your body al­ready aching all over, the coach scream­ing be­hind you and maybe a spar­ring part­ner who doesn’t pull his punches wait­ing for you. Go through sit­u­a­tions like this enough times, though, and you will soon re­al­ize that your body is ca­pa­ble of so much more than you might think—once you put your mind to it.

stress re­lief

You’ve had a long day at work, traf­fic was bad and your lunch ar­rived cold. What bet­ter way to bleed off all that ac­cu­mu­lated stress than work­ing up a sweat, pum­mel a heavy bag for min­utes on end and step into the ring with like­minded peo­ple.

MAke neW frienDs... AnD BeAt theM up

The chance to so­cial­ize and make new friends is one of the most un­der­rated ben­e­fits of Muay Thai—or any mar­tial art, for that mat­ter. But more than just meet­ing and get­ting to know peo­ple, train­ing like this help you build a unique trust-based dy­namic. You will step into the ring with the knowl­edge that your spar­ring part­ner fully in­tends to give your back­side a good kick­ing; but you can also fully trust him not to

hurt you. That’s why the term is

in­ten­tion­ally part­ner. spar­ring trAin­ing never enDs

One fi­nal ben­e­fit from train­ing in Muay Thai—or, once again, any mar­tial art—is that there’s al­ways some­thing new to dis­cover. There is a limited range of tech­niques and drills, and train­ing is mostly a mat­ter of rep­e­ti­tion. But within that end­less rep­e­ti­tion you will even­tu­ally dis­cover end­less va­ri­ety—mi­nor ad­just­ments, slight changes and clever tricks that can turn the tide of a bout. And as you train with an ever in­creas­ing cir­cle of fel­low fight­ers, your reper­toire will grow even more. Es­sen­tially, with Muay Thai, it’s never too late to start and it’s never late enough to stop.

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