Muay Thai – more than merely self defense

Living in Thailand offered me such a range of opportunities and means in which I could interact with the country’s rich culture and traditions. I had been looking for a sport I could really master, as I had wanted to improve my fitness and generally become less of an unproductive waste of space, so I began exploring my options. Basketball hooked me for a while – I loved the rush of sprinting up and down the court, constantly moving, the feeling of teamwork. But schoolwork took priority over my love of the game and won out. Volleyball caught my eye for the same reasons but, I don’t know if it was the lack of motivation or my hatred for the compulsory uniform of spandex, I slowly stopped playing too. I thought I’d found my calling when I dabbled in Hockey, but there were no school teams for a sport so infrequently played, so I had no choice but to give that up too. Then my friend suggested I accompany her one Friday and join a Muay Thai gym.

Muay Thai, or Thai boxing, is a combat sport of Thailand that uses stand-up striking along with various clinching techniques. This physical and mental discipline includes combat on shins and is known as “the art of eight limbs” as it is characterised by the combined use of fists, elbows, knees and shins. I was instantly enraptured. I spent days researching the martial art and watching professional matches on YouTube. And so, I joined my friend on a Friday after school down to a tucked away, sophisticated yet authentic boxing gym in a crowded center of the city. My hair was tied, my wraps were fixed, and my gloves were on. That was two years ago. I’m still boxing till this day.

It is more than a sport to me. It has become a part of my life, for I go twice a week to Muay Thai sessions. (LO4, check!) No but seriously, this is not just for CAS, mind you. Maybe I see it as a way to still connect to Bangkok, a city I still call my home, a way to keep some regularity in my life now that the shift to Singapore has changed everything. But I mostly see it as an example of my resilience. I am not a very active person, but boxing is a sport I love and can do everyday despite my usual bad habit of opting out of high-energy activities. It’s more than just a physical activity (but more on that later). I am not a very fit person either, and my stamina is not impressive, but despite wanting to lie down on the sweaty gym mats and take a nap after every tough and gruelling round, I’ve learned to get back onto my feet and push myself harder. I don’t yet know what about this sport makes me so eager and determined to persevere, but a part of me likes not knowing. I am also not a very committed person, and endless routine holds no appeal to me, but I keep going to Muay Thai so I can earn the right to call myself a resilient person.

Back to being more than just a physical activity. Yes, it may fall under the ‘Action’ section of CAS and yes, it is a martial art and sport but there is something about the martial arts, and Muay Thai in particular, that sets it apart from all other sports I have played. These are some of the benefits I have experienced while training and being a Muay Thai student.

  • Self Defense. It is fitness and life skills in one. It allows you to become street smart and learn how to protect yourself while still undergoing an often rigorous fitness regime. Being a girl, and especially being one who likes to go out at night or travels alone, knowing how to properly defend myself was something I’d always wanted, and the fact that it is now a skill I have and am proud of makes me very happy.
  • Focusing and Listening. Sure, we do that in school and in our everyday lives, but during a sport where your success depends on your hand-eye coordination and your alertness, your senses are heightened. Constant focus, despite being concentrated in short periods of time during training rounds, is a quality I have definitely developed due to boxing, for if I am not paying attention, I get a right hook to the face. Not nice.
  • Teamwork. Not a word one would associate with boxing as it is a very person v. person sport, but training Muay Thai has definitely taught me the importance of teamwork. The bond between me and my trainer is very important. He is the one teaching me and coaching me, but that can only be achieved if we are in tune with and work with one another.
  • Respect – One of the most important words in martial arts is respect. Students are taught to respect their instructors, each other, and themselves. Respect is often missing in many facets of today’s society.
  • Communication is needed on both ends, and so is understanding. What I like about my gym is that I can develop a relationship with my trainer overtime, and my past experience has taught me that it can greatly improve my experience.
  • Self Control and Responsibility. Engaging in a Martial art requires a lot of this. It’s about perseverance, not just during training sessions but also out of them. Healthy eating and frequent exercise (a part I am still working on) is crucial. And during gym, Muay Thai requires a balance between trying hard and not pushing yourself too far. I am still working on maintaining this balance too.
  • Memorization and Retention. Martial Arts based etiquette, skill order, moves and techniques need a certain amount of dedication to remember, for it is such an unpredictable sport.
  • Self Esteem and Confidence building. This for me has probably been the biggest benefit of choosing Muay Thai Boxing as my sport I dedicate time to. The feeling of power when hitting, the rush when moving, the constant active stance and every punch or kick landed being a reward in itself has undoubtedly helped boost my self confidence, for once you put in work, the results are evident.

So yeah, thats Muay Thai for me. More than a sport.

I hope it continues to be a passion of mine for a long time.

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