What should beginners expect from their first Muay Thai class with you?
I teach the Beginner Muay Thai class on Thursdays – which focuses on the Muay Thai clinch. China (our other Muay Thai Coach) looks after the Beginner Muay Thai lessons on Mondays and Wednesdays that focus on striking.
Beginners, in the Monday and Wednesday session, will focus on the real basics, so how to stand properly, how to position yourself properly, how to do the basic movements of punching, kicking, elbowing, kneeing, and blocking. Muay Thai is the art of eight limbs – so you’ll start looking at how to use all of them. On Thursdays, we do the fundamentals of the clinch, you’ll again be taught how to stand, get yourself into position, how to use your balance, and move your body, for offensive and defensive purposes. You’ll be taught how to have mobility across your fight area.
In order of priority, when you’re first learning, it’s first your position, then your balance, and then it’s what you’ll actually be doing. You won’t be able to punch, kick or elbow correctly if your starting point – your stance – is wrong. If your balance is wrong, then you’ll lose your stance once you start to move – so they always come in that order. Body positioning is the priority, then balance, then striking – it has to be taught and learnt in that order and does take patience. Sometimes students are impatient to move onto the next class, onto sparring etc. but if you can’t stand well – or you don’t have good balance – then you can’t do it. Otherwise you’ll be out of your depth.
In Muay Thai you strike, with your fists, elbows, knees, at first with no-one impeding you. Whereas, in the Muay Thai clinch, other people try to off balance you – so it’s a little more difficult. It’s not just you holding your own weight – it’s someone else trying to shake you, move you, and move you places that you don’t want to go…
Why should I train Muay Thai? Is it good for self defence?
Muay Thai is hugely versatile, for me it’s the best martial art because you can use most of the weapons that you have – as long as you can use your arms and legs. You can punch, you can knee, you can elbow. If you’re on the street, and you don’t have boxing gloves, then you can use your knees and elbows to inflict blows – if you’re looking at the self defence aspect. You also learn how to clinch, how to grapple, but the goal is not to go to the ground, as you would with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Again, if you’re looking at martial arts for self defence, I’d argue that you maybe don’t want to go to the floor – it’s maybe hard/dirty/with sharp objects – but clinch work will show you how to stay on your feet and off balance, throw and strike other people while you remain standing. So, I’d say, overall, and if you have to use it, it’s better than the other options. Or running away fast.
What sort of people come to your classes and start training with you?
We have total beginners, who have never trained in anything before, and people who have maybe done other martial arts but want to try something else – maybe they are looking for something a bit more hard core, and want to fight. And we also have people who have already competed and trained Muay Thai before – and they just want to improve difference aspects of their Muay Thai. There’s not one style of Muay Thai. Within the discipline there’s different variations and if you go to different clubs, one may be more focused on punching or kicking or clinch work. It’s like a game, like football, and everyone will play it a little bit differently, depending on what their preferences are – you’re bound to be better at certain things than others – so Muay Thai gives you that flexibility as well. If you’re not very good with punches then you can kick, if you’re not good at kicking then you can punch. If you’re not good at either then there’s the grappling element and you can knee your opponent. You can still be relatively successful even if you’re weak in some areas, if you hone your other skills. If you’re bad at punching in boxing, then you’re bad at boxing – in Muay Thai, you have options.
How fit do I need to be? What happens if I want to throw up during the class?
If you want to throw up just make sure you do it in a bin or in a toilet – not on the mats. With fitness, you can be fit but still find classes difficult so… if you come to the beginner classes we’re not there to tire you – it’s all about getting you balanced and positioned correctly. This takes time and patience, and you shouldn’t be rushing, so cardiovascular or general fitness isn’t particularly important. It’s important if you’re coming to more intermediate/advanced Muay Thai lessons – or if you’re a fighter and/or getting ready for a competition – but as a beginner I’d say patience is more important than fitness.
How do beginners progress/how do you track this?
This goes back to the first question, it’s all about looking at whether you get in a stance and move forwards, backwards, side to side. If you can do that, can you do that whilst doing a couple of strikes and a couple of blocks? If you can do that, then can you do it against a resisting or uncompliant opponent? If someone moves towards you, can you keep your distance or can you close the distance correctly?
It’s like learning a language, first you learn the alphabet, then you learn how to put it together. Everyone is different, some people find certain parts difficult whilst others will find other elements challenging. If your co-ordination is good, maybe you’ve trained in other sports and can pick things up quickly then you may progress faster than others – we all learn at different speeds and some people are just naturally better than others at certain things. You’ll progress but you need to demonstrate you can perform things correctly and can do it well for a certain period of time – then you’ll get moved up to the next level of class and so on.
Combat sports is like trial and error, you show something, practise a few times, and then you live test it. Did it work? Yes, great. If no, why not? Either get better at it or discard it. It may not suit you.
What equipment will I need to buy and when?
For our beginner Muay Thai classes you don’t need anything. Just comfortable shorts/leggings and a t-shirt – with no zips and/or buttons. The only equipment you’ll need are boxing gloves which you can borrow from the gym. In the clinch Muay Thai lessons we don’t use gloves. So in the Beginner Thai Boxing classes you don’t need anything – just yourself.
For intermediate/mixed Muay Thai lessons you’ll need shin guards, ideally have your own gloves (so you don’t share) but you can again yours ours if you need to. In mixed/intermediate classes you’ll do a lot more partner drills so you’ll start receiving some impact and so will want some more protection to lessen the chance of getting injuries/knocks that could have been avoided or minimised.
For intermediate/advanced/sparring Muay Thai classes you’ll again need shin guards, your own gloves plus a gum shield and groin guard
What are the do’s and don’ts of joining one of your classes?
Do’s – be patient and listen – and try to listen as much as you can. And ask questions. And if you don’t understand something then say so – don’t just nod your head when I ask if something is clear. Sometimes I speak fast, I speak with an accent, and I don’t mind repeating things. Sometimes someone will ask a question that actually a bunch of people are interested in. At the same time, don’t get too ahead of the process and ask loads of questions that aren’t relevant in the moment.
The Don’ts would be, if I show you a technique and you ask loads of questions about what would happen if I do this, that, more of this, then you’re getting ahead of the process. No Muay Thai technique is perfect, each builds up your game, but if I use a certain technique on you, then you could use another on me, I’d then have to use something else to counteract it. Muay Thai uses a blend of offensive and defensive moves and there are pros and cons to each – it’s about who can execute what they’re planning to do better. But potential plans could be infinite and it becomes a conversation based on what if, what if, what if… And we run out of time to practise drills.
You can ask why we do things in a certain way, or stand in a certain way, or what the purpose of something is, but practise and drilling is obviously hugely important. We don’t just keep talking and hypothesising about what we could do.
We do lots of ‘plus 1’ drills, so I’ll show you a technique, such as a push kick, then I’ll show you how to blend that into another technique and then I’ll show you what maybe an opponent will do – to counter that – and then what you can do in response. And so on – adding one thing – but then you’ll have learnt three of four new techniques etc. by the end of a class. So you practise certain scenarios. For example, last week, we did a lot of work on push kicks, how do you bait people, counter those baits. Or, how do you engage into punching range, how you create space and angles, and how you counter blows. I’ll concentrate on different aspects each week.
Will I feel weird if I come on my own?
No and, even if you come with a friend, you may not end up being paired with them in the class. Some classes, especially the Muay Thai Beginner classes, don’t require you to be paired with another person – you might be practising just your movement and balance first. If you don’t have this, you won’t be paired up with someone to start doing certain techniques. If you’re a total beginner, after two or three weeks you’ll probably start getting paired up a little bit but this will be with someone of a similar height, weight etc. so if your friend is a lot taller/smaller you won’t be with them anyway. If there’s an odd number of students then there’ll be a group of three working together. If there’s an odd number in more advanced classes then me/another coach will jump in but – in beginner lessons – you obviously want to keep an eye on everyone and there is a need for constant correction.
Also, it’s a fight sport so, even if you’re only a beginner, there is contact. It’s part of the learning process. So you do get to know people. If having close contact with others makes you uncomfortable then Muay Thai may not be for you.
What sets your classes apart from other instructors? What will I gain by training with you?
I’m really big on the fundamentals of Muay Thai, I don’t do a lot of fancy or spectacular things. I do basics really well. You win fights, and confrontations, by doing simple stuff really good. It’s more effective. And I’m very big on clinch work, it’s an aspect of Muay Thai that gets missed a lot – a lot of clubs say they teach Muay Thai but really its kickboxing or some sort of hybrid – where they teach you to punch and kick and move. But they don’t teach you how to knee, elbow and clinch. And actually manipulate an opponent and we focus a lot on this. We have lots of guys come who have good experience and struggle against our medium level guys because they don’t know how to clinch. I spend a lot of time on it. If you train with China it’ll be very different – she’ll demonstrate a wider range of things – which I’d say are really interesting to know about but can be harder to pull off. And she doesn’t like clinching. So, together, we’re a really good combination.
Training with me, you’re going to learn your fundamentals really well, including the clinch (which you must know if you want to compete), and be able to have some techniques that you can execute to a really high level. Around 90% of people who train in Muay Thai neglect the clinch, with me, you definitely won’t!
What’s the community like at LFF? What sort of people train there?
There’s a good atmosphere, especially in the evenings when there are more people training, there’s usually lots of jokes. It can be quite boisterous but it’s all good, there’s a really good energy here. We have different levels of students, and the more experienced members always tend to help out those less experienced. If you’re a complete beginner come down, engage in what we tell you and just have fun. As you progress through the classes, you’ll get to know people – once you train with people it helps create a special bond!