When you want to start practicing Muay Thai or you already started but you are still a beginner, you may wonder things like: How hard is that sport? How much time you will need to become good at Muay Thai or even master it? I was wondering the same exact things so here’s the answer I found:
Is Muay Thai hard to learn? The basic strikes, stance, footwork, and defense in Muay Thai aren’t hard to learn. You may need 6 – 10 weeks so learn them depending on how often you practice. However, that doesn’t mean you are good at Muay Thai. To start doing the techniques better and to start developing your style you may need 6 months to a year. And to master the sport you need to practice it and competing for at least 7 years.
Muay Thai is often called the “Art of Eight Limbs”. Unlike boxing or western kickboxing, every strike you can think of (except headbutts) is legal in Muay Thai. You can kick, punch throw elbow or knees. That means there are a lot of striking techniques you need to learn:
There are 4 different types of punches in Muay Thai:
Two types of kicks:
- Roundhouse kick
Eight variations of elbow strikes
Two types of knees:
- Straight knee
- Round knee
That makes the total number of 16 striking techniques. Aside from that, you need to learn basic footwork, stance, defense and clinching. The number of things to learn may seem huge but actually, once you learn the mechanics of one technique that will help you learn another which will help you learn another one and so on and so on. That’s why I said you can learn the basics of Muay Thai for 6 – 10 weeks.
Effective Use of the Techniques
Knowing something and being able to use it effectively are very different things. For example, you may know how to move all the chess pieces but that doesn’t mean you are able to mate someone in a game. In order to do that you need to move the pieces to the right spots.
The same goes for Muay Thai (and every combat sport in general). You may know how to kick, punch, elbow or knee but you may feel awkward when doing it. Your punches will feel slow and weak at first – the same goes for the kicks and elbows, etc. That is because you still haven’t built enough muscle memory in order to generate power in your strikes
You need a lot of practice in order to build that muscle memory. But after you build it, you will be able to kick and punch hard and efficiently (without tiring yourself as you do it).
That process usually takes about 6 months to a year. You can do that quicker by doing a lot of heavy bag work and shadowboxing every day. Just 5 minutes a day are enough at first. You can extend that time when you start feeling it’s too short. Several rounds per workout on the heavy bag are enough to improve your stamina, increase your power and condition your wrists and shins.
I would suggest spending 80% of your workout time on those activities (shadowboxing and heavy bag). At least for the first 2 months. That will improve your technique dramatically which will make your sparring sessions MUCH more productive.
During that period 6 months to years, you’ll start developing your style. You will notice that there are some techniques that work better for you, you will start putting them together in combinations. Also, in sparring, you’ll notice that certain things can work great for one type of opponent but no so good for others.
At that period of time, you will start picking up things like strategy, tactics, defense (you’ll learn basic defense at the beginning but now it will become more advanced). After a year of serious training – at least 4 times per week (plus some shadowboxing at home), people become decent in Muay Thai. At that time you can do your first fight (in case you want to compete).
Some people train Muay Thai for fitness, others for self-defense or just because they love martial arts. But there is a big portion of the people who train for Muay Thai who want to compete.
I know, it’s not for everybody but the benefits of competing are HUGE. After each fight, you become much better at Muay Thai. Actually that is the only way to really master the sport. You won’t be able to think much in your first few fights. It will be just about survival. You will rely on your toughness, instincts, and will to win much more than on technique and strategy.
After the first 3-4 fights, you’ll become much calmer in under “the fire” and you’ll start to remember almost everything that happened in the fights and analyze them. That helps you to learn from your mistakes.
After 7 years of competing, you will have at least 15 fights. You’ve probably met all the different styles in the ring and have a good perspective on all aspects of the sport. This is the time you can say that you mastered Muay Thai and you can handle yourself in the ring against almost everybody (at least survive if not win).
As I said competing isn” for everybody. As you start to become good, you should decide on your own if you want to do it or not. Even if you don’t compete but just work consistently in the gym you’ll be able to beat the average joes pretty easy.
But if you want to have that fighters’ confidence and be able to beat other fighters, you probably need to compete at some point.
Smart training vs robotic training
You may notice that the time estimates I gave you are pretty rough – 6 to 10 weeks, 6 months to a year, etc. That depends not only on how often you train in those time periods but also HOW you train.
And it’s not about if you train hard or not (although that is very important too). There is a concept I like to call robotic training. This is when you workout but you are not completely focused on the workout. Most of the time that’s because you are thinking about something else whether it’s a problem at work, a problem with your girlfriend, etc.
That I call robotic training – you do the work on the bag, shadowbox, etc but don’t think about it that much. And that can cause some issues – you can be making mistakes, your technique may not be crisp and you don’t build good muscle memory.
Ideally, you should be completely focused, visualizing and thinking, what you are doing. For example, when you shadowbox instead of just throwing punches and moving around, you should be imagining an opponent throwing punches and kicks at you and defending your attacks. That will be really beneficial and you’ll notice that in sparring.
I know it’s impossible to be 100% focused on your workout all the time. Everybody has problems and sometimes even going to the gym can’t help you forgot about them for a moment.
But the more you train smart and not robotic the more you will improve your skills. Someone can be working out 2 times more than you but if you think about what you are doing and he isn’t, you’ll surpass him quickly.
Tips for becoming good at Muay Thai
- Do a lot of shadowboxing at first (80% of your training should be shadowboxing and bag work)
- Watch Muay Thai fight breakdowns to increase your fight IQ, tactics and strategy
- Consider competing as you become good so you master the sport