What is Muay Thai?

Saenchai Pakorn seminar 1

Saenchai, the Muhammad Ali of Muay Thai, and 'Golden Boy' Pakkorn visited us from Thailand and gave a seminar.

Muay Thai is a 4,000 year old martial art that originates in Thailand and is sometimes called “the art of 8 limbs” because fighters use 8 weapons against their opponents: 2 fists, 2 elbows, 2 knees and 2 feet.

Muay Thai is an important part of Thai culture, where boys and young men from poor backgrounds can make a living by becoming fighters, and in the past 30 years it has become more and more popular in the west. In fact, much of modern-day MMA fighting incorporates strikes taken directly from Muay Thai, particularly elbow strikes, knee strikes, kicks and sweeping (where you ‘sweep’ your opponent off their feet onto the floor).

Is Muay Thai effective for self-defence?

Absolutely. Unlike many other martial arts, which place emphasis on quite complex movements and are practised in a fairly choreographed way, Muay Thai focuses on the most straightforward ways to inflict damage on your opponents: By hitting them, hard.

In a self-defence situation, when the more thoughtful part of your brain stops working and your ‘lizard brain’ kicks in, you probably won’t be able to remember that wrist lock move you practised in Aikido class 6 months ago. You’ll also find that, in the real world, your opponent is more resistant to being manipulated in that way.

Don’t get us wrong – each martial art that exists today has stood the test of time and is beautiful in its own way. But some, like Muay Thai, are much more effective at dealing with the chaos of real world situations.

Practising Muay Thai will also give you the self-discipline and physical confidence to avoid those kinds of situations, which is surely the best way to remain out of harm’s way.

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What’s the difference between Muay Thai, Thai Boxing and Kickboxing?

Muay Thai and Thai Boxing are exactly the same thing under different names.

The main differences between Muay Thai and Kickboxing in its modern form, however, is that most professional kickboxing organisations usually don’t allow elbows strikes or knee strikes to the head. Kickboxing fights also usually disallow ‘clinching’ (grappling while standing up) for more than 3 seconds, whereas in Muay Thai clinching is an extremely important part of fighting.

Is Muay Thai better than Boxing?

As you’re probably aware, in boxing you only use your 2 fists. In Muay Thai, you use your 2 fists, your elbows, knees and feet. Why limit yourself to 2 weapons when you could have 8?

However, as humans we are limited by how much time and effort we can physically spend practising something. That means that someone who spends all of their time doing pure Western boxing will potentially be able to ‘out-box’ someone who spends all of their time doing Muay Thai. Equally, a boxer will have no idea how to react to any of the kicks, elbows, knees and sweep techniques of a Muay Thai fighter. It’s hard to punch someone who has kicked your legs out from under you!

Is Muay Thai better than Krav Maga?

Krav Maga is a martial art used by the Israeli army and special forces. You can’t compete in Krav Maga, and by extension you can’t go to Krav Maga events or enjoy watching your favourite Krav Maga fighter on Youtube.

By contrast, Muay Thai is effective for self-defence as well as being something that you can enjoy watching or competing in. Muay Thai also has 4,000 years of history and culture behind it, making it a much fuller experience – many of our students have travelled to Thailand to train and see more of the world, which is something they never would have done without first taking an interest in Muay Thai.

Depending on how it’s taught, Krav Maga can also be quite choreographed; you grab my wrist, I’ll palm your face, you let go of my wrist, and so on. In our classes, you’ll spend hours practising actually punching, kicking, kneeing and elbowing, with force and intent, so that striking, speed and timing become intuitive.

We’re also willing to bet that our Muay Thai classes are a much, much harder workout than any Krav Maga class in the UK.

How will I learn Muay Thai?

At Hanuman Thai Boxing we spend every class with a warm-up and dynamic stretching in order to prevent injury during training. Each class lasts for 1 hour and 15 minutes, which allows us to get really tucked into the technique and do some good practice, and is led by one of our experienced coaches who demonstrates exactly what you’ll  be doing. The coaches will be closely watching to help correct technique, answer questions, and provide encouragement.

Depending on the class, you’ll spend time working on the punching bags, doing strength and conditioning exercises, using pads with a partner, practising drills with a partner, and also sparring. Whatever the case, one thing remains certain: You’ll get a really good workout. You’ll soon see there’s a reason they call it ‘fighting fit’!

Some of our students are women who show the boys how it's really done.

Some of our students are women who show the boys how it's really done.


I don’t really want to get hit, I just want to get fit

That’s understandable. To most people, being punched in the face is not their idea of a picnic. Even professional fighters don’t want to get hit, they want to win!

The only time you would get hit as a beginner is if you’re sparring and you get carried away. At Hanuman we actively discourage ‘really going for it’ unless the coaches sense that you’re ready. In other words, you’ll know how to defend yourself against the strikes before you spar, and you’ll know how to control your strikes so that you’re not going to really hurt your opponent.

We don’t have room for big egos; Hanuman is not the place to show someone half your size that you’re stronger than them. At the same time, you don’t have to spar if you don’t want to – we’ll find something else for you to do! We promise our Muay Thai classes will get you fitter than you’ve ever been in your entire life, regardless.

I want to fight someone as soon as possible

Woah there! We appreciate your enthusiasm, but we’ll never put you into the ring until we’re sure you can handle it. Once you’re able to display a certain level of skill and physical fitness, and you want to fight, we’re better connected than anyone in Scotland to sort out a fight for you. We regularly organise the Muay Thai Jam in Edinburgh, and we travel with our fighters all around the country to participate in other events. We also regularly organise interclub fights, which is where we’ll invite another gym to come and compete against us but the fighters will all wear full padding – sort of a taster-fight.

With all that in mind, it is possible to go from zero Muay Thai experience to competing in your first fight within 6 months. All you have to do is put the work in!

Join us for your first free taster session, absolutely no obligation.