The art of Muay Thai has gained worldwide popularity for several reasons.
- Muay Thai is a very realistic ring sport in which most parts of the human body may be used as weapons.
- It is effective for self defense and hand to hand combat at close, middle and long ranges.
- It is great way to condition the body and get physically fit.
- Since Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has become all the rage it has become accepted as the best method of standup fighting for MMA practitioners.
For these reasons and more, gyms and schools that offer Muay Thai are starting to spring up all over the USA and abroad. But, which one is right for you?
Is it real Muay Thai? Real Muay Thai includes Thai style elbows, knees, punches, kicks and the clinch as well as defenses for all of the above. Make sure it’s Muay Thai not Tae Kwon Do or Karate posing as Muay Thai.
Look for an instructor with at least 10 years of Muay Thai experience. A couple of smoker fights does not make a Kru (instructor). How long have they been in business? A lot of gyms are opening and closing these days. The sad part is they usually take your money then shut down, leaving you high and dry.
Are the instructors certified by the Thai Boxing Association USA (TBA) or another organization? If not, where did the instructor learn? A month in Thailand and watching some instructional videos does not make you an instructor.
Do they have a fight team and will they train you for Muay Thai competition WHEN you’re ready? On the flip side, make sure they won’t pressure you to fight full-contact BEFORE you feel ready.
Do they offer beginning as well as intermediate and advanced classes? It’s not a good sign if they throw you in the ring with fighters looking for “fresh meat” on the first day. Also, do they offer BEGINNING MUAY THAI classes? If they only have Kickboxing classes on a bag and Fight Team classes, move on. It’s kind of a stretch to go from working on a bag to sparring with pros.
A good program has a complete curriculum including the drills, combinations and training methods to bring out the best in you. Are there clear-cut requirements for your progression? Do they help you to set realistic goals? If they expect you to run, skip rope, jump on a tire, and do crunches and push ups while they kick you in the gut for an hour and a half or until you puke before they teach you anything, it may be a good idea to find another gym (unless you have a fight within two months or you’re just into that kind of abuse.)
Do they have extensive knowledge of Muay Thai and are they willing to share it with you? If they don’t teach you anything but the stance and the foot jab for the first three months, you may want to look elsewhere.
Do they offer sparring as well as shadow boxing, Thai pad work, mitt work and partner drills in the advanced classes? Bag work is great for conditioning, but it won’t teach you to fight.
Most modern Muay Thai instructors and Thai Camps agree that you should learn boxing as well as Muay Thai to have a good stand up game. If they don’t believe in the “sweet science” they’re old school Muay Thai and really in denial about what works in a real fight.
Do they offer instructor certifications under the TBA or another Muay Thai organization? Do they teach you to hold the Thai pads and focus mitts? While it’s true you don’t have to know how to hold pads to be a fighter, to be an instructor you must learn to hold the pads.
Do they teach the Wai Kru (pre-fight dance)? Real Muay Thai Fighters and instructors have to know the Wai Kru. You cannot fight in Thailand without performing the Wai Kru first.
Are the staff, instructors and members friendly? When you walk in the door does it feel like they have your best interests at heart? Do they really care about your progress and seeing you reach your goals? If other members or staff members give you an attitude that’s not good because these sentiments usually come from the top down. Also, beware of programs who are eager to take your money but don’t care if you ever learn a proper Muay Thai elbow, knee or kick.
Do they offer beginning Muay Thai classes at times that are convenient for you? If you’re interested in cross training in MMA, Jiu Jitsu or boxing for example do they offer that. It can get expensive to pay for two gym memberships just to learn Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu or MMA.
Compare the monthly dues with the offering. Be sure to look at the total offering. Do you get to cross train in other martial arts for the same price? If you have a family, do they offer family discounts? Do they have a children’s program? Do they have a program for women? Do you get a student handbook when you enroll? Do they have open gym hours so you can train on your own? How many classes do they offer per week? Do they take attendance and keep you accountable if you start to slack off?
How big is the facility? How many classrooms do they have? How many Muay Thai heavy bags do they have? Do they have a boxing ring? Do they have weights and other fitness equipment? Do they have lockers and showers? A sport shop? While the instruction is much more important than the amenities, these fringe benefits are nice to have.
Is the facility clean? Do they clean the mats every day? Beware of gyms that don’t clean the mats every day. These places are ringworm central. It’s no fun explaining those sores all over your body to your significant other.
If they have a lot of satisfied members and students, that’s a good sign. They must be doing something right. If it’s just a few guys banging around in a garage, there’s probably a reason why.