Muay Thai, the national sport of Thailand, is nicknamed the “Art of Eight Limbs” because it makes use of not only the hands and feet, but also the knees and elbows to create arguably the most devastating striking-based martial art in the world. For many people, it is synonymous with kickboxing, which neglects some fundamental differences in technique, history, and competition rules. Muay Thai is the traditional Thai form, making unlimited use of elbows and knees and also the full clinch: two fighters basically grapple while standing up. It has more of an emphasis on kicking than the modern kickboxing styles, which make heavy use of the hands by incorporating a lot of Western boxing and head movement. With advantages to both styles, many gyms, including Body & Seoul, offer a hybrid of traditional Muay Thai and modern kickboxing. Modern kickboxing is a combination of American kickboxing (with its roots in full contact karate), Japanese K-1, and Dutch kickboxing. The latter is a form which exponents such as Ramon “The Diamond” Dekkers have proven time and time again to be a superior form of fighting. Blend them together and you have quite the armory – not to mention a workout.
I personally have trained in Thailand and the Netherlands, among other countries, and while the styles are markedly different, I have found a way to attune myself to all the different styles. Even among the different Muay Thai camps in Thailand, you’ll find numerous variations in technique, which can be a bit confusing, especially for beginners. However, eventually you figure out how your personal preferences work best for you. These may reflect your personality, fighting style, or body type. That’s one of the things to love about this art: it can be very personal and a way to express yourself – almost like a dance that has its own rhythm. That’s why all of the coaches at Body & Seoul hail from different backgrounds and have something unique to offer. For example, my background in taekwondo means I tend to incorporate some of the fancier kicks you don’t often see in Muay Thai, such as the spinning back kick. However, it’s important not to forget that, despite stylistic differences, some things are indisputable when it comes to technique, such as relaxing your shoulders and pivoting your hips to generate maximum power.
For simplicity’s sake, Body & Seoul refers to this modern day hybrid form as Muay Thai Kickboxing. One of the main reasons why many gyms these days are leaning towards this style (whatever the moniker) is because you get the best of both worlds and it most adequately prepares fighters for mixed martial arts (MMA) competitions. MMA has emerged as one of the fastest growing sports in the world, and the successes of proponents of Muay Thai Kickboxing in events such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) have brought its obvious competitive benefits to the masses.
Besides competition, people get into Muay Thai Kickboxing for a variety of reasons. Undoubtedly, most people are just looking for a new form of exercise, and the workout you get from training is incredible, even if you never spar or fight. The cardio is intense, and all the while you’re working your arms, legs, and core by punching and kicking pads or a heavy bag. By the time the training session is over, you’re dripping with sweat and your hands are shaking, but the time absolutely flies by because you never actually feel like you are “exercising.” Plus, all that punching, kicking, kneeing, and elbowing is a fantastic way to let off steam. All your troubles seem to disappear in one three-minute round on the pads. Another obvious benefit of training in Muay Thai Kickboxing is the self-defense aspect. Proper technique allows one to deliver devastating blows, with a single kick able to generate around 480 pounds (218 kg) of force; like getting clubbed with a baseball bat. Even at close range, Muay Thai Kickboxing training is useful since the knees and elbows are the strongest points of the body. Using these “limbs” could effectively get you out of a potentially nasty situation. While the ability to turn your body into a deadly weapon is a skill that hopefully you’ll never need, the sense of security and confidence you feel just from knowing what your body can do is invaluable and worth the time you put into training.
If your interest has been piqued, we invite you to join us for a free Muay Thai Kickboxing trial class at Body & Seoul. Just send an email to email@example.com mentioning this article in Groove Magazine and we’ll book you in for a lesson!
Body & Seoul website: http://www.seoulmartialarts.com/
Body & Seoul address: 225-1 Itaewon-dong #201, Yongsan-gu, Seoul