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A beginners guide to surviving your first month of Muay Thai training

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You just joined a Martial Arts gym and they offer a Muay Thai program. You’ve done a few sessions and feel like you’re getting the hang of things. You’re finally learning the basics but getting a bit overwhelmed with all the combinations, techniques and what to use when. Don’t stress because you are not alone! You have embarked on a lifelong journey and aren’t expected to know everything straight away. As ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu best put it “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”. Here are a few tips to help you survive your first few months of training.

1. Make a two day a week commitment for training
“The only limit to your impact is your imagination and commitment.”
– Tony Robbins

This is a commitment to yourself and your gym that you will commit to a minimum of 2 days a week of training. This is a great way to start building a habit of training consistently. A lot of people make the mistake of training too hard too often when they first join up and end up burning out 2 months in and end up quitting. You are still new to it so take it slow and enjoy the journey. Make these 2 days your #1 priority and stick to it. Now, even when your friends ask you out for dinner or when you are dead tired from work then you will stick to your training if you have made it your #1 priority. It will be tough to stick to at the start but things will get easier, because people will understand that it’s your time. The problem with having no set days is that you always put training off to the next day. Then comes along Friday and you put it off to next week. Next thing you know it’s been 2 weeks and you are struggling to find the motivation to get back into it. If you had built the habit from the beginning you wouldn’t have this problem. The 2 day commitment builds consistency, and it is this consistency that will be the key to success in your Martial Arts training. Be consistent and you will reap a lifetime of rewards.

2. Set short term and long term goals
“What keeps me going is goals.”
– Muhammad Ali

What are your Martial Arts goals in the next month? What are your Martial Arts goals for the next year? Haven’t thought about it? Then it’s something you definitely need to think about. If you don’t set these goals then you could be setting yourself up for failure. I go on about goal setting because I think it’s one of the most important tools to success to anything in life. Goal setting needs to be specific, realistic and measurable. A bad example of poor goal setting would be “get good at Muay Thai”, “lose weight” or “I want to fight more”. It doesn’t set a time line and isn’t measurable. A better example would be “I want to train a minimum of 3 days a week in 2016”, “I want to drop 5kgs by August 2016” or “I want to have a Muay Thai fight by the end of 2016”. All these examples are realistic, achievable and set a deadline. Try to be realistic with your goals. Don’t write something like ‘I want to have my first pro Muay Thai fight’ when you know you don’t have the commitment to train hard enough for it. Set achievable goals and ask yourself are you really willing to pay the price for it, before you commit to it otherwise you are just setting yourself up for failure. Next time when setting a goal think SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

3. You are running your own race
“Comparison is the death of joy.” 
– Mark Twain

Everyone of us is different and we all learn at different paces. We have different strengths and weaknesses. Don’t get frustrated when you can’t perform a particular technique and everyone else around you can. It will take time and commitment. Avoid comparing yourself to those around you because they may have been doing it longer than you. It’s good to have role models to look up to but unhealthy to obsessively compare yourself to others. Focus on the achievements you have made no matter how big or small. Think about when you first started and how you struggled to even get your leg past waist height for a round kick. Now you are kicking rib height with good power too. Think about how you struggled to do 5 push ups at the start and now you are completing 10 push ups between every pad round. Be patient with how far you have come and your progress.

4. Make some new friends
When you’re surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible.
– Howard Schultz

When you come to the gym you are surrounded by a group of like minded people. You all embarked on this journey because you have similar goals and aspirations. You were all attracted to Muay Thai because you had common interests. Even though you are new and the idea of chatting to a complete stranger in the gym might sound daunting you’ll discover that you have a lot in common when you do start chatting to people. The other side to making friends at the gym is that you will keep each other accountable for training. When you make friends at the gym you start to set up regular nights to train together. You both grow together and help each other along the way.

Over the years through running Team Nemesis I have witnessed many lifelong friendships being formed and even couples that have married through meeting at the gym. Start a conversion with someone today and you will never know where it will take you.

5. Listen to your coaches.
“A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear, who has you see what you don’t want to see, so you can be who you have always known you could be.”
– Tom Landry

If you jump online these days and type “Muay Thai” in google you are bombarded with pages upon pages of how to guides, technique videos, highlight reels, blogs, and much more. Gone are the days where a students only source of information was the coach, because now the internet has become another huge source of information, some of it good and a lot of it bad. One day I was running classes and noticed one of the beginners working some sort of strange variation of a long guard which seemed completely impractical. I asked him what he was doing and he responded with “I saw Mr X use it on a technique video he posted up online”. The problem with things like this is that ANYONE can claim to be a Muay Thai master and post up videos online.  Even if they have legitimate credentials certain things just won’t work for everyone because of factors like experience, flexibility, body type and skill level. A good coach knows exactly what you are like and your limitations. They are a wealth of knowledge and experienced in the art of Muay Thai. They have traveled the path you are on now and made mistakes that they don’t want you to make. Everything they teach you is tried and tested so listen to the advice they give you and things they teach you. Forget about the spinning flying elbow technique tutorial you watched online and start listening more.

These are just some tips to follow when starting out in Muay Thai. It will be an exciting adventure and a life changing experience if you stick at it. It’s not something you just try out for a month or two, it’s a lifestyle change and the beginning to a better you. Enjoy the journey you are on, you will meet some great people and the after effects of your consistent training will flow into every aspect of your life.

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A review of Yodyut Muay Thai – Koh Samui, Thailand

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In September 2016 I took a team of 5 people from Team Nemesis to train at Yodyut Muay Thai in Thailand. The group consisted of members from a wide demographic and skill level. What they all had in common was a passion for Muay Thai. I usually train in Thailand myself on a yearly basis, but for this group of 5 it was a first time experience.

What to do around the island?
If you are like me and love your sun, pools, and beachside lifestyle living then Koh Samui is the place to go. I’ve been coming here for the past 10 years and just keep coming back. The island has so much to offer from all the touristy type day trips like elephant rides, shooting ranges, and snorkelling to relaxing poolside at your resort and quiet little hide away beach side restaurants. For this trip I decided to stay at the Imperial Boathouse Resort, which was absolutely amazing. It’s located in Choeng Mong and a 2 minute scooter ride from the gym and about a 15-20 minute walk. A scooter will cost you between 200 – 300 Baht per day ($8 AUD) and definitely worth the investment if you are confident in your riding and like to explore the island at your own pace. There are a whole bunch of night markets that operate on different nights including the Bophut (Friday night) and Lamai Market (Sunday night). If you are there for training then the stadiums are definitely one to check out. The fights are hit and miss with some complete mis matches and some very good quality bouts. Check out Chaweng Stadium and Samui International Stadium.

What is the training like?
Morning 8am – 10am
– Skipping or running around the gym
– Joint rotation warm up
– 2 rounds shadow boxing
– Pad work / Bag work. 4 x 3min rounds
– Technical sparring/partnered technique drilling/
– Conditioning consisting of sit-ups, squats, pushups, kicks on the bag
– Stretching

Afternoon
4:30pm – 6:30pm
– Skipping or running around the gym
– Joint rotation warm up
– 2 rounds shadow boxing
– Pad work / Bag work. 4 x 3min rounds
– Boxing sparring / Bag work / Technique work
– Clinch sparring
– Conditioning consisting of sit-ups, squats, pushups, kicks on the bag
– Stretching

Who is it suitable for?
Yodyut is a gym that caters for people of all levels. Our group consisted of people with different athletic abilities and Muay Thai skill levels. The trainers were able to work with everyone in the group and provide them all with an enjoyable learning experience. Sometimes the groups within the gym were split to accommodate the differing skill levels. Eg; the more experienced members and fighters would clinch while the newer and beginner levels would be working technique work with the trainers. Even though the gym caters for complete beginners to the seasoned pro I would advise that you arrive in good shape and have a good understanding of the basics of Muay Thai.

You will get the most out of training when you arrive in shape because you aren’t letting your fitness hinder your learning. I would also advise that you currently have a good technical understanding of the basics in Muay Thai before training abroad. You will get a lot more out of the one on one training and pad rounds when you have a good understanding of the basics. The Thai trainers are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to ring craft and how to execute and set techniques up effectively.

What are the positives at training at Yodyut Muay Thai?
The actual gym itself if located in Choeng Mon. Away from the busy districts like Chaweng and Lamai but close enough for a short bike ride. Close to beaches and pools this is the perfect area for those who don’t like to be right in the midst of the busy tourist areas.

All good gyms have a great vibe and atmosphere to them. The people, the trainers, and culture of a gym is what makes it great. This is exactly what you have at Yodyut Muay Thai. Friendly and welcoming trainers who will go out of there way to help and teach you. They are passionate about what they do and it’s evident in there coaching. The gym still has a very Thai style method of training. Skipping, pad rounds, bag rounds and clinch work. No secret formula, but just good old fashion hard work. They have a number of currently active Thai fighters who work in with the general population, giving guidance and advice.

One of the best things about Yodyut is that you rotate through all the trainers on the pad rounds. Each day you will be allocated a different pad holder. Each trainer has a speciality and there own style. The best part about working with different pad holders is that you can take something away from each of them.

Who are the trainers?
Son – Owner
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Son is the owner of the gym and has had over 250 fights. He has a technical but aggressive style of Muay Thai. He has been training people for over 10 years and has taught all over the world. Within Thailand he has worked at Sinbi in Phuket and Kiatphontip in Bangkok.
He is quietly spoken and has excellent english skills.

NongBee
NongBee is a former Lumpinee and World Champion. Having had over 150 fights he is renowned as being a technician in fighting and also in coaching. He has fought some of the best in Thailand including Thongchai To Silachai, Anawat Kaewsamrit, Orono Muengsima,  and Saenchai. At first he comes across as shy in demeanour, but once you get to know him he is warming and friendly. He is a fantastic pad holder with good enough english to explain the intricacies of some of the finer details. His style of pad holding is technical and likes to throw in the occasional power technique.

P’Chit
P’Chit is one of the OG’s of Muay Thai. He has very limited english, but for what he lacks in the language department me makes up for it with his friendliness and eagerness to teach even with language barriers. As a trainer/pad holder he is better suited for the more advanced students with good understanding of Muay Thai. He is a Thai stylist when it comes to pad holding. His pad holding focused on singular strikes, smaller combinations, and counters.


Wirat
Wirat is a seasoned Muay Thai fighter who fought mainly on Channel 7, and Lumpinee. He is tall for Thai standards and in my opinion, is one of the best pad holders in the gym. When you hit pads with Wirat it’s not just a constant barrage of powerful technique to make you feel good. He likes to fire back with punches and kicks to keep you honest. Some of my best pad rounds were with Wirat because I knew I had to be completely switched on when doing pads with him. He is a great pad holder for the more advanced guys. He has good english.

Eyat
Eyat is Wirat’s younger brother. He is a retired fighter who was also previously ranked at the Mecca of Muay Thai, Rachadamnern Stadium. He has been a trainer for over 10 years and has previously worked at Sinbi and Promthep gym in Phuket. He is very welcoming and fun natured at heart. He is extremely friendly and likes to have fun in his sparring rounds and pad rounds. His pad rounds focused on flow techniques with longer combinations and chaining a lot of smaller counters and combinations together. Eyat has excellent english ability.

Chat
Chat is a former Muay Thai fighter who fought regularly on Rajadamnern and across the south of Thailand. He formerly worked at Phetchyindee in Bangkok and Rawai Muaythai in Phuket. At Yodyut he worked very closely with the Thai fighters preparing for fights. Chat is a solid pad holder focusing on short powerful combinations and elbow techniques. He is patient was very helpful with explaining the finer details of the techniques. He is great to spar with, especially for the more advanced students. He is a absolute machine and still very sharp and technical in his sparring rounds. Chat has excellent english ability.

R
R is one of the newer trainers at Yodyut. He comes across as very quiet when you first meeting but then warms up after he sees you regularly. He is a former Southern Thailand Muay Thai champion. He likes to focus on short sharp powerful combinations and countering techniques. He will explain a technique where needed but relentless with aggressive style pad holding. The good thing about doing pads with him is that he likes to get tricky by firing off kicks of his own at you during the pad rounds. R has excellent english ability.

Firstt & Owen
Firstt and Owen are both currently an active fighter who have also taken on the role as a trainer/pad holder. I had actually met First many years ago at Kiatphontip in Bangkok and it is good to see him all grown up. They are both fairly light but very technical and methodical in the way they explain things. They younger trainers come across as shy at the start (I think it comes down to age and perhaps even confidence because of language barriers) but once they open up they are warming and very keen to teach and show you the sweep they dumped you with in the clinch. Clinching with these 2 was a humbling experience because even with my weight advantage there was nothing I could do against these pure technicians. They have a excellent clinch game and very open to explaining techniques.

Final thoughts
I would highly recommend Yodyut Muay Thai to anyone looking to train Muay Thai in Thailand and still enjoy the beachside resort lifestyle. You will not only get some good quality Thai style training but be close enough to the beach or pools for some much earned relaxation time. If you have never trained in Thailand before then this is a great starting point. Below I have posted some videos from the other members of the trip on what they had to say about training at Yodyut Muay Thai. Enjoy!

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ARE YOU “THAT GUY” IN THE GYM? THE DO’S AND DONT’S OF MUAY THAI SPARRING.

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The coach yells change partners at the end of a sparring round and there is always that one guy left out or stuck with the same partner. Why does it seem like no one wants to partner up with “that guy” in sparring rounds? It’s probably because people have caught wind of his reputation of treating each sparring round like a world title fight.

Sparring in Muay Thai is a very important tool if used correctly. It allows you to develop your skills and try techniques, work on your timing and accuracy, and put everything you’ve learnt together. For the 99% of the general gym population who aren’t professional fighters it should be light to medium intensity, and controlled. There should be no ego in sparring. Sparring is about learning and as soon as you let ego take over, all you are focused on is winning the round and not learning anything. Muay Thai, like all martial arts is a life long journey. To prolong that lifetime journey we want to be constantly learning and evolving. Winning a few rounds in sparring is meaningless when you look at the bigger picture. It is not a test of strength or power, but the ultimate test of control and patience.

Here are my top 5 do’s of sparring

1. Listen to your coach.

He is there for a reason. He knows your strengths and weaknesses and is a wealth of knowledge. Sometimes in the heat of sparring you will be fatigued and not able to see things your coach can see from the outside. A good coach will give you advice and tips on how to further develop your skills and improve.

2. Stick to things you’ve learnt in class.

“Did you watch that cool spinning jumping elbow knockout that John posted up on facebook last night?” Don’t bother trying it in class. A – because you will probably seriously hurt someone (or yourself) and B – the people in those videos are usually high level professional fighters who trained in Muay Thai for 10 years. The things your coach teaches you are high percentage techniques which will work the majority of the time. They know what works and what doesn’t.

3. Keep your hands up.

This is the #1 rule in sparring. If you are sparring with your hands down to your waist and chin up then you probably shouldn’t be sparring. Of course we all get tired and shoulders will start to burn, but KEEP YOUR HANDS UP. It’s the only barrier of defence between you and a head kick.

4. Keep it safe.

Let your common sense prevail. If you catch someones kick and sweep them onto the concrete floor, I’m pretty sure you will hurt them. Avoid using power or dangerous techniques during sparring rounds because you’ll end up injuring people and losing a training partner. Un padded spinning elbows and heel kicks at a 100km per hour to the face are not on. You and your partners safety should be your #1 priority in the sparring round.

5. Respect and look after your partners.

With out your sparring partner you would have no one to train with, so look after them. They have volunteered to lend you there body to punch and kick so treat them with respect. They are there to learn with you as well. If you are partnered up with someone who’s skill level is far below yours then help them with some basics. “Hey John make sure you keep your hands up”

Here are my top 5 DONT’S of Muay Thai sparring

1. DON’T treat it like a world title fight.

There is no money, or prize up for grabs so why are you swinging for the fences? A true martial artist has nothing to prove in sparring rounds. Sparring is about developing your skill set and IS NOT A FIGHT. It’s not to test yourself against others in the gym and to see who will come out victorious. If you walk away from a sparring round injured and bruised then your partner has gone too hard. You should walk away from every round having learned something and that 0.1% better.

2. DON’T be the mat shark.

Every gym has one and it’s usually that bigger guy who always partners up with the smallest guy in the gym. 1 because they don’t want to be pushed too hard and 2. They want to be the big man on campus. Muay Thai is a sport with weight divisions. Even though you should spar with everyone in the gym, don’t be “that guy” who targets the little or new guy.

3. DON’T be the over coacher.

Ever partnered with someone and all they do is over coach you on ALL your weaknesses and what you SHOULD be doing in sparring even though they are not that great themselves? Don’t be “that guy”. It’s OK to give tips here and there but don’t spend an entire round explaining the intricacies of how to check a kick just because you tagged them once.

4. DON’T be the Kung fu guy.

Muay Thai sparring is about sparring Muay Thai. Don’t bother trying the Kung Fu sticky hand crescent kick that you learned 10 years ago because sparring is about developing what you have learnt in Muay Thai, and not showing your coach what you already know. Save that for your facebook posts. I remember many years ago I had a guy come into the gym from a kung fu background. Upon glove touch he assumed one of the lowest crouching tiger stances I’ve ever seen with hands fanning around like he was in a high school musical. I don’t have against Kung Fu but we are here to spar Muay Thai.

5. DON’T be the one trick pony.

Everyone has a go to move or combo. If you like to box then don’t just always try to box with someone. You need to broaden your skill set. If you have a favourite combo that always lands then try another combo or work a different setup. The one trick pony guy might get away with is the first few times but usually gets left behind because they don’t work on other aspects of there Muay Thai game.

These are just some Do’s and Dont’s of Muay Thai sparring. The art of Muay Thai is beautiful and about respect. It’s not a street fight or a tough guy proving ground. So next time your primordial urge to rip off your shirt, beat your chest and give John at the gym the beating of his life remember one thing. If you injure him or put him off training then you have one less person to train with. If you keep being “that guy” at the gym then one day you will have no one to train with. Respect your training partners and keep it safe on the mat.

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Why you will probably quit Muay Thai

You’ve seen it on the Internet and you have a few friends who have also started training, you might even know a friend of a friend who is an Muay Thai champion. You’ve always wanted to try it out so you decide to make some calls and look for a Muay Thai school. You find one near by and decide to do a trial class. Even though you weren’t great you absolutely loved it. High from the endorphin rush you sign up with dreams of becoming a total badass and maybe even one day stepping into the ring. You shadow box the techniques you learned on your way out.

Fast forward 6 months later. It’s cold, raining, and the middle of winter. Master Chef final week is on TV and you’re thinking about skipping training to go home to your comfy couch. Training’s not as fun as it used to be anymore and you’ve been getting smashed at work. You wonder what happened to Josh, and Steve who you started with because you haven’t seen them for weeks. It sounds like the beginners excitement has worn off and you find yourself making more excuses not to train than to train. Why is it that so many people drop off and quit training within the first 6 months.

You never set a clear goal.
This is like getting into your car with out a destination. You could potentially drive around for hours, days, and even months! No matter what your reasoning behind starting Muay Thai you should always have short term and long term goals. Goal setting needs to be specific, realistic and measurable. A bad example of poor goal setting would be “get good at Muay Thai”, “lose weight” or “I want to fight more”. It doesn’t set a time line and isn’t measurable. A better example would be “I want to train a minimum of 3 days a week in 2016”, “I want to drop 5kgs by August 2016” or “I want to have a Muay Thai fight by the end of 2016”. All these examples are realistic, achievable and set a deadline. Try to be realistic with your goals. Don’t write something like ‘I want to have my first pro Muay Thai fight’ when you know you don’t have the commitment to train hard enough for it. Set achievable goals and ask yourself are you really willing to pay the price for it, before you commit to it otherwise you are just setting yourself up for failure. Next time when setting a goal think SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

You don’t have time
This is one of the most common reasons why people stop training, but I think it’s complete bulls**t. You made time for it in the beginning when everything was new and fresh, but then as the weeks and months went on “things” got in the way. You had dinner with friends, you went to see a movie, you were tired from work and wanted a night in. As Tony Robbins put it best “It’s not that you’re resource (time) poor, it’s that you’re not resourceful”. You have 24 hours in a day. Training Muay Thai 1 hour out of your day is just 4% of your time. If you want to reach the goals you’ve set then you’ve got to make them a priority. You’ll need to make sacrifices from time to time. If it’s important to you then you will make time for it and not excuses not to.

You were consistently inconsistent
When you first started training you hit it hard every single day. As the weeks went on your days per week decreased. As the months went on you started to take weeks off. You never got into a consistent routine of training regularly or establishing good habits to begin with. When motivation fades you need training to be an already established habit. Habit is established by having clear goal and having the discipline and consistency in your training to achieve that goal. It’s like brushing you teeth every night. You don’t need to watch motivational videos, or read motivational quotes to psych yourself up to do it. You do it everyday, twice a day with out thinking because you know it’s good for you.

You keep getting injured
After every session you walk away with a new injury, and you take some time off to let it heal. It happens again and you take more time off to heal. Eventually your “sick leave” is greater than your actual Muay Thai life span and you quit. I’ve seen this vicious cycle claim many. Muay Thai is a contact sport and you will get injured. You’ve just got to be smart about it. I’m not saying you have to train through all injuries. A bruised shin won’t limit or restrict your ability to focus on boxing. A strained wrist won’t affect your ability to practice your kicks. A good coach will always be able to give you supplement exercises to get you back into Muay Thai training.

You are getting bored
“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” Bruce Lee
This quote basically sums up what Muay Thai training is all about. You get 3 months into your training and still working on the jab right kick combination. You wonder to yourself when do we get to learn the cool stuff like jumping spinning elbow? The reality behind Muay Thai training is that it’s about refining your basic techniques and not so much learning every single kick technique in the martial arts encyclopedia. It’s about constant personal development and being 1% better than you were yesterday. Of course it will get boring at times but that is when it is good to reflect on why you started Muay Thai and what it will take to achieve your goals. Constantly set smaller goals and when you achieve them, reflect and reevaluate a different goal. I’ve been training for over 10 years now and still do on a daily basis. I focus on a different aspect of Muay Thai every few months whether it be clinch work or boxing. This way I constantly improve in one aspect of Muay Thai and develop as a martial artist every single day.

Muay Thai and Martial Arts training is a life long journey. You will have your peaks and troughs but its what you do in these troughs that will define you. Muay Thai training is tough and many instructors would like to think that most new people will train for years but the reality is that most people quit (and very quickly too). It’s only natural to encounter some or not if all of the problems mentioned above. It’s all apart of the journey. Dream big, set realistic goals and work hard to achieve them.