Published on November 26, 2012 | by Danny Butterwick1
Muay Thai: The hardcore fitness regime
“Victory comes to those who preserver” are the words etched above the door of the London fight factory, an underground dogo where people come to learn the art of eight limbs, more conventionally known as Muay Thai.
Upon entering the building, there are two striking observations about the club that cannot be overlooked. The first is the vast display of flags bordering the room, from Nigeria and Spain to Russia and Japan, it is obvious that the whole world loves to fight and the London fight club gives them the opportunity to do so with guidance and honour.Five minutes’ walk from Old Street tube station, the classes offer anyone and everyone the opportunity to train in Brazilian Jujitsu, Boxing, Wrestling and mixed Martial Arts.
As the classes begin, the second observation hits home, the discipline of every student is unparalleled. When instructor Nick Forrer speaks, his class listens intently to every instruction before returning to their sparring partners to practice the thunderous kick combinations that have just been demonstrated.
Amongst the class of 20 men and five women is ALN sports editor Kane Tuckwell, who was kindly offered a free lesson to see if he could tough out an hour of Muay Thai training.
The class starts with a simple warm up consisting of stretches and jab combinations and, once everyone is warm and loose, outcome the gloves and pads.
When Forrer calls for his students to listen, they do so without further prompting and he begins to demonstrate a jab, hook and kick combination. The sheer force of the finishing kick reverberates around the room and sends his assistant backpedalling.
It is apparent that every ounce of energy goes into every blow to create bone crunching combinations; this is endorsed by the way Forrer speaks about the sport.
He said: “Muay Thai is derived from an ancient battlefield art and they have an armed component and an unarmed component but the way they look at it, is the unarmed aspect of their fighting system is as deadly as the armed aspect.
“Muay Thai is called the art of eight limbs; the limbs are the fists, the knees, the elbows and the two shins. They say that the shin is like a baseball bat. If you hit someone with it then it’s like hitting them with a piece of wood.
“They say that the knee is like a spear and if you have ever taken a knee in the body, you will know what they mean by that.
“The elbow is like a knife because it can cause very severe cuts if used right and the fists are probably the last weapon they use, historically they are not well known for using their fists but because of the influence of western boxing and western variations of Muay Thai, there tends to be more emphasis on the hands now than there was traditionally.
Originating in Thailand, Muay Thai is traditionally fought in the ring, however after the rise of mixed martial arts cage fighting, it is not uncommon to see UFC fighters using Muay Thai techniques in their fights.
The Muay Thai stance is to upright to use in cage fighting, leaving the fighter open to attack, which is why cage fighters train to become a jack of all trades, learning several different disciplines to turn themselves into well rounded fighters.
But there are other elements to Muay Thai that get overshadowed by the more brutal aspects.
“One thing with Muay Thai is it gives you a lot of confidence. Some people say I don’t want to get into the ring; I just want the fitness, that’s fine but a lot of people who get into it without the intention of fighting and then find that as they go along that they actually want to fight.
“There are usually two types of people, there is people who are very nervous and they don’t like violence but they are forcing themselves to do it or they are the other way and they are quite aggressive and have a lot to prove.
“Muay Thai is good because it takes you away from both extremes, it gives you confidence if your nervous and it makes you more humble if you are over confident or slightly conceited.”
Alongside the mental benefits of Muay Thai, there are also extreme physical benefits. There is no weight training in Muay Thai but taking one look at the class is proof enough that an hour at the London fight factory would be hard work for even the most dedicated gym-goer.
A Muay Thai fighter would start the day with a long run, followed by bag work, pad work and finished up with a combination of body and core strengthening exercises such as press ups, sit ups and chin ups.
“If you look at the physique of Thai boxers, they are in impeccable shape. You cannot do Thai boxing consistently and not get in shape and you do not get fat Thai boxers.
“If you go to the gym, you train your muscles and you train your lungs and you get people with gym physique, they look great but you get them to do M
uay Thai and they can’t do it because they don’t have dynamic balance and Muay Thai in a phrase is all about dynamic balance.
As the class finishes, every student goes round and shakes the hand of everyone else, demonstrating further the discipline and respect that has been instilled into the students.
ALN man Kane emerges from the crowd looking far more breathless than when he entered the building, not to mention spending a large portion of time with his hands on his knees but most certainly does not look out of place considering this stance seems to have been taken up by the majority of the class at some point.
After catching his breath he said: “I really enjoyed myself, a lot of it was what I expected but the level of intensity for a beginner’s class was a complete surprise. It was never so much that you felt like you couldn’t carry on but you were constantly moving making sure everyone was pushed to work as hard as they could”
“There are the obvious benefits of doing a martial art but what I noticed was the confidence it gave the members, when you walked in to the room you could see who was experienced just by the way they carried themselves.
“In terms of the class it was quite difficult doing the four rounds in a row without a break but the more you go the easier it will get.
“It was probably the most fun I have had without a beer in my hand in years. It gave me an actual buzz, the whole journey home I was thinking about how I’m going to get money to go to the next session, I even jogged home from the train station to try and keep the buzz going!
“I think since the Olympics, sport is going through a massive boom, but people should remember there are other ways than athletics to get fit, things like boxing, kickboxing and Muay Thai are great ways to have fun and improve your health at the same time.
And I slept like a baby!”