The benefits of Muaythai: It ain’t just physical

Training and fighting has it’s obvious physical benefits, like weight loss and lean muscle gain. But what about the benefits that you don’t see?

There’s a lot that Muaythai can offer any individual. Not only do these skills help build your character, but they’re transferable to other areas of your life.

Here are some of the benefits I’ve gained through Muaythai that have been immensely valuable.

Self-confidence booster

Muaythai has the ability to boost your self-esteem and self-confidence. There are a couple of ways the sport does this.

Firstly, it equips you with the tools to defend yourself. As you become more confident in your skills, you start overcoming any fears you once had about your abilities in self-defense. Knowing that you can protect yourself if you need to is reassuring, and feeling safer is always a bonus.

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Photo credit: Ann Huston

Secondly, you get a boost when you learn new skills and accomplish difficult tasks. For example, you might have always wanted to know how to kick, punch or elbow a certain way, or perfect an advanced technique. Once you learn these skills, you feel a great sense of accomplishment which feeds into your self-esteem.

Finally, Muaythai forces you to face your fears, and work through challenging tasks despite those fears. You soon learn to face fears rather than back away from them. Ultimately, you learn to live from courage.

Stress reliever

Nothing seems to relieve stress more than hitting the pads or a bag at the end of a busy day. Any form of exercise helps relieve stress, but I’ve found the physical activity of Muaythai training very effective.

There’s something about exerting force on a target like a bag or pads that’s very satisfying. The high intensity gives you a great workout, and when the post-training endorphins kick in you feel like you’re on cloud nine. I can see why psychologists suggest you hit a pillow when you’re angry!

Learning how to be a leader

The more experienced you become as a fighter, the more people look to you for guidance. Many experienced practitioners end up teaching, taking classes and providing advice to prospective fighters. Taking on this role means you’ve had to exercise your ability to lead, and as you build confidence in this area, you become a better leader.

Being a leader is a great thing to be, because you’re influencing the next generation of fighters, and essentially acting as a positive role model for others.

Hard work ethic

Training and fighting competitively pushes you to work harder than you ever have before. Fighting is physically demanding, and you need to prepare your body well in order to fight. The more you progress with your fight career, the harder you train.

You quickly become used to working hard daily for your goals. Not only will you push yourself as hard as you can, but your trainer will too. In turn, you quickly adopt a strong work ethic that becomes a part of your day-to-day mentality. Eventually you notice that it’s not just training you apply a strong work ethic towards, but everything outside of training as well.

Focus, focus, focus

Competitive athletes develop a deep sense of focus. They can focus on both the long-term (becoming a world champion), and the short-term (learning how to throw an excellent jab).

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When you train and fight, you are dedicated to what you do and you’re driven to succeed. As a result, you develop ‘tunnel vision’ – the ability to focus on the task at hand, even if the building is falling down around you.

It can be easy for your mind to get distracted by things that aren’t a part of your overall goal, like what people say / think about you for example. But with strong focus, you learn to channel your energy solely into accomplishing what you set your mind to.

Mental gains

This might be slightly related to the previous two points, but fighting and training can give you a mental edge. As mentioned, you develop a hard work ethic and immense focus. You also learn to become mentally resilient.

Mental resilience allows you to ignore or disregard things that either don’t matter or hinder your progress. For example, through training and fighting, you might have built up a resilience towards pain because your body is used to experiencing pain through injury and contact (sparring, fighting, etc).

Sense of accomplishment and purpose

Having purpose in your life is so important. It’s what gets you out of bed in the morning, boosts your sense of self-worth, and gives your life meaning.

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Many people have said that Muaythai and fighting are their purpose in life. It’s why they do it. When you’re doing something you’re passionate about, you are living with purpose.

I’m not saying that your life will have no purpose or meaning without Muaythai, but it’s one avenue where you create that sense of purpose, and a feeling of being part of something greater than yourself.

Knowing who you are

Muaythai, as well as fighting competitively, teaches you to be mindful. You learn to understand yourself better – what you need, when to rest, what distracts you, and so on.

I’ve found that I’ve become better at knowing what makes me tick, to the point where I can stop bad behaviours before they have a chance to manifest.

For example, in my early days I used to have a poor attitude towards training. I would moan and sulk if the trainer would command another round out of me, request that I stay longer, or surprise me with a hard exercise at the end of a long training session.

A few years ago, I started to train myself into accepting whatever comes my way in training, especially the hard stuff, because in a fight you never know what’s going to happen. Understanding and accepting this was a crucial moment in my own development.

Overall, as you get better at knowing yourself, you take reward in seeing how far you’ve matured both as a fighter and as a person. You’re not pegged down by bad behaviours, and you learn to become more centred.

Appreciation of culture

Muaythai is a sport steeped in culture. To immerse yourself in the sport means you immerse yourself in the culture of the Thai people. When you dig a little deeper and gain more insight into the world of Muaythai and Thai culture, you gain an in-depth understanding of not only the sport, but why it is you do things a certain way.

I don’t know as much about Thai culture as I’d like to, but every time I visit Thailand, I always leave with a greater sense of appreciation for the people and Muaythai as a whole.

Great experiences, great people

Muaythai takes you on an unforgettable journey. You can travel the world and meet great people along the way. Whenever I’ve gone overseas to train or fight, I always meet new and interesting people.

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Fighting at the 2015 Royal World Cup was one of the most memorable experiences.

Through the sport, you end up making friends for life, meeting people from other cultures, creating memories and having awesome experiences.

Muaythai is a sport that brings people together, no matter where you’re from. It’s a sport that holds no prejudice, and is always there for you when you need it.

In conclusion

Muaythai teaches you many great skills, and it even teaches you a lot about yourself. What you learn can be applied to everyday things – not just training.

Speaking from personal experience, I can say with certainty that these skills come in very good use outside of the gym. When I was working full-time, I had to draw on these skills many times, and my overall ability to handle challenges is something I attribute to the years I’ve dedicated to this sport.

If you’ve learned something through Muaythai that I haven’t mentioned in this post, feel free to share in the comment box below.

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