Muay Thai – A Fight for Fitness

My fitness journey with SAFRA brought me to its Tampines Clubhouse recently for a Muay Thai trial session and I’m instantly hooked on the raw power of this combative martial art. Unlike boxing or kickboxing which uses just two (fists) or four (fists and feet) body parts, Muay Thai packs a whooping eight points of contact (fists, elbows, knees and shins) which makes it an incredibly effective fat shredder!

Also called the ‘Art of Eight Limbs’ (because of the eight points of contact), Muay Thai engages the whole body in the execution of its five basic moves (punch, elbow, knee, shin kick, and foot kick). It’s not only a great form of aerobic workout but a good bone strengthening exercise as Muay Thai practitioners benefit from cortical remodeling (bone regeneration as a result of coping with constant physical impact). If you don’t believe me, just take look at the Muay Thai fighters. Their body frames are usually very lean yet they have python forearms, calves and shins.

But going beyond the sport as a mere workout routine, Muay Thai is a useful life skill to learn that may one day come in handy during self-defence. It’s an exercise that could literally save your life!

My Muay Thai trial was conducted by Richmond Leong, a veteran at the sport with 11 years of competitive and training experience. The 27-year-old trainer looks like a kid but his punches and kicks are no child’s play.

Representing Singapore at the Muay Thai World Cup in 2004, Richmond placed 4th and went on to win more fights such as the Muay Thai Against Drugs belt (2006) and the prestigious 1 Song Chai S1 championship (2008). The Certified World Kickboxing Federation (Muay Thai) instructor believes that the martial art is not just a sport or weight loss exercise but a lifestyle as the combative nature of Muay Thai inspires practitioners to constantly train and improve their techniques as well as mental agility in their daily lives.

Richmond demonstrating a knee jab that is aimed at driving the kneecap deep into an opponent’s abdominals for some serious damage. Whether it is the knee kick or shin kick, Muay Thai emphasizes the throwing of one’s weight into the motion to deliver maximum impact. As such, the foot of the balancing leg is tip-toed rather than placed flat on the floor and that gives the calves a really good blast. So if you have chicken calves like me, Muay Thai may just be the exercise to fatten them up!

The roundhouse shin kick is an explosive switchblade swing of the leg to an opponent’s trunk to send him keeling. While there are only five basic moves, there are many variations within each move (eg. for kicking, there is the roundhouse kick, straight kick, jump kick, etc). To win a fight, boxers need to combine all these moves with strength and speed into a deadly human weapon.

After watching Tony Jaa take Muay Thai out of the ring and into real combat application (abet staged for Hollywood), I was deeply intrigued by the martial art form and had always wanted to try it because the moves look so cool!

However, having gone through a training session (which consisted of a high intensity circuit of punches, jabs, kicks, push-ups, sit-ups and leg raises) with Richmond, I realised that Muay Thai is not for posers. While the boot-camp like training is fantastic for anyone who wants to lose weight and tone up, trainees can also look forward to turning competitive one day. There are a couple of monthly and quarterly Muay Thai fights in Singapore where practitioners can spar with each other.

Coming from a gymming background where I’m used to having loud music that drowned out all thoughts and over-crowded studios during body combat classes, I found the Muay Thai session at SAFRA Tampines with no music and lots of space to punch and kick really cathartic. There were no distractions so the burn of my muscles spoke louder and felt deeper while not having to worry about hitting another person (unless it is a sparring session) was a relief. The Muay Thai course at SAFRA has a limit of no more than 20 students per class so there is definitely lots of space for everyone to let out the fighter within! And be prepared to sweat. A lot.

To find out when is the next intake for SAFRA’s Muay Thai course, check out safra.sg (Events & Activities).

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