The art of Muay Thai has gained worldwide popularity for several reasons.
- Muay Thai is a very realistic ring sport in which most parts of the human body may be used as weapons.
- It is effective for self defense and hand to hand combat at close, middle and long ranges.
- It is great way to condition the body and get physically fit.
- Since Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has become all the rage it has become accepted as the best method of stand up fighting for MMA practitioners.
- It is now an interim Olympic Sport.
For these reasons and more, gyms and schools that offer Muay Thai are starting to spring up all over the USA and abroad.
But, which one is right for you?
1. Authenticity – Is it real Muay Thai? Real Muay Thai includes Thai style elbows, knees, punches, kicks and the clinch as well as defenses for all of the above. Make sure it’s Muay Thai not some other martial art posing as Muay Thai.
2. Experience – Look for an instructor with at least 10 years of Muay Thai experience. A couple of smoker fights does not make a Kru (instructor). How long have they been in business? A lot of gyms are opening and closing these days. The sad part is they usually take your money then shut down, leaving you high and dry.
3. Competition – Do they have a Competition team and will they train you for Muay Thai competition WHEN you’re ready? On the flip side, make sure they won’t pressure you to fight BEFORE you feel ready. Are their competitors successful? Even if you never compete it’s always good to know that what they teach works in real-life situations. If their team is successful you can bet that what they teach works.
* Note: If you are enrolling a child that wants to compete: Do they allow head contact in training and competition? If so run away! Children should not have head contact as their brains are not fully developed. This can cause serious problems later in life including a loss of IQ. Adults know the risk and can weigh it intelligently, children rely on you to make a good decision for them. So whatever you do make sure to choose a gym that trains competitive youth athletes in a safe ethical manner! If they are part of the Youth Development League under the USMF it’s a good bet they are running a safe program.
4. Beginners – Are they beginner friendly? Do they specialize in Beginners? They should offer beginning as well as intermediate and advanced classes. It’s not a good sign if they throw you in the ring with fighters looking for “fresh meat” on the first day. Also, do they offer Beginning MUAY THAI classes? If they only have Kickboxing classes on a bag and Fight Team classes, move on. It’s kind of a stretch to go from working on a bag to sparring with pros.
5. Structured Program – A good program has a complete Curriculum including the drills, combinations and training methods to bring out the best in you. Are there clear-cut requirements for your progression? Do they help you to set realistic goals? If they expect you to run, skip rope, jump on a tire, and do crunches and push ups while they kick you in the gut for an hour and a half until you puke before they teach you anything, it may be a good idea to find another gym.
6. Knowledge – Do they have extensive knowledge of Muay Thai and are they willing to share it with you? If they don’t teach you anything but the stance and the foot jab for the first three months, you may want to look elsewhere.
7. Sparring – Do they offer sparring at appropriate levels? Sparring should be done after sufficient knowledge of defense and offense is obtained and not before. At earlier levels they should offer shadow boxing, Thai pad work, mitt work and partner drills in the classes. Bag work is great for conditioning, but bag work alone won’t teach you to fight.
8. Affiliations– Are they affiliated with the USMF? The United States Muay Thai Federation is the sole Olympic representative for USA
Muay Thai. Muay Thai is now an interim Olympic Sport and is soon to become a full on Olympic sport. If the gym you are looking at is not affiliated with this stellar organization they are probably behind the times and may not be up to date about the current affairs of the sport, let alone have any vision for the future and where it is heading.
9. Wai Kru – Do they teach the Wai Kru (pre-fight dance)? Real Muay Thai fighters and instructors have to know the Wai Kru. You cannot fight in Thailand without performing the Wai Kru first.
10. User Friendly – Are the staff, and members friendly? When you walk in the door does it feel like they have your best interests at heart? Do they really care about your progress or goals? If members or staff give you an attitude, that’s not good because these sentiments usually come from the top down. Also, beware of programs that are eager to take your money but don’t care if you ever learn proper Muay Thai technique.
11. Convenience – Do they offer beginning Muay Thai classes at times that are convenient for you? Do they offer classes in the mornings, evenings as well as weekends? Can you come to all of the Beginning Muay Thai classes on the schedule or are you limited to just some? Do they offer fitness based classes to supplement your Muay Tha training? It can be expensive to have a gym membership and a Muay Thai membership.
12. Trial Program– Do they offer a Trial Program to let you see if you like their classes and make sure it’s a good fit for you or your child? Do they offer an introductory lesson? Value/Price – Compare the monthly dues with the offering. Be sure to look at the total offering. If you have a family, do they offer family discounts? Do they have a children’s program? Do you get a student handbook when you enroll? Do they have open gym hours so you can train on your own? How many classes do they offer per week? Do they take attendance and keep you accountable if you start to slack off?
13. Facility – How big is the facility? How many classrooms do they have? How many Muay Thai heavy bags do they have? Do they have a boxing ring? Do they have a large selection of training equipment for you to use including Thai pads, belly pads, punching shields, focus mitts and kicking shields? Do they have weights and other fitness equipment? Do they have a locker room? A pro shop? While the instruction is much more important than the amenities, these fringe benefits are nice to have.
14. Cleanliness – Is the facility clean? Do they clean the mats every day? Beware of gyms that don’t clean the mats every day. These places are ringworm central. It’s no fun explaining those sores all over your body to your significant other.
15. Following – If they have a lot of satisfied members and students, that’s a good sign. They must be doing something right. If it’s just a few guys banging around in a garage, there’s probably a reason why. It’s a good idea to check their online reviews and ratings. Every business will have a complaint or dissatisfied customer or two, but if it’s the norm then look elsewhere. The place you choose to train should have a significant amount of good reviews.
Choosing the right Muay Thai Academy can be a great way to get in the best shape of your life, learn to protect yourself, meet cool people, relieve stress and just have fun. It can also help develop your self confidence and many other attributes that will be valuable in life.
Choosing the wrong one can lead to serious injuries, lack of self confidence and training that can develop bad habits that will be very hard to correct later once you realize you have been taught improperly.
It pays to do your research and find the right place for you. Kru Bryan owner of Double Dose Muay Thai encourages people to consider their options and make an educated decision, after all, your future may depend on it. Whether it is reaching a fitness or competition goal, developing self-confidence, or having to use it in a self defense situation your choice matters!