Is Muay Thai Difficult to Learn?


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Muay Thai is one of the most effective stand-up striking martial arts out there. Little wonder, a considerable chunk of MMA fighters incorporate it into their game. But you’ve probably wondered, is Muay Thai difficult to learn?

Here’s what I found out:

Muay Thai is not difficult to learn as it essentially blends basic boxing skills with kickboxing. Although it is physically demanding and is best learned by those already in good physical shape, even those not in shape can learn it and will become physically fit during the process.

But, let’s face it, that is what most pursuits in life are like. They are often challenging at the beginning.

But, if you stick with it, you will gradually adapt to its rhythm, and it would no longer seem difficult. It stands to reason that the more physically fit you are, the easier the transition would be.

However, you don’t have to wait until you’re fit.

You can get started even if you’re not fit. Muay Thai training involves many intense drills that would help you condition your body. This is why most Muay Thai fighters have that ripped look.

In this article, we’ll explore themes around how difficult it is to learn. We’ll check out how long it takes to learn, whether a beginner can learn it, and how many moves it has. We’ll also find out if it’s harder to learn than BJJ, and we’ll wrap up with whether it’s even worth learning.

Let the fun begin.

How long will it take to learn Muay Thai?

On average, it will take 6-12 months to get a good grasp of the basics of Muay Thai, and 3 years to be very good, with consistent training of 2-3 times per week or more. Mastering it and winning competitions could take 5-10 years.

As in most things, grasping the fundamentals is arguably the most vital.

How quickly you’ll learn Muay Thai depends on the quality of your training and your level of dedication. If you’re training twice or three times a week (at least) in 6 months to a year, you’ll get the hang of the fundamentals.

And, you’ll have to simply build on that.

You may want to model how pros train (if you have the desire and the time). This will reduce the time you’ll need to become highly proficient. Most pros train twice each day, every day. It’s a no-brainer, actually. The more time we invest in anything, the quicker the gains.

But the above is not realistic for most people who are working a 9-5 job or studying full-time.

So, training three times a week is a good way to go. You can make the best of this by also having a gym at home if you have space. It doesn’t have to be something elaborate.

Having a place where you can train at home is an awesome way to complement the training you’re getting in the gym.

There’s no belt system in Muay Thai (as it’s common in most other martial arts), so it may be a tad difficult to estimate your level of proficiency as you would in other martial arts.

The good thing is that MT fighters prefer the “real deal.” The real signifier of proficiency is how you perform in competitive fights (as it is in Western boxing).

Is Muay Thai bad for your shins?

That’s the theme of a recent article of mine where I showed that it’s not bad for one’s shins as they can be conditioned. But this takes time. How long, and how painful is it until you get them conditioned?

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Can a beginner learn Muay Thai?

A beginner can learn Muay Thai as long as they are relatively healthy and can do a 45-60 minute workout. It is physically demanding as several parts of the body are being used. But, it is perfect for beginners. In fact, in Thailand, some children start learning it at 5.

Most people who pick up Muay Thai are beginners and don’t have a background in some other martial art.

There’s no need to be apprehensive at all. You’re going to be introduced to the basics — the stance, jabs, kicks, how to use your elbows and knees…

But if you have had serious injuries in the past or have doubts about your physical fitness, it is wise to consult a doctor before you get started.

Like most stuff we learn, you’re going to be eased into it.

No one’s going to throw you in at the deep end. So, if you’re afraid you’re going to be beaten up soon after joining a gym, let go of your fears. It would be some time before you’ll ever have to fight anyone.

The gym already has a curriculum that’s specifically tailored to consider your current level, and most have free trial classes if you would rather audit the classes before you register.

So, you’d like to pick up Muay Thai?

Check out a recent article of mine where I crafted a guide on its most vital pros and cons. I explained that it’s great for self-defense; it can be learned faster, you’ll get in shape… But seeing as it’s a striking art, you’re vulnerable if you’re taken down.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

How many moves does Muay Thai have?

There are about 37 key moves in Muay Thai. Broadly speaking, they cover how the feet, hands, elbows, and knees are used. But conditioning happens first, and then repetitive drills of the boxing and kickboxing techniques.

Muay Thai does not have a lot of moves.

To put things in context, consider that Judo has about 67, while Aikido has hundreds! So, you don’t have to struggle to learn a lot of moves. What makes MT fascinating (and challenging at the same time) is that you can use several parts of the body — fists, elbows, knees, and shins.

Each move has many variations.

This is one of the reasons why it takes time to learn and master the art. Consider one of the most lethal moves, the elbow strike.

The elbow (“Sok”) can be used as a striking weapon. You can use it diagonally, upwards, or downwards. It can be used backward to block the opponent’s vision and crush their nose!

It’s one of Muay Thai’s deadliest moves.

When it’s properly executed, it’s almost impossible to block. It’s one of Jon Jones’s go-to moves. The way he employs it is awesome. He would do it as if he’s fleeing from an opponent, turn suddenly (when they’re not expecting it), and crush their face with his elbow!

Are you curious about the best martial arts for teenage girls? You’re in luck because that’s the theme of a recent article of mine.

In it, I explained why Krav Maga and Jiu-Jitsu are two of the best for girls.

Both equip them with the skills to defend themselves against attackers who may be stronger and bigger. Both boost their self-confidence and increase their self-awareness and flexibility. But one is clearly better for most teen girls.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Is Muay Thai harder to learn than BJJ?

Muay Thai is more physically demanding and has a higher injury rate than BJJ, but Muay Thai is much easier to learn. BJJ has a much larger number of moves and techniques, and unlike Muay Thai, subtle changes in those moves have a big impact on their effectiveness.

One reason it isn’t harder than BJJ is that Muay Thai is less of a mix of brains and brawn.

If you can punch or kick better, are stronger or bigger or faster, you can win. BJJ, on the other hand, was developed to help smaller, weaker guys prevail. It is like comparing chess (BJJ) to checkers (Muay Thai).

Even when you’re hip to a technique, you need the conditioning and brute force to make it work. BJJ is more a game of strategy; it’s about outwitting the opponent, it’s not so much about brawn.

Take the Conor McGregor vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov fight. One could argue that Conor gave Khabib a run for his money. He was no pushover. But, the “Eagle” outwitted Conor. He held him in a rear chokehold…and the game was over.

In Muay Thai, however, it’s not so easy to employ some smart moves like that.

Both parties are usually intensely focused on strikes, strikes, strikes in a rapid-fire fashion. BJJ has a slower pace, with both parties rolling and slithering, looking for the “perfect move.”

Can Muay Thai cause brain damage?

The answer, unfortunately, is yes. I explored this further in a recent article of mine where I explained that it can lead to lower IQ, internal brain injuries, and neurological disorders. But there’s 1 key way to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Is it worth it to learn Muay Thai?

It is worth it to learn Muay Thai, especially for those under age 40 and those either wanting powerful self-defense techniques or who plan to compete professionally. It also helps get practitioners into outstanding shape.

Its practice would also help you to become more disciplined and more confident.

Let’s check out two of the reasons it’s worth it.

Self-Defense

One of the most vital skills a smart person ought to have is the ability to defend themselves. Of course, no one looks forward to fights. But our world is filled with some strange folks who enjoy looking for trouble and have a taste for inflicting pain on others.

And, because they are cowards, they like people who can’t defend themselves.

They get a kick out of kicking them to the curb (pun intended). So, it’s smart to be proactive and learn Muay Thai. It’s lethal. Who knows? It could save you or a loved one from getting a gruesome beatdown someday. (Or even save your lives).

Great Physique

Exercise, as you know, is one of the ingredients needed for a healthy life. It’s also a key to becoming smarter. The good thing is that Muay Thai comes with intense drills that’ll help you lose weight and get in shape.

It’s a great full-body workout.

It is highly demanding, but the result is that you’ll lose weight. It’s estimated that one burns 1000 calories per class. What’s not to like? You can see why in time; you’ll have that lean and mean look most men crave (and that ladies love).

Conclusion

Muay Thai, like most things in life, can be a tad difficult to learn at the beginning.

But if you are dedicated, you’ll get the hang of it soon enough. In the article, we looked at how long it takes to learn, how many moves it has if a beginner can learn it, and whether it’s harder to learn than BJJ.

We wrapped up by looking at whether it’s even worth learning in the first place.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell was Academy Director for a large martial arts school for over 7 years, and has trained extensively in a variety of martial arts including Brazilian Jiujitsu, different styles of Karate, the Russian Martial Art of Systema, Aikido, and much more.

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