Whilst I’m a bit of a pacifist at heart and wouldn’t want to tread on an ant, I had an energising session of punching, kicking, elbowing and kneeing some pads HARD – and I loved it! On my recent visit to the W Maldives, I practiced Muay Thai for the first time in my life, guided by master instructor Mark Angeles, a seasoned Muay Thai practitioner from the Philippines. We taped up our knuckles, donnned gloves, and started ‘sparring’ on the powder-soft, white sand. Whilst it was an exquisite, picturesque setting, let me tell you it’s one seriously grueling workout – the equatorial sun blazing down from above, the instability of jumping about on soft sand, the constant movement, the concentration around coordination, and the powerful twisting explosive movements… it all got me totally exhausted! Click more to see this little post on what I found to be the benefits of trying out this wonderful, ancient and war art!
After a good 30minutes exposure to the basic techniques (I didn’t even scratch the surface), I started to piece together combinations of wholly involving movements. Fundamentally you are standing throughout, using all your body parts as a weapon. Indeed, I learned that the discipline is known as ‘The Art of Eight Limbs’ which makes reference to the eight points of body contact that imitate the art of war. Whilst I wasn’t quite at this level, hands as used as swords (including jabs, hooks & uppercuts), legs and knees are the axe (high & low kicks, body kicks and head kicks), the shins are thought to be armour, and the elbow is a hammer! Brutal imagery, and indeed a simple YouTube search observing Muay Thai fights in Thailand makes UFC look sanitised and tame!
As the name suggests Muay Thai originates from Thailand at some point in the middle of the 16th century, and today has become one of the national sports. Whilst the competitive fighting angle of it doesn’t appeal to me, I like the engagement of the entire body, the demand of a whole cardiovascular approach, and the relentless focus on conditioning the body and muscles to work in a more functionally strong way.
Apart from anything else, the workout was such good fun and utterly exhausting, boosted by the sheer enjoyment derived from venting your frustration on a focus pad! The following day I was in pain in the most unexpected of places. It’s a full body workout but I especially felt it in my upper back and obliques specifically; the full, involving nature of the punching and twisting really targets the lesser-used musculature! Also, my glutes and inner thighs definitely felt it from the kicking and squatting! It’s also great for motor skill coordination and foot work. I slightly struggled coordinating my upper body and lower body; simple on paper but super hard in practice, and required to generate serious power in my striking… something for me to work on
Massive thanks to Mark Angeles, chief trainer at the W Maldives, for hosting such an awesome session – one I’ll never forget!
I really want to start doing some sort of martial arts regularly back in London but have yet to find a great place. If you have any tips let me know Faya x