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My First Muay Thai Experience

A Muay Thai Match

I’ve spent my fair share of time in a dojo for karate (once for tae kwon do), rolled around on mats for jiu-jitsu and wrestling, and entered concrete buildings that house boxing rings. Yesterday I had my first muay thai experience. My friend Mike has been going to Sityodtong North Shore in Beverly, Massachusetts for a few months now, and asked me if I’d like to come to a class.

As usual I was nervous entering a new gym and having to meet new people. The class was solely focused on clinch work, which of course is a vital component to a thai match. If you can secure your hands around your opponent’s head then you will be able to control where their body goes, or send a knee into their face.

The class began with what felt like an eternity of jumping rope. I can’t really put into words how awful my ability to jump rope is. I managed to get about ten solid jumps in before the rope got caught on my head. For those of you who also embarrass yourself jumping rope, remember to stay calm and bounce around on your feet, or mix in some high knees. This will hopefully distract onlookers from your dismal jump rope abilities.

We transitioned into shadow boxing where I quickly learned something new. I knew from previous experience that when throwing knees you want to use your hips to drive the knee forward like an arrow. One of the instructors brought to my attention that I want to have my knee titled to the side, with my heel sticking out like I’m about to throw a round house kick. Positioning your leg like that allows the knee to find a home in your opponents body.

Much more on the class after the jump…


We partnered up and began working the clinch. The goal as mentioned earlier is to get both of your hands wrapped around your opponent’s head. What was new for me here was being told to stand straight up on the balls of my feet, and make myself as tall as I could. With wrestling and boxing I had always tried to keep myself more compact, with a slight bend in my legs. While clinching in wrestling we kept our bodies bent over with our heads close to one another, but of course there was no fear of getting hit with knees. While working for position in the clinch I was reminded of pummeling drills from wrestling. It was certainly the same concept — trying to get your arms on the inside of your opponents.

We worked on a trip that can either lead to your opponent being thrown to the ground, or that creates distance for you to blast them with some strikes. You wrap your arms right above your opponent’s waist and lock your hands in a gable grip. You want to pull the torso forward, which breaks your opponent’s posture. You want to place your leg against their lead leg, and toss them to that side. Being pushed against your leg will at the very least leave them stumbling. To break this gable grip you need to walk your legs back, which creates distance between you and your opponent. You then place your arms on the outside of your opponents and bring your arms together. You most likely won’t even need to clasp your hands as the pressure from your arms will release the grip.

This initial setup reminded me of a take down I had learned in jiu-jitsu. The difference is taking your leg and hooking it behind their leg, and sweeping it out from beneath them. In muay thai you are not allowed to hook your legs around your opponent.

We did some bag work throwing knees and teeps, which are similar to a karate front kick, and are used to maintain distance between you and your opponent. What was interesting to me was being told that when I throw a kick to drop the same hand down by my side. I’ve always been told to keep my guard up. I imagine swinging your hand down by your side while kicking creates more force. This would have to be something I’d have to work at to turn into a habit.

I definitely enjoyed the class but unfortunately will be heading back to school this weekend. I think I would go back when I get back home. My legs are definitely sore, but that soreness is a feeling I love.

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