Birmingham, the second-largest city in the UK, is considered to be the financial, commercial, cultural and social centre of the Midlands. What couldn’t you find here?
We have great food and lots of entertainment, from theatre to music concerts, hopping nightlife and plenty of leisure activities. We have sports – oh, do we have sports!
The Football League was founded here and two of their oldest clubs are based in Birmingham: Aston Villa and Birmingham City. We have cricket and rugby and tennis and golf; skateboarding and stock-car racing and hockey and boxing…
Boxing? Thai Boxing?
Indeed, we Brummies love our sports, even several at once. For instance, you may like to take in a match on the weekend and head to the gym to train as a Muay Thai fighter during the week.
Naturally, we’re only supposing what you might do with your time and what your fitness regimen might consist of but, judging by the number of Muay Thai clubs in and around the city, we’re guessing that this ancient art figures prominently in people’s plans.
And you? Are you looking for fitness training with an interest in combat sports or are you looking to get in shape first and decide which of the martial arts you will embrace later?
Whichever side of that coin you fall, Birmingham has a club for you. C’mon! Let’s go find them!
Muay Thai Fighting: Determine Your Level
In most martial arts, it is easy to recognise what level the artist is; for instance, in karate, Tae Kwon Do and judo, the colour of one’s belt proclaims their level of achievement.
There are no such belts in Muay Thai and one doesn’t change the colour of their Muay Thai shorts to signify they’ve attained a greater degree of skill.
How are fighters ranked, then?
First an explanation of why there is not a visual ranking system, as in the other martial arts we just mentioned, and even in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Muay Thai is an ancient discipline that, for the most part, adheres to tradition – even modern-day tradition. Today’s fighters in Thailand join up so they can earn money; there, Muay Thai is a profession, not a pastime.
We have the luxury of training as fighters to become fit or school ourselves in discipline; our livelihood does not depend on stepping into the ring.
Still, there are ‘levels’ in Muay Thai; 12 of them to be exact:
- As an absolute beginner, you would be considered a ‘street fighter’ or ‘untrained’
- Level 2: First Time Fighter – you have some training but are unpolished.
- Level 3: as a ‘Tomato Can’, you would be matched with fighters one level higher to help them along
- fighters at this level are also called ‘Tuk Tuk Drivers’
- Level 4: Upcoming Prospects have a natural ability to fight and lots of potential to become a champion
- Level 5: Amateur Champions have fewer than 10 pro fights under their belts
- Level 6: Journeyman – a good fighter but will most likely not become a champion
- Level 7: Strong nac muay farang – the Strong Foreigner
- Level 8: Gatekeepers generally fight in the best stadiums in Phuket, Chiang Mai or Pattaya – but not Bangkok
- Level 9: Lumpinee Fighters – these elite foreign fighters can take their place alongside top Thai fighters in Bangkok
- Level 10: Ranked Thai Fighter – these are the Bangkok champions!
- Level 11: Superstar – compete worldwide to gain the utmost visibility
- Level 12: Muay Thai Legend
There are no outward signs of these levels and, as you might have guessed by the descriptions of these rankings, they depend solely on the number of fights and your number of wins.
You may also have noticed that many of these descriptions rely on bouts fought in Thailand.
Although quite a few do, not every Muay Thai fighter will make their way to the cradle of their sport to compete; in fact, not every fighter here in the UK wants to step into the ring! For sparring, perhaps but not for actual fights.
Even at the Muay Thai clubs in London, we met plenty of people engrossed in Muay Thai training who have no intention of facing off against an opponent.
So, while some Muay Thai clubs in other countries might have instituted a belt system, you should know upfront that Muay Thai is more about the discipline and strength conditioning than it is about any tokens of rank.
However, if you are learning under a great Master, s/he may give you a pra jiad, the traditional armband proclaiming your loyalty to your club.
Do you wonder if Muay Thai clubs in Belfast have adopted a ranking system?
What to Expect for Your First Muay Thai Session
Before you land your first punch on the heavy bag, you should expect your trainer to conduct a full assessment of your abilities and physical condition.
This Art of Eight Limbs is meant to be challenging to the utmost degree, not just on the physical level but in mental conditioning, too.
Like every other martial art, Muay Thai is about discipline – focusing your energy, marshalling your physical resources and strategising against your opponents’ weaknesses, so you should expect some mind-stimulating exercises even as you push your body to the limits of endurance.
Martial arts training is rigorous and Muay Thai training is especially so. Because it is a combat sport, there will be a lot of punching, kicking, grappling and clinching.
Its designation as an eight-limbed fighting method indicates that you will use hands and feet; also elbows and knees to land blows on your opponent.
That was well-demonstrated when we dropped in on a Muay Thai kickboxing class at in Cardiff...
To be able to compete successfully in the ring, you will have to develop core strength as well as speed, coordination and balance – all of which will make for a leaner, fitter, faster you.
Even if you have no intention of competing, your training will involve bag work – hitting the heavy bag, and your coach will most likely use focus mitts to help you aim your punches more accurately.
S/he may don Thai pads, a full-body padding system and step into the ring with you. You may also do some sparring with other Muay Thai fighters so you can get the feel of what it is like to face an opponent.
All of this is months in the future; first, you have to become mentally and physically conditioned, like the fighters from Muay Thai gyms in Glasgow who compete all over the country.
Are you ready to find your gym?
The Best Muay Thai Clubs in Birmingham
If you were looking for Muay Thai boxing lessons for the whole family, you could not be better served than at Black Widow. Their martial arts academy has classes for men, women and children – even toddlers!
Why would anyone want their toddler to take a combat sport class?
Considering that childhood obesity is currently at epidemic levels in our country, it might be a good idea to take such a class for their lifelong health and well-being.
And, considering that bullying is a very real fact of life that our school students deal with every day, arming your kids with self-esteem and confidence before they are old enough to go to school might be a good idea.
Speaking of school: wouldn’t it be great if your child could focus better? Studying a martial art such as Muay Thai is an excellent way to teach them to focus!
Black Widow’s instructors have winning records, both in the bouts they’ve fought and in their success at teaching their art.
They offer classes six days a week, from mid-afternoon (right when the kids get out of school) until 10pm – that is when the fighters come out to play. Their adult beginners’ classes start at 6pm and last an hour.
Why not drop in on them? They’re on Washward Heath Road, hopefully not too far out of your way.
K-Star Legacy is a great facility if you wanted your children to learn Muay Thai because they take an unusual approach to teaching kids all about discipline and focus. While your kids will indeed develop the skills to fight, the primary focus of these classes is self-confidence and discipline.
K-Star is not just for kids, though. They have a beginner’s program for Muay Thai training; even if you’ve not worked out for years, their trainers are ready to take your development in hand. If you wish, you may engage one of their private coaches to work with you one on one.
Muay Thai clubs near me offer that option too but I went with a Superprof trainer…
We really liked the K-Star Sheldon training academy for their free trial class offer.
Whether you are an established fighter who has just relocated to the Birmingham-Solihull area or someone for whom standard gym workouts aren’t quite getting it for them anymore, you should check out the facilities on Hobs Moat Road.
They too offer classes for children as young a five as well as adult beginner, intermediate and advanced classes.
Which club(s) in Birmingham is the best for Muay Thai? That's really up to you and what you're looking for. The three mentioned above are a good place to start looking for lessons and, if we failed to mention your preferred Muay Thai club, please let us know in the comments section below.
There are indeed quite a few clubs for Muay Thai but, if you think Birmingham has a lot of them, wait until you read about all of the Muay Thai clubs in Manchester!