Manchester is known for many things: scientific and technical innovation – it was there that the first stored-program computer was developed. The Manchester music scene gave the world so much music; the Madchester Vibe is very real and still alive today.
Manchester does football – Man UTD and Man City are two of the most decorated football clubs in the country. We have rugby and rowing, swimming and cycling… you might say that Mancunians love all aspects of sport and fitness.
Perhaps that is why there are so many great clubs in and around Greater Manchester where you could practise Muay Thai.
Are you a Muay Thai fighter? Perhaps you could point us to the gym you have allegiance with.
Do you want to learn more about Muay Thai – its history and practices, its traditions and its place in the world of combat sports? This article is for you.
Superprof has visited Muay Thai clubs all across the city and into the countryside to give you a rundown on the best places and Muay Thai masters around, condensing them all into an easy-to-digest article.
That way, you will be informed of what the Art of Eight Limbs is, how it is practised and what it can do for you.
What Muay Thai Is and Isn’t
Muay Thai is the traditional combat sport of Thailand. It differs slightly from kickboxing in that fighters use eight striking points while kickboxers use only four: punching and kicking.
That is why Muay Thai is called the Art of Eight Limbs.
In Muay Thai fighting, you will use your fists and feet, certainly, but also your elbows and knees to land blows on your opponents.
Also, contrary to traditional boxing which doesn’t permit clinches, as a Muay Thai fighter, you will learn how clinching as well as grappling can be used to your advantage in the ring.
Muay Thai is a martial art like Taekwondo and karate but does not employ a belt system or any other visible symbols to denote a fighter’s rank.
Also, whereas other martial arts including judo call for practitioners to wear a gi – the pyjama-like garb whose shirt is held closed by its knotted belt, Muay Thai boxers wear only shorts. Of course, female fighters wear a tank top or maybe even just a sports bra.
Yes, women fight, even in mixed martial arts!
Just like many martial arts, Muay Thai is a great way to learn discipline and focus but it goes further by demanding that its practitioners be in the best physical condition possible.
So, while Jiu-Jitsu and other martial arts training may teach you a series of katas – training exercises to condition you for that particular discipline, Muay Thai goes further, to condition your entire self, mind and body.
It is indeed a combat sport but, paradoxically, the idea is to deflect and prevent injury through strategy and sheer toughness – an aspect of the sport that astounded a group of newcomers at the Muay Thai gym we visited in Cardiff…
Let’s now take a look at some of the moves you’ll learn in Muay Thai training.
Muay Thai Techniques
Muay Thai fighting techniques are classified into two major groups: major and minor. Kicks and punches fall in the latter category and elbow and knee strikes are considered major.
In Thailand, where this style of fighting is the national sport, it is common to exchange blows; a sort of tit-for-tat arrangement but, elsewhere in the world where this sport has a strong following, this type of fighting is less common.
At the Muay Thai club near me, they actually discourage learning the sport just to fight!
Still, no matter where you learn the art of Muay Thai fighting, the moves remain the same and the techniques for delivering blows still use the whole body. For instance, you would rotate your hips to deliver a kick.
Each move has its own Thai name; there are no fewer than seven types of punches (Chok, in Thai) permitted. You are surely familiar with some of them: jab, cross, hook and uppercut.
Other types of punches, such as the spinning backfist and the Superman punch evoke power just by being so named.
While the names for elbow strikes sound mundane, they are some of the most dangerous strikes the sport allows.
How would you like to confront a spinning elbow – a move that involves stepping diagonally into your opponent’s range and pivoting so that your elbow will gain momentum from the rotation of your body?
Mid-air elbow strikes are equally devastating. To execute this move, you would approach your opponent, leaping up as you get close and bringing your elbow down on the crown of his head or on his shoulder. OUCH!
Anyone who has seen a martial arts film knows what a roundhouse kick and a straight kick looks like but a diagonal kick, a half-shin/half-knee kick might be harder to imagine, as would be an axe heel kick.
Kicking (Te, in Thai) is done more with the shin than with the foot because foot bones are more delicate than the shin bone; besides, shins can be toughened up – you will likely be tasked to kick the heavy bag with your shin as a part of your training.
Kicking is different than a foot thrust (Thip, in Thai). These foot jabs are considered defensive manoeuvres used to block attacks and to maintain distance; there are five such moves:
- reverse foot thrust (Thip klap lang)
- sideways foot thrust (Thip khang)
- straight foot thrust (Thip trong)
- jumping foot thrust (Kradot thip)
- slapping foot thrust (Thip top)
They are essentially used to push your opponent back, executed with the sole of the foot – either the ball or the heel rather than the toe or the side.
We visited a Muay Thai gym in London where they were learning the slapping foot thrust; it is an exercise in balance and strength!
Finally, the knees.
Like the elbows they are particularly devastating blows; for instance, the curving knee strike mimics the roundhouse move of the kick, adding momentum to the blow, but the point of contact is the knee. The side of the ribcage is the usual target for this type of knee strike (Ti khao, in Thai).
Obviously, you would have to be in peak physical condition to deliver and be on the receiving end of such strikes; that is why Muay Thai training is so rigorous and why these fighters are in the best possible physical shape.
Still, studying Muay Thai doesn’t mean that you have to be a fighter, Muay Thai gyms in Glasgow offer classes for people to get in shape; no fighting involved – although there may be sparring…
By now you must be wondering where all of these Muay Thai gyms are located; we get to that now.
Muay Thai clubs in and Around Greater Manchester
There are, in fact, so many Muay Thai clubs to choose from in this area that it was difficult to settle on which ones to highlight.
If you live or work in the Northern Quarter area, your best bet would be Master A Muay Thai.
Founded by Thai Master Sitiwatjana, this gym is smaller than the more glitzy facilities that offer a range of training such as Boxfit or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu but it is nevertheless well-equipped and offers classes to people of all ages and abilities.
If you are a student, you can afford a monthly membership for only £40 per month; for adults who aren’t students, the monthly fee is £10 more and children may participate for the low price of £25 per month.
Staying in the northern quarter, in the Piccadilly area, you’ll find Cobra of Siam, a mid-sized gym outfitted exclusively for Muay Thai: padded floors, RDX bags and Thai pads. They also have a floor ring for sparring.
You can buy a year’s membership to this gym for £45 and each lesson will cost £6 or you may opt to pay for monthly lessons for a fee of £30 for members; non-members will be charged £45 per month.
They do offer private training sessions for £30 per hour but Superprof Muay Thai coaches charge far less…
If you’re not sure whether Thai boxing is for you, you might venture into SBG Gym.
This is an MMA gym that offers kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and, of course, mixed martial arts classes. This facility’s main selling points are that is it easy to get to (also in the Piccadilly area) and it is well-equipped.
We like that they are serious about combat sports and that they offer a trial session at no cost. So, while you enjoy membership at the Cobra of Siam, nothing says you can’t get some sparring in at SBG.
We met a Muay Thai fighter in Belfast who liked going to other clubs to see how she measured up against opponents she’d never fought before…
If you happen to be in Stockport, consider yourself in luck: you have ready access to All Power Gym. It is an extremely well-equipped facility that maintains high training standards.
While their focus is MMA, they nevertheless run several Muay Thai classes throughout the week for beginners, intermediate and advanced fighters. Their monthly membership prices vary, depending on whether you are a student and on your age – kids’ classes cost less than adult ones do.
Did we leave off your gym? Why not tell us about it in the comments section below before checking out the Muay Thai clubs in Birmingham…