Learning Muay Thai is like learning any other martial art or physical activity. You need to feel it and experience it.
Through my years of training Muay Thai, I’ve done it all. Trained at seminars and workshops. Scoured the forums for How-to’s, tried to learn from Youtube videos, and purchased books claiming to teach the techniques of Muay Thai. There is a time and place for everything and books is one of them. If you’re hooked up with a great instructor that you respect, there shouldn’t be any need for books at the fore-front (unless you never get any face to face time).
There is such a thing as too much information – this applies to Muay Thai too!
In learning Muay Thai and any art, there is a general progression of learning from basics and fundamentals to many of the more advanced things. As I learned the art, I logically thought that by taking in as much of the art as possible I would progress my learning rapidly. Not the case. If you’re learning great quality fundamentals and skills from your instructor, trying to take in new techniques and absorbing that information will befuddle you. A great instructor will make these simple for you to understand and progress you along as he see’s your competency in the martail arts move along.
Learning from different sources (many unvalidated and possibly disagreeable by your instructor) takes the picture your teacher was trying to instill and smears it with a different shade of paint. Your goal as a beginner and mid-level Muay Thai practitioner should be to gain a conscious understanding of what your instructor is trying to instill and take it to competency. Much of the information that you will pick from outside sources are ‘shiny objects’ which would take your focus away from your current level of skill, which your instructor should know intimately.
Books – Their strengths and limitations
Books are great for logically explaining things. Putting into context things based on stuff you already know. If you have a level competency, it could help you to strengthen that understanding even deeper. In this sense, books can be helpful. Additionally, once you’ve achieved a foundational level of Muay Thai skill, it may have some cool techniques or tricks that you can put together. However, if you’re new, trying to explain how to teep or kick through words is like trying to explain to a blind person what the color red looks like. Even moreso, as I’m sure you know, not every piece of information, particularly Muay Thai information outside of Thailand, has been necessarily validated by any source. How can you definitively go forward in your training on information that could be potentially false? In the beginning of your journey, stay away from outside sources for information on Muay Thai and trust your instructor to show you when the time is right. It will keep things simple rather than complex.
As a mid-level practitioner, I’ve personally never acquired anything profound from a How-To Muay Thai book
I’ve read through the majority of the books out there and there isn’t any one that is particularly really bad. It’s just that it didn’t really help much. A lot of the information that I picked up, wasn’t profound as a practitioner. For the stuff I did read that I had already became competent in, looking at the instruction in hindsight, I didn’t think the explanations would have helped me while I was at that beginner level.
In my opinion, if you’re looking for information on nutrition, cutting weight, or something a bit more scientific, books are without a doubt a great resource. If you’re trying to explain the motions, the feeling, of Muay Thai, that’s where I think books can’t really help and can actually hurt your progress.
A place for Muay Thai books?
It’s in my opinion that Muay Thai books can help a practitioner if it is specific to explaining a particular portion or segment of the art. Muay Thai has so many facets, but at the end of the day, they all follow simple principles which become natural. Is there a future for Muay Thai books? It’s hard to say. Maybe something comprehensive will come out but the way things are going with Youtube and Online Courses, I think it’s the end of the road. A picture says a thousand words, but a video says ten thousand in comparison to text. Who knows, maybe I might just take a stab at writing a comprehensive Muay Thai book. Stay tuned.