Beyond just the physical weapons forged from the hard edges of the fist, foot, knee, and elbow – probably the most important asset a Nak Muay draws from is his warrior spirit. Inside of the ring, the boxer never gives up, doesn’t show fear to the opponent, and doesn’t show any pain or exhaustion during combat.
He trains and fights with an indomitable spirit, and at the end of the fight, win or lose, the result – is the result.
When we as humans engage in hand to hand combat against one another, we follow our natural instincts such as fear, anger and courage. The physical and mental training routine of a Muay Thai fighter is meant to create new natural instincts of body movement for this particular kind of combat.
In order to develop these new instincts, the Nak Muay must train according to the time-tested basics of what it takes to be a Muay Thai fighter, regularly.
There are certain exercises that the Nak Muay executes as ritual daily to condition both mind and body for stepping into combat.
The Daily Warm-up of the Muay Thai Fighter
1. Aerobic Running / Sprinting – The Nak Muay begins his training with running. The run includes moderate jogging interspersed with full out sprints for 10-15 seconds, similar to the pace of an intense exchange inside of the ring.
It is important to always warm-up with walking or light jogging at the start of a run and get into a proper breathing rhythm.
2. Jumping Rope – Jumping rope teaches the Nak Muay to be light on their feet. It also develops the correlation between the feet and hands, which is necessary for executing all Muay Thai techniques efficiently.
3. Wrapping the Hands – The third exercise is hand wrapping. A Nak Muay wraps his hands to protect the wrist and pad the knuckles before engaging in training. The Nak Muay uses this time to clear the mind of outside priorities, and sets an intention for the training session.
4. Perform the Wai Kru – Some Kru Muay may require their students to perform the ‘Wai Kru’ (translates to ‘Pay Respect to the Instructor’). The Wai Kru is a set of aesthetic movements performed in order to pay homage to your Kru Muay.
The Wai Kru may be different, depending on one’s instructor. The intent is the same however, – to pay respect to your teacher. To do this, the Nak Muay drops his forehead to touch the ground, laying his ego aside and emptying his mind of any strong negative emotions, and pays respect to his instructor, through this ceremonial dance.
“The movements in the Wai Kru originate from *Thai Yogic Poses and require proper breathing in order to be performed elegantly.
In this way, the action of performing the Wai Kru is a form of meditation, connecting body and mind.”
Muay Thai Boran: The Martial Art of Kings – Marco DeCesaris 2013
5. Warm-Up Basic Techniques, Individually
After performing the Wai Kru, the Nak Muay warms up the basic techniques or (‘Mae Mai Muay Thai‘). ‘Mae Mai Muay Thai’ refers to the basic techniques of the Art of 8 Limbs, which consists of basic footwork, punches, kicks, knees, and elbow strikes.
This warm-up may consist of a standard warm-up regimen as dictated by the Kru Muay. This regimen typically contains a combination of footwork drills and light shadowboxing with a relaxed rhythm.
Some Kru Muay’s will utilize sets of forms as a way to warm up students.
For example, contained in the videos below are the ‘Mae Mai Muay Thai’ forms of one particular Northern style of Muay Thai.
There is an individual ‘Mae Mai Form’ for each of the 4 weapons of Muay Thai– Punches, Elbows, Knees, and Kicks.
The Art of Using Fists – Mae Mai Muay Thai Form – 12 Punches
The Art of Using Kicks – Mae Mai Muay Thai Form – 8 Kicks
The Art of Using Knees – Mae Mai Muay Thai Form – 6 Knees
The Art of Using Elbows – Mae Mai Muay Thai Form – 6 Elbows
Tips on How to Practice Your ‘Mae Mai Muay Thai’ Forms
The first part to learning the form is being able to perform them without having to think about which weapon comes next in the sequence.
When practicing your techniques individually (such as through performing the aforementioned forms) in the air or even when shadowboxing an imaginary opponent, the practice should not just be thrown aimlessly, without a target.
When practicing these, you should ‘really see’ your weapons landing on the target. Train with your eyes and footwork to land your shots in the air, with the intent to drive all of your body weight into the target.
Thus by executing these forms as a warm-up to his training, the fighter takes account of his full Muay Thai arsenal. Daily practice of these forms should be carried out with the intention of “sharpening the knife”.
The Mindset for Sharpening Your Muay Thai Weapons
To do this, the Nak Muay must think as he practices these forms. The two questions that the Nak Muay’s mind should be attuned to as he executes each technique of the form, striking only the air.
- How do I use this weapon?
- How do I generate the most amount of power, utilizing the correct form (which includes proper breathing). ** Each Muay Thai technique can be delivered with the full weight of the body behind them, and the student must discover how to do and feel that through repetitive training.
As this is a daily practice, the student of these Muay Boran forms should check as he practices, (practicing in front of the mirror or with his or her instructor), that the form begins to show more beauty and rhythm.
Each of these exercises has a specific purpose in the regimen of a Muay Thai fighter. Through adherence to these exercises as daily rituals, the body and mind develop a deep integration with the warrior spirit of the art.
The discipline of performing these exercises with unwavering and unflinching commitment, even on days where there is physical tiredness or simply lack of motivation, teaches the Nak Muay to overcome adversity and build the essential characteristics of a Muay Thai fighter.