Why Learning (Muay Thai) is so Damn Confusing… and What To Do About it!


I vividly remember being terrified my first time at a Muay Thai gym in Thailand. I was immersed – a totally foreign culture of fighting.  One hard pill to swallow…the kids were freaking amazing…On that day, my biggest fear of getting hazed old-school Asian style came up – my skills were definitely not even close to those kids and my imagination of what could happen ran rampant.

Just to get an idea, here’s one of the kids  showing the camera what real Muay Thai looks like.  (with my old trainer – Kru Pon “love ya man!”


Looking back, I laugh at those unwarranted fears because the trainers at the Sityodtong Gym were super cool and treated me like fam the whole time I was there.

It wasn’t until I spent several weeks there training and getting to know the people there that I could stop being self-conscious of my short-comings and just enjoy my time with them…that the real learning started to begin.

Once I could just chill out,  my brain could start paying attention to the studying details of movement…subtleties of the art started to arise out of me after I stopped being so damn self-consciousness.

This made me wonder..

How Exactly Do We Learn New Skills? (like Muay Thai 🙂 )

We learn from the experiences and insights of other people that have travelled the road before us.  If you think about it, even the greatest inventors utilized knowledge and conclusions drawn from previous experience of other people. A good teacher empowers a student by first building a relationship of rapport, then relating the skill to them on their level of thinking.Muay Thai - Kennett Square PA - Learning Martial Arts

At the most bizarre yet ideal level of learning, students would open up their brain, get the back of their head affixed to a computer, and download information directly into the brain, like Neo in the Matrix.

Until we get run over by AI and harvested for our bio-electricity, this won’t be happening anytime soon… The reality of it, is that there are hurdles to learning (i.e. – Muay Thai) that student and teacher overcome together.


1. We Can Never Fully Understand The Intracacies of What Another Person is Communicating. 

Example…A Muay Thai teacher might try to convey how to throw a right hand cross, I might describe the shoulder rotation similar to that of a pitcher throwing a baseball. The only reason that would work for you is if you had previous experience doing it or watching another person do it.

If you didn’t know how a pitcher throws a baseball, you’d have no idea what the hell that meant.  A student that is really struggling to grasp a skill and isn’t making progress….at that point, it’s the teacher’s responsibility  find a way to breakthrough and allow the student to make the discovery.

He or She will use every metaphor, demonstration, story, and allegory to connect with the students reservoir of knowledge and make the link in their head…and from there the breakthroughs happen.

From there, the student can link it up and start practicing and learning, developing an even more powerful form of learning…1st hand experience…but to get there, we need to traverse that first gap in understanding.

2. Seeing is Believing – But Our Eyes Deceive Us

A lot of times unconsciously, we draw definite conclusions about things (consciously or unconsciously) we see and the logical conclusion as to how it works. Our brains hate gaps! It Hates not Knowing! So we continue to train (Muay Thai or whatever skill) in a way based on unconscious conclusions we’ve made, even though it isn’t accurate.

For example, up until pretty recently, I had the habit of tightening up my chest on my strikes. This was a remnant of my bodybuilding past, tensing my body into a big muscle so I could lift heavy, brah!

In something like Muay Thai, muscular effort does not equal results. Often times, most secrets to success (in Muay Thai and Life) are counter-intuitive and not what meets the eye. And it’s questioning those unconscious conclusions that will not only speed up learning but stop bad habits from forming.

3. As Adults, We Have Limiting Beliefs About What We’re Capable Of

Albert Einstein said it best. “Imagination is More Powerful than Knowledge”. How true that is. One of the biggest epiphanies that I’ve had about Muay Thai was the culture, story, and mythical background of the entire art. My instructor in Thailand explained to me (my wife who was translating) that the difficulty of teaching foreigners Muay Thai was that they couldn’t understand the culture and story entrenched through the art, that made it easier to grasp on a level deeper than just logical understanding.

Most people learning anything new, including Muay Thai, have low self-esteem in that area. They can’t shake their past…failures, limitations, setbacks and look at it fresh…like a kid.  Each of us comes with our own set of limiting beliefs, conceptions, etc….that may or may not be true…and these unconsciously hold us back.

To learn anything new faster, much faster while enjoying the process…develop the ability to drop your negative and limiting beliefs…(your past, your experiences, identity, your labels for who you think you are… (I’m inflexible, I suck at sports, I’m not strong enough)

For me, when I train, I try to step outside of myself…and I’ll tell myself that I don’t own these techniques…rather they are flowing out of me….from someone who passed them on….I’m more than my past failures, and the totality of who I am can never be measured by some silly past experiences….

I am on a mission…to emBODY something greater…not just in the HEAD…but to let the learning permeate every ounce of my body, mind, and imagination until it becomes who I am!


Until Next Time Guys…Happy Training!

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