The foundamental training principles of Muay Thai
by Marco De Cesaris

Ten years ago, at the end of a very hard training session in which the fighting techniques were alternated non-stop with strikes to the paos for more or less two hours, a grand master named Phaosawat Saengsawan approached me while I tried to quench my thirst with a little water, and handed me, almost sneakily, a piece of paper; on that piece of paper, he told me, there was written in the Thai language a set of eight rules, what every true Muay Thai practitioner had to follow in “the long run” during his practice. The master was referring to the martial practice of the Art, what should accompany us during our whole life and not only for a brief period during our youth. It made me realize that the professional Thai boxers in the mother country of the discipline followed these rules to the maximum, perhaps differently from what Western practitioners did. In reality, Muay Thai, and Muay Boran, in particular, put emphasis on the practice prolonged through time, avoiding limiting the benefits of a Martial Art so fascinating during the springtime of our lives. Today, with the passing of the years, that precious advice from Master Pho still represents a kind of lighthouse that guides me in my daily training and always allows me to enjoy the extraordinary beauty of the Art of the Kings.

The training principles in Muay Thai Boran

- Muay Thai requires constant practice.

That is the first and perhaps most important rule: there is no usefulness in practicing a martial art sporadically; there must be consistency in training in order to be able to achieve and maintain all the benefits of the practice through time.

- The training in Muay Thai requires application and hard work.

This motto can be easily extended to all the combat arts; the modern tendency employed at gymnasiums involving a superficial style and surrendering at the first confrontation of difficulties can in no way produce true martial artists, and even less true fighters. It is necessary to train hard and especially with all your heart and soul; in any other way, one will never reach the true spirit of Muay Thai.

- In practice, one has to push to reach the limit of one’s body.

This rule is directly linked to the previous one. How many times does one hear students saying, “I can’t do any more, I’m stopping,” or else, “I can’t continue because it hurts”? Placing our confidence in the master who guides us, we also have to be ready to continuously push ourselves toward our limits, sure that the results will always be positive.- Muay Thai has to be practiced in accord with the true spirit of the Art. The ultimate objective of all the Martial Arts worthy of the name is to form better citizens; the awareness of our strength has to push us to be helpful toward others and not to pervert the practice by selfishly taking advantage of the knowledge acquired through the training. One who betrays the spirit of this discipline will come to ruin.

- The technical skill is derived through practice.

Many athletes are born with the “gift”, a special skill that makes them unique in their field. But natural predisposition, if it is not accompanied by hard and constant work in the gymnasium, carried forward day after day without stopping, will not allow us to achieve the higher goals. Only the basic skill will not allow us to raise ourselves to the heights of the Art that we have chosen, rather it is molded through time in the practice (under the guidance of a true master).

- Each training session has to be followed by an appropriate period of rest.

Day and night, man and woman, full and empty, Yin and Yang; the alternating harmony of opposites creates the optimum result. How many times does the amateur athlete—even some professionals—go too far in training and become overly stressed and arriving at that point often called “gymnasium combat”? In the Kai Muay, or Thai training camps, the rest hours are as carefully adhered to as the training sessions, precisely for the importance of the recuperation stage after hard effort.
- For training to be effective, it has to be done for at least one year and later continued through time in order to reach long-term success. The practice of Muay Thai pursues two objectives: the first is a short-to-medium term objective and, in the case of young athletes, it can coincide with the fighting life, aspiring to get confirmation about one’s skill, prestige, or financial compensations from it. The second is the long-term objective, to maintain psycho-physical well-being and a qualitative high level of life during one’s existence. Without constant practice through time, neither of these two goals will be easily obtainable.

- The body has to receive healthy food.

It is often heard that “We are what we eat”. For someone who practices Muay Thai or any other Martial Art, this motto becomes a style of life. It is not very important to go through life counting calories or studying the chemical composition of everything we swallow, but it is of fundamental importance to develop, through the intense practice of Muay Thai, nutritional hygiene that is not too heavy and that later can be followed for an indefinite amount of time without psychologically influencing the practitioner in a negative way.

“There is no usefulness in practicing a martial art sporadically; there must be consistency in training in order to be able to achieve and maintain all the benefits of the practice through time”