Though Muay Thai is a very different fighting style when compared to jiu-jitsu, there are a lot of similarities between the two. Regardless of the martial art you ultimately decide to learn, you will be better at defending yourself when you walk out of the gym on your first day than when you walked in. For that reason, learning any martial art will give you more confidence. Furthermore, all fighting is going to wear you out. Whether the style relies primarily on striking, as is the case with Muay Thai, or grappling, as is the case with jiu-jitsu, you will be exhausted at the end of class.
That said, a lot of the reasons why people may feel nervous before starting to learn a martial art are going to be the same. Many of the questions that people ask before taking a class are universal. For that reason, we can learn a lot from Alby Tam of Combat Culture, a Muay Thai gym in San Francisco, who provides some answers about what people should expect on their first day?
Am I too old or young to start?
In most cases, no. There are benefits to starting early any martial art earlier rather than later, especially if you hope to compete, but it’s never too late to learn something new. Moreover, if you’re goal is to learn self-defense and get in shape, now is the best time to start.
Should I already be in shape?
It helps to be in good shape, but anyone can start. For example, when Alby began his Muay Thai journey, he was smoking about a pack of cigarettes a day, drinking several times per week, and not doing any serious exercise. He was way out of shape.
If you make similar lifestyle decisions, the first few weeks of class are going to be challenge. You will likely regret smoking. You will likely learn that you can’t go out drinking the night before you come to class. You will realize that having a cheeseburger before heading to the gym is not the best idea. However, as you adapt your lifestyle and become accustomed to the demands of the workout, you will begin to see a tremendous changes to your body.
Will I get hurt?
Yes. You will get bruised, you will get cut, and you will be sore—sometimes for days after class. Learning a martial art hurts and you can sometimes push your body too hard. It’s important to know your limits. That said, serious injuries in any martial arts class are rare. The gym is a controlled environment and instructors are trained to keep it that way.
Will there be contact with others?
Possibly. Some gyms offer what are known as “bag only” classes where students learn technique solely by striking a bag. Other gyms may immediately have you partner up for mitt drills. If you’re not comfortable working with the latter, Alby recommends searching out a gym that offers the former.
Do I have to spar or fight on my first day?
Most gyms are not Fight Club. They will make sure you understand the basics of Muay Thai, jiu-jitsu or any other fighting style before start sparring with a partner. Sometimes you will be asked to partner up on your first day to drill and learn a technique, but you will not be expected to fight. As Alby says, anywhere from about 50%-70% of people at some Muay Thai classes are just there to work out, exercise, lose weight, or learn something new.
Can I start sparring right away?
This is ultimately a decision for the instructor. Some instructors may make an exception if you’ve recently trained in other martial arts. Alternatively, if you’re 30 years old and used to wrestle back in high school, then you may want to learn some basics before you start sparring. This is to protect yourself and your partners, since there are certain fundamentals that everyone needs to know to ensure you can protect yourself, control the power of your strikes, and keep your temper in check. Once you’ve gotten the basics down, you will likely be able to slowly start sparring.
What should I bring to my first day of class?
You should bring items that you would normally bring to a gym before working out. This includes water, a towel, a change of clothes, and a backpack to store everything during class. Since footwear is not allowed on the mat, you may want to bring flipflops or sandals that you can easily slide on and off should you need to use the restroom during class.
What should I wear?
Comfort is king. You’ll want to wear lightweight clothing like t-shirts, tank tops, and shorts that you won’t mind getting a little sweaty. Additionally, you may want to bring a headband to keep sweat out of your eyes and people with long hair will want to bring hair ties. Alby also advises against wearing anything that is too long, since it might restrict your ability to move, as well as any jewelry that might get lost, get broken, or snag onto another person.
Should I bring equipment?
It’s entirely up to you. Most beginner equipment is affordable and can readily be purchased online. You can also purchase them at many gyms if you chose. If you are on a budget, check with the gym. They may have loaner equipment like hand wraps, shin guards, and gloves.
What gym etiquette should I know about?
Because a lot of Muay Thai gyms also host jiu-jitsu classes, keeping the mats clean is very important and wearing footwear on the mat is a major taboo. Similarly, cleanliness and good hygiene is very important because you will be in very close contact with others. Cut your nails, wash yourself, and wear deodorant.
Finally, and perhaps most important of all, you need to bring a good attitude. Everyone starts as a beginner, so you shouldn’t feel frustrated if you don’t get something down perfectly right away or if you’re having trouble executing certain moves. If you come to class with a desire to learn and to constantly improve your own technique without comparing yourself with others, you’ll find that you get much better results.