Muay Thai started in Thailand hundreds of years ago as a self-defence technique on the battlefield. It became Thailand’s national sport and is still effective and well-respected form of self-defence.
Muay Thai and self-defence has evolved into trendy pop-up workouts with classes being offered at local gyms and workshops being included as team building for corporate events. It is a stellar, badass workout that shreds fat. Many classes are specifically marketed towards women as a form of self-protection. But how effective is it in saving our lives…. And wait…. Saving our lives from what? From who? Who exactly are we supposed to be defending ourselves against?
I suppose the idea of women specifically being sold on self-defence classes causes a little discomfort because we have been taught for so long that we need to defend ourselves, and it is in fact, exhausting, and not actually very effective against predators. Being told to be so careful all the time, using ultimately useless preventative “tactics” is, well, irritating. Further, the very fact that we have to defend ourselves against the many men that have apparently not yet fully evolved from animals is sad, for too many reasons to list here. Some examples of what girls have been told from a young age:
- Walk from work/school to our car with our keys between our fingers… hmmm…so our punch packs a more devastating blow to the face, I guess….?
- Never leave a drink unattended, and actually place our HAND over our damn drinks all night long at the bar, in the event some opportunist decides to dose us with Rohypnol and take advantage of our passed-out body at the end of the night.
- Dress modestly: This one is particularly frustrating, because it makes no difference; women donning a nicab from head to toe, still get assaulted.
- What else…. Oh right, never walk home alone in the dark… In Indonesia though, that’s actually practical advice… way too many large holes and not enough street lighting; breaking an ankle is a real possibility! But I digress…
Point is, we are filled with all of this nonsense from a young age, but predators still find us as their victims. All of these “best practices” actually contribute to society’s obsession with victim-blaming, as it focuses the conversation on a woman’s responsibility to protect herself, thus making it somehow her fault if something happens. It would be so much nicer if the conversation revolved around educating young boys and girls about gender equality and consent, so eventually we can undo centuries of gender inequality, and put a stop to gender-based violence altogether. Further, learning physical self-defence as yet another way to protect against aggressors, simply is not that effective, unless we devote our lives to becoming good at it. Ask a professional fighter or anyone who has completed military training, police, fire-fighting, any type of first-responder…. It takes substantial training until reactions become automatic. Nonetheless, understanding how to properly punch somebody, or hit them where it hurts, may indeed come in handy someday, just don’t expect Chuck Norris or Jackie Chan reflexes after your work-sponsored self defense weekend workshop, or your Wednesday drop-in fitness class. For fitness and some basic education on technique, though, yes, very useful, silakan!
Societal commentary aside, Muay Thai and other combat sports are simply awesome from a fitness standpoint. These badass sports are a stellar workout. Training usually consists of cardio-intensive, varietal rotating sets as warm-ups (similar to HIIT: High Intensity Interval Training, which is a known calorie crusher). Then once the gloves are on, mental focus is challenged with each hit, kick, block and dip! It’s a full mind and body workout that shreds fat, tones muscles (especially in the midsection, back and shoulders, YES!), improves confidence, strength, discipline, and releases so many endorphins by the end, it has participants crawling back for more. And I do mean crawling, because after the first session walking may not be an option! I’m early on in my training but saw positive results after only a few weeks.
Don’t want to get hit? That’s ok, you don’t have to spar and it is very common to simply train for fitness in a group or with personal trainer.
Ladies AND men, let’s do Muay Thai because it’s badass and makes us tougher physically and mentally. The benefits go far beyond self-defence preparation It adds variety to our workout and makes us feel great! Plus if we do train hard it can give us a leg up in the street some day when we need it, fingers crossed. Bottom line: be fit, stay safe, and be kind to each other.