The art of eight limbs, more commonly known as Muay Thai, is the national sport of Thailand. It is widely regarded as the most devastating and feared martial art in and outside of the ring.
Early morning runs and four hours per day of training, pounding through Thailand's hot weather is the staple that makes a Nak Muay (Thai fighter in Thai). It is hard work and dedication that Muay Thai fighters and fans respect.
Legendary martial artist Bruce Lee once stated, "The individual is more important than any style." Thus the key in any martial art is not how many punches or kicks one can execute, but rather how martial arts can help improve one's life.
As a martial artist, I am thankful to have met and trained with some of the best in the world. It has given me a sense of purpose in life, and while I don't have a particular "style," I owe a great deal to what the art of Muay Thai has given me.
With that being said, I believe that there are eight powers in the art of eight limbs that transforms someone both externally and internally. These eight powers are broken into two sections: physical power and mental power.
Physical power of Muay Thai is literally what it sounds like. Power hitting, power stance, strong blocks and physical fitness strength. These four factors can be seen at any gym around the world with practitioners punching, elbowing, kneeing, clinching and kicking pads and heavy bags.
One develops core strength and powerful techniques from the countless hours of training. The physical feats of Muay Thai are undeniable. Gyms worldwide have incorporated Muay Thai into their programs, helping people get in shape, learn self-defense and self-confidence. MMA fighters love Muay Thai because of its power.
A great gym owner or manager becomes like a father figure for many young up-and-coming fighters. When you see a young Nak Muay in training, it becomes evident rather quickly how hard work and proper technique equals devastating power.
I make yearly trips to Thailand for my training camp, and the one common phrase that I often hear the pad man say to a farang (foreigner in Thai) is "power, power, power." I agree wholeheartedly how powerful you feel after punching and kicking pads and the heavy bag. Yes, you feel exhausted and just want to go to sleep afterwards, but the body thanks you later for the great workout.
The other four factors that make up Muay Thai are far more important for longevity in life in my opinion. Sacrifice, dedication, honor and respect are the components that every martial artist, not just a Nak Muay, should strive for on the road to a healthy and peaceful life.
Thus the journey in Muay Thai starts with personal sacrifice. Sacrificing what, you may ask? Well that depends on the individual. My guess would be money and time.
The cost of joining a Muay Thai gym in the U.S. for example can average from $120 to $200 per month depending on where you live. This does not include the cost of driving, public transportation to and from the gym, buying equipment, etc.
Time is another factor that is often taken into consideration when one incorporates Muay Thai into their daily life. The hours are not only spent inside the gym, but time must also be made for endurance and cardiovascular training like running and calisthenics to build stamina and body conditioning.
The fitness craze of 10-minute workout DVD sets and Bowflexes have driven people into thinking that a few workouts will lead to physiques as shown on TV.
People have become so pressed for time along with lack of patience that a one-hour, or even a one-and-a-half-hour workout is too long. Yet somehow people find time to party every weekend like there's no tomorrow.
This then leads me to dedication. A martial artist dedicates his or her life to training the human body, making it a physical and mental fighting weapon. One does not need to become a professional fighter in order to achieve martial art enlightenment.
Being a Nak Muay is something very special that every Thai child understands because they are surrounded in a Muay Thai environment. They eat, breathe and sleep hard work, sacrifice and dedication to family, friends and positively representing the art of Muay Thai.
As I mentioned earlier, a Nak Muay trains six days a week for four hours per day, along with running and/or skipping rope and calisthenics. Now where in the U.S. does the average person have time to train this way? Unless you are training to become a professional fighter or just happen to have a lot of free time, it's not as practical in western countries.
The final two factors in mental power go hand-in-hand. Martial arts are unlike any other type of physical activity in the world. Regardless of what "style" one practices, every punch is a punch, and every kick is a kick.
One may often hear the "mind over body" concept in the martial arts. This refers to how and what a person thinks that he or she will act in that way. So with the art of eight limbs, it is not the amount of medals one accumulates that defines who you are, but rather the way you carry yourself outside of the ring that people honor and respect.
Watch any Thai fighter compete, and one can see the honor that they give to the art before the match begins and the respect given to their opponent when the match ends.
The Ram Muay, or Wai Khru as it's widely known, is the traditional activity performed before a match. Just about every Thai fighter in Thailand performs this to show respect and honor to those who have come before them.
This is one of the big differences in my opinion between MMA and Muay Thai competition. And no, I'm not talking about the difference in actual competition. I'm referring to how humble and respectful Thai fighters are compared to many MMA fighters who nowadays seem to grab the microphone and call out opponents like it's the WWE.
Perhaps it's just an "American thing" in order to create more publicity for oneself. I'm not stating that all foreign fighters do this, but seldom, if ever, does one hear of top Thai fighters such as Buakaw Banchamek, Saenchai, Rungravee Sasiprapa or Anuwat Kaewsamrit calling out opponents.
The most important message that I can convey is to learn respect and gratitude when training in any martial art. Physical power will come naturally through daily training. It is the mental and spiritual aspect that many may forget in the martial arts.
Muay Thai has a special place in my heart because it is the art that has allowed me to not only travel and train worldwide, but it has also given me the path to, as Bruce Lee famously stated "honestly expressing myself." As a martial artist and human being, you can't ask for anything better than that.