Is Muay Thai Painful?

Is Muay Thai Painful

Muay Thai was developed by Thai soldiers on ancient battle fields as a form of hand-to-hand combat. Therefore, Muay Thai can be a brutal martial art, but what about today, is Muay Thai painful?

Muay Thai can be very painful, it is a full-contact sport and martial art, meaning you will be getting hit all over your body. The most painful thing is unprotected shin clashes. Muay Thai is also an intense full-body workout, meaning muscle soreness and general workout fatigue are also common.

But don’t let any of this put you off learning Muay Thai.

Let’s look at the most common pain points in Muay Thai so you know what to expect, including:

  • General workout fatigue
  • Shin clashes
  • Types of training, including sparring and clinch fighting

Is Muay Thai Painful?

Muay Thai is a full-contact striking martial art – meaning, you will learn how to intentionally use force to strike and collide with your training partners.

As with any full-contact striking martial art – Muay Thai can be very painful.

Muay Thai teaches you to use all of your limbs as weapons, meaning Muay Thai training also offers a full-body, lung busting workout.

Pushing you to your physical limits from bell to bell.

Meaning, general workout fatigue and muscle soreness are all part of the fun with Muay Thai.

But let’s look at some other things that hurt in Muay Thai.

Muay ThaiPain Rating  
Shin on Shin Clashes (without shin guards)  High
One-for-One Drilling  Low – Medium
Touch Sparring  Low – Medium
Full-Contact Sparring  High
Clinch FightingMedium – High

Shin on Shin Clashes

One of the most painful things in Muay Thai (especially as you’re just starting out) – is clashing shins with your training partner.

Without the correct Muay Thai shin guards – this is very painful.

And unfortunately, clashing shins in Muay Thai is common.

These bone-on-bone impacts happen for a few reasons:

  • You are taught to land kicks with your shin (your shin is a weapon)
  • There is such a large focus on using kicks in Muay Thai
  • The most common way to block kicks is with your shin (known as checking the kick)

Over time your shins will become more conditioned to these sorts of impacts, but it can still really hurt.

Shin conditioning is a gradual process, starting out by kicking the pads held by your training partner, then kicking the heavy bags in your gym, and eventually even onto harder things like car tyres etc.

In Thailand some Muay Thai fighters even kick banana trees as a form of shin conditioning.

But before your shins are conditioned to be able to take the bone-on-bone impact, it is important that you wear the correct shin guards.

And if you want to progress your Muay Thai training into sparring (see below) – shin guards are mandatory.

Before you buy any shin guards for Muay Thai, make sure you avoid buying the wrong ones by first checking out our article all about Muay Thai Shin Guards.

Getting Punched, Kicked, Kneed & Elbowed

Muay Thai is commonly referred to as The Art of Eight Limbs because of its use of all the limbs as weapons.

2 Fists

2 Elbows

2 Knees

2 Shins for kicking

The Art of Eight Limbs

Having all these weapons in its arsenal is what makes Muay Thai so effective – all of which you will learn to use.

However, in Muay Thai, you will not always be the one firing the shots.

Muay Thai is a two-way sport, meaning at some point – you will also be the one getting hit by your training partner.

It is important to note that, if you’re training at a well supervised school, then your training will be progressive.

Meaning you will not be striking each other from day one with kicks, knees and elbows.

If you are not hitting the pads or the bag, but are instead getting hands-on training with your training partner, then this training will come in four different forms:

  1. One-for-one drilling
  2. Touch sparring
  3. Full-contact sparring
  4. Clinch fighting

1. One-for-One Drilling

Drilling is where you and your training partner agree to go one-for-one with your techniques on each other.

For example, you land a kicking technique on your training partner’s leg – then they do the same back to you – then it switches back to your turn and you throw another technique, and so on.

Drilling one-for-one in this way can either be done at a high pace with a lot of power behind each shot.

Or at a slower pace with much less power in each shot.

Usually, Muay Thai drilling is done at a mid-range of speed and power.

And during one-for-one drilling, both you and your partner will usually be wearing shin guards to prevent the clash of bone-on-bone with your shins.

One-for-one drilling at a steady pace with more focus on using correct form and technique instead of power – is not very painful.

2. Touch Sparring

Touch sparring is where, instead of alternating between each other like in one-for-one drilling, you and your training partner work to land strikes on each other in any order and at any pace.

However, as the name suggests, you are only lightly touching each other with your strikes.

The focus of touch sparring is still to improve your techniques, distance management and defense.

Again, the pace and power can be high or low, and you will both be wearing shin guards.

Therefore, low power touch sparring is not very painful, however as the pace and power picks up – so too will the pain.

3. Full-Contact Sparring

Full-contact sparring is the closest thing to a real fight.

Its open season in full-contact sparring – your training partner will be looking to mix it up, use all their weapons, and land their strikes on you at full speed.

Although sparring is best done at a high pace but with only 70-80% power – it can usually pick-up intensity as it goes on and become more and more high impact.

Full-contact sparring can become very painful – as you would expect from a full-contact striking martial art like Muay Thai.

However, hands-on effective training like sparring is a great way to fully prepare you to use Muay Thai in a real-life self-defense situation just in case you needed it.

Discover why effective hands-on training will prepare you for self-defense in our article: 5 Best Martial Arts for Self-Defense & Why

4. Clinch Fighting

The clinch is a large part of Muay Thai and the techniques you will learn from the clinch include strikes, trips and sweeps to knock your opponent to the ground.

Of course, getting hit with strikes from the clinch hurts.

But being locked in a solid Thai clinch starts to hurt the muscles in your back and neck too.

In the clinch your opponent will try to keep your head down so they can land knees up the middle.

Using their weight, strength and technique to keep you locked in place.

It is natural to try and counter this by standing up and keeping your posture straight.

But fighting back with strength alone is a sure way of burning out all your muscles in your neck and back.

The correct way to counter the clinch is with technique – not muscle strength.

But either way, with all the muscle strain and strikes – clinch fighting can be a painful part of Muay Thai.

Discover more about Muay Thai with our articles:

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