Many people walk into a Muay Thai class hoping to learn how to fight and defend themselves. So how practical and effective is Muay Thai for self defense?
THERE ARE MANY VARIABLES ON THE STREETS
First things first- The gym and the streets are two different worlds. There are many variables on the streets i.e. The level of conflict; are weapons involved; the environment and setting; who you’re with; the number of people involved; context of situation; the law and potential consequences.
Muay thai only (partially) covers one aspect of the multitude of situations you could find yourself in, and that’s the hand-to-hand combat, the one-on-one fight.
WHAT MUAY THAI IS AND ISN’T
Muay Thai as it is today is designed for the ring. There are rules, a referee, judges, the rounds are timed and the fight evenly matched- not like the streets.
Thai boxers don’t train for multiple attackers, don’t train to use or disarm weapons, don’t train to fight on the ground, don’t train to asses, deescalate and respond appropriately with the right amount of force in various situations. What they do train for is developing brutal strikes and trading blows with another equally conditioned opponent.
Brutal strikes on their own is no different to weapons like a bat or an axe, and is very dangerous for anyone who doesn’t appreciate that. A Muay Thai strike is so much more damaging on the streets than it is in the gym, as regular people are not conditioned fighters and can’t take, and don’t expect those type of shots. The very high risk of over damaging the person is high, and potentially fatal. Never underestimate the weapons you have as a Thai Boxer. And it’s not just dangerous for the person it’s used against, but the fighter themselves as one mistake could ruin lives. It’s like having a sword and believing it’s a stick, so you swing your stick around in a fight hoping to smack a few faces but instead heads are being decapitated. A bit exaggerated but you get the point.
I once heard that you’re “training to go to jail” in regards to using combat sports for the street. We’ve all heard that story of someone getting punched in the face who fell and cracked their head on the pavement and the guy goes to prison. Don’t be that person.
SO WHATS THE BEST SELF DEFENSE?
This isn’t the glamorous answer you’ve been waiting for, but its avoidance. Yep, it’s mastering the Art of not being there!
In 2014 I worked and trained in a Krav Maga school in Melbourne, and although we learned so many practical and valuable skills for many situations, the main take away for me was learning how to AVOID conflict. The fighting stuff I was comfortable with, as that came naturally. But what I needed A LOT of training was how to deescalate and avoid conflicts, and by far that was the most satisfying and EMPOWERING skill I learned. I’ve always felt anxious knowing “skills” because I knew if anything went down it wouldn’t end well by fighting. That’s not a comforting thought. Now I know that situations don’t have to go that way.
There are a few takeaways that I think are absolutely gold and here is my favorite rule-of-thumbs that sums up what I learned and believe;
It’s better to AVOID than to RUN
It’s better to RUN than to DEESCALATE
It’s better to DEESCALATE than to FIGHT
It’s better to FIGHT than to DIE
Fighting should always be the absolute last resort. It rarely solves problems. It can get certain results to a degree, but there is ALWAYS a better way. Solving problems through violence, intimidation and fear is not the most soul enriching way of doing things. I should know better than anyone as half my life I was addicted to violence.
WHY PEOPLE FIGHT
People fight for many reasons but it all comes down to the one emotion- FEAR.
Some people have big egos, some people are jealous and possessive, some are bullies, others are criminals… which usually stem from one form or another of fear and insecurity. Think of someone who you know who is intimidating, and try see past the front and notice the fragile side in them- the fearful, insecure child. I’m sure you could find it, and you probably could get a sense of why they are the way they are. That tough exterior is there as a protection for something hurt or afraid deep down. We know this because we are all the same!
I was a violent kid who used to fight every chance I get. That stemmed from my fear of being bullied and so I was obsessed with becoming the toughest kid around that I wanted people to fear me, so they wouldn’t hurt me. I also grew up watching TV and action movies, with endless portrayals of how “real” men should act (and the tough ones always got the girls). The media manipulates the hell out of our minds, implants impressions and influences behaviors, and this narcissistic and violent culture is a product of that.
THE MOST EFFICIENT TECHNIQUES (IF YOU HAVE TO FIGHT)
If you do have to fight you’ll be glad to know you don’t need 10 years of MMA, Kick Boxing, advanced weapons training and so on (unless you’re in a violent occupation such as the military or police force and initiate violence as a job, in which case your life will be consumed with “situations”).
So save yourself the years and (especially women) remember this;
Fingers in eyes, twist the nuts, bite and tear out flesh.
That’s it. And you won’t kill anyone doing it.
That would cover a majority of situations, should you ever get in any and have to fight.
AVOIDANCE BEATS THE TOUGHEST MEN
I could write about what to look out for and how to asses situations and what to do, but really, you can figure out the answers yourself. Today be aware of your environment and imagine certain scenarios and how you’d react or what you could do to avoid or physically remove yourself from it. Once you start thinking this way, you will know better what to do.
The main thing is giving yourself permission to avoid or walk away.
So in conclusion, your best self defense is to AVOID or be ABSENT in the first place. Nothing can happen to you if you’re not there.
Second- fingers in eyes, bite and twist the nuts (if you absolutely have to).
And here’s a bonus; when you don’t have that mindset of violence, fear and paranoia, you won’t attract it. Yeah it “can” happen but the odds are a lot lower than having a hyper–aware-of-every-situation mindset. When I was addicted to fighting as a teen, I was the one who used the “trouble finds me” excuse- and guess what- trouble did find me (well, we found each other)! Going from weekly fighting and enemies galore, now it’s been 15 years hardly an incident, because I grew up and dropped that belief. And that’s all it was- a belief.
Muay Thai creates beasts out of bodies- physically strong, agile, fit and flexible bodies. As a fighter you are fitter and stronger than over 99% of the population. Of course confidence will come with that. Muay Thai has so many benefits including a good degree of security knowing you’re armed to the teeth with weapons for limbs, but, never mistake Muay Thai for what it’s not, and that’s a complete street self defense system.