I had no idea when I enrolled in Urban Fight Gym's 6 week Beginner Muay Thai course that I was inviting anything more than fitness into my life. Which is why I'm so keen to share my experience with you.
Gaining fitness and a new set of skills is one thing; but there's a secret, hidden, bonus level you get to unlock with martial arts training. Everything you build in the gym — strength, endurance, discipline, determination — all of it secretly transposes itself onto the overall schematic of your mind, levelling you up in every other aspect of your life.
Muay Thai beginner program: what you learn in class
Whatever your experience level, you will feel comfortable in Urban Fight's beginner class. You get your own set of gloves, wraps and shin pads as part of the package. And you get to train with a championship-winning fighter.
Teaching beginners is no easy task. You need to get them excited for the class and to push their limits while also keeping it doable enough to not scare them off. Lorna nails this delicate balance with her fun but methodical approach, helping you build technique and precision first, with power and speed coming later.
Lorna Bremner: Championship-winning instructor
If you're lucky, your time in the gym will be peppered with tales from the seasoned fighters of being put through gruelling conditioning/torture sessions worthy of an early nineties Jean-Claude Van Damme movie montage. Nowadays, beginner training is nowhere near as hectic.
Your main focus in the early days is on learning new moves and ingraining them into your muscle memory. So the first few classes aren't that strenuous (they work you up to the brutality slowly). As you progress, the level of fitness required builds but you're building along with it. So by the time you finish the course, you've become stronger and fitter without even noticing.
You have to be as patient with this process as the trainers are with you. By sticking with it, and practicing at home, I've been able to progress smoothly into the intermediate classes and have even started sparring.
As someone who hadn't done much martial arts training before, I have to admit I felt mildly anxious heading into the more advanced classes, knowing I'd be behind the level of other students. You work together a lot in Muay Thai and I was worried about holding people back. But everyone at Urban Fight is so friendly and supportive (classmates and instructors alike) that you don't feel like a pain or a hindrance. You do, however, feel a strong sense of responsibility to pick up your game so you can be a solid partner for the people you work with.
In this way, the training helps you develop humility, an appreciation for the skills of your classmates, a sense of community and care for others, and a strong motivation to practise and get better. This is just one of many side-effects you don't realise Muay Thai training will have until you've given it a go.
Muay Thai beginner program: the unintentional side-effects
Post class stretching
In pretty much every other aspect of life, unintended side-effects are not a great thing. But with Muay Thai, they are profoundly badass.
You learn to learn from your mistakes and failures. In fact, you learn to cherish these moments because they teach you how to feel the difference between the awkwardness of not quite getting it and the smooth perfection of those times you nail it. Failure gives you a benchmark, provides depth and dimension to your understanding and gives you a place to work from. This has bled over into the rest of my life, shredding the old habit I had of missing out on awesome things because I was afraid I might fail.
You also start to carry yourself differently. Part of the beginner course involves posture, blocking and footwork. There's just no way of mastering the moves if you let yourself dip into awkward, off-balance postures. Subconsciously you start taking this mentality into your everyday life. If you're someone who slouches or gets fidgety when you're feeling socially awkward, training will cause these habits to slowly disappear from your postural vocabulary.
This is a powerful bonus because the way you hold your body sends a message, not just to other people, but to your own mind. Scientists
(and exuberant motivational coaches
) have been telling us this for years. And, from my experience training with Urban Fight, I can definitely attest to the validity of their claims.
Training in progress
By the end of the six week beginner course, I could already see a six pack popping through. I do bike everywhere, and practice outside of class, but I've never had a six pack before. It's not a big deal but it is kind of cool seeing your body change like that. It's like external proof of the internal changes you've been feeling.
In summary, I cannot recommend these guys highly enough. Urban Fight is home to a lovely crew who encourage you to push your limits while allowing you to progress at your own pace. The different classes, deals and workshops keep things interesting and the bonus side-effects make it a worthy investment in the awesomeness of your future self.