Molly has traveled in Asia, America and Europe, where she discovered that learning new skills is the best way to experience a place. Molly is a journalist and content creator at Dedico.
Muay Thai: Training a New Generation of Champions
Muay Thai is a global phenomenon. Originating over 300 years ago in Thailand, the sport has evolved with a dedicated, highly skilled following all over the world. An effective form of exercise for anyone looking to lose weight, tone up or maintain general fitness, Muay Thai is popular with professional fighters and non-professional alike. The 7 Muay Thai Gym in Thailand is run by Italian father and son team Roberto and Mathias Gallo Casserino.
In the 18th century, the Siamese soldier Nai Khanomtom was captured during a battle between the Konbaung Dynasty and Siam. He was given the chance to fight for his freedom and legend has it that he knocked out ten consecutive Burmese contenders. In awe of his skill, Khanomtom was freed by his captors and returned to Siam (now Thailand) a hero.
Over the following centuries, the fighting technique used by Khanomtom to triumph over his captors evolved from a practical method of combat used in warfare to a spectator sport. Today, Muay Thai is an integral part of festivals, cultural celebrations and tradition in Thailand.
Muay Thai, or the ‘art of eight limbs’, has eight points of contact between kicks, punches, elbows and knee strikes as opposed to two (the fists in boxing) and four (hands and feet in kickboxing). Most techniques rotate the whole body to power each movement- the hips swing with each punch, kick, elbow or block. Modern day Mixed Martial Arts practices have incorporated elements from traditional Muay Thai. In particular, the 'sweeping' move which sweeps the opponent off their feet and onto the floor, is one that originated from Muay Thai. Muay Thai differs from other MMA sports in it's simplicity. Unlike other forms which make use of complex, choreographed movements, Muay Thai uses direct, powerful strikes against the opponent.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, Muay Thai has grown substantially throughout Europe and America. As of 2012, the World Muay Thai Federation has over 70 member countries and there are thousands of gyms spread across the globe.
Western practitioners of the sport are referred to as Nak Muay Farang or ‘Foreign Boxer’. Before Muay Thai became so popular in the west, western fighters would travel to Thailand to challenge the local fighters. These western fighters were so easily beaten that ‘Farang’ took on a derogatory undertone.
Khanomtom knocked out ten consecutive Burmese contenders using a fighting technique now called Muay Thai
In recent years, foreign pro fighters have proved themselves as serious competitors. This is not an easy feat, as local fighters are born into Muay Thai culture and sometimes start training before they even start school. Fighters such as Italian Mathias Gallo Casserino, a worldwide champion, gained respect for western fighters in Thailand. Mathias spent his childhood between Italy and Thailand and has been living in Thailand since he was 14. Alongside his father Roberto, who has been managing fighters at the highest level for over a decade, Mathias is now running the 7 Muay Thai gym in the south of Thailand. They offer training courses ranging from 7 to 28 days duration:
Roberto, how did you discover Muay Thai?
Since I was 14, I have practiced Karate, Viet Vod Dao, Kickboxing and Savate. When I was 19, I travelled to Thailand for the first time and discovered Muay Thai. Needless to say, I didn’t like the sport at first! I really fell in love with Muay Thai when a sparring partner came back to Italy from Thailand and could explain the differences between Kickboxing and Muay Thai in detail.
What makes a good Muay Thai fighter?
Health, a good Muay Thai school and perseverance.
What does a standard training day for a fighter look like?
It really depends on technical level, age and the fighter's goals. Every fighter has individual needs so their training should be tailored to them. If a fighter follows a standard training program, their performance will never progress past average level. We are always striving to grow our understanding about fighting and training to optimize performance and nurture the next generation of Muay Thai champions.
What diet would you advise fighters to stick to?
A healthy, balanced diet is crucial. Many training programs underestimate how important it is to eat lots of fresh fruit, vegetable and rice. Avoid fried and processed foods, sugary drinks and alcohol. While training, drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
How has Muay Thai grown in global popularity during recent years?
The last 10 years has seen Muay Thai grow in popularity around the world. Unlike before, there are now many ‘Farang’ fighters who begin training at a very early age and fight under professional Muay Thai rules. The new ‘Farang’ generation will be very strong and this will put pressure on Thai fighters to remain in the top positions. Mutual respect has grown in recent years between local fighters and foreign fighters. As more western fighters are time and again proving themselves in competitions, the term ‘farang’ is less insulting nowadays.
The sport’s growing popularity has also opened it up to people that might not typically take part. The level of ‘Nak Muay Yings’ (female fighters) is improving year after year as more women are drawn to the sport.
What is the future of the sport: where do you see it going?
As I said, Muay Thai has become a worldwide phenomenon. While this has grown the opportunities for people outside of Thailand to participate in the sport, it also means that the original Muay Thai rules are becoming diluted. Due in part to misinterpretation and a general lack of understanding of Thai culture, I am concerned that the style of Muay Thai practiced globally is more similar to Kickboxing than authentic Muay Thai.
Do you identify with the traditional spiritual and cultural aspects of the sport?
I have deep respect for the traditional, cultural and spiritual elements of Muay Thai. However, I personally only practice the Monkon and Prajat rituals before, during and after the fights.
How do you think your Italian nationality has affected your training practices?
First and foremost, I love Muay Thai so I try to keep training programs purely focused on this particular sport and it’s Thai heritage. Nonetheless, I don’t forget my past in Kickboxing and Savate. I think there’s a lot to learn from western boxing schools in regard to technical and tactical elements of punches in particular.
Why choose the 7 Muay Thai Gym?
- You will train in the country of origin
- Immerse yourself in Muay Thai culture
- Have a real, authentic and genuine Muay Thai training experience
- Train alongside world champions
- High quality experience for very affordable price