Muay Thai has a reputation to be a brutal sport that leaves its fighters bloody and heavily bruised after sanctioned fights. The art of using 8 limbs has roots in Thailand where it takes what we know as boxing and adds elbows strikes, knee strikes, and kicks. There is a whole other dimension to this style of fighting that not only teaches self-defense but brings about a sense of empowerment, self-respect, and discipline.
I went to Ambush Muay Thai in Austin, TX and met up with a few fighters to listen to their perspective on the mental health benefits from this style of training.
Jon “The Lion” Leal has been training for 12 years. Coming from a football background in high school, Jon wanted to continue training in a contact sport and found MT. He finds this style of training to be an excellent stress-reliever that rids the mind of the day’s stressors. Jon has also gained an immense amount of self-confidence that he’s able to apply socially in meeting others and physically if ever faced with an altercation. He compares the resilience of getting punched in the face to being able to handle real-world challenges and feels that is one of the biggest benefits to this style of training.
Trinity Gonzales comes from a soccer background and has been in contact sports during high school. After high school, she joined an MMA gym where she trained in boxing and Muay Thai which she fell in love with. It wasn’t until discovering Ambush Muay Thai that she felt at home with the sport. After each training session, Trinity finds an endorphin rush leading the way to putting an end to a stressful day. She also discovers a great sense of empowerment in each training session that validates the accomplishment of doing something badass. Another immediate benefit is that she has found MT to be a powerful form of self-expression, which is an important aspect in her life. Trinity found her role model, fighter and coach Jenna Crank, which has given her something solid and concrete to aspire to becoming. MT has taught Trinity a lot about who she is as person, building a stronger sense of identity.
Spencer “Handsome” Hanley adds beauty and depth to the description of Muay Thai with its cultural influence from Thailand and Buddhism. As a teen with ADHD, he was actively into skateboarding which destroyed his knees. He discovered traditional martial arts but wasn’t finding it useful for self-defense, not until he found Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai at the age of 15. Spencer finds MT as an outlet to release any build up of anxiety. He explains that this style of training forces you to get out of your head and confront the immediate input coming your way which doesn’t allow room for your mind to wander. Spencer suffers from anxiety-induced panic attacks but they have become far and few in between. He explained that the anxiety he’s experienced before every fight, and he’s had many, has been what has elevated his body’s threshold for a panic attack. Additionally, the specific way to breathe that is taught in this martial art translates into the kind of breathing needed to calm the body from an attack. Spencer feels he’s got another 10 years of fighting but is in it for life. He’s currently coaching and explains that coaching is much more than teaching physical movements, he incorporates mental aspects of mediation and visualization.
Have feedback, thoughts, or want to share how martial arts affects your mental health, let me know in the comments below!
Per this blog’s disclaimer, statements made here are not for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All the information contained in this blog is for educational and informational use only.