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Sharpening your senses and focus with Muay Thai training

Updated: Sep 13, 2023

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of knowing you can defend yourself if necessary. But

Muay Thai is more than just the ability to engage in combat, it’s also an art that expands the

way you understand and perceive the world. The “art” in martial arts is what elevates the

experience of learning Muay Thai from that of purely fitness to something that can alter

your physiology on a higher level. One of the things we know from our understanding of

psychology, biology and neuroscience is that the highest form of being, what makes us

uniquely and exceptionally human, is the integration between the senses (our body), and

our understanding (our mind). Muay Thai, and martial arts in general, offers this integration

between mind and body in sharpening your senses, directing your focus and attention, and

using the entire body in defensive and offensive strategy.

Sharpening your senses and improving focus and attention

“In the course of a single second, our senses of sight, of hearing, of smell, register

(knowingly or not) a swarm of events, and a parade of sensations and ideas passes through

our heads. Each instant represents a little universe, irrevocably forgotten in the next

instant.” – Raymond Tallis

So much of our modern existence is spent behind screens. Our attention is often drained

and compromised – most of us have experienced Zoom fatigue, or split attention from the

multiple messages and notifications that pull on us for immediate response. Over time, we

feel a dulling of our senses, and focus is difficult to control and retain. Muay Thai, and

martial arts in general, offers that sudden switching on of your senses that’s like the feeling

you get when you breathe fresh, chilled mountain air for the first time after a long period of

living in a congested, hot city. You’re visually engaged with the target of your strikes, kicks,

elbows, knees to deliver the precision necessary to have an impact. You’re listening to the

exciting snap of the strikes on the pads or bag that indicates impact – sounds that signal that

you are a force of nature capable of doing some damage. You’re focusing on the commands

being called out, integrating combinations into memory, automatically calculating the speed

at which you need to execute movements following certain patterns; you will feel genuine

surprise at how your body can move and bend and respond in such coordinated and goal-

directed ways. The first time I tried Muay Thai after years of boxing I remember the feeling

of almost immediately being switched on mentally and physically to a degree that I hadn’t

experienced before – engaging every muscle and part of my body with the mental demands

of learning such a wide variety of movements. It was stimulating for the body, of course, in

proving to be one of the most physically intense, calorie burning workouts that exists, but it

was stimulating for the senses and the mind in a way that reminds you that you’re very

much alive and powerful, and the one in control of your body.


Muay Thai is an art, and with art comes the need to engage our highest selves. Human

beings are gifted with remarkable reasoning and thinking abilities that, when engaged, push

our performance and our overall sense of being to its highest potential. When you learn

combinations, drill for agility and speed, and eventually engage in combat when sparing,

you train your mind to think like a strategist. You’re learning and working with new

information all the time, in every session, and you will soon notice that you’ve trained your

mind to process information in daily life more efficiently and automatically. There is also an

important diversity and range of skill that comes from learning how to strategize defensively

and offensively. For example, when learning to defend, you must be completely attuned to,

and engaged, with the movements of your opponent – learning to predict their behaviour to

the subtlest degree. A flinch of a shoulder, a small step, learning the difference between a

fake and a real strike... And when learning to be offensive, you look for openings, and you

wait... you learn to be patient and mindful of when the right moment appears for action,

followed quickly by the need to switch your mental processing right back to the defensive

strategy. In psychology, we know that to do this is to engage all your brain’s mechanisms –

learning, memory, attention, and reasoning – executing all of this through movement.

Muay Thai is a high-level combat sport, but it is also the art of being human and using your

highest-level human capacity. You will undoubtedly feel physically tired at times, but that

fatigue will soon be replaced by the awakening of your senses and the switching on of your

mental faculties. You will be able to walk around in the world knowing you can protect

yourself and that you are a force to be reckoned with, but more critically, you will notice

how your thinking, perceiving, and sensing of the world will operate at a higher level

because of your training. Nothing like becoming a warrior and an artist at the same time.

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