If you are worried that a sport like Muay Thai sounds a bit too strenuous and dangerous for you, or because you’re too unfit (and frankly too worried) to engage in it, then this blog should put your fears to rest.
After years of addictive acting out, many of us are in pretty bad shape. Even after a month or two in primary drug rehab, you might think that the level of cardio fitness required to do something like Muay Thai would be beyond you. Well think again.
At Alpha Sober Living, we work exclusively with top gyms like Bangarang and Core Combat. The trainers in these gyms are some of the best in Northern Thailand and they have extensive experience of having worked with people accessing addiction treatment services over the last decade. The trainers we use work from a system that is designed specifically to utilise Muay Thai as a health and fitness regime, for addiction, obesity and other chronic conditions. The focus isn’t on training for ring fighting (unless that is what you want to do). It’s about building self-esteem and having fun. Most of all – it’s about movement.
The whole ethos at Alpha is centred around movement. There’s no change without change. In order to recover we have to get moving, physically, mentally and spiritually.
WHAT IS MUAY THAI?
Muay Thai was developed initially for the battlefield during the medieval era when Thailand was at was with neighbouring Burma. All of the countries regional to South East Asia have some version of ‘the art of 8 limbs’. If you lost your weapon on the battlefield then being able to use all of your striking limbs; your fists, elbows, knees and lower legs, was very helpful as a last resort.
Over the centuries Muay Thai has entered deeply into Thai culture and become the national sport. It is a great source of pride for the Thai people who rightly look highly upon internationally known proponents of the sport as local heroes. Thai kickboxers like Buakaw, Senchai and Yodsanklai, to name just three of Thailand’s greatest kickboxing stars of recent times, are international celebrities.
THE SPIRITUAL SIDE OF MUAY THAI
There is another side to Thai kickboxing however, which is Muay Boran.
Muay Boran emphasizes the ‘moving meditation’ aspects of the tradition. In a similar way to how Kung-Fu and Qi Gong are practiced in China, Muay Boran has retained the more spiritual aspects of the tradition.
Borrowing heavily from the aspects of Thai Buddhism which promote moving meditation as well as sitting meditation, it is a great way to become more mindful and re-inhabit your body after years of drug abuse which may have left you dissociated and numb. Muay Boran is often practiced in rural retreats, with traditional clothing and props. At Alpha we are able to practice Muay Boran in our dojo (along with Qi Gong and Shaolin Body Conditioning).
MUAY THAI & MUAY BORAN CAN BE USED AS A MOVING MEDITATION (OR ‘TRAUMA INFORMED THERAPY’)
Again, this is very much the ethos at Alpha. We use these sports and traditions as a form of ‘somatic experiencing’. All ‘trauma informed’ therapists now working in the addictions field use somatic experiencing (also known as bodywork) because we understand that addiction is about more than drugs.
Recent scientific findings such as research into adverse childhood experiences and poly-vagal theory tells us that there is so much more going on when people act out with drugs. It’s about more than getting high. And it’s not just the brain that’s implicated in addiction. It’s also the nervous system.
Pre-existing conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (which exacerbate addiction) strongly dysregulate the bodies nervous system, and thus, we must begin to ‘ground it’ or regulate it in any way we can. This is most effectively done with physical movement and breathing exercises – not talk therapy (although talk therapy is necessary too).
This is why it is important to work with addiction professionals when you are delving into the world of somatic experiencing, bodywork, and exercise – at least if you are using them as techniques to enhance your recovery from addiction. Muay Thai – done under the auspices of a team that know exactly how to do it – is a great way to begin this journey.
SO WHAT CAN MUAY THAI DO FOR ME?
- Well it’s a self-defence technique, which is handy
- The cardio is like nothing else. You will get used to this level of intensity much more quickly than you think you will
- It’s a fast track to getting fit because it’s fun. It doesn’t feel like work
- It teaches you about Thai culture and customs
- It brings you into a rewarding working relationship with local Thai people who are just great to be around with their laid back and happy energy
- Movement is therapeutic and meditational.
FAQs ABOUT MUAY THAI AT ALPHA
Will I have to fight or spar?
Err … no! If you want to spar you will have to be well grounded first and this will take several months. Most people just want to exercise.
Do People get Injured a Lot?
I’ve actually got injured more doing triathlons than Muay Thai. Usually it’s something small like a stubbed toe.
Can I fight if I Want To?
If you’re young enough, and ambitious enough however, then this may be a path you can explore when you move on to lower level of supported accommodation. We can oversee and arrange that for you with some of the best in the business.
So that’s a basic overview of Muay Thai works in a Thai addiction treatment setting.
Contact us at Alpha for more information about our body-based recovery programme or counselling services in Chiang Mai.