This is a question we get all the time from potential newcomers the sport of Muay Thai. The answer will inevitably be yes, but it depends on how serious you get involved. What level you go to and whether you go ahead and fight or not will have a big impact because that is the most dangerous element of the sport. There are tons of people who just take up Muay thai for the enjoyment, high levels of fitness, conditioning, endurance and the fact that it is a highly effective martial art.
Another thing to keep in mind is that life itself is a very dangerous sport, and no one makes it out alive anyway. So, for that reason I would say that if you’re thinking about Muay Thai, then don’t let the perceived dangers of the sport stop you from lacing up a pair of gloves and giving it a try one little bit, it’s perfectly safe for beginners.
All Sports Are Dangerous
When you look at all sports, there are horrific injuries that you can take from any of them and Muay Thai is no different.
If you think about the leg breaks that very rarely happen in Muay Thai, you could probably see 20 leg-breaks in a sport like soccer for every one that you would see in Muay Thai and nobody thinks about whether or not soccer is dangerous.
Even a gentle sport like golf will carry it’s fair share of injuries, from dislocated shoulders to torn ACLs and even golf cart accidents but that is not to say that you can’t enjoy the sports without worrying about the inherent dangers.
Is walking into a Muay Thai gym as a beginner dangerous?
Definitely not, when you walk into a Muay Thai gym as a beginner, any coach that’s worth their salt will quickly be able to tell what level you are at and they will never ever throw you in at the deep end.
What to expect at Muay Thai class
A basic Muay Thai class will start off with a warm up like some jogging around the gym and maybe a few rounds of skipping and shadow boxing. These basic exercises are not dangerous at all unless you go over on your ankle which isn’t very likely.
You might then move on to some bag drills where your opponent will hold the bag and you will hit the it with straight punches or fast kicks for a minute before swapping over and giving your partner a go. You might do this for a couple of rounds and again this is not dangerous at all but highly fun and great cardio.
Pad work, you may work pads with your partner or your partner will hold their gloves in front of them for you to perform punches, kicks, knees and elbows and again this is not dangerous at all. I’ve never seen an injury on the pads from all my time in Muay Thai.
The only risk here is slight pain in the wrists and forearms from catching heavy kicks, or possibly your partner missing the target which is very rare, and again this is not very dangerous.
Dutch Style Training Drill
Training drills where you and your partner will practice different combos on each other while wearing protective shin pads and big gloves.
If you’re a complete beginner your partner should go light with you and this is a great chance to improve your skills. The biggest risk is taking a soft punch in the face, so again not dangerous at all.
As you advance in your Muay Thai journey and learn some good combos that you can repeat over and over again with good power and technique, you might be invited to spar in your gym against other opponents that are on the same or a higher level than you are.
Again you shouldn’t worry about this, just make sure to not hit anybody harder than you want to be hit yourself and remember that the more experience fighters have been in your position before so they won’t want to go extra hard on you to teach you a lesson or anything.
They will want you to grow, have a good experience and improve your skills as well.
Sparring is the fastest way to increase your Muay Thai skills
As you progress in your gym and move through the ranks and become a skilled Muay Thai practitioner that can hold their own in spars against the best fighters in the gym, you may choose to go on and have some amateur fights and this is where things can get a little bit more risky.
Amateur fights usually have slightly bigger gloves and you’ll be wearing shin pads but of course there is a risk that you could be knocked out but you can also knock your opponent out although this is quite rare in the amateurs.
By the time you’re ready to go for amateur fights you should feel confident in your ability and you should see this as a challenge that you want to take on regardless of the risk because you see the reward as something that is worth taking some risk for.
Professional fighting in Muay Thai is quite dangerous, in many countries they will have different classes, like C-Class won’t have any elbows but when you get up to the top level, the risk of getting caught by elbows is quite significant and is something that will happen to you if you fight enough.
It’s just up to the individual whether they see that as something that they’re willing to forgo because they enjoy fighting and they love the feeling of winning against a worthy opponent.
Risk Of Broken legs
Broken legs is probably the biggest nightmare of any Muay Thai fighter although they are rare, this is probably the most dangerous injury that you can pick up in the sport.
This usually happens when a fighter leads with their low kick which is something that you’re not supposed to do in Muay Thai.
You should always set up your kicks with a jab so that your opponent can’t see it coming and raise their leg to block your kick, potentially leading to this dreading injury in rare circumstances.
Long term brain damage
For Muay Thai fighters that go through hundreds of rounds of heavy sparing year after year and take heavy punishment in the ring time and time again, there is a substantial risk that they will develop some long-term brain injuries because of all the punishment they received over the years, depending on how many times they have been knocked out or how many concussions they get.
If you are Muay Thai fighter for a long time. There is some risk of picking up long term brain damage.
The subject of brain damage is the reason we always recommend to only spar 70% to 80% unless you have a fight coming up within the next 3 to 4 weeks.
You can push it harder for maybe one session a week leading up to a fight. The goal is to improve the software without damaging the hardware and going 100% when there is no fight coming up doesn’t make any sense.
You could always take up a grappling sport
If the risk of receiving bangs in the head in sparring and Muay Thai fights put you off, you could always try a Brazilian jiu-jitsu class where are you can learn a really effective skill without taking any of the punishment.
It is worth nothing that Brazilian jiu-jitsu was king in the early UFC due to the skill of the Gracie Brothers. Nowadays Muay Thai and Jiu-Jitsu are key skills and a big part of all MMA fighters training to enable them to compete at the highest levels in the UFC.
Is Muay Thai more dangerous than boxing
On the surface it may appear that Muay Thai is much more dangerous than boxing but if you look at the numbers they tell a different story.
You may also think MMA is much more dangerous than boxing, but boxing comes out time and time again as the one that reports the most deaths.
The evidence appears to suggest that the 12, 3 minute rounds in boxing where a fighter is getting beaten up by a padded glove that is not enough to knock them out but the repeated blows to the head over and over again can cause serious trauma, leading to death in the ring and more serious brain damage when you look at the longer term.
Muay Thai fights are 3 rounds or 5, 3-minute rounds and a lot of the kicks will be to the body and there won’t be as many punches to the head as in boxing.
Some of the harder blows like elbows, will result in a instant knockout ending the fight where as a boxer can go on taking severe punishment for several rounds and the impact through the padded glove isn’t enough to knock them out which is actually more dangerous to the fighter.
Muay Thai is dangerous when you get to the top levels but this is the case in any sport, football has its injuries, soccer even has its injuries especially at the top level, hockey has injuries, horse riding has injuries and the list goes on.
Any sport that you get involved in is going to have some level of danger and risk, it’s just a case of finding what you like and deciding that the risk is worth taking for all the rewards and benefits you can get out of a sport like Muay Thai over your life time.