By: Pari Aryafar
Congratulations on choosing to embark on the journey of learning ‘The Art of Eight Limbs!’
If you're anything like me, you'll be both excited and nervous. I wore an oversized T-shirt (I'm pretty sure it was my P.E. shirt from high school) and a pair of basketball shorts to my first Muay Thai class. I had bright pink hair, but I was so shy that I couldn't look my instructor in the eyes.
And now look at me – my life has completely transformed for the better! So, I applaud you for making this decision. Though it can be nerve-wracking, you can also look forward to the excitement of learning, the joy of making new friends, and the confidence to keep growing.
Although the initial anxieties may not go away, they will be replaced with a thrilling sense of fulfillment as you gain knowledge and skills and learn more about yourself. Welcome to the world of Muay Thai!
That being said, I’d like to share some tips and tricks on what to expect at your first class. That goes for you, all you Redditors, that love to ask this question in every other post.
Hopefully you have a great first day and a wonderful training partner like I did (thank you so much, Michelle Diaz Sampieri) that encourages you to keep coming back.
Get Out Of Your Own Way
On my first day of training, I was incredibly anxious to get everything right. I felt like I had to run extra fast, do more reps of the warm-up exercises, and be perfect. But I soon realized that no one was expecting anything more from me than an eagerness to learn and a good attitude.
After 10 years in the sport, I've come to understand that my performance can vary depending on my current circumstances and the people around me. A positive mindset and a willingness to try new things ultimately drives my progress much more than physical ability.
Wear What Makes You Feel Good
I would recommend dressing in an outfit that is both comfortable and makes you feel confident. From my early days wearing basketball shorts and oversized t-shirts, I changed it up to wearing… shorter shorts and oversized t-shirts.
I never felt comfortable wearing Muay Thai shorts (as it was hard to find my size, until RSLNT came along), but I do enjoy wearing shorts, leggings, and a compression shirt with a long-sleeve. Additionally, I like having my hands wrapped as my hands are small and tend to slip out of gloves. When I'm dressed comfortably, I have an improved training experience.
Be Respectful, Always
I came from a Tae Kwon Do background, so I already had an understanding of the martial arts culture and the importance of respect. Though times have changed since my black belt days, I still fondly remember having to mop the mats and shake hands with parents before every training session.
Muay Thai is no different, and it's important to remember the many rules of respect and to treat the culture with the utmost reverence. This is demonstrated in the small things, such as not teeping someone in the face or never showing the bottom of your feet to another person, especially your instructor. You might see fighters on TV wilding out, but athletes are typically respectful and careful towards their teammates, opponents, and coaches. It's important to always keep this in mind when training Muay Thai.
Feel Pride In Your Accomplishments
I urge you to resist the temptation to compare yourself to others. When I first took up Muay Thai, it was on the advice of a therapist while I was attending an outpatient program for an eating disorder. Over the years, my weight would fluctuate significantly, and I began my training in New York City, where superstar models would occasionally train alongside me.
While it was difficult not to compare myself to the wonderful people around me – physically, technically, and even emotionally – I grew to value myself even more because I was so proud of all the things I COULD do. There is only ONE Pari-Cherry, and there is only one of you! Be proud of yourself for taking this leap, and for everything you are able to accomplish in the class. This is just the beginning of a beautiful journey.
Enjoy The Journey And Have Fun
Finally, it's time to take what I've learned through my experience with Muay Thai and remember to have fun! Training in this sport has given me a sense of fulfillment that I haven't found in other places. It's given me so much more than just a physical workout – I've made lifelong friends and built a community that feels like family.
I've witnessed countless amazing moments of personal triumph and seen people from all over the world come together under the same roof. I now feel like I have a home wherever I go, because all I have to do is find a gym and suddenly I'm surrounded by new friends. When I'm training, I'm completely in the moment and that is a priceless gift. Muay Thai has been an incredible adventure for me, and I hope it brings you just as much joy and gratification!