The Truth About Kicking Trees In Muay Thai

If you Google or YouTube “Muay Thai” or “Thai Boxing” one of the first things you’ll often see is a Thai Nak Muay with perfected technique kicking down what looks like a stalk or tropical tree.Though this imagery is fascinating much like how Karate Dojos chop through bricks, it is much more likely to cause injury than sharpen your technique (even for skilled fighters). [Related: Reddit’s Top Shin Questions Answered]

What are these Nak Muays actually kicking?
In the videos, the tree-looking thing is actually a banana tree. Banana Trees look kind of like a palm tree but are very different from most trees in that the trunk is much softer than a typical North American tree because banana trees are just plants!

Where did kicking trees originate?
Muay Thai has been around since 2nd or 3rd B.C. and became a sport in the 15th century. Historically, the very soft and rubbery wood of banana trees were seen as “heavy bags” for kicking. The plant is local to Thailand and abundant throughout the area. As nak muays repeatedly kicked the banana trees, the plant material fell apart. Gradually, Thai Boxers begin to use fallen pieces as ancient Thai Pads. Muay Thai teachers could move around with the plant pieces as the fighter-in-training kicked a moving target to mimic the natural flow of a fight.

Why aren’t people kicking trees in Muay Thai training nowadays?
There are a lot of practices that were excellent ideas in ancient times that we wouldn’t do now. When you see people kicking banana trees, it may because they have no other choice. Now, we have mass produced firm foam Thai Pads that can be easily fastened to a trainer’s forearms. The method is still the same, but due to innovation, the materials have changed.

Is kicking trees dangerous?
Yes!  Modern Thai Pads are engineered specifically to help Nak Muays perfect technique while avoiding an injury that would keep them from training. Kicking anything other than heavy bags or Thai Pads is asking for an injury to happen.

What is the best way to toughen my shins for Muay Thai?
Practice doing what Thai Boxers are trained to do – kicking an opponent. Shadow box and practice drills to nail down the technique. Kick heavy bags and Thai Pads to get used to force on the shins. Finally, spar, spar, and spar! Whatever you do, don’t rub glass bottles over your shins or go kicking objects that aren’t made to be kicked!

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