In today’s world, people expect trainers to be “certified” in whatever field they are teaching. Being certified as a trainer gives your clients assurance that you know what you are doing. In a perfect world, this system would work. Getting a certification would mean you are qualified to teach. However, the reality is that just because you are certified, doesn’t really mean anything.
The truth is that anyone with a bit of money and time can get certified in practically anything.
Take tennis for example. If you were trying to find the best tennis coach out there, would you look to see if they had an instructor certificate? No, you would probably look at the coaches background. You would find out where they learned to play tennis and how they did as a player and which students they currently train.
A certification from a Tennis Association that says they are qualified to teach doesn’t mean they are good or bad. Anyone can go through a training system and get certified to teach. This is the reality of the world we live in.
Being a Qualified Instructor Requires Years of Training and Dedication
My issue with certifications first started in the weight room many years ago. I used to see people who didn’t know a thing about weightlifting, training people at the gym because they had a certification saying “personal trainer.” Instead of actually teaching proper compound lifts like squats and dead lifts that require technique, they taught people how to raise their leg up and down on a machine. Years ago, I came to the conclusion that anyone could become “certified” to teach practically anything.
One of the reasons why there are certifications in Muay Thai is because of the influence of Karate. Since Karate is all about rankings and tests, a lot of people who started adopting Muay Thai continued to follow the same Karate traditions of being ranked and having testing.
When it comes to being a good trainer, experience is only one aspect of it. There are a number of factors that make someone a good trainer. To find out what you should look for in a good trainer read this article: Find the Right Muay Thai Trainer – 5 Things To Look For
One of the most common certifications you can get in Muay Thai is the Master Toddy Instructor Course. While this might be a really good crash course on Muay Thai, there is no way someone should become a certified instructor after 4 days of training with someone.
Even though Master Toddy might be one of the best trainers around, getting a certificate from him will not make you understand and know his style. That is like going to a gym with a Muay Thai superstar and hoping his skill will transfer over to you over a few weeks. It won’t.
Certifications are a North American Invention
In my 3+ years of training in Thailand, I have never been taught by a “certified” Thai trainer. Now to the average person, this statement would make you think “What?! How did these guys even get hired.” When the reality is, Thailand is a different scenario. These trainers are hired because of their vast experience in the ring and their knowledge of the sport.
My trainer Run got his “certification” from years of experience fighting in Lumpinee and Rajadamnern stadium and achieving a number #1 ranking. That is far better than someone who simply has a certificate saying they are qualified to teach. His skill and knowledge of the sport is far superior than most people who have instructor certificates.
If You Must Be Certified….
For people who are set on getting a certification simply for resume purposes, there are a few options out there.
The official Muay Thai Institute of Thailand offers instructor certification courses that take place over the course of an entire month. To participate in the course, you are required to have a minimum of 5 professional fights for an instructor level 1, 10 fights for a level 2 and 30+ fights for level 3 certification. To me, this sends a message that they actually want instructors to have experience fighting in the ring, something that is an essential aspect of Muay Thai.
In addition to the Muay Thai Institutes strict fight requirement (something I agree with), the famous Sityodtong gym takes it one step further. Here was a recent post on their facebook page.
Translation: You actually have to train with us for years and learn our style if you want to be a certified instructor.
In my opinion, Sityodtong gets it right. Instead of profiteering from their reputation as a gym, they require students to train with them for at least 5 years if they want to be associated with the gym.
Real Certification Comes From Experience
In an ideal world, anyone who wants to teach Muay Thai should learn from the source. Book a one way ticket to Thailand and eat, sleep, and breathe the sport. Even if you have no intentions to be a fighter, you should get ring experience to understand what it is like to be a fighter. Become a sponge and soak up as much knowledge as you can. Find a trainer that cares about you and stick with him.
Since we don’t live in a perfect world where everyone can train in Thailand, there are a lot of good trainers out there who teach authentic Muay Thai. The key is finding them. It takes dedication, commitment and persistence if you want to gain a next level understanding of Muay Thai.