As a beginner Muay Thai student can I just jump into classes? Yes.
You have to find the right gym. If the academy has a hard focus on competition it could be too intense and you risk getting hurt. If the training is watered down into “cardio-kick” then it’s no different than any other group exercise class. Look for an academy that teaches Beginner Muay Thai as a lifestyle. Look for a coach (Kru) who has done what you want to do. A coach who is still training after 15-20+ years, is enjoying the art and is in great shape, can lead you to the same results.
When you have found the academy that is your ideal then you don’t have to worry about questions like “Do I need to be in shape before I start?”
When I went in for my first Beginner Muay Thai class it was set up with stations. We were going to rotate between hitting heavy bags, moving targets like kick pads and focus mitts, conditioning exercises and timing practice. My first round was on the heavy bags. The coach demonstrated how to throw “Thai Kicks”, impressive, powerful strikes that knocked the bag back. I tried my first kick. Contorting my body I managed to feebly whack the bag with totally the wrong part of my leg. Immediately I’m thinking “I’ve always been scrawny and clumsy, I always will be scrawny and clumsy…” Then the coach pulled me out of it by saying “Good!” Now, try again. This time relax your leg and swing it like a bat. Thrown off by his positivity I didn’t question and tried again. “See, a little bit better. That’s how you train, every kick you try to be a little better.”
As a coach now I live this lesson as a way of life. You can get in shape, you can fight if you want to, you can be graceful and powerful. And it doesn’t matter where you are starting from: scrawny, clumsy, fat, weak, whatever. All you do is the very best you can right now and next time try to be just a little better.
Other Beginner Muay Thai Tips
A few other little bits of advice. If a coach says anything negative about you as a person, walk out. Muay Thai has a deep tradition of respect. If the Coach is disrespectful their Muay Thai probably doesn’t come from a good source.
Work as hard as you can every round without collapsing. Take it easy the first few sessions as you learn the basics of the moves. Find out what your physcial limits are and then start pushing them a little bit every session.
Relax. Remember to breathe. Have fun!