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Video: Sparring and the Steps to Get There

Video: Sparring and doing it correctly is one of the most challenging parts of our game and certainly not for everyone. In a 3 minute round you are bombarded with offensive, defensive, breathing, footwork and strategy decisions while attempting to maintain your technique as your cardio is being tested. No WONDER why it is so challenging. The most amusing this for us to hear as your Kru is “I thought that I was in shape…I can run 10km with no problems at all!” Well…unless you are planning to run around the ring…you need to understand that though your running helps, it isn’t going to completely prepare you for the task at hand.

Sparring in your school should never be approached with the thought that you need to prove your skill with your training partner. One of the most beneficial, yet difficult things to do in fact, is to swallow your pride and work some of the techniques that you would normally shy away from. THIS is your chance to apply that technique that you smiled at during class a few weeks ago and wrote in your little Muay Thai book..your commitment to make that concept YOURS. When approached correctly, sparring is THE BEST WAY to safely apply your technique, assess the result and make an adjustment on the fly but we recommend that you follow these steps to ensure that you make the best of your progress and sparring opportunity:

  1. Attend class and ensure that you understand the concept for the night. Ask tons of questions and don’t be afraid to ask “What if”…
  2. Practice the technique with the most willing training partner in the gym…the bags. It won’t complain how hard you hit it and won’t laugh when you trip up or make a mistake with your execution. We recommend that you practice the technique BEFORE YOU LEAVE for the day to make sure that you “get it”!!
  3. Shadow box at home to move the technique from your mental “a new concept that I learned” bucket to “MY new technique that I AM working on” with the intention of making it part of your arsenal
  4. The next time that you return to the school, grab that same training partner, (the bag), and iron out the kinks that you discovered from your shadowboxing the night before
  5. Ask a more seasoned student, your Poo Choi Krus or your Krus to watch your technique. THE BEST athletes on the planet STILL have a trainer with a watchful eye on them to guide and correct them. Asking for help should not be an embarrassing moment for you at all. In fact you should only be embarrassed if you train for months with the same “beginner” mistakes!
  6. Grab a partner and ask if you can “move” with them. No equipment, just light contact that should not be painful for either parties. Challenge your understanding of the technique and make some last minute adjustments
  7. Put on proper protective equipment and play a game of Mae Mai Muay Thai / Look Mai Muay Thai with your training partner. A question form you, (your offense), and your opponent listens to your question, (their defense). Your partners asks their question, (their offense/response), and you listen to their question, (your defense).
  8. Part of your development is understanding that the bag will help you only so far. It doesn’t think, move in exceptions or do anything out of character. Checking your understanding of the technique requires human interaction and will help you to close the knowledge gap significantly faster
  9. Keep trying to tighten the technique until you are aware of its capabilities, its limitations, your abilities to close those challenges and tweaks that you can add to it to truly make it your technique. It is in working through the exceptions to the techniques that you will truly understand the technique itself. How to make it work if your opponent is taller, shorter, stronger, faster, more skilled etc.
  10. You should be nursing at least 2 new concepts per week to adopt those techniques and make them yours. You should be playing Muay Thai “tag” with a partner to speed up the process of understanding your new “toys” and actively attempting them sprinkled in normal sparring sessions.
The video below is an example of two athletes with slightly different styles throwing hard, yet making sure that they grow in the exchange. I try technique “A” and you didn’t see it, so I am going to continue to throw it until you force me to move to technique “B”. You will also see the selflessness of throwing a technique and aborting the technique if you realize that your opponent will not be able to stop it safely. Technical sparring, (Training Ground’s Muay Thai Tag), should be like a casual conversation where one person speaks, (offense), and the other listens, (defense). They speak, (their offensive response), and you listen, (your defensive response). Full out sparring should be like a debate and no longer a basic conversation where power is increased and skill is used to ensure safety.
A competitive fight is understanding which tool and technique to use when an opportunity presents itself or grasping how to create the opportunity without being over zealous! This doesn’t happen overnight and Muay Thai becomes fun as you struggle to find different ways to outsmart your opponent or partner with your customized bag of tricks!

About Kru Yai Brian

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