You’ve trained for some time now. Hitting pads with your coach or a partner, pounding the heavy bag like it made fun of your Mom and round after round of shadow boxing and cardio has you one with your skills and ready for the next challenge, sparring. If you’re like most people you have a hard time being organized in thought under pressure and often resort to an all-out offensive when it comes time to tango with a live person. Don’t worry as I’ve been there, like many people have, and often digress back to my old ways now and again. What I can offer you is the trick I was taught by one of the greatest fighters to ever step into a Muay Thai ring.
Now, this isn’t a quick fix or win-now trick but rather one that, when practiced diligently over time, will yield fantastic results and really take your sparring to the level of learning and growth we all wish for. First let me lay out how sparring takes life in the mind of an average student.
The bell rings and you tough gloves with your partner. You circle left, jab, jab, kick. Feeling pretty good and then boom, you get whacked in the leg or head and forget everything your coach taught you. It’s at this point that most students feel that the proper response to this is to get bouncy and move as if club music was being played at deafening levels. This is a typical response that often leads to injury and discouragement and one that I too experienced when I was a beginner. Not to worry, there is a way to simplify and control this process.
Here is what I was told a few years back when I was beginning to learn how to spar.
- Have two techniques you WILL work on in each round. For example, today I will work on my cross to the body and left hook to the head AND kick back when I get kicked.
- Slow is smooth and smooth is fast. I say this to myself every time I begin a round. Remember that Muay Thai is not a dance competition. In fact, Thai Boxing has a slow rhythm that is best described as ‘smooth swagger’. So the other mental note to think about is to control your movement.
Inevitably, you will meet the same person more than once in a long sparring session and yes, they may begin to figure out that you are doing the same thing over and over again. For now that is ok and your arsenal will only grow over time.
There is another VERY important thing to know about sparring and this is something that I see is often the root of many injuries, arguments and bad training. WINNING is NOT the goal of sparring sessions and people who believe this are not fun people to train with. Sparring is a modality used to hone skills in distance, timing, combos and to begin to learn how to put together and execute an actual plan not three minutes of a free-for-all beat down without consequence.
If you want the ability to be controlled, thoughtful and collected while sparring take the time and invest in yourself the tools needed to become successful and confident in sparring.
Coach Lonnie Beck