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Strategizing/Structuring your Muay Thai training

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Hi all!

As a prelude to this post, following is a little background. I've posted it elsewhere in the forum, but context is crucial, so including here:

I'm very new to Muay Thai, but come from amateur western boxing experience, so have a headstart in terms of punching, understanding distance, angles..etc. I'm currently in Bangkok training MT till end of July.

My question is both long term and short term, as I plan to be doing MT for a long time, but also have an incredible opportunity to train in Thailand in the immediate time frame of two months ahead.

  • What should a beginner focus on when training?
  • How does one structure his/her training going forward? Are there set lists of things that need to be worked on, or does it evolve organically from your own inclinations and experiences in fights? I understand there's kicks, elbows, knees and punches -- but there're worlds that exist in those simple words that I do not yet understand.
  • Is it your trainer's job to direct you, or is it yours?
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Speaking really generally...

I think one of the frustrating things about Muay Thai is also something is liberating about it too. There is no way to pull back and "see" the whole art, or to see where your training is going. There are no katas, the best in the sport are ring fighters and their expression of Muay Thai is incredibly varied. In this way it is so much more like western boxing than like, say, Taekwondo. Add to this, there is a wide spectrum of training environments. In the west you are very likely to be guided with a strong hand by an instructor, but in Thailand (if you are learning in a more Thai style) there isn't a lot of instruction at all. There is just lots and lots of repetition, sparring and play. Thai style teaching is not structured in any obvious sense. There is just working on your strikes on the bag and in shadow, and then learning to use them. The problem for western students is that the Thai way comes out of teaching kids to fight, very mailable students that have years to learn and play. As a westerner the Thai way can become pretty clouded unless you have a lot of focus and a fair amount of time. If you are going to go that way the best skills you can learn is: How to train yourself on the bag and in shadow. From there it is an extremely organic process of development. If you are training with Thais be sure to keep asking questions, get to the point that you can self-correct. And one of the biggest things to learn as a westerner is to "relax". It, more than anything else, distinguishes Muay Thai from other western practiced fighting arts. If you can get relaxation going early on as a beginner, you have a leg up.

Some gyms like Master Toddy's in Bangkok or Santai in Chiang Mai offer more structure, more explanation and direction.

Don't know if that helps! Interesting question.

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I've had to figure out my own schedule pretty much since the beginning because I never had a structured gym. So I'd take what I'd learned or worked on with a trainer (Master K, Kaensak, the guys I sparred with, or my trainers out here) and think about what was the hardest thing in padwork: Blocks? Balance? My left hook? Stepping to the side?

Then I use my bagwork to focus on those things. I time my rounds at 4 minutes and do 5 rounds. So I'll use one round to focus on blocking and kicking fluidly. Then I'll work on teep-to-knee combinations. Or I'll work on a 3-4 strike combination. Then I use the last rounds to just flow with all of it together. Or, if I don't feel like I need to work on something specific but I want a good, hard cardio session I'll try to not break between touching the bag - so for the full 4 minutes every strike flows to the next one. Always touching the bag. Or I'll work on pushing the bag between strikes.

I always focus on something particular in shadowboxing, which I so for 10 minutes to start and 10 minutes to cool down. Usually I focus on blocks, lately it's been my jab and rhythm with my feet. Yesterday morning I couldn't check kicks in padwork to save my life, so I spent all 5 rounds doing kick and block drills. I was wrecked from it, but this morning I was checking kicks like it was my job!

I keep all my conditioning for the end of training because it makes me tired, so I don't want to do pullups and then have to clinch with those damn kids who will tear me apart.

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I've been doing a lot of just observing videos of fights the last few weeks. I sense the purpose is to see what's possible so I can emulate it. In order to emulate, first I must break things down to science, and later it will become my own style of art.

There's a lot to work on, so I wondered if there's some sensible "chunking" of information that could provide a good basis for beginners.

At this stage I'm sensing that the focus should be on proper form, good defense and conditioning.

Thank you Sylvie for insight into the things that you're working on, it was very helpful.

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At this stage I'm sensing that the focus should be on proper form, good defense and conditioning.

 

This seems like a really good three to me, my two cents. Form can always be improved so starting there is great (shadow, bag, pads, and eventually sparring); and generally proper form gives you better balance which allows one position to more readily transition into another. This is a huge building block. If your form and balance stays strong there is no end to growth. Defense is also neglected early sometimes. But as your defense grows your comfort grows in fighting range. Defense before offense. And conditioning also is big because it gives you physical confidence, allows you to maintain form under fatigue, and stay at ease. Pretty awesome 3.

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Hi all!

As a prelude to this post, following is a little background. I've posted it elsewhere in the forum, but context is crucial, so including here:

I'm very new to Muay Thai, but come from amateur western boxing experience, so have a headstart in terms of punching, understanding distance, angles..etc. I'm currently in Bangkok training MT till end of July.

My question is both long term and short term, as I plan to be doing MT for a long time, but also have an incredible opportunity to train in Thailand in the immediate time frame of two months ahead.

  • What should a beginner focus on when training?
  • How does one structure his/her training going forward? Are there set lists of things that need to be worked on, or does it evolve organically from your own inclinations and experiences in fights? I understand there's kicks, elbows, knees and punches -- but there're worlds that exist in those simple words that I do not yet understand.
  • Is it your trainer's job to direct you, or is it yours?

 

You might have noticed that when we spar at Master Toddy's, we almost never start out using every weapon from the first round. We start limited and then add in different techniques with each round. We'll usually begin by only using our left hands and blocking with the right, then perhaps add in the left leg to work on punching, kicking and teeping to keep your opponent out. The following round, we might add in the right hand and turn it into an exercise in using your left side to guide your opponent into your cross. These strategies vary, but they really work for me. An example of something I've trained very successfully in this way is my overhand right. Master Toddy describes it as 'building a bridge over the river'. When your opponent throws a jab (the river), you beat them to it by throwing your right (the bridge) over the top of it before it reaches you. I've drilled this so many times that it automatically comes out almost any times I see a jab now, and it works really well. It took an insane amount of repetition (and stress) to get to that point, but now it just flows like magic. This might be a lot of unnecessary detail, but the core of it is that you have to break things down into individual components in order to effectively digest them.

When I first started sparring, I didn't have the faintest idea what I was doing. I knew how to punch and kick to a certain extent, but had no idea how to put them together and was just winging it. The kind of sparring that I described above has been incredibly helpful for me because it gave me a structure and forced me to use my brain. It's really effective, but only if you work on it - if you just go through the motions, you won't progress very quickly. Like Sylvie said, it's really helpful to pick a certain thing to work on and drill it, whether it's for the whole session or just one round :smile:

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For me specifically I'm also actively focusing on kicking more than the punching part. Punching is obviously a great way to close distance and measure distance, but given my background it's also the comfortable place, which is not where growth happens.

Another thing is the mental exercise of not overthinking. To think in order only to set intent and develop a physical feel.

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I really try to focus on letting my punches setup my kicks while sparring. Whether that comes from fainting, punching, or physically pushing/moving someone. Seems to work pretty well for me. Once I start bag work I try to work on anything that just didn't go well in sparring, or something I know I am weak at. Every day I just try to work one specific thing. Sometimes this is really frustrating, but I think the repetition is good. It allows me to break a strike down and work on small technical things (like turning my hip over more while kicking, or using my legs/hips more when throwing a hook).

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