Starting your training in the “Art of Eight Limbs” at your local Muay Thai gym is also the beginning of an exciting journey, but it takes a long time for most beginners to sharpen their skills to the point they’re ready to compete.
Like anything worthwhile, there are no shortcuts to becoming an accomplished Muay Thai fighter. It takes a lot of practice, hard work, and dedication.
With that said, you can speed up the process by making the most out of your time in and out of the gym. Today, Evolve Daily shares 15 tips to learn Muay Thai quickly.
Tip #1 Train Often
It might sound obvious, but the more time you spend in the gym, the more knowledge you will absorb, and the more time you will have to put it into practice.
Almost every single Muay Thai class is different. You might be introduced to a new kick, punch, fake, feint, block, parry, slip, elbow, or anything at all that’s involved in the art of eight limbs.
Even if you’re covering familiar ground, you can gain so much from any training session. Let’s say your class is focused on the jab. That is such a versatile strike, there is no way you will have covered everything there is to know about it.
Especially if you’re a beginner, you may have learned how to throw a basic jab, but in future sessions, you’ll pick up variations, the best times to throw it, how to set it up, how to use it in combination, how to counter it – the list goes on.
Even if you’re experienced, it never hurts to retrain the basics so you don’t get sloppy. Plus, you might remember something you forgot.
Tip #2 Private Sessions
If you have the budget, one-on-one sessions with your coaches will give you a big boost.
Regular Muay Thai classes are great, but it’s not often that you’ll get the full attention of your trainers because they have to help the whole class.
When it’s just you and your coach, you’ll have access to a whole new depth of training. They will be able to analyse every technique you use and offer advice on how you can improve them.
Tip #3 Ask questions
Whether you’re in a big or small class, make sure you’re clear about what you’re doing.
If your coach has demonstrated something and you’re still not sure about how to execute it properly, don’t be afraid to ask them to run through it one more time.
Chances are, you’re not the only one in class that is not 100 per cent certain. It’s far better to delay the start of your practice by a minute to make sure everything is clear, rather than to spend the next 10 minutes doing something incorrectly.
Your training partners can also be fountains of knowledge – especially if you’re a beginner and you’re drilling with someone who’s more experienced than you.
Don’t feel like you’ll waste their time by asking for advice. Muay Thai is a community, and most martial artists are happy to share their knowledge. Everyone was a beginner at some point in their lives.
Plus, most people will get a kick out of helping their teammates improve, and they’ll appreciate a new sparring partner when you’re ready to mix things up.
Tip #4 Listen
You’re sure to make friends and have a great time at a Muay Thai gym, but save your chat until you’ve finished for the day.
When your coach is showing you what to do or how to do something, focus all your attention on them. You don’t want to miss an important piece of information because you’re talking about what you had last night for dinner.
Similarly, pay attention to what your training partners tell you. Their tips come from a good place. If they’re offering you some advice, it’s probably because they’re speaking from experience, and they just want to help you get better.
Just because these guys and girls aren’t the people you’re paying to instruct you, it does not mean that they have not got valuable knowledge to share.
Tip #5 Drilling
“I fear not the man who has practised 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practised one kick 10,000 times.”
The wise words of Bruce Lee still apply to this day. There is no substitute for hard work, and a great example of that is practicing the same technique over and over again.
The more you drill your fundamentals, the better they will be. You’ll be able to use them instinctively and comfortably in a live combat situation.
It might not be the most exciting way to train, but no one is above drilling. Even the most experienced Thais will spend time hitting the bag with hundreds of kicks every day to stay sharp.
Tip #6 Stay Focused
It’s easy to go through the motions when you’re drilling techniques hundreds of times.
Maybe you’ve been told to do 100 round kicks off each leg, and you just want to bang them all out as quickly as possible. That’s probably a bad move.
If you don’t focus on throwing strikes with proper technique, particularly when you first get started with Muay Thai, it is very likely you’ll develop bad habits. The longer you practice these, the harder they will be to correct.
The last thing you want to do is get to the point where you’re competing and you’re at an automatic disadvantage because your fundamentals are all wrong.
Get the basics right from the get-go, and try your best to stay on point with them.
Tip #7 Technique Over Power
A big mistake that many budding martial artists make is that they try to hit the bag or pads as hard as they can. That usually means their form goes out of the window.
It’s much better to can slow things down and try to make sure your movements are as close to perfect as possible. As you get better, you can speed things up and throw with more force.
It’s important to remember that power will come as a product of proper technique. Plus, you’ll expend far less energy than if you tense up and try to generate as much power as possible.
Tip #8 Push Yourself
A true martial artist tries to improve every day, and the best way to do that is by pushing yourself.
If you’re given a cardio-sapping pad drill, give it your all. Try not to let fatigue stop you from pushing through and finishing strong.
Learning to push through your breaking point is vital in a combat situation, so it’s best to practice going beyond your limits before someone starts hitting you back.
Tip #9 Don’t Be Scared To Spar
Sparring sessions can be daunting at first, but try to take things one step at a time, and you’ll soon be able to mix things up with your teammates, whatever level they are.
First, it’s important to remember that 99 per cent of people who set foot in martial arts gyms are respectful.
A 10-year veteran will not attack a beginner like they’re in the main event at Lumpinee Stadium. They’ll take their sparring partner’s ability into account and throw bring their effort down to match their level.
Tip #10 Sparring Gains
No one expects you to be ready for ONE Super Series when you first start sparring. Focus on defense first. If you learn to protect yourself, you’ll have a solid foundation to build on.
Many novices try to go toe-to-toe and immediately panic when punches come toward their face. You’ll probably flinch and move backward when punches come at your face, too.
Try getting used to strikes being thrown at you first. Focus on blocking, checking, and slipping – as well as countless other defensive maneuvers. You’ll quickly realize you can survive these attacks and gain a ton of confidence.
You’ll also figure out that most attacks will not land cleanly on you. Even if one slips through, you might be surprised at how little that bothers you.
As soon as you realise you’re not made of glass, you’ll be much more willing to open up a little and try out some offensive techniques.
Tip #11 Relax And Get Creative
A big rookie mistake in sparring is to tense up and try to land strikes at all costs. This is completely the wrong idea.
Sparring is not a competition. Only those with fragile egos care who lands more strikes and tries to go tit-for-tat. Plus, if you stress out and try too hard to hit and not be hit, you’ll tire yourself out quickly.
The best approach is to take things easy and try to apply what you learned in class to a live combat scenario.
So what if that combo doesn’t work and you eat a leg kick? Learn from what happened and think about how you can take a different approach to make your attacks more potent and your defence more solid.
Tip #12 Challenge Yourself
One of the best ways to get better at any sport is to go up against people that are better than you.
You could look at an advanced teammate as a puzzle to solve. How can I find a way to hit him without being hit?
If you were to face someone who is much better in a real fight, you’d have a terrible time. But if you’re going one-on-one in the gym, they’ll dial down the intensity to give you a chance.
Part of the learning process is that they’ll teach you a thing or two by exposing you to new attacks. They will keep you honest and give you fresh problems to solve.
Tip #13 Watch And Learn
When you’re not training, take a look at your high-level training partners. The top fighters in a gym will lead by example, so you can learn a lot by watching how they train.
Also, you can watch fights and tutorials online. You might pick up some cool techniques or approaches that you can put into practice in your next sparring session.
Tip #14 Know Your Limits
While it’s a good idea to push yourself, don’t take on too much too soon.
If you’re not in peak physical condition, it’s not likely you’ll be able to do double sessions, six days a week. Your body needs plenty of rest to recover.
Overtraining can lead to injury, which will keep you out of the gym and mean your martial arts education comes to a grinding halt.
Also, try not to overload yourself with information. There’s no point trying to memorise a million different combinations before a sparring session. You might end up freezing while you try to remember what you want to throw next instead of going with the flow.
Your best bet is to get comfortable with the foundations of Muay Thai and then build a repertoire of techniques and combinations on top of them. Once everything starts to come instinctively and naturally to you, you can add a few more things.
Tip #15 Go The Extra Mile
If your body can handle it, training sessions outside your normal Muay Thai classes can be a huge help.
By doing extra work on your cardio, strength, flexibility, and mobility, you’ll be able to work harder for longer, hit harder, kick higher, recover faster, and much more.
All of that will help you to take huge steps forward as a Muay Thai fighter.