Muay Thai is a collaborative discipline that requires team members to support each other. In a Muay Thai gym, the term “team” can mean one of two things. The strictest sense of the word means the group of people that represents the gym in competitions and tournaments.
However, every Muay Thai gym also has a larger team: Regular gym members who may or may not participate in competitions. This larger team supports each other, much like the competing team does. Support includes volunteering as a sparring partner, offering moral support, and being a friend.
What about correcting the technique of a friend or teammate? Should you do it? To answer this question, we should brush up on the concept of technique in Muay Thai.
Muay Thai: Fitness vs Technique
There are three main drivers that cause people to pursue Muay Thai. The first is the need to achieve certain fitness goals. Others pursue Muay Thai to learn a martial art. There’s a third group that pursues Muay Thai for various reasons like fitness, stress management, and self-defence purposes.
People who fall in the second and third categories often have a desire to perfect their technique. The same goes for many of us who take up Muay Thai to lose fat and build muscle. The good news is that there’s no need for a tradeoff between technique and a good caloric burn.
Improving your technique allows you to make full use of different muscle groups. This improves the outcome of your fitness journey. A second upside to committing to good technique is discipline. Practicing a challenging technique until you get it right instills a sense of pride, which motivates you to keep showing up for your Muay Thai sessions.
A Short Explainer On Muay Thai Techniques
Muay Thai techniques fall into six broad categories, with each category covering numerous moves/techniques. They are:
Kicks: Common Muay Thai kicks include the roundhouse kick, the front kick, and low kicks.
Knee strikes: This category covers techniques like the ‘knee bomb’, the flying knee strike, and the straight knee strike.
Elbow strikes: Muay Thai elbow strikes include the ‘double elbows’, the uppercut elbow strike, and the downward elbow strike.
Muay Thai punches: This category covers the uppercut, jab, haymaker, hook, and cross punch.
Muay Thai blocking techniques: They include shin blocks and forearm blocks.
Clinching techniques like the aptly named Muay Thai clinch.
Some Muay Thai techniques are simple enough that teammates can trade pointers. Many others require instruction from a person who can both execute the move perfectly and teach effectively.
1. You can correct your friend’s technique if you’re a certified trainer
There isn’t much more to say here. Certified trainers should have a perfect technique when it comes to executing Muay Thai moves. Being trainers, they also know how to teach a technique. They can evaluate a learner’s progress, note points of improvement, and correct their student’s technique.
If this is you, then let your friend benefit from your knowledge and experience as a trainer.
2. You can correct simple techniques, but if and only if you’ve perfected them yourself
So, who’s to say that you’ve got that punching technique down to a science? Not you. Only your trainer can say for sure that you’ve perfected a certain technique. They’ll tell you if you’re doing an excellent job. Your Muay Thai teacher may even use you to demonstrate the technique or ask you to work with a newbie who’s learning the technique.
If this describes you, then you can guide your friend through simple techniques that you’ve perfected. Still, it’s worth checking in with your trainer, just to make sure that your pointers are helping your friend.
3. Only a Muay Thai teacher can teach and correct some techniques
Techniques like the body kick are among the most difficult to master. For this reason, most Muay Thai trainers teach challenging techniques early on. This gives the learner time to perfect their technique, even as they continue to master simpler moves.
You should avoid taking up the role of instructor for such techniques. Adopt a more hands-off approach. What does a hands-off approach to helping your friend look like?
Ask your friend or teammate to get feedback from their teacher. This clever approach has two benefits. First, your intervention keeps your friend from memorising an imperfect technique. Second, your hands-off approach ensures that you don’t teach a friend your maybe-less-than-perfect technique.
It’s important to remember that unlearning a bad technique takes around ten times the effort of learning it. Correct your friend by asking them to seek feedback and instruction from their teacher. Your timely intervention could save your friends the hours it takes to relearn the correct form of a certain technique.
4. Quality over quantity: You can advise your friend to slow down
Perfecting a martial arts technique requires repetition. Also, a person confirms their mastery of a certain move when they can execute it perfectly under extreme fatigue.
Remember, it takes muscle development, conditioning, and time to achieve this level of perfection. This means that a learner will be unable to pull off the amazing feat of ‘sticking the landing’ when they’re bone tired.
Why are we going over this information?
An enthusiastic learner may look to perfect their technique by repeating the move they’re learning, over and over, at a brisk pace. It’s a nice thought, but the learner’s form will start to come apart as their muscles tire. If you’re watching your friend’s form deteriorate with each repetition, you can ask them to slow down.
Tell them to take time to execute a perfect rep. Tell them ten perfect body kicks are better than a mixed bag of 30 kicks. Let your friend know that it takes more effort to unlearn poor form than to master the correct technique from the get-go.
This article, "Is It Okay To Correct My Friend’s Technique During A Muay Thai Class?", originally appeared on Evolve MMA, Asia’s No. 1 martial arts organisation.