In my last blog post I discussed the question I am often asked by prospective clients and students and that is how long does it take to learn Muay Thai? In that post I briefly touched on some ways to steepen the learning curve and increase your rate of progress. So in this blog post I am going to expand on those points and list 8 ways by which you can learn and progress faster in the sport of Muay Thai.
When your trainer corrects your form or gives you advice please listen and make a conscious effort to correct whatever it is you need to. If you want to progress then you can't keep making the same mistakes over and over because eventually your trainer will see that you're not bothered and will stop bothering also. Listen and make an effort.
2) Watch fights
By watching fights you'll be absorbing techniques and getting ideas for new things to try in your training sessions. Don't watch anything less than the best though because you want to make sure what you're absorbing is good technique. When I 1st started competing my trainer gave me a dvd of old championship fights from Thailand and it was part of my routine to watch those fights for an hour or two every day. I would always feel extra confident before sparring because I would tell myself I was one of my favourite fighters from that DVD, usually Sakmongkol.
3) Do your homework
If you leave your session with your trainer and don't go over anything you've learned you'll be constantly having to relearn the same things every session. 1 or 2 hours a week is not long enough to programme your body and muscle memory to be able to do these moves as an instant reaction. You have to practise on your own to.
4) Practise everyday
This depends on your goals. If you're training Muay Thai for fun and/or fitness then you don't really need to improve at such a high rate, as long as your improving enough to keep enjoying your training then that's perfect. But if you want to reach your full potential it goes without saying the more hours you put in the faster you"re going to learn so practise everyday.
5) Go over the basics
When your with your trainer he is going to teach you new techniques and work on your timing and ring craft and all sort of things that you can't do by yourself. So when you're training by yourself there's no point trying to train in the same way because without a trainer you wont get much out of it. What you need to be doing is working on the basics. The basics are the individual weapons and techniques that you put together to create a fighter. But in order for you to be a complete fighter all of these individual techniques must be strong so you have to drill them! Go find a gym with a bag and kick. Just right kick do hundreds of repetitions then change to left kick and do the same. Then right long knee, then left long knee and so on and so forth. If you do this for every technique you will have strong basics which means you can progress further and faster.
6) Use a mirror
Practise your techniques in front of the mirror and that doesn't mean just stand in front of a mirror and throw 10 punch combinations. It means check each technique from different angles and make sure its correct, check where your guard is and how your bodies position changes, check everything and make it perfect then remember how that feels. Now when you're not in front of the mirror any more you can still keep the same level of technique by remembering the feeling. Practising in slow motion with the mirror will help even more. When you do something fast its hard to spot everything your body is doing. By slowing it down you'll be able to notice every component of the technique and correct it.
7) Remember footwork is key
I know when you start learning a martial art all you want to do is hit things really really hard and fast and it's easy to forget that there are specific ways in which to generate maximum power and all of these start from your feet. Don't focus on trying to throw your most powerful wild swinging punch or throwing a 15 punch combination as fast as you can because it means nothing. What is important is what your feet are doing. Can you throw a combination with speed and keep the same amount of power throughout? Can you fight whilst moving forwards or backwards or sideways? Can you switch seamlessly back and forth between offence and defence, defending and countering? Not without proper footwork. So invest some time in your footwork and as I said in my previous post, when learning a technique, start from the bottom up.
Obviously no one should fight unless they want to and for the majority of people who train Muay Thai fighting is not the ambition. But, that being said, there is no better way to improve than to test everything you've learned by getting in the ring. It's the only place where your weaknesses can be fully exposed as well as finding out for yourself what really works and what needs some adjustment. Part of the reason fighters in Thailand are superior to their western counterparts is the amount of fight experience they have. Your average 18 year old fighter from Thailand has already had over 100 fights. They start young and they fight very often. If you don't want to become a fighter then sparring with other fighters from other gyms is also a good way to test your skills. Many Muay Thai clubs hold regular gym shows where you can test yourself in a safe environment against other fighters with little experience.
So remember it's really up to you how quickly you learn and progress. Of course talent will play a role also as will having a good trainer but most of the time when someone in your gym seems to be progressing much faster than you it's not due to talent but rather the amount of effort that person puts in and if you want to be the best you can be you have to put in the hours. But as long as you're enjoying what you're doing that is the most important thing. No one enjoys stagnation so if you're feeling fed up of being at the same level after training for however long try some of these tips and see how much further you can go.
Thank you for reading and I hope this was useful to you.