If you are to look at the different traits that play a role in your Muay Thai development, which factors do you think play the biggest role?
Your physical abilities like speed and power? Your natural build? Your dedication to the craft? Talent?
While there are many factors that play a role in the development of a Muay Thai fighter, there are a few factors that play an essential role in your development.
Factor #1: Putting In Extra Hours At The Gym
If you are like most people who train at a Muay Thai gym, you will train an average of 3 to 4 times a week for 1-2 to hours at a time. While this might seem like a lot of time when you first start training, it is really barely any time at all.
While you might want to train “efficiently” and avoid spending long hours in the gym, to make big improvements in your game you need to put in the hours on your own time.
Group sessions are not enough to progress to a high level in Muay Thai, unless you are training in Thailand where the student to trainer ratio is often 3 to 1 or less.
There is only so much you can learn in a class packed with 20+ students and one instructor. It is not your instructor’s fault, there simply isn’t enough time in an hour to give everyone the attention they deserve.
Fighters in Thailand don’t have to worry about their own development because they have experienced trainers who have a vested interest in developing the fighters at a gym. If a trainer does a bad job of developing their fighters, they will not last long before they are replaced (it is a business in Thailand).
There is a big difference in training between someone training Muay Thai as a career vs someone who is training because they love the sport. Fighters will always receive the most attention at the gym (as they should), which makes it difficult for the average person to improve at the same rate.
While there are some ways to speed up your progress through the help of a trainer (private lessons), this is not practical for a lot of people who don’t have the funds to spend hundreds of dollars on private lessons.
This means that you need to put in the hours on your own time to develop your game if you want to make significant improvements.
Showing up to the gym and hoping your instructor teaches you something useful or relevant to you, is a great way to stay average and blend in with the rest of the pack.
Instead of relying on other people to make you better, you need to learn how to rely on yourself
While there are quality Muay Thai instructors out there, learning in a classroom setting will limit your growth if you do not put in extra hours on your own.
This means you need to show up to training early and staying late after your class hours to give you extra time to work on improving your technique on your own time.
The process of developing your skills and abilities in Muay Thai is no different than any other sport.
If you look at high level athletes, they all put in the work on their own time to improve.
Take the sport of basketball for example.
Imagine if basketball players only played basketball during the designated team practice hours. You think these players would develop into good players?
A good basketball player (replace basketball with any sport) needs to spend the majority of their time working on specific aspects of their game like shooting and dribbling on their own time. This means they come in before practice and stay after practice and hone their skills.
Putting in the extra hours outside of practice is what separates the average basketball players from the ones who stand out.
The same is true for Muay Thai.
People who put in the extra hours at the gym to work on their game, are going to make more improvements than people who show up expecting to learn from an instructor without doing anything on their own.
If you have the dedication to put in hours outside of the gym time, you will make significant improvements.
If you are training in Thailand (4+ hours a day) then you don’t need to worry about putting in extra hours at the gym. In Thailand you will have plenty of time at the gym to work on specific areas of your game. Most gyms allow students to do a lot of work on their own.
Factor #2: Staying Focused in Training
Without focus, you will find yourself accomplishing very little in any given training session.
While you might be tempted to try and work on everything at once, if you want to get better you have to focus your energy on improving one area at a time.
Focus is the key ingredient that will keep you from being distracted at the gym. It will prevent you from chatting with the person beside you, when you should be doing your own work on the bag.
If you visit any gym you can immediately spot the people who are focused on improving and getting better, and the ones who are there for the social aspects of training.
People who are focused look like they are in their own world. They are not looking around to socialize when they train. They often have a look of determination on their face that tells the people around them, “i’m busy, don’t talk to me right now.”
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with talking to other people at the gym. However, if you are talking too much it will distract you from your goals. (Everyone is guilty of chatting too much from time to time)
The truth is that most people don’t have 3 hours to spend at the gym and need to be efficient with the time they do have. Staying focused throughout an entire training session will maximize the time you do have in the gym.
To truly perfect any technique, you need to spend hundreds of hours using that technique over and over. Without focus you will easily get bored of working on one technique over and over.
Factor #3: Creating Specific Goals and Objectives
Besides being focused in training, it is important to have specific goals and objectives that you want to accomplish.
While focus is an important ingredient to improving, you also need to have specific objectives and goals that you want to accomplish in every training session.
Training without a defined goal will make it hard to stay focused unless your only objective is to lose weight and burn calories.
When you are focused on one goal, you will do everything that it takes to work on improving that particular goal.
This is one of the reasons why professional athletes spend an entire off season (4-6 months) working on one or two aspects of their game instead of trying to improve EVERY area.
Be As Specific As Possible
While you might be tempted to make general goals like “I want to improve my boxing,” it is important to try and be specific about exactly what aspect of boxing you want to work on.
Do you want to work on your boxing defense? Do you want to work on counter attacking? Do you want to increase your punching power? Do you want to improve your boxing for Muay Thai?
Narrowing down the specific area of your boxing you want to work on will help you improve that area. If you slowly add a piece to your game every week, in a few months (years) you will make huge improvements,.
Being specific about your goals makes it is easier for your mind to focus on that one goal and achieve it.
Once you know exactly what you need to work on, spend an entire week working on improving that aspect of your game.
One of the side effects of creating your own goals and staying focused is it will teach you to use your head and start thinking in training.
Instead of doing something for the sake of doing it, you will learn how to think about everything that you are doing. After a while you will know when you are doing a technique right or wrong.
Smart Tip: Use Video to record yourself in training and then analyze the footage later. You will be amazed at all of the little things that you find in your techniques. Sometimes seeing yourself on video is the best way to change a bad habit or mistake.
Putting It Together
If you want to speed up your Muay Thai development you need to put in extra hours at the gym, train with a focused mind, and have specific goals that you want to work on. If you pay attention to these three factors you will make huge improvements in your game that you never thought would be possible.
The more time that you have to train on your own time, the better. There are always things you can work on no matter how long you have been training. The key is to put in the work and focus on developing the right technique the first time, so you don’t have to go back and make changes later.
Just because you might not be able to afford private lessons or even have a lot of time to train, doesn’t mean you can’t consistently get better in training. The key is progression. Even if it takes you a while to see improvements, you will get better if you are willing to put in the effort.
If you don’t know what you need to work on, then ask your coach or more experienced training partners for advice. They will be able to identify specific holes in your game that you might not notice.
Don’t be afraid to spend an entire week working on one particular thing. That is how you improve!
The more time you spend on ONE thing, the better you will ingrain good habits into your game. Try and get specific and focus on one thing at a time.
Footwork, movement, blocking, parrying, counter kicking, counter punching, keeping your hands up, using aggression effectively, countering aggression, southpaw fighters etc., are a few of the many areas that you can focus on improving in training.
Remember that it takes time to develop every area, so don’t get caught up in trying to do everything at once.
If you want to learn more tips and strategies make sure you check out my book Muay Thai Strategy. This book is designed to take you through the process of developing a complete Muay Thai game from the ground up.