If you could choose one Muay Thai fighter in the world and copy their style, who would that be? Would you pick a fighter based on their skill or a fighter that most resembled your body type?
When it comes to fighting styles, every style has its strengths and its weaknesses. Some styles are more aggressive and are more likely to get knockouts, while other styles are more defensive and are better suited for winning on points.
Developing your Style
The process of developing your fighting style is something that doesn’t happen over night. Every hour spent sparring against different opponents will help you understand your strengths and weaknesses.
Finding your ideal style is a slow process that requires you to gain experience. Your fighting style will evolve as you go from being a beginner to reaching a more advanced level in the sport. Good fighters go through an evolution in their fighting style as they improve. As you gain more experience, you will begin to find what works for you.
Changing Your Style
While you may favor a particular fighting style that you have been used to, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the ideal style for you. When you look at elite Muay Thai fighters you will notice that their style is best suited for their natural abilities.
Someone who is a skyscraper may want to pretend they can fight like Saenchai, but they will never be fast enough to move around like someone short. Conversely, someone who is very short will have to live with the fact that their knees do not have effective as a tall fighter. Your body type will often dictate what is your ideal fighting style.
A Real Life Example
A while ago, one of my Thai trainers asked me to do some Muay Thai sparring with his student who had a fight coming up in a few weeks. Since I am always keen to spar, I agreed.
His student was much taller than me, but I had more speed and quickness. So this was battle between height vs. speed.
Once the sparring started, I could tell that my taller opponent had much less experience than me. He only had 4 fights and he was nervous. For the first minute of the sparring session I kicked and punched him at will and blocked everything he threw at me.
My speed and timing was simply too much for him to really have any chance of scoring any points on me. Following the first minute of one sided action, the trainer runs into the middle of the ring and says, “NO, NO, NO, NO!”
Visibly upset, the trainer continues his rant at his student,”Why you kick with him?” He then points to me, “He…. have more experience and skill, why you stand (and trade) with him?!!!”
“You TALL, you cannot fight same STYLE as him. Your kick NO GOOD! You must walk straight and knee or you lose 100%!,” the trainer said in broken English.
Following this rant he pulls him aside and tells him, “You walk Forward and Knee.” Emphasizing the fact that he should keep a tight guard and walk forward only throwing knees – changing his fighting style to become an aggressive knee fighter.
After this intervention from the trainer, his student had a much better time in the sparring session. Even though he made mistakes, he was much better off moving forward with aggressive knees, than trying to trade punches and kicks from a distance.
Even though he wanted to exchange on the outside, he was too slow to win the fight there. He needed to move in with knees if he wanted to take use some of the natural advantages he had.
This example showcases the importance of using the RIGHT style when you fight. Just because you like trading punches and kicks, doesn’t mean it is the right way to fight.
Use the Advantages You Have
Your ideal fighting style will often depend on a number of factors. If you are a shorter fighter, you can forget about trying to throw long knees at your opponent. Conversely, someone who is tall and skinny will often be slower on their feet and won’t have the speed as shorter opponents.
Anyone who tells you that you can fight like Saenchai is lying to you. That is the equivalent of telling someone that they can play Basketball like Michael Jordan or golf like Tiger Woods. The reality is you can’t. You might be able to copy a few moves, but you will never be able to use that style effectively.
If you want to find your ideal fighting style, watch high-level fighters who have physical traits similar to you and see how they fight. This will show you the ideal style that you should be using for your body type. If you are an average build, then you can emulate a lot more styles than someone who is either really tall or short.
The only way you can develop your style is if you put in the time and effort in training. Sparring will help you find specific techniques and strategies that work for you.
Over time, your fighting style will change. When you look at someone’s first fight and compare it to their 20th fight, you shouldn’t be able to tell its the same person. The more years you spend sparring different opponents, the more your game will evolve and become better.
You will probably find that over time your style will evolve to be more technical and efficient in the ring. While aggression is good for the young guys, you can’t live and die by the sword forever. A technical style allows you to conserve your energy and fight with your head.
As you develop more skill and experience you will also be able to change your fighting style depending on your opponent strengths. This is where counter strategies come into play, however, that is a topic that we will cover in another article.
My book Muay Thai Strategy, talks about the process of developing your fighting style and building a complete game. If you want to learn the best way to develop solid fundamentals in Muay Thai. Click here to learn more about Muay Thai Strategy