If you want to reach your full potential in Muay Thai it is important to prioritize your time so that you can maximize your growth. With so many different techniques, combos, and drills available online it can be a little bit overwhelming to figure out what you should be spending your time at the gym doing.
Should I be working on a new combination or should I be working on my footwork?
With so much information available, it can be tempting to try and learn something new every class. Unfortunately, this is not how you will get better. Trying to learn too much at once won’t give you enough time to develop each technique and add it to your skill set.
When you look at Muay Thai fighters at the highest level in Thailand, they mainly utilize a handful of techniques in the ring. These all happen to be basic techniques like body kicks, punches and knees.
KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid)
If I told you that I could beat most guys with a few techniques would you believe me?
When people think of Muay Thai they think of the flashy spinning elbows, flying knees, head kicks and other techniques that look great on highlight reels. While these techniques can be effective when used correctly, a good body kick is far superior over any flashy technique.
Why is a body kick so effective? Because it is a very high scoring technique that has a high probability of landing. You should always play the percentages.
You are far better off being VERY GOOD at a FEW techniques than average at a lot of techniques. If you spend most of your timing developing a good body kick, that would pay far more dividends than trying to learn a new combo, or technique on a weekly basis.
Be Careful of Information Overload
Sometimes knowing too much stuff can end up distracting you in training and cause you to lose focus. Instead of focusing on developing your basics, you might be tempted to start working on that cool move you saw someone pull off in a fight.
Most of the people watching the videos about flashy techniques, advanced guards, and combinations are beginners who should be focusing on their fundamentals.
If Muay Thai was a sport that could simply be learned by studying online, everyone would be an expert. However, Muay Thai is a sport that requires you to develop each physical skill through thousands of hours of muscle repetition. To develop a new technique you need to spend countless hours working on that technique until it becomes ingrained in you.
Once you have all of your fundamental skills mastered at a good level, you can start working on more advanced techniques that can add more dimensions to your game. The key is to master your basics first before you start trying to work on advanced techniques.
Let’s imagine a scenario where you have three people who are learning Muay Thai. Here are three different scenarios that are likely to happen.
Scenario #1 – The Typical Student
The typical Muay Thai student shows up to class and does whatever their instructor says. They do the basic warm up, stretch, shadow box, do whatever their instructor teaches them on that particular day. They don’t think about what they are doing or why they are doing it, they simply do what they are told.
These students assume that everything their instructor says is correct and follow what they say. Since most Muay Thai classes have one instructor for 20/30 students, it makes it difficult to build solid fundamentals in a class unless they have an instructor who gives them extra attention.
Scenario #2 – The Eager Beaver
The Eager Beaver is the student that is hungry for knowledge and growth. In addition to attending regular class, he also looks on YouTube and finds a new combination or technique to learn. Every class he is trying to learn something new to add a new element to his game.
This guy knows every single Muay Thai technique out there. He explains to his friend about the new “Spider man” guard or the “Cobra” punch that he learned online. He believes he holds the “secret sauce” that is going to make him better than his peers. When this guy spars, he tries doing a bit of everything and tries to do something new every sparring session.
When the Eager Beaver shadow boxes and hits the heavy bag, he is trying flying knees, spinning elbows, jump kicks and a million combinations he learned.
The Eager Beaver is a walking encyclopedia of Muay Thai knowledge. He knows how to do everything in “theory” but he hasn’t yet mastered anything in particular quite yet. He has a hard time focusing on one technique, because there are so many things he wants to work on all at once.
Scenario #3 – The Fundamentals Guy
The final student is the Fundamentals guy. Since he started learning Muay Thai he has only focused on his fundamentals. He looks up YouTube videos of the fundamentals and sticks to focusing on balance, posture, stance, rhythm, guard, defense and basic offense. When you watch him train, you will notice him pacing back and forth, watching his footwork and constantly making adjustments trying to correct his game.
His shadow boxing and bag work consist of working on basic punches and kicks. If he was someone on TV, you would change the channel after a few seconds. Even his combinations are boring. Simple jab-left kick, cross-right kick, or left hook-low kick combos are all he uses.
When it comes to sparring, the fundamentals guy only throws a handful of techniques. He prioritizes his time by spending it on working on techniques that are highly utilized in the ring: body kicks, jabs, crosses, low kicks, knees. All basic and effective in the ring.
The fundamentals guy spends years drilling the same basic stuff over and over again until he masters each one.
Which Student do you think would develop the better game?
Be Really Good at the Basics
While you might believe that there are a few special moves that will help you beat your opponents, the truth is there is no “secret” technique you can learn that will make you good. If you want to be good then focus your time perfecting the basics of Muay Thai. From your footwork, balance, control, defense to your basic strikes, these basic fundamentals are extremely important.
“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” – Bruce Lee
When you look at a professional athlete in any sport, they are all amazing at their fundamentals. The same is true for Muay Thai.
You don’t have to know flashy combinations to beat your opponents, you simply need to be good at the fundamentals. If you have good timing on your left kick, you can beat most of the guys you face in sparring or the ring. Timing is everything when it comes to being able to land techniques that you use.
Timing is what separates high level fighters from beginners in the sport. You might be able to throw a perfect jab, but to get the timing necessary to land the perfect jab takes years of practice.
If you NEVER learn how to do a flying knee, spinning elbow, or jumping kick you will be just fine. I know a lot of fighters who are only good at a few things and they win a lot of fights. The key is to be VERY GOOD at a few things, not average at a lot of things. That is how you separate yourself from the rest of the pack.
Do you want to learn more?
If you enjoyed reading this article then I highly recommend you check out my book called Muay Thai Strategy. This book walks you through everything that you need to build a complete Muay Thai game from the ground up. Click here if you want to learn more about the Strategy bundle