If you want to become a better Muay Thai Fighter than sparring is a must. Unless you are a Thai fighter with 300 fights under your belt, sparring can drastically help you improve your game. Not only is sparring going to help you work on your timing, combinations, and movement in the ring, it will also get your prepared to take a punch. Here are the 5 sparring tips I learned while training in Thailand that will help you take your Muay Thai game to the next level.
Sparring Tip # 1
The first thing trainers will tell you when you get to Thailand is Relax! Most people don’t realize that relaxing your muscles will actually allow everything to come smoother is sparring. Being completed relaxed will help you lean back more to avoid high kicks or simple block more kicks.
If you ever watch beginners spar the first thing you will notice is their entire bodies are tensed up. This is often from the fear of the unknown. When you are sparring you don’t know what your opponent is going to do, this can often cause anxiety that causes the muscles to tense up. By being relaxed you will be able to respond faster to any attacks that your opponent throws.
One of the most important aspects about being relaxed when you are sparring is to conserve energy. If it is your second training session of the day and you already ran 10 kilometers, clinched, hit pads, and finished your bag work in the morning session, there is a good chance you won’t have 100% energy. Being relaxed when you are sparring, hitting pads or even on the bag is a great habit to ensure that you aren’t losing energy by tensing your muscles.
This is not only beneficial to your defense, but your offense will improve. Have a relaxed state of body will make it less likely that you are going to telegraph your kicks and punches. If you have ever sparred with someone who is super tensed, you can often see what they are going to do a few seconds before they do it. Their hips will turn and you know that he is going to throw a switch kick. Here are a couple tips to help keep you relaxed in training:
- Focus on your breathing – Slow deep breathes can help keep the excitement level down and keep you relaxed
- Learn to stay calm – It can be difficult to relax your body when you have someone going hard but it is a good habit to develop
- Develop a fighting rhythm – If you have ever seen a Thai fight you will notice their body’s rock back and forth in almost a rhythmic dance. This technique ensures the fighter is relaxed and ready to strike or defend at any moment.
Most importantly, as they say in Thailand “Sabai, Sabai”
Sparring Tip #2
Always Work on Your Weaknesses!
Unless you are a top level fighter like Saenchai, most fighters have weaknesses in their game. While nobody ever wants to admit their weaknesses in fighting, it is important to understand areas of your style that can be improved.
Remember that sparring is the best time to work on your weaknesses!
The best place and time to work on your skill set is during sparring with other people. This is true of you are sparring with people that have less experience than you or more experience.
If you know that you can “beat somebody” in sparring that you should switch your stance to Southpaw (Read This Article: How to Counter Southpaw Fighters) if you are an orthodox fighter or even tell yourself that you will try and work on certain techniques like your left kick. Setting certain goals during sparring is a great way to try and improve certain aspects of your game.
Muay Thai is an art that you will continually be improving and getting better at. No matter how many fights you have, there is always something that you can work on for your next fight.
- Have a Gameplan – Going into a sparring session knowing what you want to work on will go a long way in helping you improve your game
- Focus on Specific Techniques and Combinations – If you have a bad right kick than only use right kicks during your next sparring session or work on a new combination.
- Always try and challenge yourself when you are sparring – If you are sparring with beginners than you should consider “artificially handicapping” yourself so you cannot use your stronger techniques.
- Try New Stuff – Don’t stick to the same combinations that you always use, try and use new stuff.
Sparring is the perfect time to work on your weaknesses. Even if your opponent is getting the better of you, focus on trying to make your game better by doing the things that you are not good at.
Sparring Tip #3
Change your Sparring Partners!
Sparring new people is a great way to put you out of your comfort zone. The first time you spar with someone you won’t have any idea of the combinations they like to throw and how aggressive they are. This is beneficial because it simulates the same unknown factors that you have when you fight. By sparring new opponents you will have the challenge of breaking down your opponent’s game on the spot.
Sparring with the same sparring partners makes things feel safe and less stressful. Focusing on trying to spar guys who are better than you and people that you have never sparred with before will get you used to being in situations that are unfamiliar.
One of the benefits of training at a gym in Thailand is you constantly have fighters coming in from different parts of the world. Having fresh faces to spar against week in week out ensures that you never get stagnant when you spar. You also have to be prepared for the odd Russian guy who comes in and tries to knock you out in a sparring session. Not knowing how hard you opponent will go ensures that don’t take any sparring lightly, especially if it’s the first time sparring with someone.
It is also important to have sparring partners who go various levels of intensity. If you only spar with people who go light and don’t hit hard then you will be in for a shock when you fight in the ring. While you don’t want to be trying to knock your sparring partner out, going at a higher intensity is good because it helps simulate an actual fight situation.
Sparring Tip #4
Leave Your Ego at the Door!
Having an ego when you spar is bad for you and everyone around you. Nobody wants to have a guy at the gym with a big ego who walks around like he’s god’s gift to muay thai. The truth is, no matter how good you think you are, there are people out there who are better. Having a humble attitude will go a long way in the sport of muay thai.
Not having an ego when you spar is very important because egos can often block growth and development. If you are constantly worried about getting in the last hit or shot against your sparring partner then you are probably hindering your personal growth in the sport. Being able to acknowledge that your opponent might kick and punch you will allow you to try new things and not worry about “Looking Bad.”
You should never worry about what people are thinking of you while you a training. The only thing that should be on your mind is how you are going to get better. What are the steps you need to take to improve your muay thai game. Muay thai is about constantly evolving to become a better fighter.
Sparring tip #5
Don’t be afraid to ask your sparring partner questions during or after your sparring session. The best way to improve your game is to ask people what they see when they spar you.
Getting another perspective on your muay thai game is a great way to improve. There are certain things you do when you spar that you probably don’t even realize. For example, you might telegraph your kicks before you kick. This is something that can be hard to realize if you don’t have someone telling you.
Here are a couple questions you should be asking:
- Do you see any tell signs that I’m about to kick or punch?
- Is there one technique that I am neglecting to use? (you might not be throwing enough right kicks if you are sparring a southpaw fighter)
- How do I react when I get hit?
Asking your sparring partners and your coaches questions is a great way to help improve your game. Remember that constant improving is something you should be striving for day in day out.
For more tips of sparring make sure you check out:
If you enjoyed reading this article you should check out my Muay Thai Strategy book. In this book I talk about the importance of developing your fundamentals, with a whole chapter dedicated to sparring.