When it comes to learning a new sport there is a general learning curve that dictates how fast you can learn something. Whether you are training tennis, basketball, badminton, or Muay Thai, the S learning curve applies to mastering the sport.
While individuals may learn at different rates depending on their natural talent, coordination, and general athleticism, the overall curve of the learning graph remains the same for everyone.
This learning curve is broken down into 3 specific periods: Slow Beginning, Fast Acceleration and Plateau (Credit: IntroPsych)
In this chart we can see the basic learning curve in Muay Thai.
Note: I don’t provide time periods because individuals learn at different rates. Someone might learn all the basics in a few months while another person might take a few years to really get the basics down. It depends on the individual.
When you first start Muay Thai there is an initial learning process that you go through before you can start making rapid improvements. Learning the basic foot movements, steps, punches and kicks are all required steps before you can start making rapid improvements. Think back to your first day in the gym. You probably felt an information overload as everything you were learning was completely new.
These are things that you can’t just learn overnight, you have to continually practice and repeat each movement until it becomes second nature. Learning the basics are neceesary steps to build a solid foundation for your technique.
Throughout this early learning period technique is essential. Developing bad technique and poor habits during the initial slow beginning phase will make it difficult for you to change later on.
This is why it is so important to teach beginners the correct techniques right away. The moment you see someone making a mistake, correct them. This will prevent them from developing bad habits that are difficult to correct later on.
The Fast acceleration period starts when you don’t have to think about performing the basic movements anymore, you just do it. When you trainer says jab-cross, your body will natural respond to these commands without hesitation. Once all the basics have been solidified in your mind, you will start to advance into a period where everything “feels right.”
This is the period where you experience the fastest growth in your Muay Thai journey. Pad work begins to start feeling natural as you feel the rhythm in your kicks and punches.
Once all the basics become second nature, this is when you will start to spar and clinch. Every day of training provides new growth and challenges because you are constantly learning new tricks and techniques. People who are in the fast acceleration period are constantly improving and getting better.
This explains how someone can rapidly grow from a beginner into a top level fighter in the sport. The fast acceleration period is where people with a good work ethic, focus, and natural ability start to pull ahead of the rest in terms of the learning. If you are a keen learner and have the right environment, you can grow rapidly in the sport.
Once we go through the slow beginning and fast acceleration period of growth, we now enter the final stage of the learning curve: the Plateau. In this phase learning new techniques become less frequent because you have already ingrained most of the techniques into your mind. The more you learn, the less growth you will begin to experience. The law of diminishing return holds true to the learning curve.
In order to improve in the plateau phase, you will need to really consciously make an effort to improve. This is what separates people who have been training the same amount of time, but have a huge difference in skill level.
The plateau period of time is what will separate the average fighters from the great ones. During this period of time most people will stop learning and experience very little growth and improvement in their training. However, the dedicated will continually put more effort into their training to continue to try and make improvements.
During this period you will need to continually work to ensure that you do not remain stagnant in the sport.
How to Prevent Plateauing?
The good thing about Muay Thai is that it is so complex, it is truly impossible to master every nuance of the art. This means that there is always something that you can work on in training to improve. Whether you need to focus more on your timing, technique, or clinch work, there is never a point when you are finished learning.
In order to prevent plateauing in Muay Thai you should be continually working to analyze your game and look for areas that you can improve. Consciously working to improve on your weaknesses will ensure that you are always growing as a fighter.
The Learning Curve of a Thai Fighter
When you look at the career of a Thai fighter in Thailand this learning curve is very present. Starting off, the first 6-9 months of a Thai fighter is filled with a lot of learning. This is the period of time when they learn all the basic fundamentals of the sport. Basics footwork and punches and kicks are continually drilled everyday in training. This is where the trainers make sure that the Thai boys develop perfect technique in training.
Once the Thai boys have fully ingrained the basic footwork and techniques into their game, you will notice a huge jump in their learning. These boys will start gaining valuable experience in the ring, as the slowly begin to turn into miniature versions of the Thai fighters you see on TV. This transformation usually reaches a peak in their later teenage years as their bodies begin to matures and they start to hit a plateau.
Once Thai fighter’s reach the top stadiums, you will notice that they make a lot less improvements then when they were younger. Even though they can continue to grow while fighting in Lumpinee and Rajadamnern, the progression has slowed down tremendously and most of winning or losing depends on their conditioning and minor nuance details of the fight. Every top fighters possesses all of the tools to win, it usually comes down to which fighters has the stronger mind.