One of the reasons why Muay Thai is such an amazing sport is because of the individual growth that you experience from the beginning to the end. When you first start training, progress happens slowly because everything you do is new. You have to build your foundation before you can start building the house.
After a few months of training, suddenly things start clicking and becoming easier. I wrote an article that talked about the 3 stages of Muay Thai development. In the article, I talked about the early slow beginning period of Muay Thai when learning is slow and tedious, to the steep acceleration where you make the most improvements as you start developing fluid movements, to the plateau phase where you stop making improvements.
After a few years of training Muay Thai, you will find that it becomes harder to make improvements to your game as you reach this plateau stage. I’ve seen people who have been training for a decade, with fewer skills and worse than someone who has been training for 9 months. You don’t want to be that person.
If you find that you aren’t improving in Muay Thai, you might have run into these 5 issues that are preventing you from improving.
#1: You Don’t Set Goals
Goal setting is important to Muay Thai, whether you are a fighter or not. Part of goal setting is understanding your strengths and weaknesses and putting yourself in positions to improve these areas.
Perhaps you hate clinching because you haven’t made it a priority to improve your clinch. Instead of avoiding the clinch, you need to set a goal of improving your clinch skills so you stop feeling uncomfortable every time you clinch.
It is important to have a combination of short term and long term goals. In the short term, you might want to focus on learning the basics of the clinch and a long term goal might be that you can clinch with the best person at your gym and stay competitive. Whatever goals you create, make sure you keep them a SMART goal (Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic and Timely).
#2: You Don’t THINK during Training
Far too many people go through the motions in Muay Thai, without ever thinking about what they do. I would be lying to you if I told you that I was always thinking in training, however, when I ain’t have asleep in the mornings, I am always trying to figure out what I can do to improve.
This is especially important when you are doing individual drills like hitting the heavy bag, shadow boxing, and sparring. While you are doing individual work, it is important to constantly ask yourself how you can be better.
A lot of students never learn to think because they rely on their instructor to correct their mistakes, without taking the responsibility on themselves to fix things. While beginners aren’t equipped with the knowledge or tools to critique their own technique, after years of training you should be able to tell when you do something correctly or not.
#3: You Are Staying in Your Comfort Zone
It is so easy to get in a routine and stick to that routine. Human beings like consistency and comfort. Changing your routine and doing something that puts you outside of your comfort zone is not fun. It can make you feel uneasy at times and even be scary if you spar with new people.
Going out of your comfort zone can mean sparring with new people. This means going to a different gym to work with new sparring partners who can help push you to improve, and it might also mean taking a trip to Thailand to learn from the source.
Remember that learning often lies just outside of your comfort zone. So pushing yourself past the comfort zone is going to create situations that stimulate your development. If you are experienced, this often means working with new people who have a lot of experience and skill.
Sometimes the best way to jump-start improvement is to change the scenery around you. You might have learned everything you can from your instructor, or maybe you don’t get along with people at your gym. Whatever the reason, it is important to recognize when a situation has gone south and move.
Being at a gym is like being involved in a relationship. A lot of times it’s easier to stay in a bad relationship and maintain the status quo than it is to move on and try something different.
The same is true in Thailand when you work with a trainer. Sometimes you need to move on to a new trainer who can help push you harder and teach you different things. Going with different trainers can give you a new set of eyes looking deeply at your skills and helping you improve.
I recommend booking a trip to Thailand if you really want to stimulate your growth. While you are in Thailand, book private lessons so you can maximize your learning.
#4: You Think You Know it ALL
Some people who have been training Muay Thai for years become self-delusional and think they are special. These people will often go around the gym trying to correct other people when their own technique is terrible.
We all have experienced people like this at the gym, and honestly, they never improve. The fact that you are reading this article, puts you ahead of 99% of people out there, and probably means you don’t think you know it all.
If you ever start believing your own bull shit and think you are becoming really good and walk around the gym thinking you are the shit, then you won’t improve. People who are humble and understand they have a lot of room to grow, are the ones who take the biggest steps in improving.
#5: You Are Out of Shape
When I am out of shape, I suck at Muay Thai. Sure, I can look good for a few minutes, but the moment the cardio picks up I am useless. I spend more time with my hands on my knees panting, then I do thinking about technique, timing, or my development.
Sparring especially sucks when you don’t have good cardio. You end up spending most of the time trying to survive playing defense, then doing anything on the offensive end.
When I say being in shape, I am not referring to having six-pack abs or how you physically look. Anyone can starve themselves enough to get six-pack abs without being fit. I am talking about being able to train a full 2-hours without dying every minute of it. Sure, you will get tired, but there is a difference between being tired and being out of shape.
Everyone knows how they feel when they are fit and how they feel when they are not. Fitness and Muay Thai go hand in hand. Unless you are an instructor with a lot of experience already, it is important that you always maintain a high level of fitness to ensure you keep improving.
Once you hit the plateau stage in Muay Thai it is much harder to make improvements. All of the easy gains have come and gone, now improving requires you to think about what you are doing and put those thoughts into actions.
Unless you are lucky enough to have a dedicated trainer who watches over you and constantly tries to make you better (training in Thailand), you need to take your Muay Thai development into your own hands.
Taking control of your own Muay Thai development is a fundamental principle that everyone should follow. You need to take responsibility for your improvements and develop a strategy to push you forward. This requires you to focus on goal setting, learning how to critique your own game, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, being humble and staying in shape.
If you work on constantly striving to improve your game, you will find that every time you start plateauing, you will discover new ways to jump-start your growth.