May 2012

Tips For Getting The Most Crucial Element of Muay Thai & MMA Training Productive

Many people start training in martial arts and the fighting disciplines of Boxing, Muay Thai and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) with the goal of learning how to fight and look after themselves, however, the drop-out rate of these disciplines is incredibly high.

One of the major reasons for this high drop-out rate is the poor approach to sparring, particularly in Muay Thai training and to a lesser degree, but still of concern, MMA. If the school does not have a productive and safe environment for sparring then the average student will struggle to work with confidence, particularly when trying to implement and develop new techniques in his/her game. This is also found with some of my students that learn Muay Thai online, in that they see sparring as a competition between themselves and their training partner.

Sparring is one of the most valuable aspects of training, in any fighting system, but it is also the most frustrating and difficult to master. And while the grappling disciplines generally appear to adopt a safe and productive attitude to sparring; the striking systems such as Muay Thai kickboxing and MMA struggle.

Sparring is still a part of the training development and learning process. It is a major element in your training that is crucial for the testing and inclusion of the various techniques that you are learning, into your fight game, so that you can ultimately use them in competition or for self defense purposes in a real street fight.

All too many treat it as a competition between them and their fellow students such that the stronger and more aggressive students dominate. It thus becomes a filtering process or trial by combat, for the right to stay on as a student befitting the class or group of elitists within the school. If this culture is allowed to propagate within a school many aspiring and developing students will be forced out, student numbers will rapidly decrease and the number of new students starting will decrease. The dominate group will work within the confines of their own games that they know and have essentially restricted themselves to.

We can learn valuable lessons by taking analogically similar examples, from history, of groups that have shut themselves off from the rest of the world and become isolated. Ultimately the isolation has led to them falling far behind the rest of the world and either suffering internally from lack of development or being crushed by an enemy that has become technologically superior.

The value gained in sparring consistently, in a positive environment and with a good training partner, will lift your Muay Thai techniques to new levels, however, finding that ideal training environment and partner can be very difficult. The quality and culture of the martial arts school must promote a healthy attitude to MMA and Muay Thai sparring and how it is carried out. This must have the development and safety of all students in mind and the students’ personal egos must be set aside.


We find a far more healthy and productive attitude, to the competitive training elements, reflected very strongly in team participation pursuits in which the members of the team tend to help each other. This is very seldom present in the individual achievement combat sports, unless a team attitude has been built into the training place.

Some of the best examples I have found of training partners, in sports or pursuits that emphasize individual development and competition, have been sibling combinations, i.e. brother/brother and (at younger ages) brother/sister combinations, and groups of really good friends that get along well together and start training together. There is a degree of competitiveness between them, but not to the point of trying to dominate each other. A degree of mutual respect and the desire to help each other reach higher levels of ability is present.

Siblings develop a team attitude; working at a micro-team level that results in them working at a level that benefits them both and that, looking at it from a bigger picture, anyone outside of their micro-team is the competition.

This attitude can be readily adopted at the class or school level in Muay Thai and MMA training and, if cultivated well, will benefit everyone who trains at the school.

Once again I look to the sibling and friend groups mentioned above where I have observed their willingness to work at a speed and level of striking power that they can both tolerate and still work productively, In addition, they acknowledge each other’s ability and technique and share each other’s experiences of the training session; their good and bad moves and give each other feedback on what they were doing right and wrong. This type of exchange is extremely useful and productive for all practitioners.

Another point I have often noted, about such combinations, is that not only do they encourage each other, but they are also willing to vent their frustrations and/or annoyance with each other if one of the pair is not working in a manner that is conducive to productive development of their ability. They are prepared to set aside their egos a lot more readily between each other.

I usually also find that these attitudes more often than not, and if given the right opportunity and conditions, will also be reflected in the way that the same individuals train and spar with other students and training partners.

In summary, from these observations, I suggest several guidelines for developing a productive attitude that we should cultivate in the training environment, particularly during sparring, in order to get the most from your training.

  • The cultivation of a team attitude, whether at the paired off student, class or the entire school level.
  • Always take time to discuss your weaknesses and game with your training partner so that you can learn from each training session.
  • Give recognition to a well executed strike or move so that the training partner is acknowledged. If you are continually falling victim to a particular attack then analyze what is happening and ask your partner how he/she is pulling it off or what mistake is he/she capitalizing on, that you are making. In addition put the drilling time in to make your attack, defense or counter-attack better as this will produce great improvements in your Muay Thai Moves and MMA techniques.
  • Develop a culture within the school (if you are the instructor) and for yourself to remove the ego when sparring and training. This is absolutely essential if there is to be any value gained from the training session.

Individuals who come to train and only have their own interests in mind are best to find somewhere else to train if you as a coach are serious about giving your students the best opportunity to succeed at what they are passionate about.

The value of a good sparring session with opponents that have an attitude that promotes learning and development will also give an excellent physical and mental conditioning experience that will enhance your game in every way. In addition it will develop the flow and continuity between your techniques and increase the fluidity of execution enabling you to develop a game that is adaptable and versatile.

If your training partner/s are getting better, then you will develop and get better, because it is of little concern who wins in the training gym or academy. What matters is the development of all members of the training establishment so that they all get better. If your training partner is improving from training with you then you must also get better as you both become more competitive. If you only spar with a low risk attitude and a need to win over or dominate your training partner then your Muay Thai or MMA training development and progress will be extremely slow and limited.

Critical Factors You Must Get Right, When You Learn Self defense, If You Don’t Want to End up In Hospital.

It is my belief that everyone should learn self defense so that they prepare themselves with the knowledge and skills to protect themselves in the event of being attacked, whether it be in the street, a bar or even in the home.

Although the majority of us want to live peaceful lives in which we can enjoy life and achieve the aspirations that we have, there is a darker element in our world that live their lives by violence and this is often brought to bear on those of us that just want to live a quiet existence.

The sudden presence of a threat to our safety is a very traumatic experience that we are usually unprepared for and results in a confused state of mind that makes us very vulnerable to attack.

There are a huge number of self defense techniques available. Some are very efficient and deal very effectively with real street situations, such as “The No B.S. Street-fighting and Self Defense Guide”. However, many are very poor, usually based on pure classical martial arts systems, and often the techniques used restrict themselves by working within their systems philosophy and have little practical use when dealing with a real street attack

I must also emphasize that the techniques used are a small part of the self defense capability package. By themselves, no matter what the system (street effective or classical martial arts system), they are quite useless and must be supported with several underlying principles and concepts which I will briefly discuss in this article. This discussion is by no means exhaustive but covers the most crucial factors.

Awareness: Developing an awareness of potentially dangerous situations gives you the ability to avoid a confrontation or prepare a defensive response. You must cultivate an awareness of the environment and the potential assailants within it, together with their verbal and body language that will signal a potential threat. Learn to read your environment, situation and potential attacker’s intent.

Distance & positioning: Once the situation has reached a point that a physical confrontation is unavoidable it is absolutely critical that you establish and maintain a safe defensive distance and position that allows an effective response within the space available. This is probably the biggest mistake made by people when confronted by an assailant.

Commitment: Another major critical factor required for an effective self defense response is commitment. Particularly when faced by a determined attacker that has a history of violence. These assailants don’t think or operate the same as the majority of people who have no desire to enter into any conflict, particularly a physical one. When they have decided to attack someone they will attack and there is nothing that you can say that will stop them. When you are faced with this situation you must develop a similar attitude and totally commit yourself to neutralizing the attacker. Cultivate a mind-set that clears your mind of interfering self-talk and self doubt. Learn to focus completely on dealing with the situation fast, efficiently and effectively.

Efficient Tactics: There are many ways to neutralize the various attacks that may occur in a physical confrontation. However, when seeking out techniques to train you must assess them for practicality in a real street situation. The techniques must be simple, fast and effective in dealing with attacks from bigger and stronger assailants. The more moves in a technique and the higher the complexity the greater the chance of something going wrong during their application particular in the chaotic conditions of a street confrontation.

Adrenal Stress Conditioning: A crucial factor in a self defense confrontation is the adrenal stress response, more commonly known as the fight/flight/freeze reflex. For most people a potential street confrontation is a traumatic experience resulting in an inability to recall or use any of the techniques that they have learned. Their minds shut down and they become easy targets for attack. This is probably the biggest problem with most self defense training and must be addressed so that the techniques taught can be used in a real self defense situation. Drills that use mental visualization techniques and physical surprise tactics that compromise the recipient’s homability to handle the situation will assist in providing conditioning to deal with the adrenal stress.

In summary, there are many self defense techniques taught in the various systems, some specific to so called street reality systems, others to the various martial arts systems. However, there are several essential factors that must be addressed, when you learn self defense, if any of these techniques and tactics are to be of practical use in the street self defense situation. For a really great self defense guide developed from both martial arts and real street fighting experience check out “The No B.S. street-fighting and Self-defense Guide” by clicking here.