My Muay Thai Training: Implementing a strategy

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Welcome back to my online diary documenting my very amateur experience training in Muay Thai. If you missed the previous entries on Bloody Elbow, read them.

It’s been just about two years since I started this training. Over the course of those years, I have seen points where things accelerate, points where things stay the same. This week proved to be an interesting acceleration point in my journey.

As I learned this week, one of my regular sparring/training partners has just signed his first fight, which is incredibly exciting. Of course, that means in the weeks leading up to the fight, he will be stepping up his level of training, preparing to come in to the fight his strongest. And me – I’m still one of his regular partners, so if he’s stepping up his level, I’m stepping up mine too. The result? A pretty serious training session with 9 full 3 minute rounds of sparring (considerably more than I have done in the past) and an ever increasing level of intensity. It was tough, but very welcome.

Nothing teaches you about your strengths and weaknesses quite as well as sparring. Particularly if you put together a number of rounds like this. My weaknesses: conditioning, defense when I strike, and (a big one) strategy.

That last one was a key point our instructor wanted us to work, and it’s something I am yet to have much experience in. That thought of implementing a strategy – of thinking ahead so that you know why you are throwing every strike, and what will come next – that’s a very tough concept. In the abstract, I totally get it, and when I watch fights I can see it with little trouble. But when it’s me in there? That’s a completely different story, and it’s much harder.

With this focus on strategy, I found myself falling into one of two modes. 1) I could implement very basic strategies, like hit a body jab, then fake a body jab and when my opponent drops his hands, go to the head. Effective, but pretty basic. Or 2) I could try to think things through a bit more, though that inevitably resulted in me kind of freezing up and being forced into pure defensive mode. This is partly due to inexperience, partly to a different pace than what I am used to seeing. I’m still at a point where aspects of my training are taken from fights I watch. And in general, I find that most pro fights move at a slower pace than what I am seeing in my sparring. Pros frequently take more time to feel each other out and start to implement a strategy rather than push the pace right from the beginning.

That sounds like an excuse, and it shouldn’t. This is obviously an area I need to work on, and I’m not surprised to discover that. Combat sports are often referred to as “human chess” for these very strategic reasons. Well, I stink at chess, and it’s because I have trouble anticipating my opponent’s move. That same issue causes me to struggle with the human chess strategic side of fighting, at least for now.

The answer is clear: practice, practice, practice. Luckily, with a teammate getting ready to fight, there will be no shortage of that.

Question of the week: How cerebral are you when you fight or spar? And how do you get past that idea of being so stuck in your head that you are not letting go?

Random Note: A few weeks ago, I reviewed this Bad Boy head gear. One of the questions asked was how it was for periphery vision. I’m happy to report that this is not an issue at all thanks to the wide cut in the eyes. What is an issue (and one I discovered the hard way) is that it offers absolutely zero padding under the chin. I got hit hard by an uppercut, and with no padding, I’m still feeling the effects in my jaw two days later. No good.

I train under Andre Madiz at Conviction Martial Arts, 4430 N. Western Ave., Chicago, IL. If you are in the Chicago area, come join us, and be sure to say hello.