Whether you're just starting out in Muay Thai or are a well experienced veteran, there are always new things to learn, things to tweak, new approaches to adopt. Having a mentality of continuous life-long learning is integral to martial arts, your career and getting the most out of life.
In Muay Thai, there are some core habits you can adopt and execute both in and outside of the gym that will ensure you are always learning. Consistency is key to progress and ingraining these habits into your daily/weekly/monthly routine will build discipline which, in turn, will result in accelerated learning and growth.
Creating goals for yourself inspires you into action and focuses the mind around the activities needed to achieve the goal. The more ambitious the goal, the more excited and motivated you'll be once you achieve it. If you create goals that are too easy to achieve, you'll soon get tired of making them and you'll lose focus as a result.
Goals need to be structured to ensure you have the most realistic chance of achieving them. A common approach to goal creation is the CSMART method. Challenging, specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound.
Some examples of CSMART goals for your Muay Thai learning include:
- Learn how to roundhouse kick 50 times with alternating legs (25 each) in 30 seconds by the end of the month.
- Learn how to accurately jab, kick and knee in my opposite stance by the end of the month.
- Be able to spar 5 rounds at 70% power with [chosen partner], with 45 second breaks in between rounds, without getting out-struck, by the end of the year.
- Fight 50 Muay Thai fights with a 90% win rate by the end of the year.
Think over what it is you want to get from your training and translate that into CSMART goals so you can focus and drive yourself to achievement. Regularly review your progress towards the goals and adapt as necessary so you can achieve them faster.
Visualise and shadow box
Elite athletes, like many other high-successful individuals, often attest to the power of visualisation in realising their goals. Whether it's visualising victory, pulling off a particular technique or achieving a particular goal, foreseeing how that will look and pan out influences your subconscious mind into making it a reality. This practice is useful for many different parts of your life and, in Muay Thai, it can help you think about your actions and reactions in training, sparring and competition.
You can take it a degree further by incorporating what you visualised (if relevant of course) into your shadow boxing and regularly shadow box so it becomes ingrained into your memory.
Shadow boxing is a great way to keep your mind sharp and build fitness when outside the gym too. Working 3-6 rounds with small weighted dumbbells and then doing push-ups or burpees in between rounds makes for a high-performance, yet quick, workout.
It's also worthwhile slipping some short shadow boxing into your everyday life, not just carving out time dedicated to it. For example, when walking around the house you can do so while throwing strikes, or you can shadow boxing while you're waiting for the printer at work. You may get some dodgy looks but they're worth the accelerated development it will lead to.
It can take a while to understand how to effectively control your body and strength in Muay Thai, that's why newbies are often sloppy, reckless and try to throw with full power, while relying on tension and momentum rather than the torque and physics which are integral to true Muay Thai power.
Slow it down. You don't need to throw every combination as fast as possible, nor do you need to throw every strike or undertake every exercise quickly. Slowing things down helps you understand the right motions involved, identify where you're going wrong and engage the right muscles for any given strike or exercise. It's especially useful when honing your movement, trying out a new technique or when perfecting a combination.
That said, if you're a veteran it's also worth slowing down sometimes, physically and mentally, so you can take a step back, assess your performance and identify areas for improvement. Breaking down your techniques, combinations and movement helps you spot minor issues which can make a major difference if corrected.
Watch videos and live fights
Complement your training sessions with some visual learning to enhance your understanding and accelerate your growth. There are countless videos on Youtube and sites like Muay Thailand that can help you hone techniques, understand the physics of strikes and learn from the best by watching their fight videos. In addition, attending Muay Thai events will inspire you as you soak up the atmosphere and watch the sport up close, enabling you to learn from the fighters and spot things they could have done differently. Watching videos and live events will also motivate you to train sooner and harder.
You don't have to sit down and watch videos for hours on end to get the benefit. If you consistently watch a video or two a day, you'll be inspired and create ideas that you can then put in practice. Utilise the time you spend on your commute, your lunch break or while you're queuing for coffee to get your daily dose of visual learning.
Ask for advice & listen
Never develop enough arrogance or let a lack of confidence hinder you from asking advice from your coaches, partners and fellow practitioners. No-one knows it all and only a fool believes they have nothing more to learn.
When asking for advice, be specific. Ask what you want help with and explain, succinctly , what you think is stopping you from getting it right at present. Also, don't be afraid to ask a coach to show a technique/combination again – just don't ask again and again as it can stop others in the group from working.
Open your mind and be willing to learn from others. You'll learn different angles, interpretations and ideas by putting in the effort to learn from those around you.
Asking the right question is just part of it. You have to listen, understand and apply the advice to get the benefit. When you're listening, look whoever is imparting the knowledge in the eye, ask follow up questions if needed, apply the advice and ask for confirmation you got it right.