10 ways to get good at Muay Thai fast (aka lessons we learned from Bruce Lee)

This post has totally been endorsed by Bruce Lee. OK, that’s not entirely accurate (don’t sue us please!).  But a lot of what we learned has been echoed by him, and learned the hard way – through blood, sweat and tears. We’re not promisng you a shortcut to get good at Muay Thai fast… but we may just save you some time (and body fluids).  Read on… cos what Bruce has to say is worth listening to.

1. Slow it down

OK, that’s kinda ironic given the title.  We’re guessing you were hoping for a quick fix. But honestly, if you can slow down, and start from the ground up, you’ll have the most solid foundations to grow from.  Sometimes it feels like you’re progressing at 100 miles per hour, other times, it may feel like you’re moving backwards. But we’ve seen many gifted young athletes walk through our doors, only to get disillusioned when they don’t get a world title in six months. The less gifted who slog away day after day in the mean time, slowly but surely get stronger, faster and deadlier. Next time you feel frustrated, take some out.  Perhaps a couple of days of rest… before getting back in it again. 

 If mastering Muay Thai was as simple as clocking Street Fighter, we might as well take your $$$, hand you a black belt and call you Master.

2. Be humble

Speaking of black belts. Muay Thai doesn’t have any – unless you count the type you get in the ring.  Those tend to be rather shiny and aren’t very comfortable to wear while kicking people. So that unassuming kid with ratty shorts and a bowl haircut could be a Muay Thai champion… (or he may just be a person with bad dress sense in need of a haircut). You’ve seen that guy who has had one fight turn into a prima donna overnight. He may have won one fight, but he definitely won’t win many fans. Our point is, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been training for or how many fights you’ve had. Treat everybody how you’d like to be treated – with respect and patience. You’ll have a nicer training environment and win some fans in the process. And keep an open mind. If Mr Mullet Head has some pointers for you, listen, thank him… and then decide if it works for you. 

Remember that every new person has the potential to become your best training partner, so encourage them. And when training with someone less experienced, use the opportunity to try things you normally wouldn’t dare to. Work on going South Paw (left foot back). Try unfamiliar techniques – but remember to go lightly and focus on accuracy, timing, and technique rather than brute force. Remember, everybody was a beginner once and the last person people want to train with or support is a bully.

3. KISS. Keep it simple stupid

There’s no point learning to fly before you can walk. So don’t expect to learn something new every week, when you have yet to master a simple roundhouse kick. Then again, there is no “simple” when it comes to a roundhouse. There’s always going to be someone who kicks harder and faster than you – try blocking one of our trainer’s “simple” kicks. By the way, have you seen just how much destruction Yodsaenklai Fairtex can cause with just a “simple” left kick? The beauty of Muay Thai is that while a move may seem simple – there’s always a way to get faster, stronger, and deadlier. And when you do make progress, it brings so much satisfaction. So keep on practicing that “simple” kick until you improve by even 0.01%  It may take tens of thousands of practicing the same move before you see improvement…  so what are you waiting for?

4. Leave the fancy moves for Hollywood. (Or the professionals)

You may think that dropping your guard to taunt your opponent may make you look like a pro. But it also increases your risk of getting KTFO by say… 300% Fancy moves are best left to the professionals – stuntmen or pro fighters. And unless you’re at that level, (or you have stuntmen who get paid to make you look good), you’ll probably come across as a douche bag, as well as putting yourself at risk. When you do see fighters throwing fancy flying moves and cartwheel kicks successfully, it’s usually because they are winning by miles, or are in a completely different class from their opponent. So either pack your bags and head for Hollywood, or train up and get really good.

 

Ok class, today we are going to learn the flying fire knee as made popular by Ong Bak. Please raise your hand if you DON’T have life insurance.

5. Stop making excuses

Legs too sore, traffic too bad, didn’t sleep well last night,  my training buddy can’t make it today. Fine if you want to be run-of-the-mill, but this article is about getting GOOD at Muay Thai, not being mediocre. If you train any less than two times a week, it will be hard to see ANY improvements in both fitness and skill. If you’re fighting,  you need to train at least five days a week. The Thais fighters in Thailand double that… and then add another two training sessions for good measure. Oh… they usually start training from the age of six. So if you have a bit of catching up to do and wanna look half decent at Thailand’s national sport, you better stop playing the blame hand and get your butt into the gym.


6. Train smart

We get guys coming in who want to kick down coconut trees after one class (we can thank Buakaw for that). They slam their virgin shins into bags and pads as hard as they can, and then hobble out after class, wondering why their legs are black and blue. A good training session doesn’t mean leaving training bruised and bloodied. Thai fighters rely on fighting for their bread and butter, so avoiding injury is crucial. This is despite the fact that they spar daily without bothering with shin guards. While you may not fight as regularly, you can still make technical improvements by analysing your own technique. Whether it may be adjusting your balance, working on your distance, changing the angle of your arm swing, or trying to get a more steady rhythm. By picking one thing to focus on and then working on it, both on the bags as well as in sparring, you will see better results than mindlessly kicking and punching to fatigue.

 

 

7. Do your homework

Don’t expect everything to come naturally, even if you’re doing all of the above. Want to emulate your favourite fighter? Visiting his/her gym and wearing shorts with his/her name on them won’t cut it. However, thanks to the magic of the internet, you no longer have to fly overseas to watch them fight, or spend hundreds of dollars and hours searching for fight videos. There are wonderful people who regularly post current fight videos online for free, some even breaking it down so it’s accessible for ALL levels – kinda like a Muay Thai for Dummies guide. You’ll also learn more about scoring and matching and strategy. It’s never been easier (or cheaper) to copy their movements, try to understand how their brain ticks – and try and pick up some fight IQ. 

 

8. Be prepared to lose

The biggest battles aren’t always fought in the ring. Often it’s within. Getting in the ring is emotionally laden.  There are a lot of expectations – you want to prove just how far you’ve come to your family, friends, gym mates and the fans.  Sometimes no matter how many kicks you’ve done. How many miles you’ve run. How many sparring sessions you’ve knuckled through, or steamed broccoli and chicken breast meals you’ve suffered through. The other person could be better, or just be having a better day than you. At the end of the day, someone’s hands will get raised. It doesn’t matter if you go home and cry for the whole night after you lose. As long as you wipe those tears off and get back in the gym with the intention of improving, you’re likely to have a long career in this game. If you can’t handle the “shame” and “embarrassment” of losing, you can either look for rigged matches, or take up lawn bowls.

9. Accept your limitations… and then work as hard as you can to succeed in spite of them

Welcome constructive criticism. If people say your footwork is more like a stampeding elephant than a floating butterfly, rethink your fight game. In a perfect world, you’d be a Muay Femur (technical fighter) like Saenchai. Afterall, he embodies all that is beautiful and graceful in Muay Thai. Wake up. The sooner you accept your cons and work on your pros, the better progress you’ll make. If you’re long and lanky, Muay Khao (killer knees) may your go-to weapon. (P.S Our trainer Wimbledon adds that for a 5-star fighter, Saenchai has very “average” knees – cheeky!)
Perhaps what you lack in grace, you make up for with heart and strong hands.  You can still be a formidable fighter. Muay Matt, (heavy hands and strong low-kicks) may be your calling. Now, this doesn’t give you an excuse to neglect all other fighter styles. Remember, the more weapons you have in your arsenal, the more well-rounded you’ll be as a martial artist. Just keep the weapons you have the most success with extra sharp and oiled.

10. Don’t be scared of being beaten

A forlorn looking fighter came up to us after sparring. Why was he so glum? Because he “got hit and kicked a lot” by people better than him. Hmmm. Is since when was it an achievement to not get hit and kicked by someone a lot worse than you? Besides, if you’re the best in your fish pond, how are you going to cope when you face someone who is better than your buddies?
Some of the best fighters in the world got their beginnings sparring much bigger opponents on concrete. They didn’t care about the difference in size or experience. Every opponent was an opportunity to learn and improve. Stop beating yourself up when you’ve been outclassed by someone. Go to the toilet and wipe your tears away. Then thank them for the experience and tell them you’d love to organise another session with them.  Sparring under pressure prepares you for getting in the ring. 

With less experienced training buddies, try things you normally wouldn’t. Work on your South Paw stance. Use more techniques you’re not so familiar with. Remember to go lightly and focus on accuracy, timing, and technique rather than brute force. Remember, everybody was a beginner once and the last person people want to train with or support is a bully. 


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