Monday, August 17, 2009

Benefit From Training Muay Thai Without Pads

If you subscribe to my YouTube channel you've probably already seen the above clip, what I don't mention in it is the importance of training without pads.

We can all agree that thai pad and focus mitt drills are vital to any muay thai or mma curriculum, but it does have a few drawbacks - including reinforced bad habits and a false sense on security in one's skills.

Striking pads is actually a very different sensation from hitting a real person. Aside from the actual impact, the entire interaction is entirely different when you strip away the pads, gloves, and other protective gear. I'm not saying that you go all-out on someone else. I suggest you learn to play with your combinations and get a feel for where the true targets lie. This is especially important for those of you who are learning close quarter combat (self defense) systems.

So, what do you really get out of this? Here's the truth: you can master any fighting system, but when it comes down to it: when you find yourself in a fighting situation in the street, your subconscious, reptilian brain is going to rely on a handful of strikes or combinations. All of those fancy, technical - fine motor skill - small joint locks are going to wash away with the adrenaline rush.

Repeated drills such as the one in the video can help you train your subconscious mind so that when its called upon, your animal brain won't freeze on you. It becomes a natural reaction. John Grissom, author of the combat blog, 1Urban Warrior and fellow Muay Thai Academy International alumni covers this topic extensively. Dave Grossman's book, On Killing also provides some interesting insights into the application of the fight or flight mechanism in combat.

Other variables including target selection, environment, and the unpredictability of your attacker all factor into the equation. And that only adds to the importance of training your subconscious mind. Oh boy, I'm gonna have to expand on this a little later.

Friday, August 14, 2009

10 Steps to Avoid Bad Habits in Muay Thai

Everybody does it. We're all vulnerable to those bad habits that are developed over the course of months, sometimes years. It's either that hand that creeps down below your chin, or that little movement you make right before you throw a technique that screams out "I'm now going to throw a round kick!" Personally, I have to always make sure I'm not dropping my hands, and I tend to spend too much time baiting my opponents when I spar with junior students.

Bad habits developed in training muay thai, boxing, or MMA can be easily reversed with a little observation, some effort, and a lot of patience. I'll share with you my little bag of tricks that I've picked up over the years that has helped myself, and my students avoid the pitfalls of laziness:

1. Mix it up: Maintain a good mix of sparring, shadow and pad drills in your regimen.

2. Train with different people: It's very easy to get comfortable working out with the same person every week. Pro - you've made a friend, con - you're not only picking up each other's bad habits, you're also consistently reinforcing them. Make sure you train with people of varying heights, body types, and skill levels.

3. Spend time with your shadow: Shadow boxing is the most crucial element in training muay thai. This is where you improve your speed, dial in your footwork, and most importantly, clean up your technique. Shadow helps form and reinforces the good habits you want. Just watch the senior students, instructors or pro fighters at your gym. They'll spend a good 20 minutes warming up with shadow. They're doing it for a reason.

4. Seek out those better than you: Hold pads for advanced students, ask to do drills with that guy who seems to throw every technique perfectly. This is where you learn. Additionally, you'll have a pair of knowledgeable eyes watching you, able to spot what needs to be corrected.

5. Ask your instructor: Unless you train at one of those McMartial Arts mega gyms where you're stuck in a class with 40 other people and you've never met the head instructor because he's off in a corner training the next BJ Penn upon whose wagon he's hitched his stars, then request some face time with your instructor. Request the s/he watch you shadow for a few rounds or hold pads for you. Explicitly ask for a critique. Any muay thai instructor worth their salt (and your business) should happily comply.

6. Slow down: If you can't throw a proper round kick slowly then you certainly can't throw it properly fast. Example: your kicks are getting lazy and you aren't turning your hip over. Spend time practicing shadow and on a heavy bag, slowly and deliberately exaggerating the proper technique.

7. Watch yourself: Keep a keen eye on yourself while you train. Perform random habit inspections on yourself once every two weeks. Stop midway though a drill to check your footwork, shadow in front of a mirror and scrutinize your technique, have an instructor get on you when s/he sees you exhibit your bad habit.

8. Corner Drills: Nothing helps you keep your hands up like getting punched in the head. We train corner drills which are defensive no-win scenarios in the ring or cage. A partner throws punches, elbows, knees, at you for the entirety of the round and all you can rely on is your cover, body movement, and footwork. You're not allowed to hit back. A couple rounds in the corner will work wonders on those sloppy habits.

9. Check your ego at the door: Trust me, you may look cool bobbing around with one hand down at your waist, but one day the right opponent is going to come along and knock that cocky look of your face. Pride is a dangerous thing, and believing that you are invincible will lead to lazy defense and sloppy technique. Be confident, but remember that there is always someone better than you.

10. Self awareness: Know what your bad habits are, what you need to work on and have the patience with yourself to work through it.

Here's the good thing about habits. Once you get rid of the bad and introduce the good, your training will only reinforce them.

Monday, August 03, 2009

The most basic, yet most effective muay thai block

Whether you train muay thai, MMA, krav maga, or any of the myriad close quarter combat / self defense systems out there, this technique is a must have for your personal arsenal. Remember, you saw it here first.

I'm gonna get straight to the point here. The defensive technique I demonstrate in the video below is one the easiest to learn and apply. I call it the 45 degree block because of the angle at which you hold your arms. Its amazing how effective it is in stopping elbows, hay maker punches and even high kicks.

As you'll see, when you step in with the 45 degree block, you end up in knee or elbow striking range. Its a great entry technique to counter off of a strike. Once you're in close range you choose to use hard techniques or soft techniques such as head control or joint lock take downs, depending on the situation. Oh, it also works well in a multiple opponent situation. With that block you can control (while softening him up with knees) while creating a barrier between you and the other attacker(s).

Historically, this block comes from muay chao cherk (muay chao churd), the ancient form of muay thai forged in the battlefield. After a soldier lost his sword, his best form of defense was to get deep inside the strike range his attacker where he can, yep, disarm his opponent, and use his body as a shield from the fray. Modern Thai military forces have also integrated the 45 degree block into the lerdrit system.