Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Practice makes perfect in muay thai

Just posted this on my Facebook page, but it's worth stating again...

Experts say that to become proficient at a technique, you have to do it 10,000 times. Try 400 round kicks twice a week over 3 months=9,600 kicks! Combine shadow and bag/pad drills. This helps develops muscle memory, but it takes time and repetition to make an kick, elbow, knee a subconscious movement. Do this for 1 year and you'll have done 38,400 kicks, or elbows, or knee strikes!

Americans demand instant gratification... that may be our greatest weakness as a society. 

Training martial arts, in our case - muay thai - is an discipline that that requires time and repetition in order to gain any proficiency. We live busy lives and it's easy to get wrapped up in the "instant expert concept" (I may have just coined a term here), but rushing through your training only defeats the original purpose you set ot to begin with. 

Take the the whole CrossFit craze for example. In the early days the daily exercises were nearly impossible for anyone to achieve, but as my friend James Merrick pointed out to me, as CrossFit became more popular and average Joe's and Jane's signed up the exercises became less straining. And today it's all about who can finish their circuits in the fastest time. It's about being on the top if the leader board. It does not help you in the long term if you can do 35 shitty pull ups faster than the other soccer moms and gym rats at the CrossFit center. Your body and technique benefits much more from doing less, but doing it with the proper technique, and eventually doing more over time. Need I mention the decreased risk of injury as well?

Same goes for your muay thai training. You can apply my concept of 10,000, but do it methodically. Don't rush through the 400 technique repetition just to get through it. You won't learn well that way. Practice the shadow of the strike, focusing on the technique and the bio mechanics that make that strike or body movement work. 

When you strike pads or bags don't think of it of an attempt to pull a Buakaw, pulling off 65 kicks in 60 seconds. Instead, I urge you to take on the mindset of making each kick, knee or elbow you throw the absolutely most powerful strike you can throw. If working on thai pads, if your kick didn't drive your partner back, then that should piss you off. Each strike that doesn't knock your partner back should strengthen your resolve to hit harder, spin faster turn your hip over earlier, all in an effort to knock the bastard down.  Then go back to the shadow technique and monitor any improvements, and keep an eye on bad habits.  

The shadow helps you perfect technique, the hard drills force you to throw under pressure and internalize the movements.  

Getting to the point where you are proficient in the key muay thai strikes and defensive movements takes time, a ridiculous amount of patience, and perpetual repetition. Yes, you can become proficient at muay thai much faster than other classic martial arts. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling you a program.  

It's not the size of the fighter or the size of the muscle that makes a strike powerful. It's recognizing the physics and bio mechanics behind the technique. It's remaining cognizant of those mechanics when practicing the technique, slowly, building speed as you become more comfortable. It's the unending repetition of said technique. It's the practice of the technique with the full intent of destroying your target (again, repetition). It's the continuous employment of the technique under simulated high stress situations. That combination of practices will work to make the movement, the mechanics, the intent of that technique a part of your subconscious. That's the ultimate goal: To throw a kick, or a combination of techniques rapidly, powerfully, and efficiently, without thinking at all about what your doing because it's become a  natural movement to you. You'll be busy processing other bits of information such as, identifying other threats, looking or escape routes, identifying witnesses, video surveillance systems, items to use as weapons if it gets heavy. 

In short: Think quality over quantity in terms of speed. But in the long run, large quantities of high quality will get you to where you really want to be. 



  1. Another outstanding post, Donnie. Mindset = reality. Time to go shadow drill.

  2. if i could add. 10,000 hours not 10,000 times. it's a lot. a lot harder.

    but yeah. better to throw one good punch/kick then 4 average ones.

    in a fight, the one kick/punch done right is the one that counts. anything more and your talking about ring fighting for points with gloves.

  3. Thanks for the post. I like the idea you reinforced about 'perfect practice making perfect'. I will re-post this to my blog later this week, if that is ok.

  4. Great post! And very encouraging to newbies like me who are still just learning the very basic techniques! Practice makes perfect! Now I want to go hit a bag! :-)

  5. GREAT POST. teaching people to understand the biomechanics of their stirkes is the most under utilized aspects of training.