By Jeff Patterson 6/9/09
Like most competitive full contact fighting sports, Muay Thai Boxing has a heavy focus on body conditioning. Many coaches believe that 80 percent of a fighters success is based on his/her conditioning. Muay Thai is specifically designed to promote the level of fitness and toughness required for ring competition. Training regimens include many staples of combat sport conditioning such as running, shadowboxing, jumping rope, body weight resistance exercises, reaction drills, working on correct form, medicine ball exercises, abdominal exercises, and in some cases weight training. Muay Thai practitioners typically apply Namman Muay (a type of liniment used to warm the muscles and to aid with bruising and strains) liberally before and after their intense training sessions.
Training that is specific to a Muay Thai fighter includes training with coaches on Thai pads, focus mitts, heavy bags, shadowboxing and sparring. The daily training includes morning exercise such as running 3-5 miles and many rounds of the methods of practice mentioned above. (Rounds are 3-5 minute periods broken up by a short rest, generally 1–2 minutes.) An amateur Muay Thai fighter will do 500-1000 round kicks per day as just one area of their training.
Thai pad training is a cornerstone of Muay Thai Boxing conditioning which involves practicing punches, kicks, knees, and elbow strikes with a trainer. The trainer wears thick pads that cover the forearms and hands. These special pads are used to absorb the impact of the fighter’s strikes and allow the fighter to react to the attacks of the pad holder. The trainer will often also wear a belly pad around the abdominal area, so that the fighter can attack with straight kicks or knees to the body at anytime during the round.
Focus mitts are used to train a fighter’s hand speed, punch combinations, timing, punching power, defense, and counter-punching. They may also be used to practice elbow strikes.
Heavy bag training is a conditioning and power exercise that reinforces the techniques practiced on the pads.
Sparring is a means to test technique, range, strategy, and timing against a partner. Sparring is often a light to medium contact exercise because competitive fighters on a full schedule are advised not to risk injury by sparring hard. This repetition with the training will make them respond appropriately when in the fight. Specific tactics and strategies can be trained with sparring including, close in fighting, clinching and kneeing only, cutting off the ring, or using reach and distance to keep an aggressive fighter away.
Are there downsides to Muay Thai Boxing Conditioning?
Due to the rigorous fighting and training regimen (some Thai boxers fight almost every other week) professional Muay Thai fighters have relatively short careers in the ring. Many retire from competition to begin instructing the next generation of Thai fighters. It is a common myth that Thai boxing causes arthritis; this is not true, and it is in no way more damaging to the body than other sports such as karate or even running. Most professional Thai boxers come from the lower economic backgrounds, and the fight money (after the other parties get their cut) is sought as means of support for the fighters and their families. Very few higher economic strata Thais join the professional Muay Thai ranks; they usually either don’t practice the sport or practice it only as amateur Muay Thai boxers.
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