The goal of Muay Thai training is to fight well. Better stated; to win. The training consists of two primary objectives; the acquisition of fighting strength and fighting skill. Most of the training activities accomplish both objectives.
A five day training program is usually structured around early morning and evening workouts. Early morning activities feature roadwork or any safe equivalent that can positively impact endurance. Once a base of stamina is achieved, interval work or hill bounding may be done several times per week to sharpen the athlete as recuperation ability and proximity to an event suggest. There must be a foundation of strengthening before refinement is undertaken, and any sharpening must deliver the trainee in a sharp, as opposed to dull, over trained state on the day that he or she wishes to be at their best. Some stretching and three to five rounds of shadow boxing conclude the morning workout.
The evening or big workout usually begins with three to five rounds of rope jumping. There is nothing sacred in the sequence, however, and rope jumping may be done at the conclusion of the workout. The big workout may begin with shadow boxing as the trainee wishes. The important points are that the program elements be done with regularity, that they become more demanding as the trainee accommodates to the stress of each level, and that they be interesting enough to make their performance enjoyable. To achieve these objectives it is necessary to be flexible.
Body strengthening is then done using largely body weight resistance. Those who wish to employ progressive resistance training may do so as long as the strength 'Program is kept in perspective. Remember, fighting well is the goal, not big muscles.
Most training camp workouts includes a majority of the exercises named, usually done in sets of 100. Again, the goal is excellence in fighting. The body's core, that is, the abdominal and low back muscles and the neck, receive priority. Following these exercises, three minute rounds of continuous knee strikes are performed. There is no question about the adequacy of your warm-up at this point!
The exercise movements suggested may be, and sometimes are, performed following the skill building portion of the evening workout. If weights are used this sequence is recommended. They also may be done in the morning if shadow boxing is to be done that evening. The older trainee or those with limited time may wish to alternate morning workouts doing endurance work one day and strength work the next. Those with even less time, or persons who may need longer periods of recuperation following training effort, may compress the various program elements into one daily session or even several sessions per week separated by rest days.
The performance aspect of the big workout consists of shadow boxing, neck crank and grappling, body tempering, heavy and speed bag work, Thai pad (pao) and focus mitt drills, and sparring. Not every activity is practiced in each training session. The round or hook kick receives priority in training as 70% of Thai boxing consists of the application of this technique. As the hand technique in Muay Thai is similar to western boxing, the aspiring fighter is encouraged to venture into the local amateur boxing gym to learn boxing principles.
There are, however, some differences. One difference has to do with the way a Thai boxer "works" the body. Knees are used to the body more frequently than boxing hooks. The body hook requires a crouched posture which tends to increase the fighter's vulnerability to counter knees aimed at the head. Not recommended for the brains! The performance items stressed in our training camp are: shadow, clinching, heavy bag, pao drills, and sparring. Most are done in rounds of three with shadow and heavy bag sometimes going significantly more.
While it is wonderful to have a training partner, it is not essential for every workout session. One can become hard beyond belief by following a majority of the suggested training program by themselves during the week and meeting with local or out of town training partners on the weekend. During the weekend training sessions emphasis can be placed on those activities such as the various drills and sparring that require two people. It goes without saying that your partner is a precious complement to your training program and should be treated as such. Routine sparring should be an opportunity for learning that leaves one eager for more. Fight day is the time to fight for real.
When training by yourself remember that you are limited only by your imagination. If you don't have a partner to help with clinching, try tying an old bike inner tube to a tree and doing neck range of motion to the front, back, and both sides. Tremendous progress in tempering can be accomplished by repeatedly striking various body surfaces that will be used in fighting with a soft rubber mallet or an old bowling pin. The instep, thigh, and shin respond well to such iron body training.
Just remember that the Thai boxer who slams a cross shin block into an incoming round kick did not begin his tempering last month. Tempering as all aspects of this or any other training program should be done with staged and graduated intensity. Easy does it, and back off when it hurts. Your heavy bag is always ready to train, never complains, and can take as much as you can deliver. Train beyond your present limits by adding additional rounds, extending the time of each round, or setting a minimally acceptable number of techniques to be done, such as 50 round kicks per round or 300-500 round kicks per training session.
As you can see, Muay Thai strength is a product of Muay Thai training sweat. It's that simple. The techniques are easily learned and can be done by the average trainee. You don't need to be double jointed or a super athlete to be capable of throwing a devastating leg kick. Boxing hands and footwork are effective. If you don't believe that, join a boxing gym and experience a few sparring sessions.
If the opponent moves inside kicking and punching range, the remaining four of the "eight limbs" of Muay Thai, the knees and elbows, can be employed with awesome destructive potential. Adherence to a Thai boxing training program can result in the achievement of peak physical condition. Graduated and progressive use of body tempering allows one to be relatively impervious to a majority of blows. Is it any wonder that Muay Thai is considered "the king of the ring"? Is it really any wonder that no one looks forward to fighting a Thai?