Muay Thai is a rare martial art as it is also a combat sport. Some people want to learn self-defense but don’t actually want to fight. Is this possible in Muay Thai? I decided to find out.
So can you train Muay Thai without fighting? You can train Muay Thai without Sparring as it is usually optional and you still improve your self-defense in case you ever need to use your Muay Thai in a real situation.
However, I still recommend Sparring, as Sparring should always be light and playful. Although you can always sit out the Sparring if you don’t want to but don’t worry I will answer all your questions about sparring in Muay Thai.
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Why You Don’t Need To Spar To Train Muay Thai
The average Muay Thai session starts with a light warmup usually skipping for 5-10 with rounds of calisthenics (bodyweight training) mixed in. Then your instructor will demonstrate a technique and you will take turns with your partner practicing each technique until it becomes a sequence with all the techniques combining.
Now, this will change in the gym but generally, every gym will be similar and everything you do will involve hitting the bag, drilling, or doing pad work.
I’ve known people at my gym who didn’t like Sparring and they sat out whenever we started Sparring. No one ridiculed them or called them names as they are free to do what they want.
If you have a good trainer then you will still understand basic concepts and principles of fighting for self-defense such as: basic offense, defense,range, distance fighting, etc. You don’t need to Spar to learn these things.
A lot of people in my gym only do Muay Thai for the workout benefits and you will see fantastic improvements in your cardio and your muscle mass and bone density with kicking the heavy bag and doing pads, two things you constantly will be doing in any Muay Thai class.
Also, Muay Thai burns around 888 calories in one hour so it’s superb for losing weight! If you’re unfit and not physically active I can guarantee after several months of 2-3 Muay Thai classes a week you will look and feel like a completely different person!
Why You Should Fight In Muay Thai
However, whilst you can definitely train Muay Thai without Sparring I would still recommend Sparring to test your skills. Let me make a basketball analogy.
Doing Muay Thai just hitting the pads and bag can only get you so far, as the bag/pads don’t hit back. Even if you have the perfect form it’s like taking a Basketball shot without having anyone trying to block your shot. This is the same as training Muay Thai without Sparring and no one is actively trying to hit you.
You might say, but Dillon I don’t want to get brain damage during Sparring? In reality, Sparring should be light and playful, in Thailand the Thai’s spar at around 10% since they fight so often, it is common for an 18-year-old fighter to have 100 fights in his/her career.
When your sparring light which you should be, both fighters are focussing on speed and technique not trying to hurt each other. Even if you get hit clean by a punch it might shock you but you shouldn’t be hurt and you will be fine afterwards.
After sparring properly you shouldn’t feel battered and bruised if you are, then you have trained too hard,Sparring should be a dance between two people but this dance involves hitting each other.
You could also train with headgear so there’s less chance of getting burns from your opponent’s gloves, take a look at my personal recommendations for headgear with advice on which one is best for you at this link.
Sparring at 10%-20% will take you a very long way in your Muay Thai journey, as you’ve practiced defending and attacking a real-life opponent who actually hits back. Sure, there is a time for Sparring harder closer to 50%-70% but that’s for serious fighters not for your average Muay Thai gym goer.
When Should You Start Sparring In Muay Thai?
I know sparring can seem intimidating as you won’t know what to expect, I still get nervous before I spar but this goes away as soon as we start. Now, if you feel uncomfortable no one is forcing you to Spar but when as a beginner should you start?
I think for a complete beginner around a few weeks to a month is when you should start light touch sparring. This is enough time to pick up most of the basic Muay Thai techniques like blocking, catching your opponent’s leg, and learning the basic Muay Thai roundhouse and leg kicks.
However, you can still get hurt quite easily in Sparring if you pick the wrong partner so pick your partner carefully.
How To Pick The Best Sparring Partner
Now depending on the class your instructor could pick your Sparring partner but if not make sure you communicate with your partner that you are new to sparring. Stick to 10%-20% power and speed and just focus on your distance,defense and technique.
Always respect your partner and treat sparring as a learning experience for both of you, to make both your techniques more effective in a real-life fight situation.
The gym should always be a safe environment without egos. If you notice someone at your gym has an ego, then avoid sparring with them as a beginner because you could get hurt or hurt them in anger
How To Be A Good Sparring Partner
- Keep the same power and pace as your sparring, if they are fighting at 15% do the same. If they’re fighting harder you can match their pace when you’re both experienced but if you’re a beginner tell them to reduce their power as they might not know they’re going too hard.
- Don’t try to defeat or hurt your opponent, remember you’re there to learn and grow with each other.
- Fight people who are better than you as they will force you to grow and look at your weaknesses and correct them
- Don’t destroy worse opponents, whilst it’s good to put the pressure on someone worse than you, you can always use this as an opportunity to work on your defense.
Is Muay Thai Good For Street Fighting
Muay Thai is known as the art of 8 limbs as you can strike with both knees, fists, elbows, and legs with Muay Thai having strong grappling elements with the clinch(standing wrestling) and numerous, throws, trips and sweeps making it fantastic for the street.
Muay Thai is the best striking discipline around and is highly effective in a street fight. You only have to see most UFC(ultimate fighting championship) stars going to Thailand to work on their Muay Thai.
Click here for an article from Evolve MMA on why Muay Thai is the perfect martial art as it is both simple and highly effective in a street fight situation. Even if you train for a couple of months you will be in a far better situation for defending yourself.
This is because Muay Thai is effective in every situation as you can use it against one or several opponents. You can fight up close with boxing and keep the distance with round houses and front kicks.
However, I still recommend using a grappling art such as Brazilian jiu-jitsu as most street fighters will end up on the ground, so it’s important to have some ground game for self defence purposes.
What separates Muay Thai from Kickboxing and Boxing is the heavy use of the Muay Thai clinch. This allows you to easily control an untrained opponent and prevent them from punching whilst you can either sweep or hit them with knees.
Check out the fantastic YouTuber FightTips video on basic clinch technique to get a better understanding of the clinch. You will see for yourself how effective it is!