Here’s How You Can Improve Your Muay Thai Sparring Skills

Beginners in Muay Thai will often begin with a focus on the basic strikes in the Art of 8 Limbs: punches, elbows, knees, and kicks. From there, other concepts will be introduced, such as head movement, footwork, and defensive techniques. Once a student has a decent understanding of the basics and some control over their movements and striking, they will typically be invited to begin sparring with other students or coaches. 

Sparring can feel overwhelming at first. Making the transition from hitting pads or a heavy bag (both of which do not hit back), to a live person that is aiming to disrupt your work in order to impose their own will on you is quite different. It’s a good challenge that will enable you to really begin understanding how to apply your Muay Thai in a live setting and will help you to develop your own style as well. 

Whether you are brand new to sparring, or you have been sparring a while and are just looking to improve upon your current skills, here are three ways that any level athlete can improve their Muay Thai sparring skills. 


1) Utilize Live, Set Drills

nong-o teep

An excellent way to improve your sparring skills is to participate in live, set drilling with a partner. There are infinite drills for live drilling and you will begin to get successful reps of a variety of movements, strikes, defenses, and more, with a live partner. 

You can create drills for any type of skill you are looking to hone in on and develop. Isolating a single skill will give you success and teach your body how to move so you can more easily add it into your live sparring. Some example drills that you can easily set up with a partner: 

  • Slips: If you are wanting to learn how to slip a punch, this is an easy drill to get you the reps you need to be successful. One partner is isolated to throwing either a jab or a cross. The other partner is working to slip the punch with good technique, then follow up with any combination of strikes on their partner. This allows the partner to get in a bunch of slips, as well as begin learning how to put follow-up strikes together on their partner.
  • Teeps: If you are beginning to learn how to time and apply your teeps, this simple drill is excellent. One partner will lightly strike at the other, eventually throwing a leg kick towards them. The receiving partner in this drill is working to not overreact to the strikes coming their way, as well as learning how to see the leg kick in time to land a teep. If the receiving partner is having a hard time seeing the kick coming, the feeding partner can always slow the kick down and then ramp it back up as their partner becomes more successful.

Pre-determined, live, set drills are one of the best ways to improve your Muay Thai sparring skills. These two drills are examples for beginners, but you can create drills like this for yourself at all levels of training. They can be as simple or complex as you’d like, but their ultimate goal is to provide an opportunity to get a bunch of successful reps for skills that will be used in a live setting. 


2) Always Imagine An Opponent

muay thai student shadowbox left elbow

You won’t always have a partner available to drill with you. Sometimes you need to work on your own on a heavy bag or by shadowboxing. Whether you are in the gym, at your home, or traveling in a hotel room, you can improve your sparring skills by adding a mental component to your work. 

As you shadowbox or hit a heavy bag, imagine you have an opponent right in front of you. It’s easy to throw 50 strikes in a row at a bag, but it doesn’t always translate to sparring where an opponent is moving and striking and causing you to move, too. 

As you work the bag, imagine they are throwing strikes at you. Add in your footwork and head movement. Pressure the bag and then find some range. Defend and counter an imaginary kick coming at you. Just because you don’t have an actual opponent or partner in front of you doesn’t mean you can’t improve your sparring skills during this time.

The next time you mindlessly hit a bag, choose to focus your mind instead of having an actual opponent in front of you. You will create a more realistic round for yourself on the bag, and improve your sparring skills, as well. 


3) Watch Others

One way to really help improve your sparring skills is to spend some time watching other people who are more skilled than you. Watch how they move and how they strike. Watch their attitudes and how they respond to getting hit or swept. Notice how hard or light they strike. Watch how they explore a variety of skills, even the ones that they aren’t that great at yet. 

Watching others is a great way to get a good feel for the vibe and expectations at your gym, while also getting to see the practical application for all of the skills that you’ve been working on the bags or on the pads with your coach or partner. If you are a visual learner, this will also be a great way for you to see techniques that you might want to apply yourself or notice how some athletes have games that look similar to yours, or that you might want to emulate. 

If you are eager to improve your sparring skills, be sure to spend some time watching others. Watching others in the gym is also a great way to add to your sparring skills during times when you are injured and cannot physically train. Injuries don’t have to equate to stalled learning. 


Improving Your Muay Thai Sparring Skills

There are many excellent and practical ways to improve your sparring skills. Whether you have a partner that can do some live, set drills with you, or whether you are working alone on a bag or shadowboxing, you can definitely improve your skills. Further, even during times when you are injured or unable to train for whatever reason, showing up to watch and observe others sparring will certainly add to your sparring skills, as well. 


Learn Muay Thai Sparring Drills From World Champions

muay thai training series sparring drills

If you don’t know what Muay Thai sparring drills are, or if you are looking to level up your Muay Thai sparring, consider Evolve University’s Muay Thai Training Series: Sparring Drills, an in-depth online video Training Series taught by legendary Muay Thai World Champions.

In this Training Series, beginners to Muay Thai sparring will learn how to implement fundamental techniques in sparring while advanced practitioners will learn how to strengthen their weaknesses and implement various fight strategies. No detail is spared as Evolve MMA’s Muay Thai World Champions break down sparring drills they use to sharpen their tools and prepare for fights. Learn how different sparring drills can develop specific parts of your game while improving your technique, balance, timing, and reactions.

Packed with 15 chapters of sparring drills, 3 hours of on-demand video, Evolve University’s Muay Thai Training Series: Sparring Drills is the ultimate guide to training like a World Champion.


Get Muay Thai Training Series: Sparring Drills Today!

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