Sparring 101


So it’s come to my attention that there are a few people at my gym who don’t actually understand how to spar. I’m not making a statement about their skill, everyone has to start off somewhere, I’m talking about people who don’t know how to use sparring as a tool for improvement.

There are a couple of guys who I won’t spar with; I’m going to put them into 3 buckets. Flailers, Assholes, and the Clueless.

Yan Daeng, former Omnoi Stadium Champ, and yours truly sparring at Ingram

The Flailer is dangerous because they’ve got Zero control. There is guy at my gym who is the classic flailer, you just don’t want to get into the ring with him. You’re almost guaranteed a black eye or a nice kick to the nads if you choose to spar with him. I don’t think he’s malicious, he’s got tard strength and is severely uncoordinated. I’m pretty sure he hasn’t been doing Muay Thai for that long, but he’s keen on fighting… I think he’s done the last 3 or 4 smokers at our gym. It’s awful, limbs flailing and flying everywhere. He’s got one kick that is a straight up punt.

The Assholes… pretty self explanatory. These guys will go hard with people they know can’t fight back. They will conveniently tell people to go easy when they’re getting their asses handed to them. This is the worst offender of all. No amount of warning or reprimanding makes a bit of difference. They just do what they want. We’ve got one or two at our gym. The one dude, Is just such a dick. There are several of us who suspect he’s on roids. His testosterone is off the charts.

Finally you’ve got the Clueless. There’s still hope for you. You’re just starting out, you think sparring is all out war. You think by going harder your “training” harder. Your technique is generally shit but you’re not a Flailer. You’re actually somewhat coordinated and you want to learn, you’re just a little over zealous. I want you to pay attention, this post is for you.

Nuapetch (Ex-Omnoi champion) and I at Ingram Gym Bangkok


Sparring is not used to build your ego.

Sparring is give and take, when sparring leave your ego out of the ring. Tough to do, but you’ll find that if you’re concerned about “looking” bad or getting owned then you don’t have the right mindset. As soon as you can let all of that go, you’ll be amazed at how much you’ll get out of sparring.

Sparring is not used to build power

You don’t spar to see how hard you can punch or kick someone. This is what heavy bags are for. If you want to kick , punch, knee something hard? I invite you to use the heavy bags.

Sparring is not a substitute for Thai Pads

Sparring isn’t a substitute for pad sparring. You work Thai pads, to improve your timing and technique. As you improve your form, you can begin to put more power and speed into your strikes.

Sparring is about control

For those of you who’ve trained in Thailand you’ll notice sparring is very very light. I would say that you are going at about 30-35% power max. This is where you put all the technique and timing you’ve been drilling into action. The idea is to work on your movement, defensive skills and timing. Yes there is solid contact but you need to be mindful of the amount of power you’re using, exercise control. This isn’t an amateur fight… your not in there to knock your training partner out.

If you feel like someone is going too hard, speak up. Otherwise you’re going to retaliate and it’s going to turn into a flailing match and someone’s going to get hurt.

If you’ve guys have any advice or horror stories etc. Would love to hear them.


About Author

I started My Muay Thai back in 2006... I was tired of reading about MMA, and wanted somewhere I could watch real muay thai fights, be inspired and connect with others who love muay thai as much as I do... I currently live in London... when I'm not geeking out over muay thai you can find me bombing around London on my scrambler, ferreting out the latest street food gems.

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