As with any martial art, perfecting your defense in Muay Thai is crucial to being a successful practitioner.
What makes defending various attacks in Muay Thai unlike other martial arts is that the number of ways to be hit in this wonderful sport is exceptionally high. From the beginner’s stage to the absolute summit of your abilities, getting clocked is always a risk. However, by understanding the threats, you can decrease the chances of running into them, and this is where experience comes into play. Perfecting your defense is, therefore, very important and should not be ignored as a Muay Thai competitor.
1) Focus on Your Guard
The last line of defense should always be the one that is solid as a rock.
Think about it – you can have excellent head movement, great footwork, and excellent balance, but if a fighter can work these out, you better have a good guard. Your guard is one of your fundamental defensive tools in Muay Thai and should be capable of protecting you when all else fails. Protecting the vulnerable areas of your head, such as your chin and jaw, your guard can prevent you from taking serious punishment.
When you come across aggressive fighters who throw punches in bunches and have mean head kicks, you’re going to need to prepare for the shots you don’t see coming. A smart fighter can trick you into a false sense of security before hitting you from angles you did not count on. When backed-up and against the ropes, you need to rely on your guard and footwork to get you out of there.
When sparring, you can work on your guard with your training partner. Take turns in exchanging punches while the other holds their guard above their face.
2) Work on Your Timing
Defensive timing is key in Muay Thai. If you think about it, without being able to time when to defend, you’re going to be in a lot of trouble.
Sparring is the best way to work on many aspects of your defense, and your timing is arguably the greatest aspect to benefit from this scenario. Without going through the motions with another fighter, you will find it hard to make mistakes to learn from. You can learn a lot from putting yourself in as close to a real fight scenario as you can get without real competition.
When sparring, ensure that you don’t go too crazy, however. You are there to learn, not to get knocked out while trying to learn.
3) Don’t Forget Your Head Movement
Want to eat punches, elbows, and kicks all night long before you’re slept? Great, if so, don’t move your head at all. In fact, you will probably make a bunch of new friends in the process, as all those fighters you try this out with will be more than happy to have you around again.
Elusive head movement may be very pretty to watch, but it takes a long time to perfect your reflexes and ability to dodge punches like an expert. That said, everyone has to start somewhere. The earlier you start, the faster you will improve.
— Evolve MMA (@EvolveMMA) May 28, 2019
When training, you will realize that most of the shots you will take to your head are punches. As such, it is important to focus on your head movement. When sparring, try some rounds boxing, only. It will improve your ability to bob, weave, and slip out of punches.
4) Footwork and Balance are Key
Without footwork and balance, you’re going to look like Bambi on ice out there.
To get yourself away from danger, footwork and balance will be crucial to your chances of doing so. As such, you should never underestimate how important it is to be able to move out of the way and keep your opponent guessing.
— Evolve MMA (@EvolveMMA) June 10, 2019
In Muay Thai, one of the fundamental parts of our learning as beginners is to become comfortable with our stance. The only way to really perfect balance and footwork is by drilling the basics and then honing those skills in sparring. By knowing how to move forwards, backward, and to the side with ease, you can use this to your advantage against aggressive opponents and those with bad intentions.
When sparring, it is a good idea to mix who you spar with. A complex understanding of distance and range – in addition to the patterns employed by each of your opponents – will help you improve these skills.
5) How is Your Clinch Game?
Some fighters absolutely love clinch drills when sparring while others can’t think of anything worse.
It’s funny, because, when it comes to fight night, you can usually tell these types of fighter apart. In case you can’t guess how to distinguish between the two, allow me to help you – the fighter who looks like a gazelle being dragged into the water by a crocodile probably doesn’t enjoy those drills.
You can bet your bottom dollar that you will come up against one of those crazy clinch merchants one day. When you do, you had better hope that you have been practicing your clinch game. If not, you will be in for a very long night, or, a very early one. Once your opponent feels you are uncomfortable in that first clinch, they will target it until they have you out of there.
When sparring, do not skip your clinch drills. Listen to your coach; it’s for your own good.