Muay Thai and pad work go together like a hand in a glove, with the benefits being well known. To get the most out of those benefits, there is one crucial factor that needs to be taken into consideration – the skill and training of the pad holder.
It’s true anyone can put the pads on and take the punches and kicks that are thrown, but the difference is night and day when the holder has experience. A symbiotic relationship starts to blossom between a trainer with exceptional pad skills and the know-how to lead a pad workout and his fighter.
It’s not only a person holding some kick shields so you can practice your leg kicks, but a guide who takes you through a simulated round against an opponent, helping you to hone the skills you need to become a better fighter.
In the case of the more elite fighters, pad work can help to dial in combinations and defensive moves to counter a specific opponent. But again, that takes a certain knowledge from the pad holder to cue those commands and they have to know how to hold the pads in the proper position while they put the fighter through their workout safely.
Knowing the equipment and how to use it correctly during a Muay Thai pad session is equally as important as knowing how to have it in the right spot for certain strikes. There are some pads that are synonymous with Muay Thai and others that might be seen in other fighting modalities, but the purpose is the same: to provide a target that offers resistance and protects the holder.
- Muay Thai Pads: Muay Thai pads are the most commonly used equipment in pad work. They are held by the trainer and struck by the fighter, and are designed to absorb the force of the strikes. They are small rectangular pads that are strapped to the forearms of the pad holder that can be held in various positions to accommodate different strikes.
- Belly Pads: Belly pads are worn by the trainer to protect the abdominal area during training sessions. They are especially useful for absorbing body shots, teeps, knees, and kicks. By combining this belly pad with the Muay Thai pads, the trainer can offer superior target opportunities for the fighter.
- Focus Mitts: Focus mitts are handheld pads used to train accuracy, speed, and precision. They can be held in various positions and angles and can be used for punches, elbows, knees, and kicks. These are smaller pads that are not much bigger than a hand and a level of skill is needed to know how to be in the right place at the right time, and what kind of resistance is needed to accommodate the strikes coming in.
- Low Kick Shields: Low kick shields are larger pads that are used to absorb the powerful leg kicks of the Muay Thai fighter. Improper holding technique can lead to injury to the holder as well as the kicker. As with any of the pads and shields, knowing how to use them properly is important.
All of these pieces of equipment can be used in various combinations and training drills to improve a fighter’s technique, power, conditioning, and accuracy. A skilled pad holder will know how to incorporate these different pieces of equipment into their training sessions while providing valuable feedback and guidance to the fighter.
You can have all the equipment available on the market but if the holder doesn’t know how to utilize them to their highest potential, it doesn’t do anyone much good.
Stance and Footwork
The stance and footwork of a trainer need to be at a level equal, if not better, than the person working the pads. When a pad holder doesn’t use the right stance or is just standing in one place, this doesn’t give a realistic view or angle for target acquisition, and throwing off-angle punches or kicks can create bad habits and result in possible injury.
So a trainer or pad holder needs to have at least basic stance and footwork skills, which include:
- Balance: A good stance and movement can help pad holders maintain their balance while holding pads, especially when dealing with more powerful strikes from elite fighters.
- Bracing: A proper stance can also help pad holders brace for impact more efficiently, minimizing the risk of injury from heavy strikes.
- Defensive Techniques: Pad holders can also use footwork to simulate defensive techniques, such as dodging an incoming clinch, and help fighters counter these moves during pad work.
- Target Recognition: Movement and positioning can also help pad holders give more realistic targets for the fighter, allowing them to practice their strikes more effectively.
Having a good fighting stance and understanding the different angles of movement is crucial for the pad holders during Muay Thai pad work.
Pad holders need to have a good understanding of pad-holding techniques to train fighters effectively in Muay Thai. This includes understanding the basic mechanics of pad holding, as well as being able to issue commands and cues for different punches and combinations, and knowing what those punches are in the first place.
Here are some key techniques that pad holders should master:
- Proper Hand Placement: Pad holders need to position their hands properly to create a stable and effective target for the fighter.
- Cueing: Pad holders should be able to issue commands and cues to the fighter to signal when to strike and which technique to use. This helps the fighter practice proper timing and technique.
- Movement: As mentioned earlier, pad holders need to have proper movement and footwork to simulate realistic targets and provide the fighter with a variety of angles and opportunities to practice different techniques.
- Combination Drills: Once pad holders have mastered the basics, they can mix up different punches and combinations to create a more challenging and varied training session. This helps the fighter practice chaining together different techniques and transitions between strikes.
In Muay Thai the elbows are used in a similar fashion as punches. The pad holder will need to understand how to hold the pads for the various types of elbows, including how the elbows are thrown. This is for the safety of the fighter and the pad holder.
- Proper Hand Placement: For elbow strikes, pad holders can use a similar hand placement as for punches. They should hold both pads close to their head at about eye level, standing in a Muay Thai stance.
- Cueing: As with punches, pad holders should be able to issue commands and cues to the fighter to signal when to strike and which elbow strikes to use.
- Footwork: Pad holders need to move to simulate realistic targets and provide the fighter with different angles and opportunities to practice different elbow strikes. This can include moving back and forth, side to side, and rotating to provide different targets for the fighter to strike.
- Stability And Resistance: Pad holders need to provide stable and resistant targets for the fighter to land their elbow strikes. For elbows that strike from above, the pad should be angled slightly downwards to provide a solid base for the partner to land the elbow. As the fighter throws the elbow strike, the pad holder should push the pad slightly forward to meet the strike and create some resistance. For horizontal elbows, the pads should be held as for straight punches at about eye level, with the pads turned slightly inwards and downwards to create a stable target.
- Adjustment: As with other techniques, pad holders may need to adjust the height or angle of the pad depending on the fighter’s technique and body position. This helps ensure the fighter is practicing proper technique and getting the most out of their training.
- Combination Drills: Once pad holders have mastered the basics, they can mix up different elbow strikes and combinations to create a more challenging and varied training session. This helps the fighter practice putting together different techniques and transitions between elbow strikes.
Kicks are the most powerful of the strikes that a Muay Thai fighter can use, and holding the pads properly for kicks is essential in developing the skills of the fighter.
- To properly hold pads for kicks in Muay Thai, it is important to maintain a solid base and turn your body to face the kick. Angle your pads at a 45-degree angle from your opponent to allow the kick to come in at the right trajectory.
- Hold the pads in an A-shaped configuration, with the top two corners touching and your elbows tight against your body. This creates a solid surface for the kicks to land and helps to hold the pad and absorb the force of the kick.
- When holding the pads, make sure to keep them upright and in a stable position, so that the fighter can accurately aim their kicks. As the kick lands, brace into it by keeping your body and arms tense to form a firm resistance to absorb the blow.
Proper body positioning can help pad holders withstand the impact of the knee strike and provide a stable target for the fighter. Here are some key techniques that pad holders should master when holding pads for knee strikes:
- Belly Pad Usage: Pad holders should always use a belly pad when holding for knee strikes to protect themselves from the impact.
- Proper Height And Angle: Pad holders should position the pads at the right height and angle to simulate realistic targets for the fighter. For knee strikes, the pads should be held at stomach level, with the pad holder standing upright and facing the fighter.
- Firm Pad Holding: Pad holders should hold the pads firmly but not too rigidly, allowing the fighter to make contact with the pads without causing injury to themselves or the pad holder.
- Hand Placement: Pad holders should use proper hand placement to create a stable target for the fighter. This involves holding the pads with both hands, with the fingers curled around the back of the pad and the thumbs on the front.
- Cueing: Pad holders should cue the fighter when to strike and which knee strike to use. This helps the fighter practice proper timing and technique.
Variation Drills: Once the fighter has mastered the basic knee strike, pad holders can mix up different knee strike variations to create a more challenging and varied training session.
Excellent Pad Holding Is Critical
Mastering the techniques of pad holding is essential for an effective Muay Thai trainer. A skilled pad holder should be able to create stable and realistic targets, issue cues and commands, move effectively, and create challenging combinations to push the fighter’s skills to the next level.
In Muay Thai, there are more tools that are used than in any other fighting form, and to hone and sharpen those tools pad work can be exceptionally valuable. But without having a holder that possesses the knowledge and the skill to properly hold the pads and carry a pad workout, that value can substantially decrease.
Having all the offensive skills and no defensive understanding probably won’t win a fight, considering an opponent is generally not just standing there taking punches and kicks. A qualified trainer or pad holder will focus on both offensive and defensive techniques during Muay Thai pad training. Defensive techniques are just as important as offensive techniques, and both are necessary for a well-rounded and effective fighter.
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