Shadowboxing is a vital part of Muay Thai, so you must make the most of it in your training.
Many Muay Thai gyms will give you a few minutes or rounds at the start of class to move around and throw strikes as a warm-up, but you can use that time to hone your skills, too.
By practicing on your own, you can build muscle memory of the proper technique, which will be effective in sparring or a fight.
However, it’s hard to know where to start when you first start out as a novice Muay Thai practitioners.
With this guide to Muay Thai shadowboxing for beginners, you’ll learn how to lay a solid foundation of skills you can use to build your skillset on.
But before we get to any exercises, remember these shadowboxing tips to help you flow around the ring.
- Take it slow – Keep things simple at first. There’s no point trying to throw a Tekken-style 10-hit combo if you don’t have the basics down.
- Get serious – Your shadowboxing might be a warm-up in your Muay Thai class, but that’s no excuse to be lazy. Close your fists and go for full extension on your punches. You wouldn’t extend your jab halfway with an open palm in sparring or a fight, so don’t do that now.
- Focus on form – If you get into bad habits here, they’ll be worse in the heat of combat. That’s why it’s vital to try and do everything right, now.
- Keep your hands up – If you can get used to keeping a strong guard when you’re not under pressure from an opponent, it should be in place when you come to going head-to-head with someone else.
- Visualize an opponent – Moving freely around the mats is fine, but picturing a rival in front of you will help you work on your range and angles.
- Stay relaxed – Just like anything in Muay Thai, you’ll do better if you stay loose and go with the flow. Remember to breathe and maintain a rhythm so you don’t tense up, which will restrict your movements and tire you out.
Now, try these beginner’s exercises.
Your first forays into shadowboxing won’t even involve boxing – or any strikes for that matter.
For a start, just get used to moving around without tripping over your own feet.
Move forward by stepping with your front foot first, then bring your rear leg along behind it. To go back, do the opposite – back foot first, then the front.
To move to the right, move your right foot first, followed by the left. Switch things around when you go the other way.
By moving your feet in the right order, you won’t cross your legs, which will put you in an unstable position.
The only other thing to remember is not to overstep. Keep your movements measured so that you can stand strong if you need to.
Once you’ve got four directions down, you can start to get a bit more creative and cut some angles.
Move And Defend
For our second exercise, you still won’t be using any attacks. Don’t worry, they’re coming!
This time, add some defensive maneuvers. Once you’re used to reacting to any situation with a technique to protect yourself, you’ll be able to use all eight limbs of Muay Thai with no fear of getting caught out.
You can drill catching, slipping, leaning back, checks, parrying, the long guard, circling out of danger, and anything else you can think of.
You can also mix things up by defending before or after you step. That will help you to react, move smoothly from defense to attack and vice versa.
As before, make sure everything is as realistic as possible. If you’re going to lean back, go far enough to avoid a kick. If you check, be strong and balance as if you could absorb the impact of a rival’s shin.
Move And Punch
Now that you’ve got your movement down, it’s time for the boxing part of shadowboxing.
Begin by stepping in to set up your strikes. For example, step slightly with your lead leg to jab, and remember to twist your rear ankle and hip for maximum extension on your cross.
You’ll also want to practice punching, then stepping away. You can’t stand in front of an opponent and punch all day, so get used to moving away from danger after you’ve thrown your hands.
As you get more comfortable, start to mix in hooks, uppercuts, and elbows.
The natural progression after you’ve nailed your upper-body attacks is to start practicing roundhouse kicks.
Kicking requires a little more thought than punching because Muay Thai technique dictates that you drive with your hips to kick through an opponent.
Without a rival in front of you, you’ll end up out of position, so you have two choices to reset – either use the momentum of your kick to spin 360 degrees, or bring your foot straight back and face forward after you kick.
Either of these can be used in a live combat situation to put you in line with your opponent, so don’t get into a habit of just spinning 180 degrees.
Teep With Control
There is no better time to get a handle on your push-kicking abilities. The most straightforward teeping exercise will help to solidify your balance and control.
Simply chamber your kick, and then strike by thrusting your foot forward as you lean back and engage your hips. You can try throwing multiple kicks without putting your foot down to really test yourself.
The final element of the art of eight limbs to add to your shadowboxing is the knee.
Just like everything else you’ve practiced, make sure everything is on point with your hand positioning, and don’t land forward – you’ll want to return to your stance.
The exception to that rule is if you do walking knees, alternating from left to right as you move forward.
Mix It Up
As soon as you’re confident with a few elements of Muay Thai technique, start to put everything together.
Teep and then check, punctuate your punching combination with a knee, or do anything you could realistically use in a fight.
Nothing can compare to putting these into practice when the bell rings or the buzzer goes, but you’ll be better off having everything down before a round starts.
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