Turning Losses Into Lessons: What To Do After A Muay Thai Defeat

Turning Losses Into Lessons: What To Do After A Muay Thai Defeat
Muay Thai Tuesday

Losing is an inevitable part of Muay Thai. It doesn’t matter how talented you are, how hard you’ve trained, or how much you have sacrificed on your journey to the ring, defeat is something that every fighter experiences at some point in their career.

Few words can describe the wave of emotions and regret that crashes down onto you after a loss. When you’ve done all the work, struggled, and sacrificed for weeks to make weight and compete, the idea of defeat feels completely impossible. You can drown under the sudden realization that you’ve come up short despite giving your all and it’s completely normal to feel crushed beneath the weight of soul-crushing defeat.

While these feelings are completely normal, wallowing in them for too long isn’t going to do you any favors. In fact, some people throw themselves straight back into training, doubling down on their efforts in an attempt to avoid the fear and doubt that losing inspires, but while it may feel better to get right back on the horse, this approach isn’t helpful either. If you don’t take the time to reflect on your performance, to critically engage with every aspect of your training, you’re bound to repeat the same errors time and time again.

Every loss is an opportunity to learn. The best thing you can do after a defeat is to confront it. Take the time to reflect on every aspect of your training and your performance to figure out where things went wrong and then plan on how you are going to improve in the future. It’s a surprisingly simple process and in the next few paragraphs, we’ll break down the four steps to follow if you want to turn your losses into lessons that can propel your fight career to the next level.


Step 1: Take Time

A huge fog of emotion is almost certainly going to cover you after a loss. It doesn’t matter if you were stopped in the very first minute or if it came from a margin so narrow that you were on the wrong end of a split decision, you’re going to have a lot of angry, frustrated, and depressed thoughts clouding your vision. If you’ve been injured in a fight, you can’t go back to training until it’s healed, and likewise, you shouldn’t get back to work until these feelings start to evaporate.

Take a few days after a fight to enjoy life away from the gym. Eat all the food that you couldn’t enjoy while you were cutting weight and see all the friends that you didn’t have the time to see while you prepared. Pursue a hobby outside of the gym or take a few days to go on holiday. Training for a fight can be all-consuming, it fills every corner of your life and so losing can feel like the end of your life as you know it. Taking this time to experience all of the other great things in your life will remind you that a loss isn’t the end of the world.


Step 2: Stay Positive

You need a healthy amount of perfectionism to be a successful fighter. It keeps you disciplined and makes sure that you commit to the often monotonous repetition involved in perfecting your Muay Thai skills. After a loss, this perfectionist mindset can become toxic and criticize every single aspect of the fight leading you to believe that your entire performance was garbage.

It’s important to remember to look for the things you did well and congratulate yourself for your hard work and effort before starting the difficult task of confronting your shortcomings. Challenge yourself to find at least three positive aspects of your performance and make space to feel pride in achieving them. This can be incredibly difficult if your perfectionist mindset has gone into overdrive, but there is no such thing as a performance that is 100% negative. Even if you got stopped right after the opening bell, you can take pride in the fact that you stepped over the ropes, an achievement that thousands of people dream of but never find the heart to complete. If you ran every morning of your fight camp, no matter how fatigued you felt, that is another positive to acknowledge. These positives are entirely up to you, there is no limit, the idea is to remind yourself that no matter what, you’ve achieved something great just by turning up and doing your best on the day.


Step 3: Pick 3 Things To Improve On

If your perfectionist mindset is in overdrive, then it’s going to be incredibly easy to find faults in your performance. It’s important to make sure that you don’t give yourself too much to work on at once. If you split your focus into too many areas, you’ll run out of energy long before you meaningfully improve at anything. Therefore, when reviewing your fight, either with footage or with your trainer, narrow the list down to the three most important errors that you made in the fight or your preparation.

Be specific when you make these lists. It’s not enough to say, “My footwork was bad,” you need to note the exact errors that your opponent capitalized on to take that win away from you.

For example, if you kept crossing your feet in the fight and it stopped you from being able to defend your opponent’s kicks; instead of saying “Improve footwork,” you might say something like “I need to stop crossing my feet or stepping out of my stance when my opponent puts forward pressure on me.”


Step 4: Make A Clear Plan

The key to self-improvement is to make a clear plan to improve, then follow it diligently.

Now that you have three very clear goals, you need to make a clear plan to improve and follow it.  Write down exactly what you are going to do to fix your errors and schedule them into your training routine. For example, if crossing your feet or landing out of your striking stance was an issue that needed improvement, you might write down the following:

  • Start every training session by completing 2 rounds of footwork drills with a partner.
  • I’ll complete slow-paced pad work with my coach on Monday and Wednesday, focusing on foot position and movement.
  • I’ll compete 3 rounds of conditional sparring on Saturday, focusing on using footwork and ring position to defend my opponent’s attacks.
  • I’ll complete 10 minutes of visualization every night where I picture exactly what I would do if I had the chance to repeat the fight.

You wouldn’t be able to run a marathon that didn’t have a finish line and likewise, you can’t fix your errors if you don’t know what ‘fixed’ would be. Having clear goals and a plan of action to follow is your start line and running track but before you can start your race you also need to know where you are going so that you can confidently step back into the ring for another fight.

To repeat the previous example of footwork; you could say that you have successfully overcome the problem if your coach doesn’t need to correct your footwork over two weeks of pads and you can complete ten straight rounds of sparring without making the same errors you did in your fight. While it is important to have these clear markers for improvement, you also need to listen to your gut. Work your plan until you feel confident that you won’t repeat the errors that contributed to your last defeat.



Losing sucks. There is nothing more demoralizing than giving your all in training only to come up short on the scorecards. While losses can be disheartening, it is important to remember that they can be great teachers. Studying your loss with a healthy amount of constructive criticism will show you where you need to focus your energy before your next fight. Take your time, stay positive, and commit to working on the relevant errors and you can be sure to level up as a fighter.


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