Have you ever imagined yourself competing in Muay Thai? It’s a natural step in the progression of combat sports practice. You begin as a novice of course while you learn the ropes in your first Muay Thai for beginners class. A few weeks (or days, if you’re daring enough) later of consistent training, you become comfortable enough to spar with your peers. Some time after this, the idea of competing in Muay Thai will eventually gain appeal. Some might even develop a brewing ambition to become the ultimate Muay Thai champion. At this point you may start looking into how to prepare for a fight.
Competing in any combat sport is always a tricky affair. It’s more than just donning a pair of Muay Thai shorts and heading off into the ring. It takes hours upon hours of grueling training, an incredible amount of commitment and endless amounts of dedication. The outcome of any match is uncertain, no matter how much time we dedicate to preparation. We can only do our best to tip the odds in our favour.
This article lists ten tips to keep in mind when preparing for a competition.
1 Pick the ultimate Muay Thai gym
The best place to receive your Muay Thai training would be a reputable gym where coaches practice what they preach. Avoid gyms where coaches have zero practical experience. If they don’t have competition experience, then all they’ll teach you is theoretical knowledge. In that case, you’ll only become the unfortunate guinea pig to test how well those theories apply.
2 Polish your top tier Muay Thai skills
Another important thing in how to prepare for a fight is to improve your skills. Nothing else will matter in a match if your Muay Thai skills are subpar. A less-than flawless execution of techniques and strategies will expose weaknesses. Mind your form too—endless repetitions of lousy form will only build bad habits that can lead to disastrous outcomes. Don’t let your opponent find anything to use against you. At the very least, you must have the basic principles down pat if you want to become a Muay Thai champion.
3 Address your weaknesses
Your opponent will be on the lookout for any weaknesses they can exploit so be sure to patch up any holes you may have in your game. Neglecting your weaknesses and hoping for the best will only set yourself up for a tough time in the ring. It could even be the reason for your downfall. Simultaneously, you should also keep an eye out for any holes in your opponent’s techniques and strategies that you can take advantage of.
4 Boost your mindset
Aside from knowing how to prepare for a fight physically, you should also know how to prepare for a fight mentally. Martial arts is as much a mental game as it is a physical one.1 Think about it. It’s a common saying that the mind gives up long before the body does, and it’s true. It’s hard to keep moving when things become difficult, and even the best Muay Thai fighters out there would agree. When things get rough in the ring and in life, it is only a strong mindset that keeps us sharp enough to cut through challenges.
5 Dedication and hard work will boost your confidence
A strong arsenal of techniques and strategies will put you in a position for victory. Dedication and hard work are essential in building this arsenal. As a result, you will also build the confidence that could be the difference between a well-timed kick check and receiving the full blow. It’s not just the fighter’s confidence that matters though, coaches must be confident in their athlete’s abilities as well. Confident coaches boost performance through better instructions and more empowering pep talks, generally resulting in better outcomes.2 Mutual confidence is key to showcasing the ultimate Muay Thai performance.
6 Do your research to set realistic expectations
Stepping inside the ring as a contender is far more intense than sparring during Muay Thai classes. Any fighter who becomes overwhelmed by the pressure is already at a disadvantage—do your research so you can have accurate expectations for the fight. This is part of the psychological preparation you need to do before you compete.
7 Don't be fooled anyone's by anyone's fight record
Fight records are assessments of skill relative to your opponents, not a measurement of actual skill level. Not even Australian Muay Thai rankings are an accurate assessment of a competitor’s prowess. It’s not uncommon for competitors to collect a string of losses early on in their careers, so fight records can be misleading. The ultimate Muay Thai fighter is one who looks beyond fight records and into how their opponents actually move. Unless it’s their debut match, there will be videos of past matches online, as well as videos of them while training. These can give you a better assessment of their skills than their fight record alone.
8 Know the consequences of punching someone in the face
The jawbone is the strongest bone in the body. It’s as strong as steel while being 50 times lighter.3 While you can’t bite your finger off like a carrot4, bones in the hand are much smaller and thinner than the jaw. Knowing this, if you think that punching someone in the face is going to be like the movies where you unleash a fiery fist and suffer no consequences, then you’re (severely) mistaken. Even wearing boxing gloves can’t eliminate the risk of breaking your hand on someone’s face.5
9 Learn to effectively manage your anxiety
Not all anxiety is bad. In fact, a little splash of anxiety can be the performance boost we need in a match.6 It keeps us focused and gives lends a bit more bite to our competitive edges. Too much anxiety, however, can be debilitating. It may affect the fighters’ confidence in their skill and hurt their performance in the process. The effective management of anxiety therefore could make or break the outcome of a match.
10 Understand that alcohol will set you back massively
When it comes to how to prepare for a fight the night before, definitely do not consume alcohol. There are a few anecdotal stories of fighters just having a cold one after weigh ins for the added calories, but we shouldn’t have to tell you that alcohol during competition period is a bad, bad idea.
There’s nothing good that can come out of getting drunk when you’re preparing for competition. The effect of alcohol isn’t limited to only a single missed day of training. It lowers endurance and impairs muscle recovery.7 It also affects sleep hygiene, which consequently compounds the effect on endurance and muscle recovery. Alcohol may be occasionally fine, but save that occasion for when you don’t have an upcoming match.