This entry was posted on October 16, 2014 by Rian Mercer.
Preparation for a Muay Thai fight begins the first time you walk through the gym doors. Of course, that isn’t to say everyone who trains will want to fight. Everyone trains for different outcomes but even those with no intention of fighting will, no doubt, briefly consider it. After all, the thought must have crossed their mind for them to decide that they have no intention of fighting.
A good instructor will know when you’re ready to fight. This means in terms of technical ability and having the mental strength to cope with the idea. Ultimately, you will come to fight when you and your instructor agree when this should be.
It is commonplace to compete in interclub bouts before fighting. This allows someone (whether beginner or experienced) to step into the ring and test their skills in a more protected environment than that of a fight. The protective gear is more prominent, the contact is lighter, and usually no decision is given at the end. This relieves the pressure of getting hurt or losing your fight.
With a couple of interclubs under your belt, the real preparation begins. This is where routine takes over your life — and this is paramount to the preparation process. Every small detail of your life should be and will be regimented.
Not something people immediately consider, but a healthy and consistent sleep pattern is extremely important. Those who usually stay up later won’t find this difficult though; you’ll be ready for more sleep after the increased expenditure of energy at the gym.
Every gym and instructor will have a different plan with different tactics and activities to suit the style and strength of their gym and fighters. You may do lots of circuit training to get the upper hand in fitness, you could do a lot more padwork to drill different scenarios, or more sparring to contextualise everything you’ve been learning in training. Whilst the activities vary throughout gyms the intensity does not. You must’ve already put hard work in at the gym to have been asked to fight, but that effort will seem menial in comparison to the effort that comes during your preparation…and yet it won’t feel all that more difficult. With your body and skills approaching peak conditions coupled with the incentive of having a fight to aim for, you will find another gear you never knew you had. In the lead-up to a fight you will typically train every day of the week, or maybe with a rest day to recuperate the vital energy that you will need; particularly when the intake of energy may be diminished from a reduced nutrition from dieting.
Some people imagine this aspect to be testing, but dieting is just another part of that key component to your preparation: routine! At first meals may taste bland and portion sizes will feel small, but as routine takes over and the overall healthier lifestyle takes effect you’ll start to secretly enjoy it. With that said, although you probably won’t give into temptation, you will find yourself fantasising about food and what you plan on eating first after the weigh in.
The weigh-in may feel anti-climactic. After weeks of dieting, long runs and intense cardio to get to your desired weight, it culminates in a quick 5 minutes of stepping on the scales and, providing you reached that target weight, straight out the building again. Of course, this also provides an opportunity to meet your opponent. This can be a minor but key part of your preparation. Looking the part and radiating confidence could instil a hint of doubt in your opponent’s mind, and at times battles can be won or lost before you even step into the ring.
The constant routine of training, running, refuelling and sleeping will also put any ideas of a social life on hold. This is especially true if you are usually a social drinker…alcohol and the late nights that go with it are to be swerved. However the interactions and relationships you hold will be extremely helpful. It may seem like your instructor is punishing you with gruelling sessions, but it can take it out of them just as much. The amount of time and energy they put into your preparation will match your own, and of you’ve put the work in then you will appreciate that more than anything else. Training partners will become close allies, and the rest of your friends and loved ones will move the earth to try and help get you prepared. So even though you don’t show your face as much, this preparation makes friends for a lifetime…this even sometimes includes your opponent at the end of the fight, with a mutual respect that makes the sport so admirable.
With no distractions from the fight and the same old schedule ruling your day-to-day, it’s hard not to be focused on the fight. Expect to run through combinations in your head even when eating or walking down the street. Expect to ponder every tiny detail.
As the fight comes closer this can include the most inconsequential of details, such as which shorts you want to wear or which track to use as your entrance music. Every fighter will establish their own pre-fight rituals, and preparation in the changing rooms can be extremely contrasting. I have seen some fighters warming up well in advance, some looking pale and not speaking, some listening to music and chatting easily. Personally, I like to visit the people who have made the effort to buy a ticket to watch me and then go into the changing rooms to think calmly through what I need to do.
Nerves will come in different stages for people. They will still come at some stage, no matter how many fights you’ve had. For me, it’s the moment of the fight before, knowing that if there is a knockout in round one I may be on next sooner than expected. I’m never scared of getting hurt, or even getting beat. My nerves resolve around making sure I do my own skills justice, so that all of the time invested from everyone including myself has been worth it.
And so all of the preparation has led to this moment. As you step into the ring, all of the robotic routine should pay dividends with your instinct taking over and an adrenaline fuelled auto-pilot mode kicking in. Throughout the fight, you will be analysing what you have landed and after the fight (regardless of the outcome) you will think through what you were proud of and what you could have done to improve your performance.
With this in mind, there is an addictive cycle that is challenging but so rewarding. Preparation for a Muay Thai fight begins the first time you walk through the gym doors; preparation for the next fight begins during that fight.
This article was written by Rian Mercer. Rian has been training in Muay Thai since the age of 6 under the tutorage of Jimmy Clayton and during his brief time away from the sport, trained at GFC under Darren Phillips. Rian has competed in numerous fights at both junior and senior level, and hopes to continue to progress in Muay Thai.