How To Train For Your 1st Muay Thai Fight

Key Concepts, Tips & Training Strategies For Your First Fight

Training camp will be a grind. Don't expect it to be easy.  Photo Courtesy: Anthony B. Geathers of abgphotos.com

Training camp will be a grind. Don’t expect it to be easy.
Photo Courtesy: Anthony B. Geathers of abgphotos.com

You’ve been training for a while and getting steadily better all the time. You’re handling yourself alright in sparring, even against the more experienced guys. It’s time to actually put all those hard-earned skills to the test.

So what do you do now?

How do you prepare yourself to step into a ring with somebody who has trained for months, if not years, with the specific goal of kicking your ass?

The answer is really quite simple:

DO WHAT YOUR COACH TELLS YOU!

If you train at a decent gym, chances are your coach has trained dozens if not hundreds of fighters for competition. All you have to do is listen to what he (or she) says. Every coach has his or her own way of doing things, but most of us follow a pretty standard formula. After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

A general rule of thumb is at least 20 hours training per week, or in other words 3.5 – 4 hours per day, 6 days per week, for 6 to 8 weeks.

On an average day you should try to do AT LEAST:

  • 30 minutes of running
  • 30 minutes of strength and conditioning
  • 30 minutes of bag work
  • 60 minutes of pad work (30 hitting, 30 holding)
  • 30 minutes of clinch,
  • 15 – 30 minutes of stretching and/or foam roller work.

I have not included sparring because most fighters don’t spar every day. Every second or third day is usually enough. Any more than that and you run the risk of injury.

One of the most important parts of fight camp (an absolute must) is down time. You have got to rest at least one day per week. By rest, I mean do as little as possible. Sit on the couch and watch TV, play video games, jerk off, whatever. Don’t go near the gym unless you absolutely have to.

If you’re training hard and smashing the bags and pads every day, pushing yourself as hard as you possibly can (even when your coach isn’t watching) you will get very run down. If your training week starts on Monday, by Wednesday you’re sore, by Friday you hate yourself, and by Saturday all you can think about is that glorious day of rest on Sunday. If you’re not completely knackered by the end of the week, you’re not training hard enough.

Train Hard, Eat Healthy, Rest Easy

muay thai core training exercise evolution muay thaiSleep is crucial. Your body recovers a lot while you sleep, so it’s important to get as many hours of shut-eye as possible. In today’s world that’s easier said than done, but you have to at least try. One thing that helps is to designate at least 8 hours in bed with the lights off and no electronics, every night. Switch off your phone and lie there in the dark. Even if you can’t sleep, you’re still resting. Your body and mind will thank you the next day.

Drink lots of water. Try to drink at least a gallon every day. Proper hydration will help protect your body from wear and tear.

Take a multivitamin. Your body is going to get run down. When this happens, your immune system will be compromised. There’s nothing worse than catching a cold the week before a fight. Take a good quality multi-vitamin to boost your immune system.

Watch your diet. Eat something every 3 to 4 hours. Avoid large meals. Instead of 3 big meals a day, eat 5 or 6 smaller meals. Don’t eat until you’re full, just until you’re not hungry anymore. Know the difference.

Avoid simple carbs like sugar, white bread and pasta, white rice and white potato. Instead, eat complex carbs like sweet potato, brown rice, whole wheat breads and pastas. No carbs whatsoever after six o’clock at night, especially if you’re cutting weight. Try not to eat carbs of any kind within three hours of bed-time.

Eat lots of vegetables, especially green leafy stuff like spinach and kale. Eat fruit, but remember fruit usually has a lot of sugar in it.  Eat fruit before your workout for an energy boost or just after for recovery.

Get a massage. Not the rub and tug kind. A good deep tissue massage is just the ticket for working the knots out after a hard week of training. If not every week, try to get a massage at least every month.

Trust your coach. Respect him, listen to him and always give him 100%. Do not squander his or her time and do not complain. Ever. Negative energy, whether in the form of words or even just the expression on your face, will make your coach less inclined to want to work with you.

In my experience, fighters who just get in and do the work, with no complaints or excuses, these are the ones who make it. These rare creatures, the guys and girls you see every night, who smile when you think they should be crying, they will go on to win.

The other guys, the ones who always need that external push, who constantly moan about how sore or tired they are, they are more inclined to slow down or lower the intensity of their bag work. Their lack of commitment will show through on fight night.

Conditioning is of crucial importance, especially for your first fight. Train like your life depends on it.

Weight Cutting For Your First Fight

Cut weight safely. By watching your diet and working hard in the weeks leading up to the fight, you’ll be surprised by how much weight you can lose.

The week of the fight you can lose even more with a well-planned water cut. You can safely cut up to ten pounds relatively easy in a week if you follow this simple water-load plan:

Day 1: Two gallons of regular water. Add a little extra salt to your meals to trick your body into holding onto the extra water you’re putting into it.

Day 2: Two gallons of regular water. Cut out the salt. Your body is now saturated with water and will start expelling it as quickly as possible. Expect to pee every half hour or so.

Day 3: One gallon of distilled water. The distilled water, combined with the lack of sodium will continue the process of extracting water from your system.

weight cutting tips muay thai

Photo courtesy: Steve Bauzen of Bauzen.com

Day 4: Finish your gallon of distilled water from the night before, and then drink no water at all. Aim to stop all fluid intake 24 hours before the weigh in. If your mouth gets dry, you can sip a little water or suck ice chips. Just remember, at this stage, water equals pounds. You’re going to feel like crap, but hey, what did you expect? If it was easy everybody would be doing it.

Day 5 (weigh-in day): No water. Take water and “Pedialite” or coconut water to the weigh ins for afterwards.

Missing weight is simply not an option. If you over-estimated how much weight you could drop and you find yourself a few pounds over-weight on the day, you’re going to have to sweat it out. There are quite a few methods for this. Some people swear by saunas, others prefer a hot bath, while others will lather themselves up with “Albolene”, throw on a sauna suit and run/jump rope/stationary bike the pounds off.

If you’re more than a few pounds over, something has gone very badly wrong. Either you over-estimated how much you could lose or you lack discipline. Either way, you’re an asshole. Don’t bother asking your opponent to fight you at a heavier weight. It’s not his or her fault you couldn’t get your shit together enough to make weight. Missing weight by more than five pounds is not only disrespectful to your opponent, it reflects badly on your coach and your whole team.

Don’t pig out after the weigh-ins. Eat slowly but steadily. If you eat too fast you will end up bloating yourself and feel like crap.

Don’t eat anything you normally wouldn’t eat. The night before your fight you want to avoid eating anything your body might have a bad reaction to. It’s probably a good idea to stay home and not go out, but if you have to go out, try to eat “safe” food.

The locker room before a fight can make or break you. Click the image for tips to mentally and physically prepare before your fight.

The locker room before a fight can make or break you. Click the image for tips to mentally and physically prepare before your fight.

Conserve energy on the day of the fight. Try to relax as much as possible. Every calorie you burn up pacing the room or shadow boxing unnecessarily is a calorie you won’t have when you get in the ring. Sit down, relax and try not to think about it too much. Some fighters like to read a book, others listen to music. I used to sit around with my team telling dirty jokes. Whatever gets you through those few hours before the fight.

Everybody goes crazy in their first fight. All strategy and technique goes out the window.

Every punch and kick is full power. This is a natural reaction. This is also why it’s so important to train hard. If you’re not training hard, if you’re not throwing 100% power on the bags and pads, how do you think you will go in the fight? Throwing full power when you have been training 75% power will mess with your balance, timing and stamina.

Be ready for that. Be ready to suck. No matter how well-prepared you are, chances are you will be disappointed by your performance. That is a natural part of fighting. You will make mistakes. Even professional fighters with hundreds of fights mess up from time to time. That’s how we learn.

Pre-fight jitters? Read this post about getting mentally and physically prepared in the locker room.

My Last Piece Of Advice

Be in the moment. Enjoy it. Embrace the fear. This is it!

This is what life is all about. You will never forget this fight. No matter what happens to you in the rest of your life, you will always know that you had the balls to step into the ring and fight. Nobody can ever take that away from you. You’re about to join an elite club. Give it your best and leave everything in the ring.

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