Well, maybe not in the moment when you're slamming your shin into your opponent's thigh (or worse yet, something bonier than that). That's always gonna hurt.
But somewhere early on in the development of Muay Boran and eventually of Muay Thai, clever practitioners learned that by conditioning their shins, they could turn the crippling sharpness into more of a deadened, dull pain that one can endure throughout the fight without giving up.
They also learned that conditioned shins heal much more quickly post-fight than unconditioned ones. Think about it this way: if you walk a mile every day, you'll not run out of conditioning if, one day, you're forced to walk two miles - or even three. But ten miles? Twenty? Fifty?? You're just not ready for that. For that, you'd need to start conditioning your body to be functional for those huge, marathon walks.
The same goes for your shins - an integral part of your arsenal in the Muay Thai ring. They are your tools, your moneymakers. You've got to treat them right!
We've all seen those videos of Buakaw going berserker mode on some banana trees with brutal, noisy kicks, knees and punches. His shins are the stuff of legends are this point, but in truth, they are no more special or iron-clad than the shins of his predecessors - or any other high-level nak muay, for that matter.
In this video, I do a little Buakaw impression of my own and chop down some (old, dying) banana trees in Costa Rica. What you see is a lot less accurate than what I feel in this video. I am in some pain! It's never pain-free to smash your bone into something hard, which leads to tip numero uno from the video below:
Sorry. Wish I had better news. But you should've known what you were getting into after practicing kicks on the heavy bag on day one.
Speaking of which:
And aim for the bottom of the heavy bag, which is where the majority of the weight will settle. (No sense in piling on extra punishment for yourself, am I right?)
The Thais do it, so by farang common sense, we should probably do it, too. If your shins are receiving even some of the impact from running, then you will see a general toughening of that area. (This is similar to the idea that willingly creating microfractures in your shins will lead to your body actually reinforcing that area.)
Hot compresses. Ice rubdowns. Anti-inflammatories (and CBD, if you can get your hands on it). Rest and recovery. Take care of your weapons so they will be sharp enough to cut your opponent down.
As I go over a little at the end of the video, the only time my shins have felt pretty OK in a fight is when I've been in a rhythm and able to land with great accuracy and excellent placement.
How do you do this? By practicing your kicks in every single class and sparring session. Find the soft spots that don't hurt your shins as much and aim for them.
Need your shins to be in better shape? Watch the video below and learn how to protect your weapons, fellow nak muays!
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