by Don Heatrick

Muay Thai seems to attract more than it’s fair share of “nice” people…

So how can a nice person hit another person with the kind of destructive power that Muay Thai is designed to inflict?

In a recent Heavy Hitters program support call, Arnaud asked how can he overcome a fear of hitting and hurting people?

It was a great question, and one he was happy for me to share to help out others too. Thanks Arnaud. :)

To summarise

In a fight…

You’re equally matched with an opponent of the same size and skill, who’s trained to compete against you. You both know the rules of the game, and have signed up for it.

You are going into the fight expecting to get as good as you give – and that’s what makes it exciting!

Your first priority is to protect yourself, and you can do that best by stopping your opponent and not going through all 5 rounds. Your opponent has the same priority!

Your job is to obey all the rules and achieve this. Your job is NOT to protect your opponent.

There are there other people who do this:

  1. The referee can stop the fight
  2. The opponent’s corner team can throw in the towel
  3. The opponent can take a knee and refuse to continue

All of these things should call a stop to the fight, and you shouldn’t be concerned with anything other than finishing the fight to protect yourself. And remember that your opponent has the same objective too.

In sparring…

You aren’t looking to damage your training partners! You are learning and improving your craft.

First and foremost you must adjust your intensity and contact level based not only on the intention of training that day (technical practice or heavier contact sparring), but also your relative size and experience to your partner.

Heavier, stronger, or more experienced fighters shouldn’t use those attributes to bully lighter, weaker, or less experienced fighters.

If your training partner catches you with a good shot, that’s not their fault, it’s yours. You left an opening!

The fact that you were caught is good! It shows you need to work on a gap in your defense. It’s better you find this gap in training rather than in competition where an opponent could stop you because of it.

I’d recommend feeding the error with your partner to help them solve this, with appropriate power levels so they can learn without being damaged.

So likewise, if you catch your training partner with a solid shot in sparring, it’s not your fault, it’s theirs for leaving an opening. Now help them fix it without smashing them to bits!

Overall, both sparring and fighting competitively should be a learning experience that holds a mirror up to what you’re doing that’s working, and more importantly, what needs more work.

A competitive fight just takes this to the highest level, and requires a higher degree of emotional detachment for both you and your opponent to learn the most from it.

Simply trust the rules, the referee, the corner teams, and your opponent to do what they need to do, and you focus on what you need to do – that’s it.

Don Heatrick

Founder of Heatrick Strength and Conditioning

Don Heatrick is a family man from the UK, former mechanical design engineer, European Muay Thai silver medallist, former pro Thai boxer (ranked 4th in UK while aged 40-years), a Muay Thai coach, podcast host, and the go-to expert on Muay Thai performance training with over 25 years of coaching experience.

Don helps ambitious fighters and coaches take their game to the next level by bridging the gap between Strength & Conditioning, Performance Science, and Muay Thai.

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