Muay Thai training and Muay Thai as an art has a deep history. And when it comes to the ring sport we’ve all come to love, the period between 1980 and 1995 known as “The Golden Era”, spawned arguably the most talented fighters ever.

Names like Dieselnoi, Samart, Jongsanan, and Sakmongkol demand almost superhero status. They were highly skilled and incredibly tough!

Nostalgists will claim today’s fighters couldn’t stand with The Golden Era greats. And may even consider this as evidence that the training methods back then were superior too.

But, what does this mean for your training?

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by Don Heatrick

Golden Era Muay Thai Training

Back in the Golden Era, there was little or no equipment. Sparring and running featured extensively, along with pad work and bag work when shared equipment was available. Resistance training consisted of body weight exercises, or using makeshift free weights such as a concrete filled bucket.

It was a different time for sure. Many factors came together to create the “Golden Era” conditions…

Economically, it was a very tough time in Thailand, and this drew many more fighters from all over the country into the sport. The talent pool was huge!

The poor conditions also built in natural adversity, fuelling toughness or fighter’s heart. And gamblers also didn’t have the same influence back then – you’d see more all out wars in the ring!

Traditional coaches will cling to the old ideal that the training worked well at the time… “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.”

But, innovation isn’t a dirty word!

As a former mechanical design engineer, I understand that innovation is vital.

For better or worse, environments and conditions change.

What previously worked well, stops being so effective, and is ultimately surpassed by solutions that better suit the current environment and exploit advances in technologies and knowledge.

Everett Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations model still rings true…

Any new idea is adopted on a bell curve, with innovators (2.5% of people) first on the scene.

Then early adopters (13.5% of people) next to exploit the advantages, followed by the early majority (34% of people) just ahead of the average person.

Then the sceptical late majority (34%) give in to social pressure…

And finally the laggards (16%) are the stout traditionalists who reluctantly shift when it’s too late and the idea is already obsolete due to new innovation. Extinct like a Dodo!

I’m old enough to remember collecting home movies on VHS tape, then DVD, and then Blu-ray! Now we stream movies online at home. No more libraries of cassettes, or digital disks. Just a login and a monthly fee.

Honestly, I’m still hurting from dumping my VHS copy of Jean Claude Van Damme’s Kickboxer when I moved home!

However, an attitude of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” would still see us all with shelves stuffed full of poor quality magnetic media.

But, taking  something that doesn’t seem broken, and seeing “how much more has this thing got?”, leads to better, more efficient, solutions that suit today’s evolving environment.

Modern Muay Thai Training

Muay Thai is a different animal now than it was in the Golden Era. It has to be to stay relevant.

Muay Thai has a truly global audience now, and the training influences have exploded too. We are gaining huge advantages from the contribution of so many specialist fields – such as sports nutrition, sports psychology, and strength and conditioning.

But with so many options, comes confusion. And that’s the state of play right now.

For example, making better fighters isn’t as simple as making better long distance runners. There are more moving parts and complexity.

A good aerobic engine is just part of the requirement for a good fighter. You also need strength, power, speed, endurance, mobility, technical and tactical skill, not to mention to contend with a year round competitive season, often with frequent fights.

The solution is to adopt a strong evidence based filter, guided by proven principles to sift for effective training methods that truly make a difference to Muay Thai performance.

You can’t just keep doing it the same way for years and expect to keep up.

Performance training is constantly moving forward, and at an accelerating rate. Stopping where you are, is going backwards in comparison to the rest of the  field.

And you can have the best of both! You can respect the traditional and embrace the new.

The Fairtex Training Centre, with fighters like Stamp, Ferrari, Sonrak, and Dok-maipaa, are taking on this challenge, and succeeding against growing international competition.

They’re taking the best of the traditional Muay Thai training methods, and supplementing with proven S&C methods to plug the gaps in their athletic development.

If you desire more efficient training too, you’re not a Muay Thai fraudYou’re less of a laggard than most! And committing earlier will mean you see that advantage for longer…

Those Golden Era fighters would be envious of the opportunities we now have. Don’t squander your advantage for the sake of appearing traditional…

Samart was a beast in any era, and I’m I’m sure if he could’ve taken advantage of more efficient training, he would’ve jumped at the chance to make himself even better than he was.

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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