As fighters become more experienced, we must understand how to coach them so they don’t become stale.

Experts in any field are ruthlessly good at the basics.

What marks the best apart from the rest, is their ability to revisit and resharpen their foundational practice.

It’s vital that those at the top of their game recognise both that skill is perishable and can migrate over time, and that merely training for your next fight is limiting your progress too.

In this episode… Professor Tony Myers, both a world class Muay Thai coach and an academic researcher in sport psychology, shares valuable insight into what makes good fighters great, and keeps them great!

by Don Heatrick
@donheatrick

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Transcript: How To Coach Experienced Fighters

TONY:
Interestingly, again this is not experimental at all – but an interesting thing I observed Pimu do – he’d sort of explain it in his way (which was sort of a not scientific way) but he’d say, take some boxers and sometimes… I guess in translation he meant some boxers got a bit stale. Not just stale in terms of motivation, but in terms of technique.

They took shortcuts, that became initially very effective. Those shortcuts, they’d taken too far and almost lost connection with the basics, if you like, of what they were doing.

And, so what he’d do, he said, I’ll take the boxer and stand him in front of a bag and teach… Basically these were CHAMPIONS, former champions, he’d go back to basics if you like, and connect, REconnect them with basics. Because they took these shortcuts, both in terms of training (they weren’t training quite as hard) but also technical shortcuts. Which I think are initially effective when you play, when you compete. But, they can be taken a bit too far and they start becoming less effective in the end. And I think that he managed to turn around some boxers, you know he managed to revive some boxers who’d sort of gone stale.

And I think that’s worth thinking about as well, sometimes connecting back again with basics is important. And so always when I’m training them, however experienced the fighter is, the journey towards a particular fight will be going back to basics at some point, and functional basics again, to reconnect and FEEL. You were talking about feeling. It is that feeling, you know you can communicate things in lots of ways, but in the end, sometimes it’s words that that help them connect to the body.

But in the end, they have to feel it, you know. So it’s all sorts of ways in which they need to get to the point where they’re are feeling, and recognise when it’s wrong and recognise when it feels good, is important. But also to deliver it. And doing that in a fight, you know, takes practice. And lots and lots of practice is important. And you can’t do that knocking bumps out of each other and injure yourself all the time.

DON:
There’s kind of a model I’ve got in my head as well in that, you know, you need repetition to build the skill. It then becomes automatic – you don’t have to think about it anymore. But, then the fact that you’re not thinking about it means it’s only good if that skill you developed was a good one.

If it’s a poor habit, then you’ve banked that, and now it’s going to take a lot of effort, conscious effort to repeat it out and and highlight that.

So when someone starts new in any kind of sport, but obviously Muay Thai is what we’re talking about, there’s lots of corrections you need to make initially. And you always go for the low hanging fruit – the biggest factors – and you get those things right. So, the technique’s more or less there, and you’re repeating that until it becomes automatic. But in the background, I can just see there’s loads of smaller things that you’re repeating poorly, but they’re not the game changers, yet. Because you’ve got to get the the 80% right first before you worry about the 20%.

But, it’s it’s then, once you’re beyond that sort of newbie stage where you’re learning things there, it’s then being willing to go back. And rather than just saying, I’m doing this right, it’s actually going, “Okay, I got 80% of that right, now what are my limiting factors on this? “What are the 20% that I didn’t even observe, that I’ve automatically banked that I might be doing badly now, and they now need focusing on a tweaking?” And actually making that effort now to deliberately go back and repeating those little bits out, because they are now my limiting factors, my priorities.

And that kind of sounds like that’s what you’re talking about there, with taking someone who’s advanced… They’ve got the majority really good, but there’s always going to be bits you’ve missed, and you’re almost panning for gold, filtering layer after layer as you go through revisiting this stuff.

TONY:
Yeah, absolutely. And sometimes I think… I agree completely, and I think sometimes though, in the end those tiny things can make a massive difference. So, you know, tweaking those things, and people might be very skilled, but just because you’re very skilled, actually, I don’t think it’s constant. It’s undulating.

Those skills you’ve practiced, obviously, for a period of time. You’ve maybe fought. And you’ve had a rest period, or working on something else, it’s not constant, you know. So we, you know, both because it’s it’s a multifaceted, complex thing. It’s not just about the physical aspects, it’s about psychological aspects. And, you know, you’ve kicked and you’ve hurt yourself, so you’re a bit reluctant to throw it, or you’re a bit more cautious. That changes the way that you interact with that kick and how many times you throw it. And there’s lots of things that impact that.

So yeah, it’s a constant journey really. It’s never, “Okay, I’m good at kicking and now I’m done.” Now, say obviously people do have, you know, they are very good in kicking and punching and doing some things, and that’ll be a thing they want to do, because it’s really good. It’s also working on the things that are uncomfortable, both for me, strategically as well as technically. And it’s working on the things that are uncomfortable as well, because sometimes you get big gains from changing something small that you’re uncomfortable doing. Difficult, because you don’t want to do it. You always want to do the things that feel good and that you’re good at, and less so the things you’re not good at. So that’s always a challenge. But, I think an important thing to think about.

You know, as a fighter, and a coach, I like people training for me, training not just for a fight. It tends to be, when they get better, for all sorts of reasons, they want to train just for that fight. And that’s limited, because you don’t get a certain development – you get less development. So for me, it’s a constantly trying and exploring and playing is better than, “Let’s just do a six week fight camp.”

You know, I think that constant development is important in all aspects, psychologically, technically, physically, in terms of conditioning, etc. It’s important in that, you know, giving time, not just training for a fight. Sometimes, although, you end up doing that. So end up saying, “It’s not as developed as you want. We’ve got to go with what we’ve got, and polish what we’ve got.” But, you want to try, and you’ve got you know, it’s better to develop a broader set of skills, a broader set of things you can use.

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.

Follow Don Heatrick on Instagram:

@donheatrick

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