The following is a template Coach Marlon uses for his competitive youth team. We call it the 5 bout rule to getting warm for your competition match.
5 bouts before your bout
Get up and start start "dynamic" warm up. This is where you get up and start moving your body. No need to shadowbox here, just get up, walk around, arm circles, criss-cross your arms & hug yourself, tap your face, open jaw etc. You want to just get the blood going but take it easy.
4 bouts before your bout
Get your heart rate up by skipping or any body weight cardio exercises like mountain climbers, squats, jumping jacks etc.
3 bouts before your bout
Shadowbox and fight visualization. This is not the time to strategize a new game plan or overthink anything. We use this time to visualize how we want to fight, practice your bread and butter combos, visualize your defensive move, your counters, your attacks. Let your mind relax.
2 bouts before your bout
Gear up and get ready for pad work with the coach/cornerman. Warm-up with haste. You never know, there might be consecutive knockouts in those matches before you and you might be up fighting earlier than anticipated.
1 bout before your bout
Finish putting gear on, have a sip of water and walk to the staging area. If the coach needs to say something to you, this is where we may have a final pep talk.
Feel free to adjust, add, and make it yours. Give yourself some margin of safety with time so you don’t get caught going onto stage cold!
Have you ever been lost with what combos to throw on the bags or pads? The coaches here at Legacy have put together some of their favorite muay thai combos. They are very basic, yet they work at the highest levels of competition. Don't just glance over them, study them, and know them well.
Are you thinking of getting into sparring? Every club has their own rules and protocol when it comes to sparring. At Legacy, we allow students to spar as early as a few months in...HOWEVER, safety is paramount.
PART 1. WHAT EQUIPMENT IS REQUIRED FOR SPARRING
16oz GLOVES Standard across the board are 16oz gloves being worn when there are punches to the head. 16oz gloves have more padding than the 10, 12, and 14oz gloves (duh). The excess padding will soften the force of your punches and thus minimize damage to your training partner. If you weigh less than 130lbs, you may get away with wearing 14oz gloves to spar (but please confirm with your coach first). Kids ages 8-12 years can potentially spar with 10-12oz gloves. Please respect your training partner and wear the appropriate size gloves. It is all of our duty to call out those who are sparring with undersized gloves.
Take note that not all 14-16oz gloves are created equal. Many entry level brands like Kimurawear, Benza, Reevo, etc are adequate for bag and pad work but not sparring because their “16oz” gloves are actually lighter than what is stated. You can’t go wrong with gloves made by reputable brands like Fairtex, Twins, Top King, Windy, Yokkao, Boon, and Raja.
SHIN GUARDS Shin guards should always be worn for sparring, with the exception of tech sparring where the intensity is kept under 15%. The top of the shin guard should sit just under the bottom of your knee to prevent the upper shin from being exposed. As this can be painful for your partner if you block one of his kicks on the bare part of your upper shin. Your shin guards should also have a padded flap that goes over your foot for added protection to your toes. Sock shin guards (1st photo below) can be worn for tech sparring but not for regular sparring sessions. Most muay thai branded equipment will do just fine, they include Fairtex, Twins, Top King, Windy, Raja, Boon, Muay Thai Brand, Legacy, RDX, Kimurawear, etc.
MOUTH GUARD Another important piece of equipment is the mouthguard. Any generic self-moulded one will suffice. If you are looking for added protection and fitting, talk to your Dentist to make custom mouth guards that are fitted to your teeth and gums. I prefer the generic ones as I found custom mouthguards were too tight and snug for my personal liking. I also often misplace my mouth guards so I didn’t like to spend too much on them. Consider investing in a mouthguard case and clip it to your gym bag for safe keeping. If you do go for the custom guards, they can run you anywhere between $200-$800. Check your employment benefits as many do cover the cost of constructing one. Military and para-military benefits generally include custom fitted mouthguards at 100%.
CUP/GROIN PROTECTOR Guys, do I need to say more? Most will opt to leave this one out until they eat a knee right in the “you know where.” Yes, this has happened to me many times, especially in the clinch. Now, I always take an extra couple of minutes before battle to put on my cup. Muay thai cups can be made of steel or plastic. You honestly don’t need something as hard as a steel cup but if you want to feel like a badass Thai fighter then go right ahead. I had both kinds throughout my fight career. Fairtex and Twins steel cups are quite reputable. Shock Doctor has some reliable plastic groin protectors.
HEADGEAR With modern research showing that headgear does nothing to reduce concussions or force of punches, many muay thai gyms no longer require headgear for sparring. Headgear is optional at Legacy. However, note that Muay Thai has many more offensive options than kickboxing and boxing (punch, elbow, kick, knee, throws, sweeps, locks). Although the headgear may not protect you from blunt trauma, it can reduce the chances of you getting cut and scraped from an accidental elbow or knee to the head or face.
KNEE AND ELBOW PADS These can be worn for extra protection but take note that this is not an invitation for you to go bezerk and blast your partner with hard knees or sharp elbows. Elbow pads have a tendency to shift exposing your bare-elbow bone so be careful. NO KNEES TO THE HEAD, EVER. Knee pads and elbow pads will also protect your knee and elbow joints.
TECHNICAL (TECH) SPARRING Light muay thai sparring (less that 10-15% power) using mainly kicks, knees, and clinch is known as technical (tech) sparring. The emphasis here is on technique, timing, and placement of strikes (accuracy and precision). Thai fighters are notorious for tech sparring. They seldom spar hard in training as they frequently compete, sometimes as often as every other week so they want to keep their body fresh and injury free. Western fighters do not have the luxury of frequent competition opportunities so we must incorporate harder rounds to stay sharp and fight ready. In anycase, for tech sparring you do not require much protective equipment, granted that both partners exhibit some self control. The choice of protective equipment is based on the style of tech sparring you are doing. Watch here:
As a coach and owner of 2 gyms, I often get approached by students telling me that they are interested in fighting. Our gym has over 100 members. Let's be honest, not every member will get an opportunity to compete and represent their club. There is a lot of time and resources that goes into preparing someone for battle and it’s just not feasible nor practical to have the entire club fighting. Extra pad rounds with coaches, putting together your workout plan, finding cornermen (2 person) to accompany you for the day of the fight, prospecting for an opponent, organizing and planning for the event, and other behind the scenes work are some examples of extra duties required by the club to prepare for you to compete.
“Being skillful isn’t enough.”
At our club we don’t just look at skill to determine who makes the cut. Likewise, you could be the hardest working Joe out there but if your skill doesn’t measure up, then keep training.
So how does a club determine who gets to be on the fight roster? I can tell you how Legacy decides.
How to Join the Legacy Fight Team (in no particular order)
1. Work ethic Training hard and pushing yourself each class.
2. Attendance You must be attending classes regularly (minimum 3 classes a week while also doing fight related training at home or elsewhere for a total of 5 training sessions a week).
3. Time in as part of the team If you just joined our club, understand that it may take some time for all of us to get to know each other before we can work together.
4. Drive and passion for the sport Are you fighting for the right reasons? To get girls, to beat up on people, or to show off on social media that you are a fighter aren’t good reasons. We want fighters who love the sport.
5. Skill You don’t necessarily have to have the highest skill at the club, but you must prove that you understand the fundamentals, can bring home the victory, and can protect yourself in that ring. Only through hard sparring can you show this.
6. Attitude and character Douches, arrogant, and egotistical people are not representing our club. Luckily for Legacy, we don’t have this problem as we don’t draw in those types of people anyways.
7. Ability to listen, learn, and follow direction
When you first join, it’s perfectly fine to let the coach know that you are interested in competing. You can go a step further and ask how the club determines who gets to fight and what the requirements are. Just understand that competing and representing your club is a privilege, NOT A RIGHT. You get chosen based on set criterias and unfortunately, not everyone will get chosen. There is usually already a waitlist of students patiently waiting for their turn, so if you are a newcomer interested you will have to be patient.
So you got chosen to join the fight team? Well, with great power comes great responsibilities. This is what teamLEGACY expects from our fighters:
Specific Requirements and Expectations for our Fighters
1. Go to the advanced classes at least twice a week for 3 months before your scheduled fight. One of those classes has to be the sparring classes (currently on Tuesdays).
2. Train hard - don’t skimp out on hard work, challenge yourself by sparring with tough partners, give 100%, 100% of the time.
3. Be a good teammate and contribute to the club in some ways. What value do you add to the team or club?
4. We expect that shortly after your fight, you are back on the floor helping your teammates prepare for theirs through sparring and padwork. Long extended breaks after receiving your fight is unacceptable. If this happens then you can expect that we will not be finding you another fight.
5. You are also training and doing your homework outside the club times. Road work, cross training at other gyms, working solo on the heavy bag at home, studying fight videos etc.
It was Tuesday evening and I had just gotten off the bus at the Kitchener Station. The original TKO Fighting Arts was located on Charles St. West, just a 10 minute walk east of the station. I remember my mind racing with uncomfortable thoughts. Half excited, and half scared. "How will I do? Are people going to laugh at me? Was my friend John right and that I am just way over my head on this one?" (If you guys don't remember John, you can read about him HERE). These thoughts lingered in my mind as I anxiously walked towards the building; I remained determined to see this day through. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? I arrived at the location some minutes later in front of an old dilapidated greyish white building and thought, “Damn, this is some Rocky S#%* going on here!” I entered, walked up a flight of stairs and turned left down a corridor towards TKO. As I arrived at the entrance, there were a bunch of people just mingling by the entrance way. Awkwardly, I excused my way through the thickened crowd and was greeted by a young man in a grey tank top built around my size. I assumed he was the man to talk to since he was surrounded by a posse of students all trying to grab his attention. “My name is Bao, I’m here for my trial class.” I said tentatively. He replied in a stern voice with a straight face, “I’m Chris, fill this waiver out and change over there. Class will start in a few minutes and the instructor’s name is Scott.” He pointed to the change room directly behind me.
I got changed and proceeded to the training floor. This place looked more rundown than in the photos I thought to myself. I wanted the real deal and I knew after stepping in here that this was it. As I apprehensively stood there in the middle of the training floor, someone spoke out, “Name is Alvin, looks like your first class. Grab a rope over there, we are going to start soon.” I felt a little more relaxed and welcomed as someone actually noticed me! “Thanks.” I replied, and went to grab a skipping rope. Some moments later, a gentleman twice my size walked on the floor. He was wearing some funny looking shorts and towered over the rest. I assumed that he was our trainer Scott. He directed his attention at us and yelled, “This ain’t no country club! Start skipping and pick it up!” I began skipping.
We skipped for a few rounds and then followed up with calisthenics. Push ups, squats, burpees, situps, all the usual body weight stuff. After about 20 minutes of conditioning, we paired up. One partner was instructed to wear pads, and the other to get their boxing gloves on. Scott taught us a few beginner punching techniques and we would practice these strikes on the pads with our partners. The entire training session lasted about an hour long and boy was I tired by the end! I knew at that very moment that this is what I wanted to do. I signed up on the spot.
Reflecting back on that day, I realize that most of my anxiety came from the moments leading up to the class. The class itself wasn’t so bad! And the feeling I felt after the class was amazing. In my head, I had made up all these scenarios of possible things that could go wrong...but that was all it was, "made up" scenarios. Ultimately, it was just me being afraid of negative judgement and criticism. I was lucky enough that TKO Fighting Arts was very supportive and welcoming. The members were all friendly and had made me feel right at home. Within the first month, I made some amazing friends and couldn’t be happier about my decision to join. I love muay thai, but it’s truly the community and camaraderie that keeps me coming back. You’ll never know what you are missing until you put yourself out there to try something new.
Don’t be afraid of being afraid. Be afraid, and do it anyway.
Former UFC Champion, George St. Pierre, said it best:
"Before every fight, before every hardcore training session, I was afraid. Afraid to be humiliated, afraid to disappoint my mentor, and afraid to get hurt. I believe I shouldn't be afraid to admit I'm afraid. Being scared doesn't make you a coward. You know what? There’s no courage without fear.”
The old "dilapidated" TKO Fighting Arts building, downtown Kitchener ON. Some time after TKO moved out, the building was over taken by big tech firms like GOOGLEand given a nice little makeover.
The guy that greeted me upon my arrival for my first class, Chris (left). That's me to the right of him. Chris soon became a great friend and mentor of mine. 16 years later and we still keep in touch.
Scott with his funny looking shorts.
The oldschool TKO Fighting Arts crew. That skinny bald kid standing proud is me.
I would love to hear your story. Feel free to tell us your first muay thai experience below.