Muay Thai Technical Light Sparring
A necessary part of training in Muay Thai is sparring. After pad-work and drills, it is common practice in most gyms to get the sparring gear on and get on with it. This is the best way to put all of those drills and pad-work sessions to practice against a live target. This can sometimes translate into people smashing each other as hard as they do on the pads. The reality is that this is not a good practice, as more often than not, someone gets hurt, nothing is learned and everyone leaves having improved little. While heavy sparring has its place, light sparring is much more beneficial in the long run.
Visit any Muay Thai camp in Thailand and watch two Thai fighters spar. They often do this with no shinguards, no mouthguard and no groin guard. Sometimes they don’t wear gloves either. They engage in Technical light sparring in order to sharpen up their senses. If they went at it full-pelt, they would get injured, not be able to fight as regularly and lose out on their payday. They do sometimes pad up and have a stronger session, but the sparring is still relatively light – just enough sting to let their partner know where their guard is down. Now, just because they do something in Thailand is not always a reason to adopt it yourself, but this is a practice that has worked well for decades of the modern sport. Let’s break down the benefits of technical light sparring.
With light sparring, injury is far less likely. The reality is that if you are in a combat sport, then you are going to pick up injuries – it’s inevitable. But the aim of the game is to avoid injury. Why increase your chances by smashing each other in sparring? If you compete, then you want to stay injury free so you can fight. If you are not a professional fighter, then you likely have a job that you will want to be healthy enough to do. No one wants to be out of pocket.
Confidence and learning
Especially important at the beginning of a Muay Thai journey, light sparring gives people confidence. When you are starting out, there is nothing more likely to put most people off than being beaten up. Light sparring allows everyone to put their skills into practice, while picking up timing, rhythm and ring-craft. It means instead of running away from someone trying to knock your head off, you lear to stand your ground and find your blocks, counters and evasive manoeuvres. Light sparring teaches control as well. Control is a vital component of Muay Thai. If you lose control, you lose – one of the things you notice about Thai fighters is that they never get angry, it comes down to maintaining control.
What is technical light sparring?
So the benefits are clear, but what is light sparring? There is no definitive answer to the question really. Light sparring should be at full pace, but not full power. Keep the speed, not the force. You need to pull the power from a blow at the last second, so you land it, but don’t really stick it in. Also, if it is too light, then you will never learn to keep your guard strong. The idea of a little pain teaching you a lesson is very clear here. If you get punched in the face enough times, you will eventually start to keep those hands up. No pain = no lesson learned. So you need to figure out what the right level is and feel out your partner. Sparring is not a competition, it’s a learning experience.