3 Muay Thai & Boxing Sparring Tactics For Beginners
Sparring can be a bit of a mental struggle when you first start. You’ll use a tiny percentage of the techniques you know and you’ll be lucky if you can throw those correctly. After that initial period, sparring should be used to try new tactics and learn from one another.
Here are a few basic principles that should be followed to make yourself less predictable, less of a “soft” target and more opportunistic. In short, you will whack people more and get whacked less yourself. That’s what fighting is all about, right? – whacking stuff.
COUNTER STRIKE AFTER FORCED MISTAKES
You’ve done the hard part by making your opponent miss, now capitalise on that great position you’ve just created for yourself by following up on it. When your partner throws a strike and you have evaded it in some way e.g. you stepped back from a kick, your attacker is off-balanced and extremely vulnerable to a counter attack. Don’t let this opportunity to counter pass you by; wait until your attacker’s strike has passed its intended target and follow up with a powerful technique.
One example would be to follow a missed overhand punch with a n overhand of your own.
“Make him miss, make him pay.”
The same goes for if you block an incoming strike. If you block a kick, touch your foot down to the ground to generate some power and then immediately fire the kick back.
Key: Don’t step back a million miles so you’re unable to move back into range. Make your opponent miss by a millimetre so you’re able to reach your target for the counter.
Using feints takes confidence. Confidence in your basic footwork and fundamental single strikes. Once you have those things to a decent standard, you can then begin to deceive your opponent by making him think you’re doing one thing, and then doing something different. Feinting creates an unpredictability about you.
Being able to “sell” the feint is an art, and needs to be altered slightly for each opponent you face. You’ll have more chance of selling your feint if you use that technique a few times first. If you’re scoring with it, keep doing it. If your partner begins to block or evade then feint that technique and follow up with something different.
Feinting isn’t just about body movement, use your eyes to deceive; look low, kick high being a classic example.
AN EYE FOR AN EYE
A habit that a lot of new practitioners have is to freeze once they’ve been scored on, as though they are acknowledging the handy work of their opponent. Huge mistake. My first proper trainer in Thailand used to say “I pain, you pain”, roughly translated it means – if your opponent hurts you, give him the same feeling. Immediately.
If the strike doesn’t off balance you then you should immediately strike back while he is still retracting his arm or leg. You may get into a one-for-one situation, and then it comes down to which person has the best balance and control. This is where your basic footwork and strike recovery technique comes into play.
A training drill I use to develop this ability and mentality is to pair up my students and ask them to take it in turns to kick or punch, but each strike must be countered.
A THOUGHT ON SPARRING TACTICS
You can’t always “win” in sparring, nor should you want to. Sparring is the time to move slowly but precisely, practice your techniques and become better skilled by learning from your opponent.