Muay Thai has become a global phenomenon. Birthed from its ancient combat art Muay Boran, Muay Thai has been showcased in video games such as Street Fighter, the worldwide successful film Ong Bak and recently in ONE Championship on Amazon Prime Video.
But what does it take to become a Muay Thai fighter (or just a recreational hobbyist)?
Typically, the classical training in Thailand may not be too far off from what may have been seen in the Rocky movies. There’s a morning run. There’s some pad work. There’s some sparring. There’s some calisthenics involved. And then there’s some strategic planning before a fight.
However, the science in sports training has evolved exponentially. This is where Don Heatrick comes in.
Heatrick is no newcomer to martial arts. As a youth he trained in Judo and Kyokushin Karate. In time, he received black belts in Freestyle Kickboxing and Taekwondo. Of course, he also discovered Muay Thai. This led him to becoming the EMC European Cruiserweight Silver Medal in 2007 and eventually becoming a full-time coach in 2009 while opening his own gym.
Besides his martial arts and competitive Muay Thai background, Heatrick was a mechanical design engineer for 18 years. He told Angela Chang on the Muay-Ying podcast that due to this background he’s got “more of an analytical approach for everything” and that he likes to “structure stuff and that’s how my mind kind of works.”
Over the years as a coach, Heatrick has put on another hat as a sports scientist. While wearing this hat he has been trying to apply scientific approaches to his athletes and particularly Muay Thai fighters. With newer studies being published in relation to athletic training, Heatrick finds that in strength training – methods that were thought to “be more true” may not because “it’s never actually perfectly true.” Heatrick truly looks at the nuances when it comes to strength and conditioning.
While he has garnered a name as strength & conditioning coach for Muay Thai, Heatrick believes that there is much more to training than the physical. He believes Muay Thai performance as a whole not only encompasses the body (the physical) but also the mind and spirit.
Heatrick defines the mind being able to understand fight strategy and tactics. Whereas the spirit involves the fight EQ, emotional quotient or emotional intelligence.
Overall, Heatrick philosophizes and educates his athletes, fighters and clients to have a growth mindset. This growth mindset allows them to become trainable and not allow critique to threaten them. Furthermore, he believes that if someone has intrinsic motivations, where an individual just wants to “get better” then “it doesn’t matter what happens to you, you’re forever in control of that and that’s someone who makes relentless progress rather than kind of burn bright, crash out.” This, of course, also applies to coaches.
With years of experience as a fighter and a coach, Heatrick has become one of the premiere Muay Thai coaches. Not only is he “used to looking at research” but the “kind of continuous learning” that keeps him sharp and willing to change.
For years, he’s been spreading his thoughts and ideas on Muay Thai performance through many platforms. He’s active on Instagram posting many evidence-based training tips, has done many interviews that can be found on YouTube and his website heatrick.com is a goldmine resource for Muay Thai fighters and enthusiasts.
If you’d like to learn more about Don and listen to me pick his brain, listen to our chat below. You can also click here to find it along with other episodes.https://spotifyanchor-web.app.link/e/SDLsrU7U8sb
If you want an in-depth guide to training in Thailand, I’ve got just the thing.