The following article was written by guest author Madison Urse.
Superbon. Samart. Kaensak. These are the names of fighter’s whose seminars I have attended. Seminars are an incredibly important part of learning and practicing Muay Thai.
That said, there are plenty of people who train Muay Thai and haven’t or don’t attend seminars.
Anyone who has the opportunity to attend a seminar should take it. The techniques and tips that can be learned from professionals have been the building blocks of my training.
Going to seminars, whether by myself or with my team, we learn a lot. We bring that knowledge back to our gym to better both our training practices and training partners. We went to SIX seminars just this past year. Here are my takeaways.
What to Generally Expect
Seminars don’t generally include pad or bag work. Athletes attending will gear up with wraps, gloves, shin pads, and maybe a mouth guard before beginning to work on techniques with a partner.
Every seminar I’ve been to focused on learning and practicing the basics before trying anything fancy. The seminars have always started with a warm up and shadow boxing.
During shadow boxing the fighters/trainers running the seminar are always walking around and seeing the skill level present as well as giving everyone a chance to warm up. Shadow boxing is a basic skill for Muay Thai that is meant to give the athlete an opportunity to focus on balance and technique. This is perfect for seminars because every person is there to learn and practice techniques, not bust open a heavy bag.
Keepin’ Things Simple
The importance of the basics and fundamentals of Muay Thai have continuously been praised as what wins fights and what creates the best technique in the long run. The seminar taught by Khunpon S Dechkampu, Samart Payakaroon, and Kaensak Sor Ploenjit, two of which are considered some of the best Thai fighters from the Golden Era, reflected just that.
During the early 1980’s to mid 1990’s is what is known as the Golden Era of Muay Thai. Many fighters during this time period are thought to be some of the greatest Muay Thai fighters in history. The Thai trainers were really interesting to work with and I felt provided a wealth of knowledge and experience that I could not have gotten elsewhere. It was intimidating to say the least but, well worth it. We covered some basics such as punching with your shoulder close to your face to protect yourself and fully extending punches. We also learned more advanced techniques like sweeping in the clinch and catching knees. This particular seminar spent a lot of time focusing on striking and clinching skills over anything else.
The techniques usually start with the basics then become more advanced as the seminar progresses. The only two I have attended that were more advanced from the start were Liam Harrison and Cosmo Alexander.
Both Harrison and Alexander are very quick with their striking and their footwork. Harrison and Alexander taught some similar techniques when it came to clinching and elbows. In Harrison’s seminar, we covered opening a guard with a lead uppercut elbow as well as kicking out the lead leg then throwing a side elbow with your back arm.
Learning Elbow Techniques
There is a reason why the majority of gyms, my home gym Fight Society Muay Thai included, prohibit the use of elbows during sparring. At the 2021 WKA Nationals elbows were allowed regardless of class while at USMTO 2021 if you have less than four fights (C class) you were not allowed to throw any elbows. International tournaments have different rules as well. IFMA’s 2021 rules and regulations state that any fighter older than 13 has no striking restrictions.
These techniques are advanced due to the damage an elbow can cause and how close you need to get in to throw them effectively while keeping yourself as safe as possible. Another similarity between the two seminars was that they both taught how to use your forearm in the clinch to put as much pressure as you can on the pressure point in your opponent’s neck. This is very effective but can also be dangerous if you are very new to the sport or unaware of the damage it can cause.
Don’t Sweat the Technique (or the Questions)
Angela Chang, Natalie Morgan, and Cosmo Alexander all taught techniques on catching a teep and pulling it in to sweep your opponent. There are a lot of steps in getting this to work. More importantly, you must have good timing. They all had the same goal of sweeping your opponent, but it was taught differently by each person. Chang and Morgan both focused on handwork and timing when catching the teep, then moved into teaching the sweep. Alexander concentrated on the sweep itself and the footwork involved in order to execute it properly. They all did a great job of teaching this technique. As an observer, I found it interesting to see the different areas they put emphasis on.
Overall, Muay Thai seminars are a great place to learn new techniques and grow connections within the community. Venturing outside your comfort zone and home gym can be a good thing and a chance to learn from others who love the sport.
Want to get some insight on being a professional fighter or what training in Thailand is like? Go to seminars. Most seminars will provide time for those attending to have a Q&A with the pro fighters or trainers. Now is the time to ask. If there is no Q&A, every fighter and trainer I have met at a seminar has been so kind and willing to help me or answer any questions. Just ask – they don’t bite… they just punch, kick, knee, and elbow!
On a serious note though, Muay Thai is not a place for egos and every professional fighter or trainer was a beginner at some point in their Muay Thai career. Don’t be afraid to ask questions because this is a chance to get answers and advice from someone who has firsthand experience and expertise in this area.