The more Muay Thai pad holders you work with, the more you realize that there are few that are very good, most are average, and some are just plain bad.
As a beginner, you will not have any point of reference to help you determine what is good or bad. As with your first relationship, you won't know how good a coach is until you compare them with others.
Over the past decade, I have been fortunate enough to work with over a hundred different stamp holders in Thailand, and I remember maybe a dozen that I think are the best. The majority did a pretty good job, and there were probably another dozen that were terrible.
It is important to note that a fighter's background does not indicate whether it is a good or bad pad holder. Saenchai is a legend in the ring, but he's not the best pad support or coach. In 2011, I remember seeing foreigners taking private lessons with Saenchai at Sinbi Muay Thai. Back then, I remember thinking these guys were wasting their money because there were much better coaches in the gym.
Cushion holding is a skill that develops through practice. Just because a fighter is a champion at Lumpinee Stadium doesn't mean he's automatically a good pad support. One of the worst padel sessions I have had was when I worked with a new coach who had just come out winner channel 7 Title. Unfortunately on his first day at the gym I got him on towels. I can honestly say that I have had newbies who hold the pads better than this guy, and he was an accomplished champion.
In Thailand, fighters do not hold the pads until they retire. This means that top fighters often have 20 years of combat experience without ever needing to hold pads. These fighters are great combat and melee partners, but until they practice they suck on the posture pads.
To help break down the ideal pad holder, I've created a list of 5 features that I think are the best pad holders.
# 1. They are motivating on the pads (high energy)
For me the most important criteria I have when it comes to maintaining the pads / trainers is the energy they give out. Kicking pads is a two-way street. If your trainer is tired and lazy, this energy is being passed on to you. Conversely, if you work with a motivated and enthusiastic high-energy trainer, you will find it so much easier to break pads, even when you are feeling tired.
When you work with enough trainers, you will come across lazy trainers. These trainers are boring, will keep calling the same combinations and will not give you any energy during the pad session. You can tell just by looking at the coach's face that he doesn't want to hold your towels and can't wait to get home.
What I usually do when I meet a lazy trainer is that I purposely pissed them off by pushing them down with a hard kick or throwing a fake elbow to be a little pushy with them. I would rather have a pissed off coach trying to hit me hard, than a coach who doesn't care at all. In my experience, some energy, even if negative, is better than no energy at all.
# 2. They hold the pads correctly
An important aspect of holding the pads is knowing how to properly hold the pads. The way you hold a person's pads can have a big impact on how they hit. While each trainer holds the pads slightly differently, there are a few dos and don'ts of holding the pads.
If you are relatively new to Muay Thai, you might be led to think that good pad holders throw a lot of whimsical combinations and teach a lot of interesting techniques. Unfortunately, this is the result of watching too many Instagram videos where people tend to post training videos that get the most likes and shares.
Some of the best pad holders often have the simpler combinations like the jab-cross-body kick, Jab-Body Kick, or Jab-Jab-Cross-Hook. Long chains combined are unnecessary and the only trainers I have ever seen doing them are westerners who have never been to Thailand. As a general rule, if your combination is longer than 4-5 strokes, you are overdoing it. Most combinations should stay between 2 and 4 strokes at most.
If you are training in a boxing or kickboxing gym, you have probably noticed that your instructor is teaching a long combination which can be 7-10 hits. While everyone has their own training methods, how often do you see boxers giving more than 3-4 strikes before their opponent responds. The combinations are more like choreography than a replication of what actually happens in a fight.
Common mistakes in maintaining the technical buffer
Many western tampon wearers lean forward when holding out for a Thai kick, instead of bracing themselves and letting the kick come towards them. When meeting the kick with the pads, the point of contact is not the same as if you were to kick someone in a fight. I know some trainers do this to help reduce some of the power behind the kick, but I found it made me feel my kicks. You should strap in your pads and lower them slightly just before impact, but make sure the kick is allowed to hit you.
Another common trainer mistake is to move the pads forward and meet the punches halfway through the target. Instead of allowing your punch to achieve full extension, your punch is stopped halfway through the target. It's the equivalent of standing at close range on the heavy bag, never allowing your jab or cross to reach full extension on feed.
Keep your pads close together and don't create massive holes to simulate hitting the target. When you throw a jab cross and the targets are 2 feet apart, it's not a realistic simulation.
# 3. They throw punches at you
Once you get past the early and middle stages of Muay Thai, a pad session with a good trainer will often feel like a fight. They will attack you at all times, trying to get through your defense and trick you. Throwing light punches during a pad lap helps keep students honest.
A good friend of mine had his arm broken by a trainer kicking him during the pads. This trainer is one of my favorite trainers to work with, but he can get overly excited and end up going full power depending on his mood. Ideally, your trainer shouldn't end up hurting you if you don't block.
If you know that at some point your trainer can punch you in the face, you'll have your hands up. Conversely, if you know that your trainer will not do anything, it is easy to develop bad habits because there are no consequences of these actions.
The level of activity you experience from a trainer will often depend on their age. Don't expect an old Ajarn (master) to throw the same kind of strikes as a fit young coach. However, regardless of their age, they should constantly strive to keep you honest throughout your rounds.
# 4. They can offer technical improvements
A good coach can help you improve areas of your game that need to be improved. It is important to differentiate between offering important advice and overcorrecting. Some trainers correct and try to change everything in one pad maintenance session.
I've found that the best trainers will give you a tip or two and focus the five sets of pads on drilling these concepts. If you are a beginner, you can expect a trainer to work in many other areas like your footwork and each stroke techniques. That being said, good trainers will break things down to the basics with newbies and focus on a few concepts at a time.
Some trainers have egos and feel that correcting yourself is a form of authority and power over you. You can usually get a feel for this, when it comes to how they correct your technique. If a trainer laughs at you and tells their friends to watch out for your poor technique, they are trying to put you down. This happens a lot in some Thai gyms, so don't be surprised if it happens to you.
# 5. They make you better
The best trainers will push you harder than you thought possible. Before one of my fights, I worked with a trainer who almost killed me. After 5 grueling rounds on the pads, when I was completely dead, he told me to do 100 kicks with each leg. While I could barely stand up at the end of the session, I learned that no matter how tired you are, there is always more in the tank if you push a little harder.
When you work with a good Muay Thai trainer, you will end the padding session feeling better. Whether you've improved your cardio, learned a few techniques, or developed a better defense, you always feel like you've won something.
Slow improvements over a long period can lead to big gains. Good trainers will help you unlock more tools in your Muay Thai toolbox and make you a better fighter.
In my experience, the most important trait that makes good pad support is the energy level of the trainer. Anyone can learn to hold the pads properly on a technical level, but the energy of a coach is what separates the wheat from the chaff. If a trainer has little energy, it can seem extremely demotivating and make you lazy on the pads.
I've worked with some great coaches who are great at teaching technique, but after that I start to get mad because they rarely pushed me hard. While some of that laziness might have been on this particular day of the week, if you work out with a trainer multiple times and they have low levels of demotivating energy, find someone new.
If you are a pad wearer who doesn't have a lot of experience, the most important thing you need to start with is high energy. Make the tampon holding session fun and I guarantee people will love working with you.
Since most people in the West have to hold pads in the gym, try to become a better pad support and it will improve the general level of Muay Thai in your gym.
For just over 3 years I have been training in Kung Fu and Muay Thai. Learning any martial art is a physically and mentally challenging process that takes years of practice to master. Here are 4 tips I wish I had known that can improve your training and reduce the time it takes between novice and grandmaster.
Flexibility is a fundamental trait of any good martial artist. Having this early on in your training will help boost you ahead for many reasons. Firstly, the more advanced techniques in martial arts require you to be extremely souple, it’s to begin learning them without the required flexibility to do so, and thus you will be learning advanced moves earlier in your training if you’re already performing a perfect split. Secondly, you need to kick high, sometimes higher than your own head. If you’re training in a martial art that is fight orientated, such as kickboxing, being able to kick your opponent in the head is one of the best moves you have in your arsenal of attacks. If you are studying an art such as Kung Fu, flexibility will dramatically improve your technique in forms, helping you to score those extra points in competitions for your technical ability.
One of the best ways to learn, I have found, is directly from the horse’s mouth, in this case your master. Typically, in your classes, your master will demonstrate a technique that they want you to practice with a partner. If they don’t ask for volunteers before performing each technique, go ahead and tell them before the class starts that you would like to be involved in the demonstrations. This will help you get a real feel for what they’re trying to show you, as you can miss subtle techniques that may be out of your vision. Volunteering to be demonstrated on can seem scary, but remember that they are a master of what they do, and they won’t actually be performing the move with the intent to hurt you.
Hitting pads is good for when you’re learning a new move, but you will find you begin performing the technique in a much different way when faced with something that will hit back. Simple things like remembering to cover your head when throwing a kick or punch will become deuxième nature after being punished for dropping your guard, even for a split second. You may be asked or required to participate in a fighting tournament at some point of your martial arts journey, and the best way you can prepare for this is sparring. Remember that it is for the purpose of learning, not knocking each other out as quick as you can. You will begin to learn how to spot and react to your opponent’s openings, and how to defend against different moves. Forget being stronger or faster than your opponent, being an éclairé fighter is what will give you the advantage come fight night.
Your training doesn’t begin and end when you enter and leave the doors. My Kung Fu master always told us that “practice is good, but perfect practice makes perfect”. When you train at home make sure you are performing each technique properly, as if you were in class, bad vêtements form fast and are extremely hard to be undone. Purchasing a large mirror is a great investment so you can analyse yourself at home. Also watching videos of other people performing techniques will help you to see how different techniques should look when you’re not at chic.
Did you set a new year resolution this year ? If so, do they happen to be martial arts related ? Do you think you will actually achieve them ?
Statistics for failed New Year’s resolutions run anywhere between 45-80%. Now that another new year is here, it’s time to focus and set our eyes back on the prize in order to not become part of this rather bleak data. tera help you, on this post, I’ll be highlighting a couple personal tips that may help make both your short-term and long-term goals stick
Focusing on small milestones, following your motivation, challenging yourself, and finding what inspires you can help you make improvements for the rest year and meet or even surpass your martial arts goals and beyond !
You’re much more likely to stay motivated and make improvements if you’re doing something you enjoy. What is your absolute favorite thing to do at your martial arts school ? If you love to spar find ways to push yourself harder. Ask your instructor for pointers. Train with higher-ranking students. Seek out tournaments in your area for a challenge.
What if you’re doing what you love, and you’re already good at it, but you don’t know how to improve ? Avoid stagnation by digging deeper into your favorite activity. Find ways to go out of your comfort zone. Ask for help and feedback even in areas where you feel you are at your best. For example, if you enjoy doing forms, ask your instructor to work with you on finer details.
Play around with timing and emphasis. Enter or at least attend a tournament to see how other martial artists practice forms and see what you can learn from them. Seek out master classes, seminars, and clinics in your area. If you want some fun and relaxation while you practice consider taking a martial arts holiday.
Alternatively, you can also work on your training from the comfort of your own home by joining an online martial arts training. As you won’t even have to step foot outside, there’s simply no excuse not to keep up your practice !
Think about your long-term goals and then break it down into small milestones. Do you want to be able to do fifty push-ups in one set, but right now you can only do ten ? Don’t burn yourself out on day one trying to do all fifty. You may injure yourself or simply become discouraged that you can’t reach your goal immediately.
Slow down. Scale back. Try adding five extra push-ups per week, and over time you’ll build up the strength and stamina you need to meet your goal.
Maybe you have transferred schools and need to relearn the particular forms or self-defense techniques practiced at your new school. I have seen this happen with black belts and higher-ranking color belts who have transferred to my dojang. For example, a fellow black belt practiced Taeguk taekwondo forms at her old dojang, but now she needs to learn the Palgwe forms that we practice.
Rather than trying to learn everything at once, which will likely feel overwhelming, start with one technique or one form. Ask an instructor or another black belt for help. Watch scènes online. Move on to the next technique when you are able to perform the first one without any guidance or prompts.
Sometimes you have to do things in martial arts that you don’t enjoy as much but you still have to do due to tradition, class schedules, and keeping your practice well-rounded. Martial arts may be the hardest thing you do, but it shouldn’t feel like drudgery. Think about what you don’t enjoy as much in chic or what you dread doing, and try to figure out why you avoid it. Perhaps you don’t like it because you’re not very skilled ( yet ), you don’t do it very often, you find it stressful, or you simply find it boring.
Challenge yourself. Find the “fun” in something that has simply felt like work. It’s easy to get better at something you enjoy and you’re naturally good at doing. Just think of how it will feel when you make improvements in an area where you have continuously struggled.
Leveraging your strengths can help you develop skills in areas where you struggle. For example, if sparring is particularly challenging, be mindful of other times when you use blocks or strikes such as in forms or self-defense. Make them as sharp and powerful as you would in a faster-paced sparring match. Ask your instructor to incorporate quick reaction drills into classes. Attend extra sparring classes, and if you are a black belt or higher ranking, attend lower ranking sparring classes and offer to coach or referee. Teaching a skill can help you make vast improvements in your own practice.