Having a Muay Thai fight in Thailand is a right of passage for most Nak Muays. Whether you are planning on becoming a world champion or just want to test yourself, fighting in Thailand is something you should consider at some point in your trip.
While there are many things you can do to prepare for the ring, there are some things that will make you uncomfortable no matter what. This article will break down specific things that will make you uncomfortable in your first fight.
# 1. Slippery opponents
Before entering the ring, your trainer will apply Namman Thai Oil to your body and Vaseline to your face. The oil is used to help relax your muscles before you get into battle, and petroleum jelly makes the skin harder to break when you're hit by the elbows.
This combination of oil and petroleum jelly makes you and your opponent extremely slippery everywhere. When you tip your opponent, you often feel like you've knocked over a heavy bag that has been soaked in oil. When your foot lands on your opponent, they will often slide to the side. (Women usually don't have this problem as they often wear shirts in the ring, which allows for better grip.)
Clinching is also difficult as you won't be able to get a firm grip with all the oil on your opponent. This is one of the reasons Thais don't like foreign men to hang out with their shirts on. Besides burning a carpet because of the shirt, you also have an easy grip when someone is wearing a shirt.
How to prepare
The best way to prepare for a fatty opponent is to rub your male partners with Thai oil and shirtless spar / clinch. To simulate a slippery opponent, you can rub water / soap on a heavy bag to make it slippery. When tilting the heavy bag, it will force you to focus on hitting with the soles of your feet or your foot will slip out of the bag.
# 2. Smaller gloves with rock hard hands
Most stadiums will have you wearing 8-10 oz gloves when you fight. In addition to the small gloves, your hands are covered with gauze and duct tape so that they are rock hard. Punching punches that you wouldn't normally feel with 16oz gloves will make your head ring with the little gloves.
Because there is so little joint padding in the gloves, it benefits heavy hitters and knockout fighters. If you don't have a strong chin or a tight guard, you're going to be in a world of pain if you face a puncher.
How to prepare
There is nothing you can do to prepare yourself physically for it, but you can prepare your mind for war. Expect the punches to hurt, and you won't be shocked when you get hit hard in the ring. While I don't recommend hard fighting (it's bad for your brain), hard fighting does have the benefit of getting used to being hit.
People who have never had a hard fight before are in for a rude awakening if they step into the ring. Getting used to being hit with hard punches will also improve your guard as you know the importance of blocking incoming attacks.
# 3. Slippery ring corners
Most stadiums in Thailand welcome foreigners towards the end of the shows. This is because fights can be very entertaining and unpredictable. Before you fight, there will be five or six more fights in the same ring.
This means that there will be a lot of oil, grease, and water all over the ring (especially in the corners) by the time you fight. One of the reasons Thai fighters do the traditional Wai Kru is to walk around the ring and map the ring danger areas they want to avoid.
In a fight you have to be tactical when you kick or you could end up slipping. I have seen fighters slip several times in a fight when throwing kicks because the mats are soaked in water, oil and petroleum jelly. (Fighters doing Wai Kru also lather the center of the ring with oil while on their knees)
How to prepare
Before your fight, sprinkle water on the canvas of a ring and make it very wet and slippery. Practice the fight on surfaces where there are slippery places where you cannot throw kicks. This will make you aware of where you stand and when you can and cannot go on strike.
You can also wet the bottom rugs in front of your heavy bag and work on the heavy bag. This will force you to focus on your balance every time you hit and try to establish sufficient grip when you hit. You might end up slipping a few times hitting a heavy bag on a wet carpet, so be careful not to hit your head.
# 4. No shin guards
This point mainly applies to new fighters or amateurs having their first professional fight. After a few fights you will get used to kicking without shin guards. However, the first time you fight without shin guards, it seems strange.
When you have shin guards to protect your shins, you can kick all day in a fight. But the moment you remove the shin guards, every blocked kick hurts like hell. If you see an inexperienced fighter hesitating to throw kicks in the final rounds of a fight, there's a good chance his shins are throbbing from all the punches he threw earlier.
I find that the more calm and relaxed I am in a fight, the more pain I feel. Whereas the more nervous and scared (filled with adrenaline) I am, the less pain I feel. Even when you feel pain, you only feel it for a second because your mind has to focus on the immediate danger.
While there is an advantage to being nervous and adrenaline-filled, the downside is that you are more tense and you won't be as responsive. So you don't want to rely on your adrenaline to make sure you don't feel pain. Learning when to kick so your opponent doesn't block is a very important skill you learn over years of fighting.
How to prepare
There is no secret sauce to getting shins hard, besides a lot of kicking with your shins. If you hit an old, heavy sack that has hardened, it will gradually condition your shin. Another thing you can do before a fight is to practice lightly without shin guards. This will get you used to throwing kicks without the added weight of shin protection. But no matter what you do your shins are going to throb after the fight, accept it.
# 5. Nudges
Most novice fighters are afraid of nudging. Since you don't really practice with the elbows, it's uncomfortable when someone beats you with the elbows in a fight. Often times the fear of being hit with an elbow is much worse than the actual elbow pain.
It took me a few fights to get my face destroyed with the elbows, to realize that they're not that bad. Cuts hurt a lot less than actual punches that damage your brain. The only annoying thing about cuts is that they limit your view of the blood entering your eyes.
How to prepare
Before having your first fight, you can practice the technical fight with elbow pads or have a trainer throw the elbows without landing them. This will get you used to blocking and defending against elbows. Once you realize that a simple hand in front of your face will block most of the elbows, they become intimidating when you face them.
Thai fighters from Thailand like to elbow foreigners. Since we know that the "farang" (foreigners) do not like to be hit with the elbows, they will make a point to try to put the elbows. Expect to be hit with a few elbows and expect it to scare you the first time around. Just accept these feelings and realize that everyone experiences the same emotions.
Having your first Muay Thai fight in Thailand can be very intimidating, but it's something everyone should aim for. If you train in a good camp, they will (hopefully) match you with someone you can beat.
Before entering the ring, it is important to expect to feel uncomfortable throughout the process. Just like the first time you step into a new environment, it takes time to get used to.
It is important that you try to stay relaxed and breathe. This will ensure that your cardio lasts a lot longer. Experienced fighters are able to stay calm because they know exactly what to expect. So the more you step into the ring, the more comfortable you will feel.
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