Training to fight: David Ross of NY San Da

22 Oct


We are currently training one of the students for an upcoming Muay Thai bout. In my school, that usually means we get everyone in the program involved. The more bodies a fighter has to work with, the better. It also provides a lot of valuable lessons for those who help out.


FEAR: Fear is the first obstacle. People are afraid to get hit. They are afraid they will “look bad” in sparring. They make excuses (“it’s my first time sparring”). The first lesson to learn is that in training to fight, everyone gets hit. Everyone sweats, bleeds, gets knocked down. Everyone has a bad round or even a bad day. Sometimes people may even get knocked out in training, it happens. Everyone is afraid, and almost no one likes getting hit (I know a few exceptions).


Learning to fight is learning how to deal with FEAR. I always share a quote from the legendary boxing trainer Cus D’Amato;

“Fear is like fire. You can make it work for you: it can warm you in the winter, cook your food when you’re hungry, give you light when you are in the dark, and produce energy. Let it go out of control and it can hurt you, even kill you….Fear is a friend of exceptional people.”


ANGER: Anger is a huge issue in training to fight. People get angry, but often the real anger is at themselves. They dropped their hands, they didn’t follow up, they didn’t finish the combination, etc., This is a good example of how fighting also teaches life lessons; you can’t change the past, and if you obsess over it you are just going to make even more mistakes. Move on, keep it moving, learn from a mistake and continue training.

Another anger issue; don’t get mad, get even. When someone hits you, hit them back. When someone comes near you, hit them. When someone misses, hit them. NOTHING FOR FREE.


ATTITUDE: Protect yourself at all times AND do everything you can to injure your opponent. Don’t worry about them, don’t have sympathy. Assume they are trying to hurt you; it’s a pretty safe bet. I am NOT advocating unsportsmanlike conduct at all! I despise trash talk. I despise showboating. I insist my fighters follow the rules of whatever venue they are in. BUT, remember you are in a fight. The referee is the person who is there to look out for the fighters. A fighter’s job is to WIN. And knocking out or submitting your opponent is the best way to win.


TAKE THE BEATING IN THE GYM, NOT IN THE RING (CAGE): People disagree with me, but I have my fighters do longer rounds than they actually fight (3 to 5 minute rounds for kickboxing for example). Of course, they do 45 or 30 second rests instead of the full minute. We work up to five rounds of sparring for every round the match is scheduled for (a three round match, you spar 15 rounds, that does NOT include pad work and conditioning).

In sparring, go light enough you avoid (you can never completely prevent) injuries. But not so you are “coasting”.


BASICS AND STRATEGY: Fights are won with basics (fundamentals) and strategy. They aren’t won with fancy tricks or “showboating.” We punch the kicker for example. If one of my fighters doesn’t demonstrate that, it’s a problem. We have 18 of those maxims. We go into fights with a “world view” if you have it; we know human nature and how fights play out. One of my fighters should understand that well before the fight happens and be able to use it to their advantage.


BE COACHABLE: Are you capable of being taught and trained to do something better? Or do you think you already know? Or already know better? The biggest obstacle to most fighters is not the long rounds, the physical conditioning, the injuries, etc., The biggest obstacle to a fighter’s success is not being coachable….



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