Sparring sessions are one of the essential parts of training in Muay Thai. However, sparring can also be pretty dangerous.
Not everyone knows how to spar correctly. Furthermore, even if some people know how to do it, many injuries are still caused by sparring.
So, in this article, we will talk about:
- How often should you spar in Muay Thai to benefit and stay safe?
- The different types of sparring.
- Tips: How to stay safe during sparring.
- Tips: How to get better in sparring.
- When you should start sparring as a beginner.
The idea is that after reading this article, all the questions related to Muay Thai sparring will be answered, so let’s get started!
Table of Contents
- How Often You Should Spar Muay Thai To Benefit And Stay Safe?
- How Often You Should Spar In Muay Thai As Beginner
- How Often You Should Spar In Muay Thai As a Professional
- Types Of Sparring In Muay Thai
- Tips: How To Stay Safe During Sparring In Muay Thai
- Tips: How To Get Better At Muay Thai Sparring
- When You Should Start Sparring As A Beginner
- Final Thoughts About How Often Should You Spar In Muay Thai
How Often You Should Spar Muay Thai To Benefit And Stay Safe?
Some coaches and fighters dislike sparring sessions because the probability to get injured increases for the athletes.
Drills, bag/pad work, and other exercises are much safer and can bring many benefits, so fighters try to spar less in the modern era.
One of the UFC former champions and top contenders, Max Holloway, took the sparring sessions out of his preparation camp. Mainly because of the damage he was receiving.
People think that fighters take most of the damage during the fights. Yes, most of them are receiving lots of damage, especially if they lost by KO. However, most of the damage might happen during intense sparring sessions during their camp.
Fighters who spar 4-5 times per week might not get knockouts but get lots of punches in the head, and it has a cumulative effect, which can be very dangerous in the long run.
CTE is a harsh reality that several fighters need to face after retiring from competition.
Still, sparring is said to be an unreplaceable part of the training.
But how often should you spar as a muay Thai newbie?
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How Often You Should Spar In Muay Thai As Beginner
Sparring once a week is the perfect amount of sparring for beginners or amateurs who do not aim to be professional fighters someday.
Even if you plan to be a professional but have no experience in fighting, sparring is the worst way of improving.
Sparring should be the last exercise of the week, usually on Friday or Saturday. Beginners train 3 or 4 times per week.
After having long rest on weekends, on Monday the body needs to warm up and start working out with drills, bag work, or pad work.
It is recommended to do your strength and conditioning in the middle of the week. This will allow you to improve your cardio and stamina.
Essentially, your week should be a build-up for sparring day. When you spar at the end of the week is where you test your conditioning and combinations of the week.
How Often You Should Spar In Muay Thai As a Professional
From my experience, I can tell you that as a professional fighter, you need to keep improving in every aspect of the game until you retire.
Sparring is the best way for professionals to test and sharpen their tools.
Professionals should know what it means to be in trouble, what it means to be stunned, and should know all kinds of pain and how to overcome that adversity.
Your first pro fight is not the place to feel your first punches, kicks, and elbows.
The greatest fighters always say that they love the pain. One might say that pain motivates them, makes them angry, and they turn it into power.
Without sparring, it is impossible to know how to handle the pain and use it to your advantage. so I believe specific sparring is essential for professional fighters 2-3 times per week when working out 10+ times each week to get used to it.
But specific sparring is essential because there are things that can make sparring sessions way safer and more profitable.
Let’s say your sweeps suck. You would spar just your Muay Thai sweeps for a few rounds until you get better.
With specific sparring, you can get your timing right, learn how to counter, and get more comfortable with your technique.
Types Of Sparring In Muay Thai
Muay Thai is also known as the “art of the eight limbs” since there are eight different weapons. You can learn more about the basics in our Muay Thai beginner guide.
In Muay Thai, specific sparring sessions improve different parts of the game, so let’s discuss them and discuss their benefits and disadvantages.
Clinch Sparring is one of the most critical parts of Muay Thai. Often, beginners do not know how to use Thai Clinch, so they just throw hands and kicks without a strategy.
It is essential to spar your Thai Clinch to get used to the exhaustion it causes. Otherwise, beginners avoid it and try making the sparring as easy as possible. Don’t be afraid to push yourself a little.
Thai Clinch could a powerful tool for self-defense and MMA. It gives Thai boxers the advantage, and everyone who trains in Muay Thai should know how to use clinch in their favor.
It allows you to neutralize short-range attacks and gives you a lot of control over your opponent’s options. It is a great spot to land knees to the body, elbow, and sweeps.
Being controlled in a good Thai Clinch could be a grueling experience. So you better learn how to use it and defend it.
Here all the punches and kicks are legal, except the ones to the head. You can throw the knee, kicks to the body, or low kicks, whatever you want. Just do not attack the face.
The advantage of this sparring is that people are less afraid of getting punched or kicked in the body, so it is a great option for beginners.
You can learn to receive and land punches and kicks in a safe and controlled environment.
This type of sparring can also be relatively aggressive, where fighters can use more than 50% of their power.
but it is okay because fighters should also know how it feels to land a powerful punch or kick and the feeling of being on the receiving end.
The worst part of this sparring type is that when you know your rival is not attacking your face, your hands come down to protect your body. So, if you’re sparring like this be mindful of your hand positioning while defending. Don’t forget the head, even if you’re not under attack.
If you spar like this too often, it is easy to develop bad defensive habits.
This sparring type should be the go-to for beginners. But professional fighters use this kind of sparring often too. It allows them to add more sessions while decreasing the risk.
In light sparring, you should use 30-40% of your power and let your training partner test some new techniques he learned before.
The idea of light sparring is that your opponent should not punish you with hard punches. The core principle is that you’re both there to try new things and fail while doing it.
No one is doing techniques perfectly on the first try, and practice makes it perfect. So you and your sparring partner should keep in mind that you’re there to improve and not to show off.
Don’t abuse light Muay Thai sparring either. You might get used to being too relaxed when you spar and get punished in real life.
However, if you are not professional and just do Muay Thai for fun, light sparring can be one of the best exercises for you with the right sparring partner.
Hard sparring is critical for professional fighters, but for non-professionals, it can be the worst exercise ever.
In hard sparring, you are getting used to protecting yourself more because once you feel the liver shot or kick, you start thinking about covering that part of your body.
If someone stops your combination with the jab, you start thinking about head movement, and so on.
Hard sparring makes us protect ourselves. Furthermore, this is the moment we truly test our ability outside the ring. The pressure, rhythm, and power are things every fighter should be familiar with.
If you are a beginner, you will just throw blind shots and double up on your bad habits, like ducking your head, throwing power shots without engaging your hips, and so on.
Often beginners start to spar light but end up as hard sparring. That’s a bad idea, and you should control it because injuries happen more often in beginners’ hard sparring than in professional ones.
Beginners throw lots of blind shots when they get emotional in hard sparring, and they might hurt themselves or their partner.
This is not a beginner-friendly way of sparring. If you’re training in a gym where they push you to spar hard, even if you’re not planning to compete, it is time to look for another gym.
Tips: How To Stay Safe During Sparring In Muay Thai
Being safe during Muay Thai sparring is one of the most critical parts of the game. No matter how good you are, with injuries, you won’t be able to show your skills.
There are several things to pay attention to while sparring to make it safer, so let’s break it down.
Good Fighting Gear
Often, fighters are lazy to wear some essential fighting gear, like headgear. Often beginners and pros feel uncomfortable using it.
For example, when I started sparring with headgear I could not breathe normally, got tired easily, and could not see all the movements my opponents were doing. On top of that, sweat was dropping in my eyes, which was super annoying.
I went cheap in my headgear as a beginner, so I faced these problems. When I used better quality sparring headgear, that I borrowed from my coach, I felt amazing.
The lesson here is don’t try to save money with your protective Muay Thai gear. I learned that the hard way.
Also, make sure to use all the required fighting gear for Thai boxing sparring like:
- Muay Thai Gloves 14-16 OZ (For featherweights and higher)
- Muay Thai Sparring Gloves 12-14 OZ (For female fighters and lighter weight category females)
- High-quality headgear
- Shin Guards
- Groin guard
These fighting gear can significantly decrease the risks of getting injured. Think of it as safety equals improvement. The less you worry about the damage the more you can focus on technique.
Chose Right Sparring Partner
Right sparring partner is essential to improve. It is important to realize that you guys are in the same boat, the gym is the family, and the family members help each other to improve. They do not try to bully each other.
Still, some fighters try to ego spar and show off how good they are by going hard with each other.
Try to find a good sparring partner with the same level as you, and help each other improve. Tell each other about your mistakes, fix them, and get better.
Once, when I was a beginner, a young professional boxer asked me to spar with him. He wasn’t trying to improve as much as he was trying to boost his ego before an upcoming fight.
He started throwing his most brutal punches just to be more confident before the fight.
However, I had a good coach who taught him a lesson he needed to learn after sparring sessions.
Do not go the sparring to beat someone. Go there to get better.
Tips: How To Get Better At Muay Thai Sparring
There are several things to do to get better at sparring Muay Thai. The essential thing is to slow down and try to improve your technique.
If you go hard from the beginning, you will get bad habits, not proper technique. Do you remember what we said about light sparring?
Also, to be better at sparring, fighting gear is essential. So make sure that you’ve read the previous chapter carefully.
Drill A Lot
As usual, to be better at something, you must practice it countless times. However, it is not as true for sparring. Drills are the best way to develop your skills.
Drills are one of the best ways of improving your techniques. Drills are better than pad or bag work because you are landing the punches on your rival.
You measure the distance and feel the punches better at drills.
You should use the skills developed during drills in sparring sessions. So before sparring, you should learn some fundamental combinations during drills.
don’t underestimate the power of having a Strategy
This is is critical during sparring. You should not just spar and throw random combinations, but have a plan and follow it. You must be good at several aspects, like fighting in the pocket or as the counter-striker.
Try to spar as many rounds with the same strategy as possible to find out if this style is the best for you or not.
You can check our other article to see my favorite fundamental combinations for beginners.
When You Should Start Sparring As A Beginner
Every coach has different styles for beginners. Some of them are trying to get students into sparring as soon as possible. Their goal is to make them feel what it feels like to be in a fight.
Other coaches like waiting for students to learn basic combos before introducing them to light sparring.
From my experience, I can tell you that the second type of coaching is better.
If you work out an average of three times per week, it will take 2-4 months to learn the basics of Muay Thai.
After feeling comfortable with several drill combinations and feeling okay with blocking them during the drills, you can ask your coach to let you spar.
You should start light or body sparring, depending on what your coach will tell you, and ask him to recommend someone on the same level as you as a sparring partner.
Final Thoughts About How Often Should You Spar In Muay Thai
As we already mentioned, there is no “right answer” to this question. It is individual. Still, it is also evident that professionals do spar way more than amateurs.
As a professional, you have to follow your coach’s instructions and spar according to the rules of your gym.
But if you do not like it or do not feel comfortable there, you can always change the gym and find a better place for you.
As an amateur or beginner, sparring once a week is excellent, and you don’t need more than that for a while.
Sometimes, sparring once every two weeks can be better, so do not even think about sparring twice a week at first.
As a professional, you should find the right amount of sparring per week according to your current goals.
Many great fighters are not sparring anymore, so do not be shy about refusing to spar if you feel it does not benefit you.