These are the best beginner Muay Thai sparring tips that will help you avoid getting your nose broken and spirits demoralized the first time you decide to step into the ring. Since I’m the guy who had his nose broken and spirits demoralized his first sparring session, I want to help you avoid that at all costs because it SUCKS!
Check out this 10 step beginner checklist on how to spar during your first session(s):
How To Spar Checklist For Beginners
My Top 10 Beginners Muay Thai Sparring Tips
#1. Make Sure Your Kru/Instructor Approves
Don’t be that asshole who steps into a first sparring session without permission. Chances are you haven’t sparred yet because your instructor feels like you are not ready. And guess what? If your instructor thinks you are not ready, you are NOT ready.
Not only is this for your safety but it’s for your training partners safety too. There has been way too many times I’ve sparred people on their first sessions and they go absolutely wild throwing 100% strikes acting like it’s a fight! Don’t be that asshole.
#2. Buy The Right Sparring Equipment
You don’t want to spar with 4oz MMA gloves, crappy shin guards and no mouth piece. Pretty obvious right? Well I would fucking hope so!
Here’s an important sparring tip for beginners… do your research! Check out my recommendations for the best training equipment here to make sure you have the right equipment before your first spar:
- 16oz boxing gloves – Not 12oz, not 14oz… 16 oz!
- Stand up shin guards – Not grappling shin guards that you slip on, you’ll end up wishing you got the shin guards that are made for striking exchanges!
- Headgear – The key here is buying headgear that is comfortable, allows you to see and has a decent amount of padding.
- Groin Protection – Coming from experience, I’d recommend a steel cup
- Mouthguard – Not a cheap, $1 mouth guard. Get AT LEAST a boil and bite, if not a customized mouth guard.
- Elbow/Knee Pads – Now I doubt you’ll be doing elbow/knee sparring for your first session, but later on in your career you probably will so it wouldn’t hurt to invest in some.
#3. You Don’t Need To “Win” At Sparring
One of the most important sparring tips for beginners is this one: There is no such thing as “winning” a sparring session.
Too many times have I witnessed/been a part of a sparring session where beginners are trying to kill each other like it’s a Lumpinee title fight. Relax killers. No one is going to think you’re a total badass because you did good one sparring round and no one is going to judge your skills if you happen to get beat up.
The key is improvement.
Every time you spar you should be trying to improve from the last time. So naturally if it’s your first time sparring, you will have plenty of techniques that you can work and improve on!
Take it easy and focus mainly on learning from the experience.
#4. Choose The Right Sparring Partner
It’s very common for first timers to get matched up with the top fighters in the gym because the more experienced fighters know how to control their technique and intensity and still teach you a thing or two while your sparring. Not to mention if you go too hard they can put you in your place very easily with a quick body kick.
Too often I see two first timers spar against each other. This can be good and bad. The good thing is that they get to see where they are compared to other beginners. The bad thing is that they probably will fight to the death to prove that they are better.
#5. Feel Out Your Opponent
Once you hear the bell ring don’t bum rush your training partner and start throwing reckless techniques. No one will ever want to spar you if you are a douche like that.
Sparring (especially for beginners) is about implementing the Muay Thai techniques you’ve been learning and getting a feel for what it’s like to actually hit/be hit. No need to rush, no need to throw 100% power, no need to try to prove something.
Get an idea of how hard your sparring partner is going and try to throw your strikes with the same intensity as they do. This will help keep you two safe, uninjured and you might actually learn a thing or two!
#6. Diversify Your Strikes
Don’t get comfortable throwing just one of the strikes you learned. I know when I first started all I did was throw my overhand right (which ironically still happens way too much) and all this did was let my sparring partner get comfortable with my timing.
Mix up your punches, kicks, knees and clinch as much as you can. Start off with a hand combination and then finish with a kick, or vice versa. Do yourself a favor and get comfortable throwing all of the 8 limbs of Muay Thai!
#7. Throw Combinations
Very similar to the previous tip (diversifying your strikes) but different in the fact that you want to make sure you throw multiple strikes and try to stay away from too many single punches or kicks.
You’ll find out with experience that the Muay Thai techniques that land are usually the ones at the end of a combination. That being said make sure you are using good defensive technique because you are leaving openings for your sparring partner to counter.
Try not to let your sparring partner get away with throwing a combination at you without letting them know that you are coming back with your own combination!
If your partner feels like he/she can throw any technique or strike at you without consequence chances are they will have your number in no time. When you throw combinations you leave yourself open… same goes for your opponent!
Whenever you are able to, you need to counter either in the middle of your partners combination or at the end of their flurry. Don’t let them get away with hitting you without a retaliation!
#9. Relax and Breathe!
Unless you’ve been in 100 street fights as a kid, chances are you will get tense and nervous before your first spar. It’s ok. It’s bound to happen. But if you can remember to tell yourself to relax and breathe in the midst of a sparring session, you will feel much more comfortable exchanging strikes and be less fatigued too.
Don’t muscle up on your strikes, keep them nice a loose just as if you were hitting the pads or heavy bag.
Make sure you take time to breathe too! It’s easy to get caught up in the intensity of sparring but whenever you can take a step back and breathe it will help you refocus and catch your breathe.
#10. Have Fun!
The most important Muay Thai sparring tips for beginners is to HAVE FUN!
You train Muay Thai for the fun of it, so don’t take the fun out of it by taking sparring sessions too seriously. Enjoy your time in the ring and enjoy the fact that you’ve done something not many people have. It takes guts to spar so don’t take that for granted.
Enjoy the learning process and enjoy the new bond you’ll have with all your team of sparring partners!
- Sean "Muay Thai Guy" Fagan owns & operates the largest online Muay Thai community and the #1 training resource for nak muay of all levels.