“Free Muay Thai consultations here! Gratuitous, uncalled-for instruction and critical review of your technique! Come and get it while you don’t want it!” Please – don’t bring this to the gym. . .
“THANKS FOR THE ADVICE, BUT…”
There comes a time in every Muay Thai practitioner’s session where the proverbial light bulb seems to “switch on.”But is it your job to enlighten everyone else, too?
After several years of practice, maybe you’ve finally gotten down pat that awesome pivot on the lead foot that accelerates the whole body into a picture perfect roundhouse. You’ve developed proper footwork over time that suddenly adds that nice crisp snap to a jab. You’re at a place where you can stay in the clinch for an extra five whole seconds before getting dumped by your Kru.
These brilliant moments of clarity and achievement fill us with pride and excitement. It’s only natural that we want others to experience the same feeling.
When it comes to Muay Thai, everyone is enduring the same struggle of growth and improvement. We empathize with those who experience the very same pitfalls that agitated us at one point or another. There is, however, a fine line between the genuine desire to help others and coming off as a know-it-all that everyone steers clear of in the gym.
Wanna give pointers in the gym? Avoid these annoying approaches.
DON’T GIVE UNSOLICITED ADVICE
When you as an observer see unsolicited advice being given, it’s hard not to cringe. Shouldn’t that tell you something right away?
On one occasion, I saw a new recruit that recently joined the fight team trying to impart his experience (all four months of it) to a girl slowly working a heavy bag in the corner.
Unbeknownst to the recruit, that “girl” was a successful amateur fighter who had taken a couple of a months off to nurse an injury. After 15 minutes of hovering around and closely watching over her every kick/punch (complete with very uncomfortable body language), she finally cut her heavy bag session short and politely excused herself to the treadmill.
While his intentions were from a good place, trying to impart his wisdom based off the assumption that she actively needed help was the reason why his advice ultimately fell on deaf ears.
NEVER give away unsolicited advice and NEVER assume. While this is a Muay Thai gym where everyone collectively suffers together, there are still social etiquettes to which to adhere.
Examine the relationship between you and the person to evaluate whether or not unsolicited advice would be well received. Remember that nobody likes to be suddenly approached and critiqued, especially if it’s from a stranger. The gym is not your personal podium from which to inculcate.
DON’T DRAW OUT EXPLANATIONS
A typical Muay Thai class in the West runs about an hour. The class consists of two people swapping between holding pads and hitting pads. That means one person has 15-20 minutes (at best) to hit pads while the other one holds.
Now imagine it’s your turn to hit and the holder begins with this:
“OK, so you want to pivot on your lead leg like you’re putting out a cigarette. This will help throw your whole body weight into the roundhouse. The momentum should carry your kicking leg like a baseball bat through the pads. You get more power and momentum making your te chiang amazingly strong. You know who does this really well? Yodsanklai. You should definitely watch Yodsanklai when you get home and see the way he kicks, then you’ll understand better. Another thing to remember is that Muay Thai was invented in the 18th century by—
C’mon, guy! This is my turn!!
This effectively reduces the class (for you) to nothing more than a lesson on abstract theoretical Muay Thai. Before this blabbermouth wraps up his lesson, it’s time to switch and you didn’t get to throw a single strike. This effect is even worse if it occurs during a sparring session that only allows three minutes with each person.
Everyone has a finite session to put in work every day. Keep any advice brief and to the point. If your partner wants more advice, let him approach you after class to clarify or have them ask you during the session. No need to give them a long, drawn-out explanation that has him standing around for his whole session.
DON’T SPEAK MORE THAN YOU DO
Some time ago, I wrote an article about coaches without top accolades. I argued for greater respect for coaches because while some people may have a natural affinity for the physical aspect of fighting, others excel at mental gameplanning.
That said, a person can have an all-seeing third eye and foolproof gameplans, but nobody will take them seriously if said gameplanner was in the corner idly chatting throughout the whole session or skipping several days at once. How can such a person expect their colleagues’ respect if they don’t put in the same amount of work?
Practitioners don’t necessarily need 30 professional fights’ experience or flawless technique with the perfect body to give advice. Whether others will listen is an entirely different matter.
If you want to give advice, build up a rapport with your teammates. Show up consistently to practice when teammates are getting ready for their respective fights. Show up to support them when they fight. Hell, just holding pads for them when they need a warmup goes a long way.
Actions speak louder than words. Teammates need to know they can count on you for support before they take any of your advice.
To those who dole out advice, remember that giving pointers can easily be mistaken as the need for self-validation. It’s easy to lose track of social mannerisms when put in a place where everyone shares the same mutual hobby. Dial it back a bit. Think about how the other person may interpret your intentions before you approach them with any kind of guidance.
And to those of us who have been on the receiving end of unwanted, unsolicited advice, remember that they (likely) mean well and only wish to help. Find the value in their advice and appreciate it for what it’s worth.
- Daniel Nguyen is a packaging engineer who trains Muay Thai as a passionate hobby. With a smoker fight under his belt, his ultimate goal is to convince others to join in by conveying his passion for the sport and writing about his experiences.