One sparring partner makes you better, but learning from the tricks of multiple types of sparring partners makes you smarter. . .
TYPES OF PARTNERS (& HOW TO BEAT THEM)
Some time ago, Sean and Paul broke down the different types of sparring partners. The podcast covered a broad amount of fighters that you would most likely run into when sparring. As the sport of Muay Thai grows and new waves of curious members hit the gym, it’s inevitable that new archetypes will spring to life.
Though thorough and comprehensive, the boys’ list of 10 sparring partner types cannot stay unchanged forever. In my humble opinion, it’s time to update the list. Here are some of the new types of partner you may encounter in your everyday sparring, plus some handy ways to counter their individual styles.
#1: THE “STICKY HANDS” PARTNER
This type of sparring partner will grab onto literally anything if presented the opportunity.
Did you land an awesome roundhouse kick as they stepped in to jab? Too bad – they’re going to just stop whatever they were doing and grab the foot.
It doesn’t matter if it’s light contact, if you have 20+ lbs. on them, or were slowing down the kicks to prevent injury – “Sticky Hands” is going to grab any type of kick coming his or her way.
A common recommendation to deal with this is to stop getting lazy and pull back on the kick immediately after contact. I find, however, that this might detrimentally train one to always be hesitant on the follow-through of a roundhouse.
Instead, work on the feints! Let them grab a couple of teeps at first. After the third teep or so, pick the knee up and throw a superman punch instead of a teep. See if your sticky-handed opponent is keen to grab your kicks afterwards.
#2: THE “GOD MODE” PARTNER
The “God Mode” partner can be of any size, but there is one distinctive trait that sets them apart from everyone else: they have no regard for any approach or strategy that doesn’t involve always moving forward.
They will not bother to check or parry your strikes. They will take every hit coming at them without concern. (I mean, it’s a controlled sparring session, so there shouldn’t be any real danger in the first place, right?) This training partner will surge forward with every strike as if he’s a character in a video game with all the cheat codes activated.
Upping the intensity on punches can be risky since it might send the wrong message to this partner, spurring him on even further.
Instead, teep constantly to keep these guys at bay. Never move backwards in a straight line or get cornered. Learn to constantly angle out and attack from different directions. Better yet, you can temporarily morph into the next type of sparring partner:
#3: THE “POINT FIGHTER” PARTNER
Tracking the movement of the “point fighter” would show more lines and scribbles on paper than a basketball playbook. The point fighter isn’t interested in standing around in one spot for too long. They usually strike and move, cutting corners and fighting backwards the majority of the time. They will poke and prod with satisfaction.
Without ropes or cage walls to cut them off, these guys will run rampant into other spaces if you choose to chase them.
This highly mobile sparring partner is constantly on the move and refuses to engage for more than a strike or two. The more frustrated you get and the more you chase, the sooner they’ll hit you with a clean shot and vanish.
Stay focused and work on your advancing footwork. If they’re in the ring, learn to cut their movement off. If they’re off the mats, learn to reset and pick a center not to budge from. Do not give into point fighter’s game by chasing them to return a hit.
#4: THE “KITCHEN SINK” PARTNER
Spinning back fists, spinning roundhouses, sidekicks, question mark kicks, cartwheel kicks… I would love to know what makes this type of fighter tick. Does he fancy himself the reincarnation of Bruce Lee? Is he channeling Ryu (or Ken, if you’re a heathen) from Street Fighter??
If there is a chance a flashy move is going to land, expect that the “Kitchen Sink” is going to throw it. He’ll throw any unique technique he can think of and is willing to try anything to see if it works. Closely related to the “This Is Not Muay Thai” guy, this partner’s arsenal is comprised of almost purely non-standard technique sets.
Expect the unexpected. A sparring partner like this is great for honing defenses as you have to focus your attention on every detail. Each little twitch could be the signal for something unpredictable. Advance carefully and try to interrupt any type of wind-up.
Remember that there is a lesson to be learned from everyone, regardless of which sparring partner you get. Sparring is meant to work on a variety of tendencies and techniques. Work on adapting and altering your fighting style to shut game plans down!
Are any of these new sparring types recognizable? Do you have any more types of sparring partners to update the old list with? Let me know in the comment section below!
- 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.