My Muay Thai Training: How can I use combinations to improve my sparring?

How can you use combinations most effectively? And what's the best way to throw them? These are the questions Fraser Coffeen ponders this week in his My Muay Thai Training journal.

Welcome back to my online diary documenting my very amateur experience training in Muay Thai. If you missed the previous entries on Bloody Elbow, read them here.

Due to some scheduling complications, I recently had to miss a few weeks of training. I was concerned when I came back that I would be too rusty. As it turns out, I was indeed a bit physically out of shape (especially the legs!), but that time away didn't negatively impact me as I expected. In actuality, I think it helped me improve. I came back eager to take part, hungry for more training, and highly focused. The result? A much more productive training experience than I've had lately.

And that's a good thing, because earlier this week was a tough training session. A lot of sparring, which is always satisfying, but tiring. After some sparring last week, I gave myself a goal of better working in my kicks, and particularly doing a better job snapping off the right low kick faster.

I've never gotten much snap on those low kicks, and as a result they tend to get blocked easily. Until recently, I've been mostly doing light sparring, which means throwing things a bit more slowly and with less power. Because of that, I was telegraphing the low kick. Now, with some slightly heavier sparring, I'm focused on getting those kicks off, working kick speed on the bag before class. And, satisfyingly, it worked. My kicks came quickly and I was able to land them repeatedly. This has always been a weakness for me, so it was good to see my focus on it pay off.

With the kicks working better, I should be having even more success, yes? Not quite. The trouble area for me now is combinations. We work combos, I think of combos and practice them on the bag or when shadow-boxing, but when sparring begins, I tend to fall back on either single shots or very basic things like doubling up the low kick. My fancy combinations always seem to fall aside when I get into it.

So this is my primary area of focus at the moment. How can I get my combinations to work better for me? And that brings me to a sort of philosophic, strategic question: is it better to plan out my combinations or to let them flow? I guess the clear answer is that if you can let your combinations flow, finding your opponent's gaps in defense as you attack, you're going to have more success. But until I get to that point, is the right choice to start an attack knowing the 3-4 strike combination I'm planning on using? Probably yes. But that's a challenge, and one I need to work on meeting.

Still, I'm feeling good. This is a more high level area to be working on, and I feel like I've reached the point where I can be focused on this. We'll work those combos and see how things go next time.

Question of the week: Again - combinations. Do you have certain go-to combos? And if so, what are they?

Video of the week: Something different this week - a fight. Here's Errol Zimmerman vs. Rico Verhoeven from It's Showtime earlier this year. Why share this? Combos. Check out the beautiful 4 punch fight ender Zimmerman uses here. Does he start the combo knowing what he's going to throw, or does he read Verhoeven as he attacks and makes the adjustment? Either way, it's beautiful stuff. Fight ending sequence begins at about the 1:00 mark.

I train under Andre Madiz at Conviction Martial Arts, 4430 N. Western Ave., Chicago, IL. www.convictionfitness.com. If you are in the Chicago area, come join us, and be sure to say hello.


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