We’ve already discussed how to properly hold the Thai pads, and Roxy discusses how to hold the pads and not get jacked up in her blog, but now I think it’s time we discussed how to properly hit the pads—specifically, how to approach a new combination and how to structure the pace of our combinations.
If you have never seen a certain combination in class, you should approach it slowly. Throw your strikes slowly, paying attention to your stance and feet—an often neglected but absolutely crucial part of Muay Thai. Once your base is solid, check to make sure your hands are returning to your guard after each strike, so you are able to execute good defense at a moment’s notice. Make sure you are throwing your strikes from the proper range. Once you feel comfortable with the technique of the combo, speed it up. When you can confidently throw the combo with speed, only then do you add power. It’s important that the order is not reversed; you should focus first on technique, then on speed, then on power. If your focus goes power-speed-technique you will end up with sloppy technique.
I’ll often see students throwing an almost continuous flow of combos, a flaw of pacing. Once you know you can execute a combo with speed and technique, you should be adding power. But when we finish a combo and immediately begin another, the second combo lacks the explosive drive necessary to cause damage. When you finish a combo, take a deep breath, giving your muscles a moment of rest. This rest, though short, will ensure the follow up combo is snappy and strong. I’d rather see two strong combos in 8 seconds than four slow, halting combos in the same span of seconds. This pause can also give you a moment to work on footwork. Incorporating small lateral steps and head movement in between combos is a more realistic and efficient way to train on the pads.
A good round of Thai pads should look like a fight. You should throw your combos with nasty intentions, but you should also pace yourself. There’s nothing worse than reaching the second or third round of pads (or, for that matter, a fight) and finding nothing left in your hearts, lungs, or shoulders. When you focus on technique and pacing you will improve your technique, develop an essential sense of pacing, and become a better fighter.
– Daniel Davis-Wiliams, Muay Thai Instructor, CPT, CSCS