No matter where you train, shadow boxing should be another staple in your Muay Thai training. Many trainers and camps may differ on their philosophies of how to shadow box, but just about every one agrees: it's important. These are just some thoughts on how shadow boxing is done at York Muay Thai, with some Ajahn Suchart flavor in the mix.
During individual training, it's a requirement for YMT fighters to shadow box at least 3 rounds before hitting the bag or doing pad/sparring drills. During mixed classes, we have group shadow boxing of drills and footworks built into the class routines for students of all levels to gain practice with, in addition to regular shadow boxing.
Shadow boxing is an exercise in self sufficiency. With only yourself to guide your practice, you should become more in tune with the balances/imbalances in your technique. For fighters, you also begin to develop a true sense of independence. Often times, we rely on set drills, the pad holders, bag or other training aides to push us.
Shadow boxing forces you to truly dig from within, as well as become more thoughtful. As a fighter gains experience and add more scenarios to their pool of knowledge, their shadow boxing should evolve to reflect that. Your shadow boxing should continue to evolve as you continue to train, and help prepare you for any situation. Reflect on how your shadow boxing has changed over the years, and hopefully you'll see some progression.
Ajahn Suchart, our grandfather in the art, outlines 3 basics styles of shadow boxing rounds in his seminars:
- Warm up
- Power and footwork
- Strategy/Personal skill
Other styles we have employed at YMT to get students thinking in different ways:
- Footwork only
- Hands and elbows only
- Knees and kicks only
- Southpaw/Weak hand stance only
The above are just outlines. There are many variations you can come up with to help focus on an area of need. Despite the differences in the "styles", each should be done with intensity to gain maximum benefit. It's always advisable to start slow in practice, but by the end of the round you should have what you need to go full throttle. If you have the time, shadow box even more rounds. If you do it correctly, and with spirit, it should be work out in itself.
Here are some parting tips, which will hopefully be useful no matter what camp you train at:
1. Practice both stances:
Be ready for every situation. Practice in your weakest stance and you'll find you might be working twice as hard. This will help give you another option for adapting to your opponent. Why have only 8 weapons when you can double that number??
Some people either move too little, or too much. Muay Thai footwork is simple and crisp. Many misunderstand this and think Thai fighters only stand in front of the target. Don't be a sitting duck in shadow boxing, but don't circle endlessly either. Move in order to practice getting into range for a technique, or as a defensive maneuver to gain advantage. Tiger step (North, South, East, West), diagonal step, Switching (Yam Sam Khum, Mah Yong, Salaap Fan Plaa), Quarter turning...they all have numerous places they can be used in.
3. Use the mirror (if available):
Using the mirror can help you build accuracy by using yourself as a target, but the main advantage is in seeing your overall technique. You should be taking note of your weight transfer, your guard hand, your chin position...everything. The mirror should provide the feedback for you to slowly close the holes in your technique before you use them on the pads, bag or sparring. Also, by paying attention to technique, it should make you more aware as a fighter when you start looking for holes in your opponent's techniques!
4. Technique over speed:
You don't need to throw high volume combinations to keep a work rate or intensity. Keep it simple and keep it crisp. If it stops looking clean, slow it down and do less. In fact, make sure you start simple first, then build your combinations and footworks in as you go. Shadow boxing is a primer, which means you want to prepare yourself for what's to come...and being messy isn't on the list.
5. Don't go through the motions:
As mentioned, your shadow boxing should evolve over time. This means you aren't throwing the same set combinations, or putting your body on "auto pilot". It's easy to fall into the "auto pilot" phase... but forcing yourself to stay in the moment and be dynamic is a huge benefit to the exercise. Fighting is something that takes 100% of your attention, and falling into a repetitive rhythm is asking to be decoded and defeated.
At the end of the day, shadow boxing is a piece of Muay Thai that never leaves you. It can be done anywhere. If you find yourself unable to hit the gym, you can at least set a timer and work on your skills at home!!