Muscle Memory in Martial Arts Training

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” – Bruce Lee

Many new practitioners of martial arts wonder what it takes to be successful in competition. They watch very advanced fighters who each have an arsenal of techniques and are overwhelmed with the plethora of techniques they can use. Many newer martial artists will attempt to learn every technique they see in hopes of being able to employ them in competition. Unfortunately, this strategy of practicing every technique often leads to being able many things poorly.

A good competitor in martial arts, be it Boxing, Muay Thai, or Mixed Martial Arts has committed the techniques he/she will use to muscle memory. They have practiced the techniques they use so many times that they can execute them without any thought. To make a movement something that can be used in this way it must be practiced correctly thousands of times. As a general rule I recommend that students practice each technique they hope to use about 10,000 a quarter. This breaks down to 3334 times per month, 834 per week, or 167 repetitions per day.

For amateur Muay Thai competition the most important techniques are the front leg theep, back and front leg round kicks, front and back leg knee, the jab, and the cross. So in order to commit these essential techniques to muscle memory a serious competitor must do the following 5 days per week.

  • 167 Jabs
  • 167 Crosses
  • 167 Front leg theeps
  • 167 Back leg round kicks
  • 167 Front leg round kicks
  • 167 back leg knees
  • 167 front leg knees

Sample workout:

Shadow boxing:

  • 10x standing jabs
  • 10x probing jabs
  • 10x advancing jabs
  • 10x retreating jabs
  • 10x advancing double jabs (20 total jabs)
  • 10x advancing triple jabs (30 total jabs)
  • 10x standing crosses
  • 10x advancing crosses
  • 10x standing jab + cross
  • 10x advancing jab + cross
  • 10x retreating jab + cross
  • 10x standing front leg theep
  • 10x double front leg theep
  • 10x advancing front leg theep
  • 10x theep + jab + cross
  • 10x back leg round kick
  • 10x front leg round kick
  • 10x front leg theep + back leg round kick
  • 10x front leg theep + front leg round kick
  • 10x theep + jab + cross + round kick
  • 10x theep + jab + cross + front leg round kick

On the bag

  • 400 alternating knees
  • 50 back leg round kicks
  • 50 front leg round kicks
  • Repeat the shadow boxing on the bag
  • 50 back leg round kicks
  • 50 front leg round kicks

This workout should take around 1 hour and can be done in addition to normal Muay Thai classes.

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