Why Online Muay Thai Training Courses are Counterproductive.
Marketers lurked the late-night hours of television. Their schemes varied but their deliveries were the same. From televangelists to Tony Robbins, they used persuasion, promising prosperity, personal power, or peak conditioning. They crafted and aimed their messages at the masses with the hopes that someone would bite. It was the original click-bait.
Since the rise of the Internet and social media these marketers have found their way online. Every niche has them, and Muay Thai is no exception. Over the years the number of online Muay Thai training courses has increased. Coaches claim they can teach you to kick like Buakaw or punch like Yodsaenklai or knee like Dieselnoi. But can studying Muay Thai online do you any good? In a complex sport like Muay Thai, where communication and feedback parallel growth, consider the downsides.
Teaching effectively calls for good communication. The communication process has a sender and a receiver of a message, a limited amount of noise, and gives both sides the chance for feedback. For the sake of Muay Thai, let’s say the coach is the sender of the message, the student is the receiver, the instructions are the message, the response of the students or coach is the feedback, and barriers in sending or receiving the message are noise.
At a traditional gym, a coach (sender) explains a technique (message) to their students (receiver). If the students follow the coach they will show it in their display of technique (feedback). If the students aren’t following the coach’s message because of an external factor like loud music at the gym (noise), or an internal factor like a misunderstanding (noise), the student can ask the coach to repeat or rephrase the instructions. At a brick and mortar gym, issues that arise in the sending or receiving of the message are solved right away. But when you learn Muay Thai online the communication process gets cut in half.
With online training, the coach explains or shows the technique and the student listens or watches through video. The teacher then expects the student to do the technique. What if the student doesn’t get the instructions? What if the coach delivers an unclear message to the student? Everyone has a different style of learning, and at times coaches make different analogies to reach different people. Because the communication process is cut in half with online training, the student can’t ask the coach to repeat the instructions. The coach can’t rephrase the instructions using a different analogy. It’s a communication barrier that takes time to overcome. You can chat with the coach through email or on a message board, but both of these feedback methods take time. For anyone to become skilled in Muay Thai immediate feedback is crucial.
Dr. Tony Myers, one of the UK’s leading Muay Thai coaches and ring officials, uses a variety of feedback methods in his training. “Verbal feedback is only one form of feedback important to develop someone’s skills,” Dr. Myers said. “Kinesthetic and mechanical feedback are as important in skill development. It can be important for a coach to show someone how a technique should feel, how relaxed certain body parts should be, which other parts should be tense and to what degree. Physically putting someone in a particular position and letting them know how it feels can be really important.” It’s Dr. Myers’ last method of feedback that online coaches can’t give students. For example, it’s easier for coaches to show students how it feels to kick properly by catching and holding and manipulating the student’s leg. Without this crucial feedback a student can develop technical flaws, which will turn into bad habits.
Once you develop bad habits in Muay Thai—if left to linger—you’ll carry them with you, never quite mastering the art through your progression. And Muay Thai is an art of subtleties. A tweak in movement can mean more power, more speed, less physical exertion. Bad habits can negate these movements. Most coaches would agree that it’s easier to train a student to grasp these subtleties before the student develops bad habits. “It is a long journey to develop a good fighter and there are many things that inform that process. When we do things lots of times it feels natural, but feeling natural does not mean it is correct,” Dr. Myers said.
But what if you live in the middle of nowhere and there are no Muay Thai gyms to be found? If you have to pick online training courses over a brick and mortal school, ask yourself some questions.
- What has the coach done in real life?
- Do they train students at a gym?
- Do they have exceptional communication skills for online training?
- Is their marketing scheme based on someone else’s achievements? For example, do their social media posts point to someone else’s work?
Be aware of unrealistic expectations. If you ever walked into a gym and a coach claimed they could get you to kick like Buakaw or move with the fluidity of Saenchai after a few training sessions, you’d think they’re crazy. Everyone’s an expert in the age of social media. But social media also makes it easier to research potential coaches.