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Sparring Progressions

April 26, 2015

This is something I picked up from one of my striking coaches John Franchi.  John is a former WEC competitor (thats proffessional MMA for those who don’t know) and now coaches at 5th Round Fitness in Elmira New York. John has really impressed me with his kickboxing style were his footwork and elesuvieness is incredible.  I think he could easily fight and win in the sport of Muay Thai easily.  Basically what you do is start from the bottom and work your way up with techniques.  sometimes an entire class is made up of this pattern. It really works a lot of different aspect of your game and really makes you think. For the proposes of the article I am using 3 minute rounds with 1 minute rest.  you can tailor this to your own fighting specifics (Time and Rest)  I am also doing 2 to 3 rounds of each depending on my time (3 min rounds Muay Thai or 5 minute rounds MMA).  2 rounds of 5 mins or 3 rounds of 3 minutes.


1. Begin with shadow boxing.   Just as it sounds.  but just don’t do the boring old move forward and throw jab cross hook.  Really focus on your foot work.  move in and out and create angles.  In my opinion most people don’t know how to really shadow box.  they just move around and do the same 5 techniques over and over again.  Try to use everything in your arsenal.  Defense, head movements, feints, counters, punches, elbows, kicks, knees, everything.  maybe the first minute ease into it using more footwork than anything but as the time goes by begin adding more combinations with defense and counters. This really makes for a good warm up.

2. Now do 2 rounds of shadow boxing with a partner.  take turns moving in and out on each other.  no contact but try to be really active.  attack and react. You could even do one round each taking turns on attack and defense or just go minute for minute.  play around with this.  there are lots of ways to mix this drill up.

3. Next do two rounds of Dirty boxing or clinch.  in these rounds really try to be sneaky with setting up body shots and being close to the person.  Look for openings and use your body to create openings and stay in constant contact with your partner.  if you are strictly doing muay thai throw in your knees and really look for openings for your elbows.  Do NOT throw elbows at your partner.  just look for the openings.

4.  Now put one boxing glove on your lead hand.  For this round you are going to do nothing but use your jab or as John calls it “jab sparring.”  Move in and out both people trying to set up their jab.  use double and triple jabs, jabs to the body and use your footwork and head movement to try to set up the jab as many ways possible.  This drill will sharpen your jab in no time.  Do this for one round.  On the next round throw any lead hand technique you want but you still want this to be a jabbing session.  Make use of different styles of jabs. Short jabs, long jabs, upward jab, (similar to an upper cut but longer) even thrown in Long and short lead hooks. Remember to focus on control.  you want your movements to be sharp and fast but you also want to maintain control.  A Side note on control and technique.  If you are hurting your training partners, you do not have either control or technique.  Do this one for the second round.

5. Next we are going to add your rear leg shin pad.  now you can use only your lead hand and rear leg.  Can you see a pattern developing.  to keep from being just predictable… i will speed this blog up.  After a round or two of this you can either add the other shin pad or the other glove for 2-3 round until you build up to wearing all four pieces of equipment.


Changing up the way you spar and setting perimeters to stay within can really expose your weaknesses and help work on them at the same time.  Trust me, if you are pretty weak with your hands or jabbing, the jab sparring will expose it and help you get better at using your jab.  This drill can also start with just a lead shin pad. One round of doing nothing but lead leg kicking will really challenge your dextarity if you are not the best kicker.  Throw these situations into your sparring game and watch your game grow.


From → MMA, Muay Thai

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