All athletes benefit from watching professionals or from reviewing their own performances.
Imagine, for a moment, being a Muay Thai novice.
You begin by training multiple times a week, picking up bruises and aches and pains, but you accept this and see yourself steadily improving.
Imagine moving from static punching bags to aggressively attacking your trainer’s hand and leg pads, then as you upgrade your skills, imagine moving into the sparring ring.
You are confident as you step into the ring. In accordance with Muay Thai tradition you are careful to step over the rope and not under it. You are confident that the trainer has taught you the techniques necessary to ensure that you have a chance of victory against your opponent who is also sparring for the first time. You eye each other up and down and for a moment your eyes lock, penetrating and understanding the nervousness and excitement you both feel. You each look away at the same time, you begin to mentally go through the motions of the fight about to commence.
You move towards each other in the ring, the gym becomes eerily silent around you as fellow trainers and trainees stop to watch your first ever sparring match and as your entire mental focus is taken up by the situation at hand. You feel your heart beat faster, you make sure focus on your every breath as you start circling your opponent, harnessing your body’s energy. Then, all of a sudden, you engage.
The fight is hard and fast and you try to apply the techniques you’ve learned, you move your feet well and you deflect kicks and punches using the 8-pointed techniques you have been taught. You occasionally make contact with your opponent’s body, once even landing a solid kick to his left thigh. But slowly, inexorably, you start to get beaten back. First your head guard is smashed from a fast and hard right punch then your abs feel the brunt of a well aimed kick. All of a sudden you are looking up at the ceiling of the gym, the fan directly above the ring circling in a ceaseless, droning, cycle.
You have lost your first sparring match but you did not disgrace yourself. You held true to the techniques you were taught and you acquitted yourself well. But this does not change the fact that you lost.
Before video technology you be constricted to mentally replaying the fight with your trainer. Now you have a better way to review your methods and techniques because your first fight has been filmed and you can repeatedly watch the footage. You watch the video with your trainer who points out where you did things right and where you did things wrong. He stops the video to show you still frames of how your body is positioned as you are delivering a kick.
Then, determined, you watch the video by yourself. You gain insight and perspective into your fighting style, how you approached the fight and how you let that one punch get through. You learn and adapt and you see that you have room for improvement.
The power of being able to watch yourself on video, looking for the little things that you do wrong or right when you train, spar, and fight, gives you invaluable insight. It allows you to visualize your own shortcomings and your strengths. It allows you to study the best Muay Thai fighters in the world, watching how they move their feet and how they outwit and outfight their opponents.
The next time you step into the sparring ring you may lose again but because of the hours you spent watching footage of your last fight, you are in no doubt that you have become a better fighter.