We have a couple of lads in the gym getting ready for their first full Thai rules (FTR) fight and all are eager to let some elbows fly. I thought this would be the right time to give my thoughts and views on this subject.

The first ever FTR British title was fought for at the Tower Ballroom back in ’95/’96 giving this venue a great historical relevance to Muay Thai in the UK and demonstrating how far the sport has progressed.

Back in the 90’s fighting full Thai rules was not common place here in the UK and if you were lucky enough to witness one that did occur, generally, it was a blood bath.

In my opinion the reasoning to why these early fights were blood baths were simply because people became trigger happy, it was such a novelty to use the full arsenal that people went elbow crazy.

My advice for your first few FTR fights would be to mainly concentrate on avoiding being hit by elbows. Your basic covering up defence against punches i.e. squatting, arms tucked in close to the body and head/chin down is generally not a good method of defence in Muay Thai especially if it is FTR. It is very easy for elbows (and knees) to slip through this defence. However, it is still important to know as it is an effective defence in non-FTR bouts and against those who rely on their punching ability to overwhelm their opponent.

Clinching also becomes a whole new ball game once you allow the use of elbows. Make sure that you monitor your opponents arms at all times while in the clinch, you wouldn’t want one of these getting through as it can completely change the outcome of a fight. If you are unsure on how to check the arms in the clinch, ask your instructor.

This next part I can’t stress enough ….YOU DO NOT SPAR WITH ELBOWS! I’ve often heard of people sparring like this with the use of elbow pads and head guards …. NO, NO, NO! Sparring in this fashion is very dangerous and could potentially result in you losing some teeth.

Learning to strike with the elbow will come with a good pad man and can also be developed while clinch training.

While you are in the clinch, if you see an opening, move your arm a fraction of an inch just to show you could have thrown an elbow. This will help to develop your timing and will also help your partner gain awareness of elbow strikes without the worry of injury.

Just to clarify I am not saying don’t elbow in your first few FTR fights, if you see an opening by all means take it. Just don’t feel because you can use them you must.

The duration of the rounds can also seem daunting going into an A’ class bout but you shouldn’t let this bother you as the early rounds are often fought at a steadier pace as opposed to the hectic C’ and B’ class fights you may have experienced. This can give you the time needed to asses your opponent and know what to do when you are ready to up the pace in the later rounds.

The other is that you have two minutes in-between rounds to recover, so if you have trained properly this is more than enough time to recuperate after a hectic round.

Simply fight as you would normally but just be aware that there is an extra minute to get through on each round and elbows may be thrown at you in the process. With experience comes knowledge and the more you compete in this fashion the easier it will become to defend and unleash your own fight changing elbows.

Any questions on this matter or any other please feel free to ask.

Below is a great elbow war between Petwitsanu (red) and Sira-ngern (blue) ….enjoy