There is a saying in Thai boxing that it takes just as long to learn how to hold the pads as it does to learn how to kick them. This is very true. Just get a novice to hold the pads for you and it seems like you muay thai technique goes down a few notches as well.
This is because the whole purpose of pad work is to give the muay thai fighter as close to a real fighting experience as you can without them actually getting in the ring. This means the pad
holder has to move like a muay thai fighter, take hits like a muay thai fighter, and get reactions from the fighter like the pad holder WAS a fighter himself.
If you’re a trainer and you’re not fit enough to move around like fighter (at least a little bit) then you’re not doing your fighters any favors by holding the pads. In Thailand, all the pad
holders are former fighters or current fighters. They get the current fighters to do the more vigorous pad work and the former fighters do more specialty work where timing is all important.
Here are some other points to remember…
1. One big part of pad work is working defense which means that every now and then in between combo’s you make sure the fighter is keeping his hands up or has his weight on the back foot ready
to leg check etc. If you don’t know how to get a good response from the fighter then it isn’t very effective defensive training.
The fighter has to see the pad holders movements as a threat or the correct defensive reaction will not be initiated. This means the pad holder has to throw techniques with conviction so the
fighter will react.
2. Another big part of pad holding that is often overlooked is the fact that the fighter has to train himself/herself to attack a specific target on the body of his/her opponent. If the pad
holder is keeping the pads away from his body then he isn’t effectively training his fighter.
The pad holder will usually hold pads away from him like this because he is afraid of getting hit. This is why I said earlier that the pad holder must know how to take hits. I don’t mean that
you must take full kicks to the head or anything, I am talking about the way you hold your body to brace for impact.
This only comes with time but after a while you will be able to channel the impact down your body into the floor rather than through into your spine. Holding the pads is actually good training
for fighters because of this effect.
3. Another point is to not have the pads in position all the time if you are the pad holder. The muay thai fighter needs to learn how to react to something and if your standing there with the
pads in the air at all times then he will not know when to strike and when not to. The fighter ends up being lazy and strikes whenever he wants to.
Instead, hold the pads down until you want the reaction and then bring them up quickly. This gets a good reaction out of the fighter and makes them work.
4. Be specific in what you are training for those rounds of pad work. I’ve seen a lot of trainers just put up the pads and ask for what ever technique they think of in that instant. Think of
what you are working on and have a plan to train it.
If it’s a specific combo then that’s what you spend that whole round on. If you are training power then get the fighter to just do single shots at full intensity. Only at high levels do you what to train different things in the same round, beginners and intermediates will just get confused.
I won’t get into the specifics of how to use each muay thai pad as this is covered elsewhere on this site. Just know that with all muay thai pad training you want to make it as close as possible as a real fight.