Improve Your Sanda Game

Sanda is a great fighting art that can also be a very good springboard to MMA if done properly. It doesn’t have elbow or knee strikes, but it teaches you the right distance management, tempo, and of course standing wrestling, though some Sanda techniques wouldn’t work in a MMA fight for different reasons that we can explain later.

However we’re not here to talk MMA, but Chinese boxing !

The great thing with combat sports is it’s way easier to find ways to train properly and improve, than Taolu. It is very easy in the west to find cheap gyms to train your muscles and conditioning, very good boxing instructors (even if not necessarily Sanda), material, etc. Depending on which country you live in, you don’t even need to fly to train in China to become a great athlete !

Here we are going to detail the different types of training that you should do to improve your Sanda. We will not get too much into details yet and keep that for future articles.

Don’t Confine Yourself to Sanda

That should be a common understanding. But still, one of the mistake some people do is they go to the same Sanda classes once or twice a week in their same club and spare with the same people. I understand your coach is good, you’ve got friends there, and maybe you train every day there. However, to become an athlete you must work on everything, not only your technical abilities.

1) Spare with other people

Sparring is the best way to evaluate your level, your improvements, and to set up new goals. But if you spare in your usual gym with your usual friends, your body and mind will get used to it and you will just stop improving. GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE and add extra sparring sessions with fighters from different gyms even if it’s different fighting styles !
Chances are, there are not many Sanda clubs in your area, but you can improve your Sanda without fighting Sanda guys. Even though you won’t be able to do wrestling with Muay Thai or Kick Boxing guys, you will still improve your striking.

Remember, if you wait for competitions to fight other people, at some point you will end-up loosing your fights even it’s not yet the case.

Take classes in another gym, set up a Facebook page for outdoor sparring sessions with people that share the same interests, go abroad … you can find new sparring partners in a lot of ways. I am not telling you to give up on your usual gym, coach and friends – never do that – they are your family and have helped you and will help you again to get to your dreams. Just add extra trainings.

2) Train in other styles

This in linked to the above explanations. If you can, add a striking and a wrestling style to your sanda training. But chose wisely ! Sparring with Taekwondo athletes will not be help your Sanda. But learning and fighting in Muay Thai or western boxing will improve your Sanda. For example, most Sanda practitioners work essentially on kicks and standing wrestling but tend to put not much attention to their fists. It is partly due to the fact that Sanda is more a middle range fighting sport because of the use of kicks and the danger of getting thrown if you are too close to your opponent. Western boxing being a close range combat sport, a lot of Sanda people don’t train their fists that much.
Look at the Chinese athletes for example. Their kicks and throws are both beautiful and powerful, but the punches are often weak and just here to measure the distance or create a momentum to do other techniques. Well, western boxing can be a great plus since so many opponents that don’t train their fists and feints enough won’t be prepared to that. But still remember that once your close range technique is over you should get out of close fighting.

For the wrestling part, the best would be Chinese wrestling Shuaijiao but I know it is very hard to find. Judo, Shoubo, Pancrace, or Jiu Jitsu can still give you very good basics even if not all techniques can be applied in Sanda.
And if your goal is to be very good at Sanda to maybe one day become a MMA fighter, then you should start doing MMA too ! Don’t waste time doing only striking !

3) Run

Ask any boxing amateur or pro athlete (from any sport) and they will tell you the same thing : Run.
Running is one of the basics every fighter should do. It has many benefits, including reducing risks of injuries like ankle sprains for example (read our other article : Stop Spraining your Ankles ).

Aerobic Running : Basically, it refers to exercises at an intensity level low enough so that your muscles can work and rely only on oxygen. Jogging is a common aerobic exercise. The oxygen used by your muscles is then getting out as CO2 and water, through your breathing and pores, causing sweat.

Benefits : Strengthen your joints, bones, and muscles, Speed up recovery between intensive training (i.e. anaerobic training), improve your overall endurance and recovery between fighting rounds.
When : 2~3 times a week, for 45~60 minutes at 9~10km/h (5.5~6.3 mp/h)

Anaerobic Running : Contrary to the above, anaerobic energy is engaged when the effort is so intense that oxygen is not enough to make your muscles work. Your muscles then have to get the energy from carbohydrates = “sugars”. Using carbs to work above 15~20 seconds will start creating lactic acid (the thing that makes your muscles sore). Anaerobic exercises are a must do to improve the amount of speed and power you can put in a short time frame (i.e. during a fight, it corresponds to a standing position to a throw down, or to a sequence of several non-stops punches + kicks).
You should practice both Lactic and Alactic (intense exercise under 15 seconds) anaerobic exercises to improve your Sanda game.

Examples of Anaerobic exercises you can add to your training plan :

ALWAYS do proper warm-up before doing any anaerobic training ! If you sprint or do other intensive workout without warming up, I guarantee you will get serious muscle injuries.