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Muay Thai Technique: An Expression of Self

The Artistry of Sweet Science

Recently I tried to explain to my students that ultimately, our goal is to learn the techniques so that we can express ourselves through them.

I saw a lot of glazed over looks and nodding heads with empty eyes.

Then come sparring time, I saw a lot of mechanical movements, like notes to a melody being pounded out, without a single shred of feeling.

What does this mean? Expressing oneself through technique. I tried to explain that a fight is like a conversation without words.

Techniques communicate something immutable, intangible. In Thai Boxing, a Teep to the face, like Western Boxing’s Lead Straight Right is a way of insulting your opponent.

You are taking one of the dirtiest parts of your body and wiping it all over someone’s face. In essence using it as a door mat. Or in the case of the Straight Right, you’re taking your most powerful tool, from the furthest point away from your opponent and putting it right on his snot box without need of a set up or diversion. That expresses something.

The Rhythm of Expression

There is a rhythm to fighting, a cadence and timing.

The best fighters, the ones we love to watch always have an intimate understanding of this, a way of phrasing with their combinations, the tactful use of a dramatic pause.

Take for instance the difference in how these Instructors from the Thai Boxing Association express the same types of technique.

Take for instance, Ajarn Greg Nelson’s relentless and physical style.

And contrast that to the paced approach of Ajarn Bryan Popejoy shown here in the red.

And then look at how the techniques and their judicious placement and timing during the fight communicate something that cannot be said in Khuen Khru Brian Dobler’s highlight.

All are decorated, and very deeply respected icons in the Thai Boxing Association Muay Thai Camp. But each expresses the same types of movement in their own unique and beautiful way. There is an artistry to their approach.

The slight lowering of the gloves after delivering a telling blow. Giving the fans, the judges and the opponent ample time to absorb the message.

There is much more at play here than simply flailing limbs. There is a conversation being played out. A wonderful debate that those of us lucky enough to witness can learn from and enjoy.

Beyond the Science of 8 Limbs

This goes beyond Muay Thai and extends in to all combat sport. Boxing, Kick Boxing, Jiu-jitsu, Catch Wrestling, MMA, et al. So the next time you lace up those gloves and slicker up that mouth piece. Take a moment and remember, that that greats, not only deliver a heaping dose of punishment, but a sound and undeniable message…

an expression of the self.

Short vs Tall Techniques for Muay Thai and MMA Training

Utilizing or countering a reach/height advantage has been a conundrum for fighters since the beginning of time. Standing at a towering 5’5″, I know how hard it can be to face the up hill battle of being the little guy. Depending on the sport, there can be some redeeming qualities for being the guy who came up short when it came to playing the gene pool lottery.

Here you see the concept of punching up to your opponent and keeping your chin below their level

I’ve heard some say that in boxing, it can be an advantage to be the shorter fighter, as you are able to punch up to your opponent’s face, whereby, there is no way he can tuck his chin low enough to hide it from your fists. Conversely, the only punches he can throw that will clip your chin, if you tuck it properly, would be shovel hooks and uppercuts, thus diminishing the effects of two of boxing’s primary weapons, the jab and the straight right.

There has to be some merit to this as Legendary trainer Eddie Futch has gone on record, describing how he worked a low stance and a lot of low swooping bobbing and weaving motions to accentuate Joe Frazier’s stature and make it difficult for Muhammad Ali to hit him square in the jaw. This strategy seemed to do well in the duo’s epic 3 fight page in pugilistic history.

The Sky Piercing Knee Kicker, Dieselnoi delivers punishment to his shorter opposition.

But there are consequences for these types of tactics when knees and kicks are involved. And thus, other strategies must be employed, either to replace or to supplement the boxing brilliance of trainers such as Futch and those who think along his strategic lines.

The first part of developing a strategy for overcoming a height disparity is to understand the mentality and strategy of the taller person. Below, we get a glimpse into this world as our friend, Khru Cade Anderson, shares his thoughts on the subject.

Observing the thought process of a taller person, you can see how the standard, conventional theory of moving forward, pressing the fight and trying to cut off the ring is accounted for by a taller fighter who is properly trained and prepared. Simply marching towards your opponent in this case will only get you hit as your opponent will simply time your attack and strike during your bridge step as this is the essence of reach advantage tactics (to stay out of the range of the shorter fighter and to attack them as they step forward to bridge the gap).

If your opponent is not sophisticated enough to employ the tactics described here and in Khru Cade’s video, then there really isn’t much of a problem. Bull dog that bean pole and force your way inside. But, if your opponent is able to maintain range and continually stops your bridge step, you’re going to have to reach deeper into the rabbit hole and pull out some other tricks.

As counter intuitive as it may sound, sometimes the best thing to do against a taller fighter with good ranging and good timing, is to step back and wait. To stay far enough away to be safe (out of the range of the taller fighter’s weapons) and to force your opponent to move forward to bridge the gap.

When he steps forward to punch, you can counter with a kick (so long as you step on the 45). If he kicks, you can catch his leg and punish him with a sweep, dump, flurry of punches or pull his leg to bring him into the close range clinch.

In this article we hope you find some helpful tips on how to safely bridge the gap. We have presented some sound, and basic methods of how to wage a range war on those with a reach or height advantage. We have shared our experience in understanding the logic of how a range war will progress/regress. And for our members, we have shown, in detail, some rare tricks that will get you out of a jam, when these solid fundamentals fail to mitigate the extra inches your opponents bring to the fight.

Best of luck, and happy hunting.