Tonight my client began a series of classes on Muay Thai. This began with a two hour special lesson. He is my most experienced regular client, but we decided to go back to basics. During the time we have been training together his knowledge and skills have grown considerably, and I have continued to advance my knowledge on coaching methods. We made the decision to focus in detail at the fundamentals of the art, looking at the simplest combinations and ways to improve the most common techniques.
We began each section of tonight’s lesson using action/reaction partner work. This starts with mirror footwork, but instead of just going into full technique placement we looked at worked on purely twitch action/reactions. This built up into technique placement. Then we focused on the basic jab/rear leg round kick combination. This type of partner work took its cue entirely from Muay Thai with both fighters standing at a much closer range than they would do in Western Boxing. The guards were almost touching.
I specifically looked at coordinating the arm withdrawal action and layered in a single hand cross-cover. The cross-cover is an extra feature that should not interrupt the returning pathway of the retracting jabbing hand. Newtonian physics dictates that the most efficient way to jab is to keep it on a straight path with the return journey being an exact reverse of the departing journey to the target. This allows for maximum elastic energy and impact. Therefore, the cover must be brought in as an add-on, coordinating it with the head performing a slipping motion and crossing over with the kicking side’s withdrawing arm. The withdrawing arm is thrown like a cross but designed to generate power in the same side kicking leg. As the withdrawing arm is withdrawn the kicking leg changes places. The power is generated through the entire body, but its major catalyst is the torqueing action caused by the abrupt pulling back action of this arm.
I admit the hand cover is new. During my time training under Tony Hayes (Warrior Warriors/Hayes Muay Thai) and subsequent other Muay Thai krus this cover was never mentioned. Muay and several other full-contact strikes sports occasionally endure criticism for apparently exposing the kicking side of their face when they use the withdrawing arm action. My contention has long been that I haven’t seen any evidence of fighters being countered during this action. If the action is interrupted before the kick connects, the withdrawing arm is already within a good proximity to return to guard. Otherwise, the kick is just too large an obstruction to make this counter likely. Nevertheless, taking a cue from Ramsey Dewey’s online work I have tried putting in this single hand cross-cover as an extra precaution.
Next we moved onto the second basic combination: jab/cross/switch-kick. Again, the switch-kick is a relatively new technique I have been teaching this client. I learnt it a long time ago but was never overly keen on its inclusion. Recent times have seen me change my mind. The move is effectively used a lot in competition and has the double benefit of not only generating more force in lead leg kicks but also works as a feign. Again, we broke down the movements and focused on one specific area. I wanted to create a stronger link between the cross and the switching motion. The temptation here is to step forward with the cross, but unless you are going to fully commit to this move then the movement is likely to rob your cross of power and also put you in a neutral stance. The skipping motion should be triggered by the withdrawal the cross, which then acts a bit like a pendulum (or Newton’s Cradle) in generating power into the lead leg round kick.
The third and fourth combinations add on the hook and the hook/cross respectively to the jab/cross. They set the rear and skip-kicks in the same fashion as the first two combinations. I also added on extra techniques through all these combinations to offer other options and, most importantly, to ensure my client was stable after throwing the punch. I am a fan of the idea of “smuggling” kicks into punching combinations. Kicks are heavier and slower than punches. Their pace needs to be increased to become as close to the speed of the punches in order to be successful in a fight. Therefore, all punch/kick combinations need to be able to accommodate this objective.
We then replaced the round kicks with spear knees. The principles were the same with only a few minor alterations to the angles.
The lesson finished with three rounds of sparring, where mistakes were made, corrected and my client finished with an excellently timed sweep.