The ninth lesson of my client’s second course in Muay Thai for Martial Arts Cross Training made its most dramatic diversion to the norm by looking at more spectacular martial arts techniques. Usually this is the penultimate lesson of a course and it is where I return a combat sport back to the self-defence line, seeing where the attribute training can enhance the core counter-assault methods. Tonight was very different in that we looked at building on the skills of the art in areas that require above average athleticism and what some might call advanced techniques.
My teaching base is self-protection and practical fighting methods, and has been since I founded Clubb Chimera Martial Arts. This is despite having some background in performance-based martial arts and even actual professional performance, which I did before I taught self-defence. I teach the majority of my clients pragmatic and low maintenance training/high percentage techniques that will be easy for them to absorb and confirm under pressure. However, I also do not see a lot of value in having an individual sit in the world of self-protection. These are ongoing skills that need developing and maintaining, however, unless you are directly involved in a job or way of life that is going to require you to apply them on a regular basis it doesn’t seem practical or healthy to have a longstanding hobby where you are constantly training to fight for your life. This is not the way a normal civilian would approach a first aid course (or even an advanced first aid course), which is arguably the flipside of self-defence. Moreover consider how much time those who are directly involved in combat as a profession – the police, the military, close-protection and security firms – put into actual self-defence training.
I don’t see it as practical, as the human condition cannot help but want to add to their programme, no matter how mindful he believe himself to be. This can occur due to perceived consumer pressure, student retention demands or a desire to have one’s own unique style, but it also occurs for the same reason that any master of any discipline will feel a burning desire to add and experiment within his field of expertise. This often goes unchecked by the echo chamber that is created by the subculture of a school which is largely made up of students who look to their chief instructor as the supreme leader and holder of all knowledge. What starts out as a stripped down and efficient self-defence method quickly becomes an elaborate and complex collection of techniques, often blended in with the creators personal philosophy and/or business model.
Therefore, I advise clients to train in other areas of martial art for attribute training. These skills allow for a refreshingly abstract perspective, where a student can indulge in training for sport, art or even just for fun. Such skills can then be evaluated and brought back to the self-defence line if the client wishes.
Above picture from my book “Mordred’s Victory and Other Martial Mutterings”.
Today we advanced forward with the art and sports of Muay Thai and Kickboxing with jumping and spinning techniques. Despite their spectacular and balletic qualities these techniques can have devastating results to an opponent in full-contact competition provided the timing is excellent. The momentum of the moves and their unexpected nature provide the fighter with the advantage of power and surprise. You aren’t going to find them in your average self-respecting self-defence course, but it is worth noting that high kicks were popular in 19th century French Savate street-fighting and American Rough ‘n Tumble fighting of the same era. Nevertheless, my purpose was to teach them within the context of a full-contact sport and not a counter-assault.
We began with a series of strong mobility exercises designed to open up the shoulders and hips for the especially high demands. These overlapping flow exercises consisted of Indian press-ups, squat-thrust/straight leg stretch, four-point squats and single leg raise (dynamic stretch). We then warmed up on the focus mitts, briefly going through all the basics of western boxing, kickboxing, clinching, elbow strikes and knee strikes. We then looked at the execution of the “monkey climbs the tree” downward elbow strike and the pendulum teep both of which brought us onto the jumping thrusting knee and flying knee. This was performed off the front the leg (jumping thrusting knee) and off the back leg (flying knee), using the stepping and pendulum momentum to create the jumping motion.
We then looked at the full motion of the Thai round kick and how it can create a spinning momentum. This brought us onto the back kick. I have never really thought of this move as a perfect example of a spinning kick. Back kicks, of course, can be executed with no turning motion whatsoever when taught as a self-defence move used to strike a target behind the defender. However, in sport it is far more likely that the move has to be set up as a surprise attack where the fighter turns away from his opponent in order to send a thrusting kick to a target. The fighter doesn’t make a complete 360 degree spin to execute the move. Rather he turns away, pivoting on his lead leg and then sends out the back leg to kick. This is best done as part of a drawing set-up or from a defensive position, in both instances when the opponent is coming forward. However, it is also used very effectively as part of a kicking combination, usually with a round kick and sometimes with a teep or front kick. The target is sometimes the head, but it is often used very effectively against the abdomen and this works best mechanically in line with physics.
The spinning elbow uses the exact same pivoting action as the back-kick and is often found in Muay Thai. Whereas elbow strikes are largely used to create cuts and prompt stoppages I think it is fair to say that the spinning elbow has serious knockout intent. We looked at with several different set-ups.
The first photo is of the Kao Loi (Flying knee) taken from the Muay Thai Fighting website. The last two photographs are from MMA Training Tech’s excellent article on Luk Mai (minor or seconday Muay Thai techniques).