Fight Like an Executioner (diary entry)

anne boleyn11.07.19


My junior client continued with his basic course on clinch/stand-up grappling. We continued working on attacking from the collar and elbow tie before moving onto over-hooks/under-hooks and changing levels. My senior client focused on comparisons between Western Boxing and Muay Thai set-ups.


The junior lesson began with callisthenic warm-up – Indian press-ups and squats. Then we moved onto bulling from the collar and elbow tie. Here we looked at establishing strong grips, tight transitioning (like a snake) and the dominant grip. From here we revised the outer reap throw, ensuring that the fighter remain dominant throughout the move. I explained the importance of moving straight into a pin when finishing the takedown and retaining a strong position through the movement. It is not enough to just dominate the grip, to get the right takedown position, to break an opponent’s balance and then to send them on their merry way to the mat. YouTube is full of examples of individuals who have executed a throw on an opponent only to swiftly have that throw reversed. Not controlling the throw throughout the execution is a dangerous as throwing a punch and not drawing it back to a strong guard. Despite what is seen in many a martial arts demonstration or choreographed fight scene, most people who throw will be pulled down by their opponent. Therefore, assuming this will happen, the thrower needs to complete the action with a strong pinning position.


We then moved onto pummelling using the over-hooks and under-hooks. We then looked at attacked from the under-hook position and taking the back. This moved our attention onto the importance of switching levels. Few movements demonstrate how important the squat is for fundamental callisthenics than switching levels in grappling. Here the fighter should keep a straight back and drop deep to attack an opponent’s balance point. By establishing a waist-lock the fighter can shift into a position with strong leverage, enabling them to lift their opponent.


The senior lesson began on the focus mitts. We went through Western Boxing combinations and set-ups, which would be adapted to Muay Thai. We began with the pawing jab, using it to set up for crosses and hooks. The fighter uses the pawing jab to control distance and obstruct an opponent’s line of vision. This then changed to the flicker jab, a close relation to the pawing jab. Here we used a side-step and then a lead straight hook before throwing a cross. This combination, which has its roots in Rocky Marciano and Charley Goldman’s work as well as Sugar Ray Leonard, reminds me of the way French executioners used to set up their condemned prisoners.


If you will indulge me in this gruesome analogy, European Headsmen generally did a far better job at executing people than their British counterparts. When Henry VIII had his second wife, Anne Boleyn, beheaded a swordsmen from France was specially called in to do the job (the eager king suspiciously ordered the executioner in from Calais before Anne’s trial had begun). Whereas most condemned nobles were executed by the clumsy downward strike of an axe and could easily have the job blundered, the swordsmen executioner was renowned for the swiftness of his action. A single horizontal cut by a razor sharp blade ensured a quick demise. However, part of getting this right was ensuring the condemned got into the right position at the right time. When Anne’s fateful date arrived primary source accounts reveal that the famous headsmen had his timing down pat. Noticing that Anne kept moving her head, anticipating the blow, the executioner called out to his assistant to pass him the sword. Anne turned to where she knew the assistant was standing and the executioner, who had carefully moved to the opposite side (some depictions have him removing his boots), swung the sword. The most effective fighter thinks like an executioner. They set up their targets, they get them into position and then, with perfect timing, they act.


By moving on an arc with a series of flickering jabs the opponent is moved to follow. The sudden sting of the straight hook puts his attention elsewhere leaving him in perfect alignment with the cross. When we switched Muay Thai the hook was replaced with a lead leg round kick to the head. This is more a kickboxing combination that Muay Thai, but the principle works great in most stand-up fights. The kick just adds another level of confusion for the opponent.


Next we moved onto the long-guard and its relationship with the pawing jab. In Muay Thai the pressing lead hand is even more exaggerated. Not only is it used to block the vision of the opponent but the palm is used to push and frame. This sets up low and mid-range kicks and knee strikes.


The lesson finished with two rounds of Western Boxing and two rounds of Muay Thai sparring.


Switching levels in Wrestling


The pawing jab as demonstrated by one its most famous and successful exponents, Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns

Using the Muay Thai long guard. Not the similarity with pawing jab.

The long guard/Dracula guard used to set up knees and kicks

Jabs and lead hooks


Not quite the same kickboxing combination I was using, but something similar.

The flicker jab isolated.

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