The Oxford School of Martial Arts kindly booked me for a two-hour clinic on Muay Thai tactics for Karate sparring. Quite simply, black belt gradings for these particular schools include a half hour fortitude test where conventional sport karate rules are abandoned in favour of a virtual no-holds-barred format (contact to the head is light and foul techniques are carefully monitored). I have previously taught a ground-fighting workshop with this in mind. This time we looked at the punch/kick chaining combinations in Muay Thai as well as the low round kick and clinching tactics.
After a brief warm-up of dynamic stretching, specific callisthenics and muscle activation exercises, we immediately address the range we would be working from is workshop. In general, Karate sparring is fought at a longer ranger than Muay Thai. In order for the karateka in this workshop to benefit from the Muay Thai elements it was important to get them used to fighting at this closer range. The theory is that the students will be able to freely switch between these ranges. Everyone tied themselves together at punching distance. From here I had them sparring lightly to experiment with all strikes at this range. I then made restrictions to prevent clinching and later to focus entirely on kicks. Kicking from this range is often quite alien to those who do not train in Southeast Asian martial arts or Dutch Kickboxing (itself a Muay Thai hybrid), and it is essential to make the most out of the low kicking.
Everyone then untied themselves and they began moving around each other at this new range. Striking at this closer range works better with a far higher/shallower stance, a high guard and with the hips square on the opponent. We then went straight to working on punches. The hands are used to set up most kicks and other weapons in Muay Thai. They set the pace and they also often act as distractions for more damaging strikes. We covered jabs and crosses as to and fro parrying drills whilst working natural footwork at the same time.
I then introduced the Muay Thai round kick. This is a free-flowing kick that uses minimal hinge movement at the knee, generating its power through the hip and using a distinct torqueing motion with the kicking side arm. The entire movement is likened to swinging a baseball bat. The shin is the striking weapon as opposed to the instep or ball of the foot. We only used this for low kicks as this is where it was most relevant for the group. This somewhat resembles the way Kyokushin Karate uses their round kicks.
We then combined the punches and kicks whilst also introducing the switch-kick. This was performed against kick-shields and Thai focus mitts. From here I introduced the shin check and we continued the earlier punch/parry drill, but now with jab/round-kick/parry/shin-check.
Next we moved onto the Thai clinch. This began with neck-wrestling, focusing on the plum position and establishing the dominant position. From here I brought in a simple footwork pattern: forward/ backward/side/side/small v-step/small v-step/large v-step/large v-step. We then brought in the rear leg spear and diagonal knee strikes. At the conclusion of the workshop we looked at breakaway from the clinch into a round kick.
As always, the Oxford School of Martial Arts were a joy to teach and I was very encouraged by the way all the students and instructors enthusiastically embraced the new material.