Wednesday night’s lesson saw my third technical Muay Thai class in a row. As with my two Tuesday classes, I am looking at ways to condition more efficient technique delivery. This does not just consist of me telling a client how to stand and kick but rather a series of deconstruction exercises that encourage consistent correct muscular engagement. Bad habits seep into training through lengthy workout sessions where we subconsciously seek shortcuts to conserve energy. It takes time drilling fundamental body mechanics to train the brain to accept good quality technique as an efficient default method.
The agility ladders are wonderful tools for this type of work. We performed all the usual chopping, back-chopping, side-chopping, Ickey shuffles and Ali shuffles before moving onto more difficult work. I am a strong believer in putting coordination and technical work early in a workout. Once the heart rate is suitably increased and basic mobility/muscle activation exercises have been performed, it is important to build neurological connections at this stage before the body starts becoming fatigued and the brain goes into a type survival mode, reducing fine motor skills. The sweet spot is about 10 or 15 minutes into a training session.
I use various footwork cadences on them to teach smooth transitioning through technique fundamentals on the agility ladders. We began with the step jab in and out sequence. Then we looked at two more advanced shuffles: the Saenchai shuffle and the switch-kick shuffle.
The former is a three-step pattern unlike the Ali shuffle and the fighter should end each repetition with the opposite foot forward than the one he started on. It’s used not only confuse an opponent but to switch sides of an attack. As an agility exercise it provides a good gateway to cadence shifting due to the pause needed to establish the end of a repetition (something not required with an Ali shuffle).
The switch-kick shuffle is something I introduced as a way to break down the switch-kick and can be overlapped with the step-round kick as part of this process. Like the Saenchai shuffle, it is a three-step sequence. However, it can also be broken down and built up to improve the technique.
- Two-step sequence – Shuffle rear foot to the front with the toes pointing at a 90 degree angle. Step back to restart.
- Three-step sequence – Shuffle rear foot to front with the toes pointing at a 90 degree angle and shuffle back to starting position.
- Full sequence – Shuffle rear foot to front with the toes pointing at a 90 degree angle and shuffle back to a bladed stance with the rear foot pivoted another 90 degrees (180 degrees in total), standing as you would if you had thrown a switch kick. Reset back to the square-on, staggered foot Muay Thai stance and step over to the next rung on the ladder.
The rear round kick setup sequence has been particularly useful to me of late. Here the fighter begins in their usual staggered, square-hip stance with their front foot in the rung of the ladder. Unlike the previous shuffle drills, the fighter will move forwards up the ladder (all shuffles except the Ickey shuffle move laterally up the ladder). The fighter then steps his front foot through a 90 degree turn, setting his hips up for the kick. He then steps over with his foot into the next run and simultaneously pivots with what is now his rear foot another 90 degrees (180 degrees in total) with his heel off the ground. The fighter’s body should now be side on in the bladed stance. He then takes his now forward facing foot back through its arc of movement and swaps places in its rung with his other foot to repeat the process. The entire exercise teaches the underlying body mechanics of the kick without actually throwing the kick, ensuring all the positioning is correct.
This last sequence was trained three times off both sides at a slow speed. It was then repeated at fast speed. Then it was performed with the first part of the sequence (double pivot and step) at slow speed and the last part (switching feet to restart) at speed. Finally, the first part was done at speed and the second part at a slow pace. This is great cadence shifting practice.
Both rear round kick and switch-kick were then taken onto the focus mitts. They were then chained onto jab/cross/hook and jab/cross respectively. I coached a bit more on the Thai hook, mainly a long range weapon thrown with a horizontal fist and often aided by an angled step with the front foot. We also had a look at the lead teep and tried to make it a bit more fluid.
After this, we resumed some of the clinch work we had been training in the previous two sessions and looked at a way to enter into the position. Tonight we used a long trap with the rear hand to the opponent’s lead and a crossface collar tie from long guard. This creates a position where the fight can land a diagonal knee strike, sweep or do both.
The lesson finished with some static stretching.