Vagabond Warriors cross training workshop focused on Muay Thai today. We trained in various examples of how the art can create useful attributes for Mixed Martial Arts and Self-Defence. As is always the procedure, we fully immersed ourselves in the art and looked at adaptation later.
The main areas I suggested and coached today as being rich sources of cross-training material were the blending of ranges in combinations, general brutal efficiency and powerful low kicks.
Training began with distancing work and the use of the lead teep and the step-jab. The former is Muay Thai’s main jabbing weapon, it creates and maintains distance, and it also works as an unbalancing tool to set up for further combinations. The step-jab is the most common type of jab in Muay Thai, followed by the power jab. The step-jab involves bringing the entire body behind the striking and stepping motion lends itself well for further strikes, which generally follow in Muay Thai. I then taught two combinations – jab/rear teep and jab/cross/switch-teep. These served as good introductions to basic Muay Thai combination work. The switch-kick is a simple and efficient means for generating power from a lead kick (by turning it into a rear kick) and maintaining alternate limbs in the combinations. One of Muay Thai’s strengths is the brutally simple way it generates power despite often occupying a relatively close range between opponents.
We then moved onto four-punch/kick combinations. Using the basic boxing combination basis – jab, jab/cross, jab/cross/hook and jab/cross/hook/cross we added on alternate round kicks. I focused on the unique qualities of the Thai round kick, such as the use of the hip and the swinging action to generate a lot of power as well having the shin as the main striking tool, especially when targeting the legs.
I then introduced the spear knee and the diagonal knee strike, which gave me an opportunity to bring in both the long-guard and the way Muay Thai use pulls and shoves as framing tactics for leg techniques. We also brought in pawing techniques, used as distractions for knees and kicks.
Next we covered kick-catching, which further highlighted breaking posture to set up for strikes such as a knee to the mid-section or a very low round kick to the supporting leg. This segued in nicely with clinch-fighting. Here we looked at using footwork to off-balance opponents and time this with well-executed spear, diagonal and round knees. Within the clinch we looked at locking off opponents and using the cross as a cross-grip to set up for a diagonal knee strike. The natural progression of this technique was a takedown.
We ran out of time to cover elbow strikes and so focused on crossover aspects into MMA and self-defence. For the former I used the standing arm-triangle. In Thai this is a legitimate clinch hold so long as the fighter does not attempt to use it as a choke. In MMA it can be used as a submission and it can also be worked into a useful throw, taking the opponent to the ground to finish the technique more effectively. We also combined the sprawl with the spear knee strike. Besides some the excellent tools offered by Muay Thai – punches found in Western Boxing, elbow strikes, knee strikes, clinching and low kicks – the art teaches simple ways to make space and unbalance an enemy. A close cousin to the Thai shove and kick is the aggressive fence. However, the shove in the aggressive fence is generally more geared towards creating distance and then only striking if an enemy re-crosses the line. John Anderson taught a variation where it was used a sort of one-two combination, shoving with the fence hand and following up with the cross.