These three videos are a continuation of the work I did with Sakmongkol in Colorado before I left for Thailand. The first part of my session with him can be seen here: Sakmongkol | Essential Clinch Instruction – Part 1
This first clip (part 3) starts out with Sakmongkol explaining that when an opponent is busy up top with the arms, he’ll forget about his legs and that’s when you trip them. When they’re busy with their legs, that’s when you turn up top and throw them or get an advantage – then back to knees, etc. About 30 seconds in he gets me kind of sideways after I try to throw him and he starts playing with my right arm because it’s not strong in controlling him. He laughs and says in his awesome “caveman voice”, “I big; easy,” to say that our difference in size is at least a bit to blame for that scenario.
At about 1:40 he’s correcting me by showing that whichever leg is back is the strong one, so that’s the one you dig into your opponent. He’s got avery symmetrical style – part of what reminds me of Muay Chaiya so much – and it works beautifully for this kind of clinching. He emphasized how important it is to target the middle of the body, so if you are standing orthodox and your opponent is also orthodox, the left knee is going to be a much better option for hitting the center.
I’m having a hard time turning him and he turns me quite easily for the same reason, which is that my hips are back. Hips go back when you need to make space to throw a knee, but power and balance (and ability to control your opponent) all come from the hips being in. His stance is so wide that it doesn’t look as much like his hips are in, as say Kaensak, who brings his hips all the way in to press against his opponent before turning, but Sakmongkol’s wide stance is totally using the hips.
At the very start of this second video he says, “Follow fast,” to show how one makes space or changes an angle and then has to move quickly in toward the opponent to capitalize on it. “In, in, in.” His shoulders move with his stance as he’s doing footwork and you can see his beautiful demonstration of movement – his shoulders protect his neck as he moves in, so if you thrown your forearm out onto his shoulder to grab his head, he can pinch it and throw you off, crush your arm, pin your arm, or in my case actually lift you off the ground with the power of his shoulder and chin.
It’s kind of crazy because his stance is so broad and his movements are so – I don’t know – robotic looking and yet he’s completely relaxed and fluid and I’m all stressed and tense. It’s what allows him to get so much leverage and throw my arms off in these giant sweeps and exactly why I can’t do the same to him.
At 3:30 he’s telling me not to move my base unless it’s in little steps to the sides in order to advance the angle of where the arms are going. He can make these perfect swimming motions in the air of where arms would be going to try to get inside his grip and he’s blocking it, moving outside, tying up the arms. I do this on a bag at the gym now, but only with my feet, moving them a little left or right to stay on the outside of the opponent’s stance (so you don’t get thrown) – seeing it with the arms is so beautiful.
“Opponent move, you move same,” he says when he shows me how to keep my legs moving back or forward but to the OUTSIDE of his stance.
At six minutes he’s reminding me that if the legs are busy or not working, go high – if the arms are busy or not working, go low.
These nasty elbows at the start of this last video don’t need much explanation, but his shoulder power in breaking the tie is important. His tactic is to always move in and this shoulder thing is really effective for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it hurts. But basically a straight arm has no leverage, no strength – you can’t throw your opponent with your arms out straight and he can easily pop your arms off of his shoulder by using the palm of his hand on your elbow. A bent arm is much stronger, much more secure and much more effective. But Sakmongkol ruins that too because he crushes your bent arm at the elbow with his own shoulder, so your grasp collapses inward and you’ve lost your dominant position, which he can either use to take control, turn you, throw you or just wreck your face with his elbows. He just barely touches me with that elbow once and it was so nasty and sharp.
In conclusion: keep your stance and your guard strong, yet relaxed. It’s not about tension in a stressed sense, but tension in a purposeful making-rigid-when-needed approach to counter, block and turn. And it’s very symmetrical. If you move to the right, your strike will come back toward the left; if you change an angle, come in to take advantage; if you make space for a knee, throw it and then close that space back up. Sakmongkol’s saying is “up to you.” It’s like elastic: if you stretch it, it will have to snap back and if you want it to snap you have to bring tension to the line; when, where and how is “up to you.”
Sakmongkol instructs at Zingano BJJ in Broomfield, CO: zinganobjj.com/