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Thinking About Style - Things I'm Working On


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I've written before about the troubles I've had with a kind of Style (the post takes a while to load, lots of GIFs), and being forced into a style that wasn't "me", or at least that I had a really hard time bringing forward. I just wasn't an evasive, tricky, or dodge-y person. It wasn't until I discovered that there was a different style, a forward, space-eating style that I was set more free. I remember the beginning of realizing this was something that Andy Thomson said: "There is not one Muay Thai, there are 1,000s. Each person has their own Muay Thai."

The yesterday I wrote about the Things I'm Working On and a lot of them have to do with my style, and how to best bring it out. These things involve body punches, overhands, clinching hips in, taking space, not rushing. 

I wanted to post here because a lot of us feel like we want to measure up to "a" Muay Thai. We want to do it "right". There definitely are right and wrong ways to do things, but there is not the one way to do a particular thing. 

You don't need to be a fighter to think about style. What is your style, and what are you doing to pursue it?

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Your old post about finding your style is still one of my favorite blog posts.  I have found myself telling my students to find their own style of Muay Thai.  It also helps remind me that my job as their coach is to help them find their own style, not necessarily to mold them into MY style.  Sure, I teach my style of Muay Thai, but with my eyes towards helping them find their own way to express themselves.

I find myself nodding along wholeheartedly with your comments regarding scoring faster in the clinch.  One of the things that I try very hard to impress upon my students/fighters is that you don't use the clinch to setup your strikes (knees, then elbows)... rather, you use your knees (and elbows) to setup your clinch.  I want my students to immediately begin attacking with knees the moment they reach forward and touch their opponent.  Basically, we focus on reaching to control your opponents arms (biceps), attack with knees, transition to clinching with more knees and/or elbows.

In regards to the hook while rotating your core first, then punching....  that is ONE way of doing it.  I favor the practice of everything moving together as one solid unit.  That's not to say that is the only method I employ or teach, but its the method I focus on.  It's my "core" method, so to speak...  I use the method of moving my core first, then punching when I throw the hook that some people refer to as the "Russian Hook" or "Casting Punch".  (same same)

Wall of China?  LOL!  You and I have discussed this before.  The 2nd method you mention of pushing the leg down is my preferred counter...  but are you pushing down with your hand or using your own knee to push your opponent's down?  Your blog post is unclear on that point...

I feel you on "snapping the jab"...  I've recently begun helping a fighter learn to snap his jab.  It's something that I've learned to do on my own, and finding a way to describe to him what I want has been a challenge in that I'm sure what I'm telling him and showing him makes sense, but its just not "clicked" with him yet.  But reading your post reminds me of an analogy one of my boxing coaches used to explain it....  snapping a towel at someone!  (I'm going to use that analogy with him the next time we train and see if it helps!)

I love the term "scratch" to describe the scenario, especially late in a fight.  It's an attitude, really, and I feel that it leads directly into your comments on persuasion & authority....  It's like there's a level of scrappiness/aggressiveness you must demonstrate & maintain throughout an entire fight, but you must do so intelligently.  You can't just charge in, it's not the same thing!  But then, I'm preaching to the choir on that subject!  ;)

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I don't yet know my Own style. But I don't move quick.. I feel almost like I'm lumbering along through the moves. I'm not a Stalker (not yet anyways). Rather,during practice I tend to ... Sit and wait for lack of a better term. I'm still unfamiliar with myself and what I can do, but I know enough that I sit and wait. Which I don't think is necessarily a good thing.

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In regards to the hook while rotating your core first, then punching....  that is ONE way of doing it.  I favor the practice of everything moving together as one solid unit.  That's not to say that is the only method I employ or teach, but its the method I focus on.  It's my "core" method, so to speak...  I use the method of moving my core first, then punching when I throw the hook that some people refer to as the "Russian Hook" or "Casting Punch".  (same same)

Yeah, like Master K's robot arm, where you just swing the whole body around and the fist torpedos! He'd lightly nudge me with his knuckles when he demonstrated and even that made me want to cry... so powerful.

The push-down on the Wall of China is with the hand, very fast, hips in first to create pressure, then relaxed at that moment - followed by an immediate knee. It is very effective. There are other counters but I'm trying to minimize my options so that I don't get caught thinking so much.

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I don't yet know my Own style. But I don't move quick.. I feel almost like I'm lumbering along through the moves. I'm not a Stalker (not yet anyways). Rather,during practice I tend to ... Sit and wait for lack of a better term. I'm still unfamiliar with myself and what I can do, but I know enough that I sit and wait. Which I don't think is necessarily a good thing.

Sounds like you're on your way to being a counter striker.

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This is exactly why I love your blog, Sylvie! I never knew there were different styles of fighting, of course, I intuitively felt there might be different styles, but it's different when you see it written down and described :)

I'm still a little bit like Michelle, I still don't know what my body is capable of, sometimes I'm surprised by it, sometimes I'm dissapointed. What I've heard from people, they say I have kind of my own style: I constantly go forward, don't show off spectacular moves, just keep pressuring the opponent. But I also let go, just like in training and "reset" the fight ;)

It's funny, because this is what other say, watching from the sidelines. What I feel in the ring is completely different. I try not to get punched, I try to attack first, and I'm trying out my best moves, maybe not wanting to show off, but wanting the opponent to take me seriously. Basically, when I see someone is taking me lightly (this happens a lot, I usually spar with young adult guys) I throw a backfist or a ushiro mawashi geri (spin back kick?). Even if the hit doesn't land (which it usually does with someone taking me lightly) it make the opponent shift gears. So I kind of think about it as showing off.

I think I'm definitely more of the "aesthetic" fighter, femur whas it? I like when the technique looks good and is effective as well, but I'd rather hit with good technique than strong. At least that is my opinion at this point in time.

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Yeah, like Master K's robot arm, where you just swing the whole body around and the fist torpedos! He'd lightly nudge me with his knuckles when he demonstrated and even that made me want to cry... so powerful.

 

OMG!  This is why I miss Master K so much!  He had the most hilarious (but effective!) analogies for EVERYTHING!  I still train with a number of his former students, and we have tried to compile a list of "K-isms" for posterity.  We all crack up when we review the list we've compiled....

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The push-down on the Wall of China is with the hand, very fast, hips in first to create pressure, then relaxed at that moment - followed by an immediate knee. It is very effective. There are other counters but I'm trying to minimize my options so that I don't get caught thinking so much.

 

 

Again, you and I seem to share brain cells sometimes!  LOL!  While my preferred method to break the Wall of China is using my knees to push it down and "walk over", I'm TOTALLY with you on keeping things simple and choosing 1 method that works for me (or teaching my students to choose 1 method that really works for THEM!).  I do this throughout training.... teach a variety of methods to achieve the same goal, then let my students practice to discover the 1 that suits them best.

It's like that clinch knee combo that Kaensak taught you.  2 quick knees, step with the opposite foot and pivot in place, then slam a knee into their exposed ribs while they're off balance....  (one of your many video blogs, not sure if you remember the specific one).  Or the escape/counter to the body clinch that Kaensak taught me....  These are great techniques to know and I teach them to my students.  However, when it comes time to begin fight training, many techniques such as those mentioned get dropped from the aresenal in favor of simpler, more direct techniques that are easier to execute in a high-stress situation such as an actual fight.

...which goes back to what you've mentioned about the importance of "play" in Muay Thai.  Those more intricate moves not only work but are effective, but only after lots of practice.  "Play" in Muay Thai is absolutely essential for these techniques to be mastered, but its a concept that the American mindset/style of training still greatly struggles with.

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Just out of curiosity, what are some archetypal styles that you guys have seen in fighters?

Outside of MT in striking sports I've heard of terms like "out-fighter" that I'm not entirely familiar with along with the more obvious "boxer" and etc.

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Tbh, I'm still figuring it out. I find out I love to use the knees and clinch method during sparring (if allowed) or training. It's where my strength lies. But during a fight, things just don't turn out exactly like you wanted as always.. hahahahha.. I have noticed I usually get bashed up by opponent in first round and then change my gear during second round.. I like to circle around the ring, wearing my opponent down and when they come in - I will throw a punch and a kick move to the side / teep them until they can't follow my pace. It will end up with lots of knees from there onwards or elbows if allowed.. << This usually happened when most of my opponent are punchers instead of both.. I dislike punchers =.=, no offense made there..

 

But sometimes it gets really frustrating because I want to do clinch not punch and kick only.. But, oh well I can't hope it goes out like what I planned before the fight.. XD

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Just out of curiosity, what are some archetypal styles that you guys have seen in fighters?

Outside of MT in striking sports I've heard of terms like "out-fighter" that I'm not entirely familiar with along with the more obvious "boxer" and etc.

In western boxing they have the "boxer" vs. the "puncher," which is supposed to be the difference between someone who is very technical and cereberal and someone who hits to hurt, but not quite a "brawler"

In Muay Thai I've seen "inside fighters"; "knee fighters"; "counter strikers"; "boxers" (Pornsenae and Pakorn); "defensive" (Sam A); Saenchai is often called "feemeur" but I don't fully agree because he stays in the pocket even though he's evasive; "counter fighter"; "tricky fighter" (that's Saenchai to me); "cocky" is what I'd call Kaensak's style, in a good way; "book" is like a forward pressure fighter, like Thanonchai (my favorite); I'd call Sangmanee "feemeur"...

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In western boxing they have the "boxer" vs. the "puncher," which is supposed to be the difference between someone who is very technical and cereberal and someone who hits to hurt, but not quite a "brawler"

In Muay Thai I've seen "inside fighters"; "knee fighters"; "counter strikers"; "boxers" (Pornsenae and Pakorn); "defensive" (Sam A); Saenchai is often called "feemeur" but I don't fully agree because he stays in the pocket even though he's evasive; "counter fighter"; "tricky fighter" (that's Saenchai to me); "cocky" is what I'd call Kaensak's style, in a good way; "book" is like a forward pressure fighter, like Thanonchai (my favorite); I'd call Sangmanee "feemeur"...

 Thanks for the insight Sylvie, I heard about the "femur" Muay Thai fighters vs. the more aggressive fighters from your blog post, but I had no idea there were so many different aspects!! I think I'm going to go take a look at each of the fighters you've mentioned here to see if I can sort of scope out what each style means in practice...

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  • 2 weeks later...

Erm, I don't know if this is a style question or not, but are there fighters who utilize both traditional and southpaw stances equally? I'd like to get acquainted with them and their style and how they train.

 

Yes, there are definitely "switch" fighters....  I'm trying to think of any notable ones, but for some reason I'm drawing a blank right now.  I'll poke around to see if I can find something....

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Okay cool. Because right now I'm having a self identified identity crisis when it comes to stance. I have more power in orthodox and better technique in southpaw. I am not completely comfortable in either. It's been over a year now and it still feels that way.

 

I know part of the reason is because of my shoulder, any time we run nothing but jabs or jabs and hooks off the lead arm I have to switch to southpaw because my shoulder can't handle it yet. But yeah. I tried googling but couldn't find anything but articles on the disadvantages of being southpaw.

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  • 1 year later...

Since it's right near two years later, wondered if anyone has noticed a change in their style and how they approach opponents/partners? Has time made you stronger or more confident in a certain style or has it changed for you? Just curious.

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I have less than 10 fights so I still haven't found my style. When I started fighting about a year ago I just kicked a lot, but in my last few fights I have felt stronger in the clinch and found knees to be more effective. In my next handful of fights I would really like to develop my confidence in the ring so that I can display a stronger style as opposed to my current position of different styles for every fight..which I know is probably normal for an amateur but feels messy to me.

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Since it's right near two years later, wondered if anyone has noticed a change in their style and how they approach opponents/partners? Has time made you stronger or more confident in a certain style or has it changed for you? Just curious.

 

The two year mark is really interesting for Sylvie. About two years ago, if not a little more, Sylvie went into a very deep clinch game, Muay Khao style. This meant striking a lot less, fortifying herself against attacks when closing distance, and snuffing strikes, developing ways of entering clinch. But in the last few months she's started to really concentrate on relaxation which has opened up other modes of fighting for her, modes that are only starting to show themselves. This really came to a head a week ago when Karuhat, a legendary fighter who has cornered for her a few times, and who we film with, out of nowhere decided to turn Sylvie completely southpaw, because this would eliminate some fundamental technique flaws she's shown against some problematic opponents. This southpaw switch somehow really connected up with what she's been quietly working on, Nongki energy, more Karuhat like suddenness, and is creating a whole different series of style movements. I'm not sure what is going to come of this, but it is as if Sylvie's fortress style was a long and necessary phase she had to pass through before she could get to more relaxation, and a different part of her character. And only really the excellence of her opponents (certain elite fighters who can stay with Sylvie in clinch), and the increasing size of her opponents, which has pushed her to go beyond her very defined "style". It's pretty exciting times.

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A King or chief is chief not because of bloodline, he argues, but because of his spiritual and martial prowess, the union of these two dimensions of power. It is a mistake in perception to take Thailand's Muay Thai practices in isolation. In that it makes sense as a meaningful production, a production of various surpluses (not just monetary, but also cultural surpluses), both strands, Buddhism and Muay Thai, need to be seen in the braid, I would argue. As ancient chiefs were once regarded as martially and spiritually formidable, rural Muay Thai circulations have also been braided in the wider sociological sense, in the production of merit and masculinity. You can see Walters' notes on Soul Stuff and Martial/Spiritual prowess here:    
    • In November I'll be going to Thailand for 4 weeks mostly to train and hopefully fight. Last time I went to Phuket following @Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu's incredibly helpful advice, and muay thai-wise it was everything I wanted. However, I'm looking for a bit more of a pleasant place this time, maybe a bit less noisy and crowded. I'm considering Koh Samui, but I'm not sure if it fits that description, nor do I know anything about the muay thai scene there. Has anyone here fought in Koh Samui, or knows anything about the fight opportunities there? Any gym recommendations? Right now I'm fighting mostly pro-am (semi-pro?) in the UK, so I'm not exactly a beginner, but not a pro either. I walk around at 65-70kg and have a defensive, kick-heavy style. When I went to Phuket Fight Club I had no issues finding suitable sparring and clinching partners, but I'm wondering whether there are any gyms in Koh Samui that would provide that as well. I'm also open to other location suggestions 🙂
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    • Hi, this might be out of the normal topic, but I thought you all might be interested in a book-- Children of the Neon Bamboo-- that has a really cool Martial Arts instructor character who set up an early Muy Thai gym south of Miami in the 1980s. He's a really cool character who drives the plot, and there historically accurate allusions to 1980s martial arts culture. However, the main thrust is more about nostalgia and friendships.    Can we do links? Childrenoftheneonbamboo.com Children of the Neon Bamboo: B. Glynn Kimmey: 9798988054115: Amazon.com: Movies & TV      
    • Davince Resolve is a great place to start. 
    • I see that this thread is from three years ago, and I hope your journey with Muay Thai and mental health has evolved positively during this time. It's fascinating to revisit these discussions and reflect on how our understanding of such topics can grow. The connection between training and mental health is intricate, as you've pointed out. Finding the right balance between pushing yourself and self-care is a continuous learning process. If you've been exploring various avenues for managing mood-related issues over these years, you might want to revisit the topic of mental health resources. One such resource is The UK Medical Cannabis Card, which can provide insights into alternative treatments.
    • Phetjeeja fought Anissa Meksen for a ONE FC interim atomweight kickboxing title 12/22/2023. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cu92S6-V5y0&ab_channel=ONEChampionship Fight starts at 45:08 Phetjeeja won on points. Not being able to clinch really handicapped her. I was afraid the ref was going to start deducting points for clinch fouls.   
    • Earlier this year I wrote a couple of sociology essays that dealt directly with Muay Thai, drawing on Sylvie's journalism and discussions on the podcast to do so. I thought I'd put them up here in case they were of any interest, rather than locking them away with the intention to perfectly rewrite them 'some day'. There's not really many novel insights of my own, rather it's more just pulling together existing literature with some of the von Duuglus-Ittu's work, which I think is criminally underutilised in academic discussions of MT. The first, 'Some meanings of muay' was written for an ideology/sosciology of knowledge paper, and is an overly long, somewhat grindy attempt to give a combined historical, institutional, and situated study of major cultural meanings of Muay Thai as a form of strength. The second paper, 'the fighter's heart' was written for a qualitative analysis course, and makes extensive use of interviews and podcast discussions to talk about some ways in which the gendered/sexed body is described/deployed within Muay Thai. There's plenty of issues with both, and they're not what I'd write today, and I'm learning to realise that's fine! some meanings of muay.docx The fighter's heart.docx
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