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Tim Macias

Muay Lertrit Diaries - Coming to Thailand To Train in Traditional Military Muay Thai

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The General is a very busy man, with a lot on his plate. It’s quite impressive. Being said, we did not have him teaching us today. Rather, the assistants working with him at the WMA (World Muay Thai Alliance) told Tyler and I to practice with each other in a separate room from the community class. This gave Tyler and I time to compare notes and elaborate on our learning processes.

What came out today while Tyler and I were comparing our notes, was how similar so many aspects of Lertrit feel to my style of Kung Fu (San Soo). This comes back to an earlier point I tried to make about things being similar, but different. A saying that has become popular between the General and I. In the past I’ve used language as an analogy for learning martial arts. In the early stages of learning an art, one learns the alphabet. Latter, they learn words. So enough how to put together sentences. And before long, conversation is possible. In some instances some martial arts are as different as Thai and English. Other times, martial art styles feel like the same language, but spoken in a different dialect.

San Soo and Lertrit feel how I’ve heard others compare Portuguese and Spanish. Please keep in mind I speak neither of these language, only bad California English and am going of what I’ve heard from those who do speak these languages. Both San Soo and Lertrit are true martial styles. There is no sporting application to them. They are meant to incapacitate someone. Also, they flow from once strike to the next. Similar to dancing, once you know how each move can lead to another, there is no break between any two motions. You can simply move from one strike or manipulation to the next from any position you find yourself in. 

While there are time when my San Soo habits are not helpful in Lertrit, what is helpful is understanding how to flow. The General uses both the word flow and natural. The move should be natural, is what the General will say, it should flow. It's like learning to speak a fluently, rather than in a broken sentence structure. In San Soo and Jiujitsu we talk about flow. Flowing from one move to the next as seamlessly as possible. If you mess up, you just keep going, flow to the next thing you know. The General will talk about a missed punch flowing into an elbow. In jiujitsu, a failed arm lock can flow into a choke. Similar, but different. 

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1 hour ago, Tim Macias said:

While there are time when my San Soo habits are not helpful in Lertrit

I'm watching the day 6 videos and wishing someone would beat the Western boxing out of me lol. Things that were great for that style are totally tripping me up with Muay Lertrit. We'll get there though, we'll get there. 

I feel like a lot came out of our discussions today, it was nice to be able to break things down a bit on a conceptual level. Kind of feeling our way around in the dark a bit. Hoping this will lead to some more "ah hah" moments next week during training. Wooooo go me for finally figuring out that elbow block at around 39:30ish lol. Only took me 8 days 🤣 Now I just gotta add back in the details like tucking my chin so I can put it to use.

Edited by Tyler Byers
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In case anyone is curious what this should sort of look like in practice (in a ring setting), this session with Yodkhunpon reflects the consistent violation of your opponents space and the constant stance switching this style uses. When done effectively it will keep your opponent from being able to regain their base as you batter them with different attacks which come from unconventional angles and sides. 

The overarching idea is to initially utilize defense to see an opening and then counter, continuing to flow through attacks which will in turn create new openings until you have neutralized/shutdown your opponent. The stance switching really changes the relationship to range because you cover so much more space by being able to step or attack off either side with no reset period. 

 

Edited by Tyler Byers
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2 hours ago, Tyler Byers said:

In case anyone is curious what this should sort of look like in practice (in a ring setting), this session with Yodkhunpon reflects the consistent violation of your opponents space and the constant stance switching this style uses. When done effectively it will keep your opponent from being able to regain their base as you batter them with different attacks which come from unconventional angles and sides. 

It would be really interesting if after you get some time in with the General's style if you came and spent an hour with Yodkunpon here in Pattaya, and see if the connection you intuit would become a real one. Almost nobody fought like him (he has been looked down upon in some ways for it), but it would be very cool if they informed each other. If somehow Yodkhunpon's very fight-specific style helped helped create some of the connective tissue between the General's Muay Lertrit and sport Muay Thai. Something that does not really exist at this point.

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12 hours ago, Tim Macias said:

While there are time when my San Soo habits are not helpful in Lertrit, what is helpful is understanding how to flow. The General uses both the word flow and natural. The move should be natural, is what the General will say, it should flow. It's like learning to speak a fluently, rather than in a broken sentence structure.

This is one of the great challenges of combat sport arts, especially in western teaching. Everything becomes broken into modular moves, that can be taught in short time increments, or to large groups of people (in assisted practice). And then the modular moves or strikes are thought to be combined in various orders. It's a very fragmented knowledge and relationship. Very fight steeped cultures like the Muay Thai of Thailand (in real kaimuay that raise Thais) or some boxing traditions avoid this problem through developmental play and experimentation, but it is very cool that you are discovering this as a deep piece between your Kung Fu and Muay Lertrit.

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35 minutes ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

It would be really interesting if after you get some time in with the General's style if you came and spent an hour with Yodkunpon here in Pattaya, and see if the connection you intuit would become a real one.

There is another video you guys have posted in the past talking about how his footwork is almost more like a trot/shuffle (I forget the exact wording), and at the time I thought about how similar it was to my old footwork. I kind of dismissed it as random coincidence at the time because as you mentioned it is very unique and not many people move like that. Namsaknoi is another one who I have always really paid attention to because his footwork is so well balanced and he has a similar kind of shuffling when he circles out. Watching General Tunkawom move you can see how it would translate to a ring setting. I think it's not popular because it does take a little longer to check kicks or throw your own kicks, but it is incredibly easy to walk people down and keep them moving backwards. It's also incredibly easy to throw elbows while moving like that. I don't think it's a coincidence that Yodkhunpon is known for his elbows and that Muay Lertit has 24 unique elbows. There is absolutely some overlap there. 

If I can ever get some money together I would love to come work with Yodkhunpon. I've actually wanted to come work with him for a couple of years because he was the only one I saw with that similar footwork style. I've really struggled to get my movement back after trainers tried to change my style to something "prettier" and more stadium friendly. No one seems to understand what I am trying to do and will continually insist it is wrong (which I am almost 100% sure is because of the kicking/checking aspect). Korat kind of got it, but still insisted on me having a deeper stance traditional stance than I was comfortable with. I will say that the stance change definitely helped develop power in my kicks, but I want my movement back.

Edited by Tyler Byers
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2 hours ago, Tyler Byers said:

If I can ever get some money together I would love to come work with Yodkhunpon.

His privates are 1,000 baht an hour, and he is a really cool instructor. What he really wants to do is just move with you, get relaxation going. We are going to try and film another session with him this week and put it up in the Library.

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A little out of order in terms of date, but Tim's documentary footage from Day 5, shot July 4th. You can see Day 6's footage here earlier in this thread. It's not easy to film everything and upload it all, a huge thank you to Tim for carrying out the invaluable process of archiving this.

Day 5:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Very, very interesting!
I find myself reminded of learning Kali from a lot of your descriptions, especially when it comes to movements coming from the hip or core of the body. And interestingly enough Kali (at least the style I practiced) also prides itself to be not a sport martial art but a practical system for real live application (the Filipinos actually train their marines in this style).

The part about flow and natural movement, recovering from failed moves and just flowing to the next thing VERY much reminded me of how it felt to practice this art!

Actually when someone asked my trainer about something they were "doing wrong" he'd often be like: "Did it work anyways? Then it wasn't 'wrong'! Maybe it's not what we're trying to practice right now or there is a better way of doing it but it's not 'wrong' per se."

Kali has a different style of teaching this stuff though. We used to train stuff in "drills" a whole lot. A drill in Kali is a sequence of moves you practice with a partner where the whole sequence ends in the same position you started in so you can just continue on. It's kind of like a continuous flow or dance with your partner and lets you get a lot of repetitions in short time while constantly calibrating because you have to adjust for your partner all the time.

As you advance more you learn how different drills flow into each other seamlessly until it gets more and more freestyle and you just flow because you learned how to feel how you can continue out of pretty much any position you find yourself in, all based in the same basics. At least thats a short, rough description of the process and of course not the whole of how training looks.

Also as Kali is a weapons-based art (the drill-approach works for all the different weapon types including empty hands), weapons, especially the stick, are used as a tool to help develop body-mechanics and teach you how to use your body to generate speed, power and flow, especially how to use your hips or core as the part that drives all of this.

We would actually sometimes swing a baseball-bat instead of a stick because the much heavier weapon FORCES you to use your body in an efficient way in order to be able to swing it. It MAKES you feel how it works. That feeling can then be carried over into using sticks again and by extension all other kinds of weapons including empty hands/elbows/knees/kicks/whatever.

The word for working with 2 sticks (or swords or actually any kind of 2 weapons, mostly referring to sticks though) is "Sinawali" which actually means "to weave" like in weaving a basket. It's used to develop ambidexterity and again, flow. Its something that can be very beautiful to watch from someone who is good with it and it's also seen as a form of expression of the individual fighter. And that's in a style that is very practical in nature and not at all about fancy moves or high body-flexibility.

 

EDIT: here is a nice video that explains and shows Sinawali very well. Its old and some of the editing is a bit weird but I think it shows very well how this relates to continuous flow and empty hands application. Not to hijack anything here but with all of what you guys wrote about Lertrit I think it might be relevant in a way or at least interesting to see in this context.

 

Edited by Xestaro
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The General say Muay Thai is very, very difficult; unless you know and understand the basics. I love when the General talks about basics. This is because it’s how I was raised in Kung Fu. My  San Soo instructor is often criticized for his emphasis on basics. Such criticisms often come in the form of, “His Kung Fu is great, but he only shows the basics”. Sad for these individuals though, because their schools and/ or their students are rarely as successful and well trained as those who are focusing on the basics. For the General, basics come down to what we have already talked about in earlier post: Breathing; Waist; and Weight transfer. But also three more considerations he emphasized in tonight training: Precision; Speed; Power.

 

Precision - The General discusses this in a matter of how you strike finishes. Go straight to the target, he says. No past, or through, go straight to it. This is by no means a new idea to me. I very much pride myself on being able to throw a strike exactly where I want to and have it land exactly how hard I want it to. Where the General often corrects me, is in my tendency to recoil from the strike. I will throw my punch as hard as I can, but to avoid hitting my partner with a full blow, I stop and pull my strike back just as hard and fast as I threw it. Rather, the General has us go straight to the target and not recoil. Practices hitting exactly where your target is, the General says.

Speed - The idea is of speed is only difficult as I learn. I am a very, VERY slow learner. And I’d rather go very, very slow in throwing my strikes, as to make sure I am addressing every nuance from the Generals instruction I can. I want to turn my waist, transfer my weight, and be sure I am breathing as he has instructed. However, the General can only tolerate it this pace for one or two reps. Then he will tell me faster, or to GO. While he is very forgiving of me only having been under his instruction for less than two weeks, he explains that if I am turning my waist correctly and transferring my weight, the speed will take care of itself. 

Power - Power is the most difficult, because power comes from technique. This is a point I stress to my class and students very frequently: to not try and throw hard, but to let the technique do the work, and power will follow. However, here in Thailand, with the General, I am practicing a very different technique than I am used to, and because I have not begun to perfect the General’s way, I have very little power. Much like speed, power is the product of flawless technique. With the waist turn for example, if I do not turn my waist properly, I end up punching with me arm and not my body - no power, the General says. But if my waist turn, like a rubber band stretched to tension, my arm whips out for my body, and BOOM, power.

 

You can see all of the these basics come together in the Buffalo killing strike. There is a more proper name for this strike (I’m sure Kevin and/ or Sylvie will help me here), but it is a strike that moves somewhere between a hook and a swing punch. But instead of making contact with the knuckles, the General emphasis making impact with the back of the hand. The knuckles, and consequently the hand, are very fragile. Breaking ones hand is often the result of poor punching technique, or someones face being much too strong. In order to avoid breaking the hand, the General (we too in San Soo) will instead hit with more more resilient parts of the hand and/ or body. Kevin has documented this punch before, and when the footage goes live, you’ll be able to see it. But the Buffalo killer is a prime example of the basics of Muay Lertrit coming together.

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Kali has a different style of teaching this stuff though. We used to train stuff in "drills" a whole lot. A drill in Kali is a sequence of moves you practice with a partner where the whole sequence ends in the same position you started in so you can just continue on.

I have the feeling we'll get to drills at some point. It kind of seems like they are still trying to figure out how to teach this on an individual level as well as being under a bit of a time crunch to show Tim as much as possible before he leaves. 

I'm curious, as someone who has studied both Kali and Muay Thai, do you feel that the non-weapon portions of Kali are indeed practical? Also would you consider it be practical in a ring setting? 

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19 minutes ago, Tim Macias said:

You can see all of the these basics come together in the Buffalo killing strike.

He showed me this the first weekend I went up there and I only today felt like I was kind of getting it. I'm still a little bit uncertain if there should be a bit of a whip motion/feeling to it or not. While I was playing around on the bag I was really trying to focus on the tension in my shoulder (he has mentioned a few times that it is easy to hurt your shoulder doing that punch). I seemed to get the most power and least amount of tension when the punch was a little whippy, but I'm just not sure if that's what he wants from it or not. I still feel strange in general about striking with the back of my hand instead of my knuckles. It might be necessary though to maintain speed/power if you aren't shifting weight the way we would traditionally with Western boxing or Muay Thai. I dunno, it's just a weird one to me lol. That other downward strike had me totally lost. Not only have I never done anything like that before, but it also feels very against my natural style. I'm curious if as he shows more there will be a bit of lightbulb that goes off similar to when we were confused about the heel kick today.

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6 hours ago, Tyler Byers said:

I have the feeling we'll get to drills at some point. It kind of seems like they are still trying to figure out how to teach this on an individual level as well as being under a bit of a time crunch to show Tim as much as possible before he leaves. 

I'm curious, as someone who has studied both Kali and Muay Thai, do you feel that the non-weapon portions of Kali are indeed practical? Also would you consider it be practical in a ring setting? 

That would be interesting! If they do use drills I'd like to see what they are and how they compare to what we did in Kali!

 

On the second part: I would not really say that I've studied Muay Thai. I'm just a beginner actually who hasn't been training consistently and probably will never take it further than the sparring ring. I'm just the kind of guy who likes to obsess about his hobbies 😉 I used to practice Kali for some 8 years or so but that's also like 6 years or so ago so not everything is fresh to say the least.

I would have gone back to kali when I wanted to do martial arts again but somehow I just felt like going more into the sports direction this time and thats where muay thai came in.

When I saw Sylvie's session with the general it made me happy because I saw so many things and concepts that seemed familiar from Kali. 

I do think the non-weapon portions of Kali are practical (even though they are fundamentally connected to the weapon portions). Also you have to take into account that Kali/Escrima/Arnis describe a general art that's split into hundreds of different systems (styles if you will) that have different focuses. Some are more geared towards actual combat or self defence while others are more sportified if you know what I mean.

Practical in a ring setting.... I'd probably say to a degree. What parts you could use of course would depend a lot on the rules but its definitely not meant as an art for sport competition (at least the style I practiced). We did full contact stick sparring (with protective gear) and that works fine, also a bit of knives sparing, rolling on the ground trying to submit each other (a jiu jitsu practitioner would of course be more expert in this aspect) and other empty hand practice in varying degrees of freedom and contact.

How does it translate to a ring setting? Well it's kind of difficult to translate. We did a lot of open hand slaps for example which dont really work well when gloves are used. A lot of the stuff is also geared towards specifically attacking joints and other vulnerable parts like you wouldn't do in a ring setting. Ring martial arts usually seem more based on... an exchange of being hit (of course avoiding as much damage as possible), finding holes in your opponents game and hitting them back. In Kali you typically dont want that. You mostly want to end things quickly and dont give your opponent any chance if possible. IF you even have to be there in the first place. You dont want to get hit AT ALL really, which gets priority over landing shots yourself because you're taught that an opponent could always carry/use a weapon even if you dont see it (there is this saying that "knives are meant to be felt, not seen") and every hit could be dangerous.

That being said though, we did practice stuff like lowkicks, elbows, knees, also some punches (though that's the part I'm lacking in the most when it comes to Muay Thai I think). As far as I know my Kali trainer actually has Muay Thai experience of his own from before his Kali days so that might be another factor in finding parallels.

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Interesting. I wonder if I'll be one of the first Western's to take this style into the ring then. My plan is to try and use parts of Muay Lertit (the footwork, waist rotation, and some of the defense) and put it together with the bit of Thai boxing I have learned. I want to keep it mostly defensive as that is the base of the style and try to counter attack instead of being offensive. I probably won't kick hardly at all unless it is one of these short front kicks the General has taught us, or the heel thrust. Hahaha should be interesting as I am pretty much guaranteed to lose on points if I can't get a stoppage. Maybe I'll see what they think about doing a Kard Cheuk fight instead of a Thai boxing match. That might allows me to represent the style a bit better (hahaha they are worried how it will look if I lose and since I'm 35 there is already a lot of pushback).

 

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3 hours ago, Tyler Byers said:

Hahaha should be interesting as I am pretty much guaranteed to lose on points if I can't get a stoppage.

Why would you think that his Muay Lertrit would score lightly in Thailand's sport Muay Thai? It seems the opposite. It seems like fighting in the pocket with a very strong defensive core would ensure not only entertaining (action-oriented) fighting, but due to it's strong defensive principles would shut out the opponent's scoring opportunities. I think the bread and butter of Thailand's Muay Thai, the mid-kick, would not last very long vs the General (ideally speaking). It really reads like Muay Khao fighting, but without knees, like as you say, maybe how Yodkhunpon or maybe Samson Isaan fought in terms of temp and spacing. Just with interceptive defensive pressure. It seems like it would score well vs contemporary Muay Thai.

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23 hours ago, Xestaro said:


I find myself reminded of learning Kali from a lot of your descriptions, especially when it comes to movements coming from the hip or core of the body. And interestingly enough Kali (at least the style I practiced) also prides itself to be not a sport martial art but a practical system for real live application 

The part about flow and natural movement, recovering from failed moves and just flowing to the next thing VERY much reminded me of how it felt to practice this art!

. . . I think it shows very well how this relates to continuous flow and empty hands application. Not to hijack anything here but with all of what you guys wrote about Lertrit I think it might be relevant in a way or at least interesting to see in this context.

 

I love that you brought Kali into this conversation! I have been exposed to Kali on a number of occasions while training San Soo and while training with some in Humboldt. Both my Master San Soo instructor and our Humboldt self-defense instructor have trained in Kali and with Danny Inosanto, as well as some of his students, now teachers. I was happy to watch the video you included, as many of those patters look familiar. Dare I say, I can replicate one or two of them.

I really relate to you observation concerning drills. This is how I learned much of the martial art I know - San Soo, BJJ, Western Boxing - as well as many of the sports I grew up playing. The drill teaches you all of the prerequisite muscle control one will need to execute a technique properly. The General does have some drills, although I don't think he imagines them this way, also, we haven't quite gotten to the point of understanding the basics to be able to move forward into drilling. If you look at some of the padded work Tyler and I do on Day 5, I think you'll see how the General likes to drill. 

Thank you for bringing this up and showing support!

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