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Tim Macias

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

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2 hours ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

Why would you think that his Muay Lertrit would score lightly in Thailand's sport Muay Thai?

Mostly worried about how mid-kicks will be viewed. I'm worried that judges won't see the block for what it is and instead look at it as taking the kick on the forearms as opposed to being blocked by the elbow. Also the style isn't the prettiest thing in the world (compared to femeur), but hopefully the sheer dominance of it will shine through. I think if I can get some real sparring time in that will give me a better picture of everything.  

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1 minute ago, Tyler Byers said:

I'm worried that judges won't see the block for what it is and instead look at it as taking the kick on the forearms as opposed to being blocked by the elbow.

Just adjust and use his elbow strikes to the thigh to interrupt, right? hahaha. Yes, if you just take kicks to the arms all day, you lose. But that isn't really the Muay Lertrit style, it's invading of space more. Kickers will be okay for the first 2 rounds, but by round 3 and 4 their kicks will start to fall, pretty soon they'll all be below the waist and hesitant, leading to great narrative for you. Powerful weapons that degrade over time in a fight are a big negative. At least this is what Sylvie's encountered with her own pressuring style versus kickers. She blocks a few head kicks early (which score), but by the end of the fight the kicks are dead.

 

5 minutes ago, Tyler Byers said:

Also the style isn't the prettiest thing in the world (compared to femeur), but hopefully the sheer dominance of it will shine through.

Yeah, it's just fighting with the Muay Khao ethic (minus the clinch). There is a recipe for Muay Khao fighting vs Muay Femeu. Every judge knows it. You have to just follow that recipe I think, for Muay Lertrit inspired action.

What is really interesting about Muay Lertrit, as far as I've been able to witness, is that the entire fighting style is organized around invading the no-mans-land between fighters, and fighting there. Even Muay Khao fighters sometimes ignore this zone, rushing in for the clinch. This is, in some Muay Thai, a neglected area of attack and defense, and for that reason your opponent is probably uncomfortable in this zone. We don't have the time, but I really would love for Sylvie to develop these twisting, intercepting no-mans-land habits and techniques. As a clinch fighter, if one became fluent in them, it would make you kind of undefeatable.

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19 hours ago, Tim Macias said:

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.

Here's a photo of the said punch, the moment just before the General rolls the hand, arm and shoulder over. A kind of Rolling Back Fist:

General Tunwakom - Rolling Back Fist.jpg

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16 minutes ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

What is really interesting about Muay Lertrit, as far as I've been able to witness, is that the entire fighting style is organized around invading the no-mans-land between fighters, and fighting there.

This is actually what I like best about it so far, and is yet another comparison to my old style. I used to live in that mid-range because I found it makes people really uncomfortable and leaves them trying to choose between moving or attacking. As the pressuring fighter (or at least the one trying to eat/maintain that space) you can still see quite well and therefore counter really well since you aren't actually leading the dance. Feinting/hiding your strikes is really important here I think, it increases the sense of panic in your opponent and makes them open up even more. 

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1 minute ago, Tyler Byers said:

Feinting/hiding your strikes is really important here I think, it increases the sense of panic in your opponent and makes them open up even more. 

Hiding strikes, yeah, but I know of no inside fighting style in any sport that feints much in inside fighting. Most of it is just defending well, intercepting, countering hard. Think of inside fighting in boxing. Zero feints. Unless maybe the deep rolls of inside boxing might be considered feints? Is there a lot of feinting in Muay Lertrit? By feint do you mean the twists and recoveries?

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On 7/10/2019 at 5:49 PM, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

By feint do you mean the twists and recoveries?

We haven't been shown any feints yet but I think we aren't even near that point. We are still working on the basic techniques and not even really drilling or sparring yet. I think when you are that close, it is mostly slight/nuanced movement based feinting (acting like are going to pivot one direction, then going another), or feinting when you are an outside in attempt to keep them guessing so you can get back into that mid-range. I'm having a hard time putting into words what I am thinking, hahaha very likely I am still figuring it out myself. I'm kind of getting a double dose of learning/re-learning as I realize how many of the ideals behind Muay Lertit are similar to things I was taught at Toddy's.

I'm guessing these similarities are all in the Muay Korat base, but I'm not certain exactly what techniques are classified in that style other than the use of a lot of elbows and knees. The Muay Korat terminology is pretty recent for me so I'm still connecting things if that makes sense? I have the feeling a lot of this stuff will begin to click a lot more if I can start sparring and trying to work it in more of a live setting, that's just kind of how my brain works. I've definitely had the most trouble with the "traditional" martial arts movements, though that makes sense considering I have never done anything other than Thai boxing (General Tunwakom is pretty insistent that Thai boxing is very different than Muay Thai). 

We've just had a ton of information thrown at us very quickly on top of trying to change existing styles and movements. Realistically it's only been a couple of weeks so there is a LOOOOONNNGG way to go still 😄 Hahaha honestly I feel like Tim is getting it worse than I am, I at least get told not to worry about stuff since I have a bunch of time to learn. 

Edited by Tyler Byers
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The General is doing his best to do two things. Hold us accountable for what he is teaching. But at the same time, he wants to show as much as possible because I am only in Bangkok for a short while. You can tell when the General is teaching that to former is more his style than the latter. Especially because Lertrit is so detail oriented. Rushing the process only short changes the next technique after. Much like I talked about yesterday, everything for the General comes down to the basics. Accordingly, if one of your basics is lacking or incomplete, then the rest of your technique will be less effective. The General is giving me a lot of credit because of my background, but you can tell it's a struggle for him deciding rather or not I understand enough of one concept to move on to the next. While I usually understand, this is not the same thing as getting by body to do it.

The General often speaks in terms of making thing happen naturally. He often uses this idea interchangeably with flow. I like the concept of flow much better. This is something close to my heart and was cemented into my brain in San Soo. Much like San Soo each move - each punch, elbow and/ or knee - should flow effortlessly into the next. Rather I missed my target, my opponent moved away or I am fighting multiple opponents, I should be able to recall anyone of my techniques and pick the one which is most appropriate for the situation. It's much like freestyle rapping versus writing out your bars for a song or performance - think like improve. Similar in dance: choreography is much easier to me than to social dance, where I have to come up with the right step in order to let my partner know what I am doing. This ability to flow is something I have when I practice San Soo, bit of course I have been practicing for that flow for more than decade. Flow to me, is the mastery of your style. There is no thinking involved. It has become natural, as the General will say. This is why the basics are so important for him, because if your basics are not good, you can not flow.

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Because the General wasn’t available for training tonight, I ended up watching a lot of the video Kevin just posted of day 11. Just a view notes you might not be able to pick up from the video posted above:

 

The first technique the General has me practice during out session, hook(ish) punch to a “back-hand”. Just about every art (including San Soo) has their variation of a back-hand, or back-fist, or any vernacular thereof, so here is the Lertrit variation. The General talked about throwing this back-hand after an opponent veers their head back to avoid a hooking punch. As their head returns to center, and to also regain your feet after missing, the idea is to step forward and narrow your stance and hit them with the back hand. A prime example of the kind of flow the General is always talking about.  

The kick the General has me practicing about 45 min into the night, he refers to as a half kick. As explained by General, this kick makes contact with the upper part of the shin and is a mid range kick. The General says it’s to be used when you opponent is close far for a standard shin kick, but also too far for a standard knee. It’s awaked as all be on a bag, but when someone is standing in front of you, it makes perfect sense. It felt wicked to just touch him with, let alone to someone who wouldn’t understand its being thrown.

One of the last techniques of the night, about 1:25 min in, the General starts having me practice a straight, down elbow. Soon enough he has me jumping into the strike. Jumping into a strike is fun and I love when he asks me to do this. However, the thing he corrects me on every time I jump into a technique, is to land softly. “I don’t want to hear you”, the General insist. I really like this correction for two reasons: One, I love the way it comes out - I don’t want to hear you - it makes me smile. Two, this was a constant correction I received in ballet. And usually unless you’ve done both, there is often a gross misunderstanding how close ballet is to all martial arts. Land softly when jumping, it shows you have control over your body.

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What I find really fascinating about the General's Muay Lertrit, from the Muay Thai perspective, is that it adds an entirely distinct and new vocabulary of strikes to an already pretty potent vocabulary in Ring Muay Thai. The truth of the matter is that ring Muay Thai, even at its best - and I consider it the best fighting art in the world in the hands of the Thais - still becomes cul-de-sac'd by aesthetics over time. You have John Wayne Parr chain punching elite fighters into submission, perhaps not because he was better than them (if you want to invent a criteria), but because he fought off- or out-of rhythm, pushing them into the deep zone. All fighting arts become aesthetisized. Ring Muay Thai is no different. The aesthetic does become refreshed because fighters are always looking for "what works", but still there are era-specific channels through which it all flows. What is really cool about Muay Lertrit from this perspective is that one discovers not one, not three, but an entire family of strikes and defenses that can operate withing ring Muay Thai, because they are ancestrally related. They fit within the fighting program of Muay Thai, because they are evolutionarily related. It's like you suddenly discovered all the Anglo-Saxon derived words of English, after becoming proficient at the Latinate words which predominate because of Style - a rough analogy admittedly. The Muay Lertrit strikes, aside from the deeper, perhaps much more meaningful elements of balance, breathing and movement, seem to fall into certain holes or blindspots in modern Muay Thai.

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While I don’t think it was his intention, the General all but melted our brains tonight. Honestly, he did melt our brains tonight. Intentional or not, the General is very eager to show us as much of the Lertrit style as he can. Because I am only spending a short time in Thailand, the General is pretty much doing an intensive seminar every time we meet with him. Each session is much more mental taxing than physically - both Tyler and I are are trying to soak up as much information as we can while also trying to bypass most of the habits we’ve developed in prior trainings.

As we enter the home stretch of my stay in Thailand, the General has introduced, “The Mothers Moves” or the Muay Thai tricks, as he sometimes refers to them. The mother moves are counter attacks seemingly applied to end a fight. From these mother moves, there are exponentially more offspring moves which make up the other styles fo Muay Thai. All of the basics we’ve learned till now make up the foundation for which the mothers moves should rest. Without the basics, the Mother Moves will be less effective, meaning not effective at all. Pretty much all of the training leading till now has lead to this point. If I am remembering correctly, there are 15 mother moves. Each mother move could be it’s own weekend long seminar, yet we were introduced to four tonight. Is this why my brains feels like an egg?

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Bro. *dramatic pause* My brain is currently made of french toast and soup. What did he do to us tonight lol? I want to play with that spinning elbow more, I felt like I was starting to get the weight transfer of that one towards the end. Once I have that down I want to try and start mixing in other elbows. I actually like that step in elbow to the floating rib too. I didn't get a chance to try that one, but I think I understand how it works. On an unrelated note, that ninja jump foot work is going to be the death of me. I am terrible jumping off my left side. Those jumping kicks made me feel like I need to go do single leg squats for the next 3 months to get more than a 2 inch vertical. Good stuff, but I'm brain dead.

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Today the General continued to add yet another Muay Thai Mother Move. While it is sometimes frustrating to practice, the overall experience is fun, because you can see the progression of all of the basics we’ve been taught over the last few weeks. While there are official names for each mother move, they are in Thai and I can neither say nor spell them. But what we practiced today was a counter to a kick. Although not sport legal from what little I know about sport. But I don’t practice for sport, a fact that always makes the General smile when I reming him of such. 

The beautiful part about the General teaching us this lesson today, was how we needed to call on three separate basics, and be able to execute almost simultaneously to make them one smooth motion. The move involves blocking or dissipating the force of the incoming kick, catching the opponents leg, then finally elbowing their leg. Each one of these steps involves a basic the General showed us leading to day, easy enough each in their own right. The difficult part was stringing them together. There were many frustrating parts about todays lesson, but we kept trying. 

We have similar movements and block/ strike combinations in San Soo. These types of moves are all about timing. There is a sweet spot between mechanical and rushing each move. While it looks like you are doing each move at the same time, they are actually being done one right after the other, or I like to say, right on top of each other. Sometimes I tell students, its not about doing the moves faster, but shortening the time in-between each move, if that makes any sense? Also, WAY easier said than done.

The general laughs whenever say it, like he doesn’t think I’m serious, but I tell him maybe in 10,000 reps I might start to understand. The General often spends much of his time explaining the same idea or motion to us over and over, asking if we understand. At this point in my marital arts career, there is little I don’t understand conceptually. I tell the General, my head understands, but I my body doesn’t know yet. He laughs. I tell him again, maybe in another 10,000 I can start to get it.

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9 hours ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

This would definitely be legal in ring Muay Thai.

Thank you for clarifying. We are striking just below the knee, for the sake of training. I think the General would prefer to actually strike the knee; how about that? 

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2 hours ago, Tim Macias said:

Thank you for clarifying. We are striking just below the knee, for the sake of training. I think the General would prefer to actually strike the knee; how about that? 

As far as it has been explained to me, more or less all strikes are legal in Thailand, with the exception of knees to the groin. For instance, elbows to the back of the head...legal. Teeps to the groin, legal. There are social codes that make certain strikes feel dirty, so if you did them you are crossing a bit of a line, but the general feeling is "protect yourself".

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More brain liquifying from the General as we ended the weekend. However, today was special because the General had us padded up from head to toe and throwing (more or less) live punches at one another. We started off slow enough, with one of the General’s assistant trainers holding pads, and every now and then coming back at us with some simple strikes. Soon enough, the General gave us the go-ahead to start throwing punches at each other. He didn’t so much use the phrase, “spare”, as much as he said “combine, combine”. Meaning, the General wanted to see what ideas, concepts and/ or lessons we could piece together in the moment. Both Tyler and I really enjoyed how the sessions progressed.

What would happen, is the General or his assistant trainer would notice something Tyler or I would do in a situation. We then would get the appropriate corrections in the form of an impromptu drill(-ish, thing). The idea was to rep the concept out in a functional manner. We moved through a lot of technique, and once again it proved to be much more mentally straining than physical. Although after a few hours of this kind of work, the physical did catch up with us. The afternoon ended with Tyler and I doing a small demo for the community class - made up of mostly retired age people.

The General was looking to accomplish two things from what I could tell: to show is students what they were working up to. And the test Tyler and I bit and see what we could recall in the moment. The community class is mostly structured in a way which teaches the class fundamental forms - similar to Karate Kata. Most of the student are retirement aged and mostly do the class for their physical health. Seeing the form in a practice sense is something they have only seen the General do in short reenactments; let alone in a function sense. The General also wanted to see what Tyler and I could recall in a more fast past setting. The recall being the difficult part here. For me, the recall would happen in three phases: I would miss the first opportunity to use a technique, not recalling at all; then I would miss the second opportunity, because of a late recall; and then MAYBE on the third opportunity I might make an attempt at a specific technique. The part that made me feel accomplished about today though, was even just thinking about using a technique. Often the first encouraging break through when I teach a student something new is just the fact the realized they could have done a technique or they realize in the moment where they went wrong. I felt this break through today. Super fun.  

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Today the General took me over to a sport Muay Thai gym in Bangkok. This gym belong to one of his friends, a former Lumpini champion. The General was looking for two things: One to show me and discuss how other gyms teach compared to him. And two, to have me hit pads to check my technique and feel what it’s like to try and use Lertrit in a sporting setting. Full disclaimer, I was told this wasn’t a hard Muay Thai training camp, but placed emphasis the conditioning and health aspects of boxing. I still thought the pad holders here were very nice and did their jobs well.

There was give and take with tonights session. On one hand, it was super fun to hit pads! It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to hit pads; as a coach, I spend most of my time holding pads for everyone else. To get to sit back and just do the strikes called for, was an extremely enjoyable experience. On the other hand however, I really wanted to display the General’s techniques. The main problem I was having, and the General was seeing, was my inability to consistently demonstrate the Lertrit basics we’ve been practicing. I’ve only been with the General for three weeks, this has not been enough time to get my body to absorb his teachings. In my head I’m thinking about all the things he wants me to do, and sometimes I think I’m doing them. But overall, I just wasn’t consistently able to show all the things I wanted to be able to show the General.

The General was admit that I try and defend kicks with his signature elbow block. You can see the General demonstrates this to Sylvie in the video she did with him. After missing and not seeing the opportunity to do this technique, I was able to put it into use in later rounds. Mostly due to the limited time I have been practicing, I’m not able to properly turn my waist when I do this block. The waist turn in vital. Turning the waist while blocking this way is the element which adds power, dispersing the power in your opponents kick and damages their leg; rather than you damaging your elbow or arm. There is also a variation were I kick while blocking this way. I manage to do this relatively well, once. The General can be heard/ seen clapping and smiling. Overall, I am very happy with how tonights training went. I was slightly disappointed in not being able to show the General everything he wanted to see. But by no means do I think he was upset. It’s all learning and he is a very understanding man. 

Edited by Tim Macias
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For my last night of training, the General took us back over to the sport boxing gym for another go at the pads and even a round of sparring. With the General - and most of the gym - looking on, Tyler and I did rounds with the pad holder from the other day. Some of the techniques the General has been trying to get us to do the last few weeks almost came out more naturally; but honestly, if the kick was too fast, I still was not able to get my body to react fast enough. I was mostly concentrating on my waist rotations and weight transfer. Both of which will take many, MANY more months of work before I don’t have to think about them, and can just do them naturally. Also tonight, we got to spare with one of the gyms advanced students. 

They told us he was a decorated Western and Thai boxer. And dang, were they correct. While he was just playing with us, see what we could do and if we would buy into his game, the gym’s boxer was lightening fast and had footwork that could put most dancers to shame. I have a very playful sparring game to begin with, but the gym’s boxer was just as playful and it was hard not to buy into it. This was not favored by the General. He wanted us to sit back more, wait for the attacks and defend. While the General was very forgiving of my tendencies, he often yelled comments and corrections my way during each round (I honestly didn’t hear many of them thought, Swear). More so than anything, the General wanted to see how we defend, he didn’t want to us make mistakes attacking and be countered on. Which honestly, happened a fair amount. The gym’s boxer was playful but patient and I found myself getting ancy. I was able every now and then to pull of some of the block the General favors, along with a few other kicks and punched we practiced. Above else, it was fun. Always room for improvement though.

Tomorrow I will get on a plane and head back to California. I have no words which I think do justice for the experience I’ve had hear. Three years ago, if you had told me this is where I’d be, and this is what I’d be doing, I would have you that you are crazy. When Kevin pitched me the idea, I wasn’t sure how serious to take the suggestion. But here I am. Martial arts is by far the best thing to ever happen to me. I owe so much of who I am and the things I’ve had the opportunity to do to martial arts. Martial art is quite literally like having a super power. Much beyond being to physical impose yourself on someone, martial arts allows you the power to be confident. To go into the unfamiliar and come out the other side better for having done it.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of those who offered their words of encouragement and support. Especially, thank you Tyler, Mai, Kevin and Sylvie. I could not have done this with out you all! I talk to you all again when I am back in California.

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