This is a deceptively simple way to close distance.
I get interesting communication from readers and fans. When it’s brief, I’ll answer directly. Mostly I try to get folks to post their questions on the Muay Thai Roundtable forum so it can help others who might have the same questions and more people can chime in to help with answers; but in this case the question was one I’ve not only worked hard to develop a strategy on, as a smaller fighter, but it’s also one that I’ve heard a few times. So it makes sense to do a Sylvie’s Tips video on it. Even though this is a very simple and basic technique, believe it or not, it works. First, here was the question:
I’m quite petite, maybe 5’2 and weighing in at 95lbs. My sparring partners have always been much larger than me, and I would often have trouble attacking/moving in, or closing the distance. If you could share some of your thoughts, I’d really appreciate it!
Me showing the simple hop-in to close distance, above
There are a few reasons why this can be so effective. The first is that few fighters train against this hop-in in sparring. You do get some of it in clinch sparring – in fact I use this mostly to close distance to initiate clinch – but in a fight it can really take a fighter out of her or his game. There’s a definite, “what is that?” hesitation as a typical response. The other reason it’s effective is that it’s effective in more than one way. Your lead knee works as a guard, which you can pivot to the right or left to check kicks on either side and straight ahead it guards against knees and teeps. It can even be turned horizontally to bar your opponent if they come toward you or once you get in close. Kicks become discouraged, not only because of the knee, but the fact you are closing distance quickly, threatening interference or a counter knee. If you keep the knee high it can deter teeps, and as the hands are in the long guard position, you are pretty well defended up top. I don’t really strike out of this hop in, but you certainly could. My head trainer Pi Nu doesn’t hop so much with his version as that he walks forward and raises the knee up in rhythm with his forward stepping; but he’s not going against bigger opponents, which is what the question was and what people my size are dealing with most of the time. With the hop, it works to load a right cross or elbow, or a straight knee, or a flip-kick (which I’ve been practicing occasionally, where you kick right as the hop comes down). Also a stiff spearing jab would work well.
I’ve heard people suggest (abstractly, never when actually training this technique) that this doesn’t work because you can “just kick the standing leg out.” If it’s that easy, it’s never happened to me – not in a fight, not in training. Sakmongkol doesn’t hop in with his, but he keeps that knee/leg up in guard and he’s pretty impenetrable when he does so; I have a massively hard time against Pi Nu when he does it. Both those men are tall, so they hold the guard and put the burden on their opponent to try to come in. Because I’m small, staying far away isn’t in my best interest, which is why I hop in and close that distance at the same time. If someone were to try to kick the leg out, they would have to have a very good step to the side and cut the angle to attack from the side. When you’re first trying to do the hop in, you might get knocked off balance a few times. But as you get more comfortable, you’ll be more invincible with it.
The balance required for this to be very firm is something to develop, but it will come with practice. That balance for me is related to the work I’ve done in the Floating Block . The hop in is not a fancy technique, in fact it’s really simple, but if you are a fighter who wants to get inside, it’s a very dependable option. When you start using the hop in against taller/longer fighters you become more aware of how the long guard in general can be used to cut-off strikes and take away the space that some fighters really need to feel comfortable… what Kevin and I call “pad work distance”. It helps if you develop a clinch game to go with this, but if you are the smaller fighter, very often it is difficult to even get in the range you need for attack.
An Introduction to Sylvie’s Tips
You can read about the Sylvie’s Tips feature here in my first post:
See all my Sylvie’s Tips articles.
The Full Sylvie’s Tips YouTube Playlist