Below is what I’ve written for my Patreon Supporter’s Library where you can find the full 28 minutes of this video, if you are already a patron you can watch it here (become a patron for a suggested $5 pledge). All I can say is that Namkabuan is simply incredible, and learning from him has been a once-in-a-lifetime kind of influence. If you don’t know who he is check out some of his fights at the bottom of the page.
I had never heard of Namkabuan. He’s one of the best of the best in the Golden Age of Muay Thai in the 90s and held the very competitive 130 lbs Lumpinee title for 6 straight years, a feat which is unreal… until you see him fight. My first introduction to him was when my trainer, Pi Nu, started plowing me across the ring into the ropes during padwork. He’d triumphantly cry out, “Naaam-kabuaaan!” as he did so, like someone yelling Geronimo. He still does this, actually, but now I understand the context. I had the chance to go train with Namkabuan in a private session, which is one of my favorite experiences ever. He’s incredibly verbal for a Thai trainer, but he’s talking about theory and why you do each thing and all the while moving around to demonstrate the physicality of it. His movements are so effortless, smooth and yet so unbelievably powerful. He would wave his arms to tell me to get out of the way for his “slide knee” when he was a good 5 feet away from me already. After he performed the knee, I felt it was probably safer to just jump out of the ring all together.
above, a four minute segment of the 28 minutes available to my Patreon Supporters
Watching his old fights on Youtube is a thrilling experience. I think Namkabuan is the most complete fighter I’ve ever seen. He was nicknamed the “body throw expert,” for his ability to just throw people around in the clinch, but he could engage in the clinch, too. His kicks are fast, his punches are super powerful and have some amazing footwork to go with them, his knees are a million miles long and his elbows are thrown with some seriously nasty intentions. But it’s how he moves in space that drives me crazy. He has a fast, but smooth, idle between his explosive onslaughts and once he gets his opponent into the ropes it’s almost as if he’s striking to try to burst through them. And occasionally he does, throwing his opponent, himself, or in one case his opponent, himself, and the ref all out of the ring. It strikes me that Namkabuan is like Dieselnoi in that he seeks out the ropes as a way to capture his opponent in order to assure the delivery of his most powerful strikes, but unique to Namkabuan is that he seems to almost not even recognize the ropes as a boundary. What he taught me is that you can use the ropes to bounce your opponent back into you, or to shove them hard enough that they kind of “pop open” when their back hits the rope (almost like a bird dropping a snail to crack its shell), but that’s what he taught me when he’s already 20 years out of fighting. When he was still fighting, he appeared to not care whether the ropes bounced you back at him or whether you just snapped them all together and fell out of the ring; he’d follow you either way.
In this 28 minute segment these invaluable things are covered:
- Throwing from a low clinch position, both with your leg inside and outside position
- Elbows from the clinch
- The lock-and-release with knees from a body lock (low clinch)
- Knee up or fake teep with stomp down to an elbow
- The “slide knee,” which Namkabuan credits to his brother Namphon. It covers an insane amount of distance and is so powerful and fast. Not easy to execute, but once you get the relaxation and mechanics it is just unreal.
Namkabuan in GIFs
The Tip – Mid Clinch Throws
Namkabuan’s nickname was the “body throw expert” and this is an essential move for that strategy. When grabbing the body you have to move fast, firstly because there’s not a lot you can do from there that isn’t counterable, and secondly it’s not a naturally dominant position…you have to do something. Here, Namkabuan shows how the natural squat that occurs when you grab someone’s waist can be used in two ways to execute his throw: if your leg is outside your opponent’s leg (standard), you throw them over your own leg by lightly lifting from the waist and twisting them over your own thigh; if your leg is on the inside of their leg you can still move them by putting your leg under their thigh as you turn them away from that leg and tip them up with the lifting of your own leg, but you have to do this lift very quickly as it is in a gray area in the rules to lift. You lift slightly to destablize, and then turn down, or over, sometimes catching their lower leg with your foot or knee.
The Swim Elbow
As someone who locks a lot, learning how to use the looseness of the “swim” in clinch has been really awesome for me. Namkabuan shows me how to use your opponent’s loose arm when trying to swim to the inside position as an opening for an elbow. As they move their arm outside and under, you pull your wrist to the inside of their elbow to trap or pat the arm down, then elbow over it. Bam!
Goddamn. I love this knee. Basically you’re sliding over a long distance to deliver the knee like a jousting rod or battering ram. Or like a Street Fighter videogame character who slides across the ground to cover 5 feet at a time. The knee stays really low, it doesn’t arc up from the hip but stays mostly straight out, but you get a little bit of height from the lean-back. Your standing leg is what slides across the ground at the tail end of a really huge step forward, which he does as a skip forward but he can also accomplish as a step (slowing it slightly and covering a bit less ground). But the switch step for the knee is very much like the “whisper step” as taught by Kru Dam at Sitmonchai. If you’re right handed, you bring your left foot back just a tiny bit, not a deep switch, then use that small step back to launch your right leg into a deep step forward; then the left knee comes up to a 90 degree angle (about) and you slide on the right leg as your standing leg as you launch into your opponent. Just watch him do it a million times, then practice it 10 million times. He kind of twists his upper body at the end of it, which is the torque that replaces the knee rising up.
The Greatness of Namkabuan
You can read more about Namkabuan in this Siam Fight Mag interview from a few years ago. While his older brother Namphon (the first Thai to fight Dekkers) typified the powerhouse Muay Khao style for many, Namkabuan seemed to elevate it to an explosive art. As mentioned, he may be the most complete fighter I’ve ever seen. Below is a YouTube playlist of his fights, and a few of the fights I really enjoy.
Namkabuan vs Matee
savagery – One of the things that sets Namkabuan apart from other “technical” fighters is that he is able to go from 0-100 mph in an instant but with incredible aggression, and he pours it on. I don’t know the full history between Namkabuan and Metee (another fight between the two was also savage), but this fight shows a kind of intensity that more reserved elite fighters don’t always go to.
Namkabuan vs Robert
The power game – Despite the western sounding name Robert Kaennorasing was multi-time Rajadamnern Thai champion. In this fight you see Namkabuan’s relentless drive, and how he uses the ropes. Plowing was still legal – he was known for it – but also check out how he uses the stiff-arm from the long guard to just shove Robert all the way to the ropes for finishing scores. You also can see how effective the mid-clinch is for him, landing knees and using tips over the leg. When talking to Namkabuan he seemed to especially like this fight of his, maybe it had something to do with that disrespectful touch to the face Robert gave him on the touch gloves.
Namkabuan vs Sangtiennoi
The tactician, then showman – Against the legendary Sangtiennoi, Namkabuan was facing a notoriously relentless, forward-marching fighter. Some may find this fight boring, but to me it’s incredible. He systematically just snuffs everything that Santiennoi has to offer, scoring as he goes, building out his lead, and then late he just turns it into a demo. Blowing the fight open. That he could do this to an all-time great is really remarkable.
Namkabuan vs Sakmongkol
mid-clinch as decisive – Thanks to Steve for pointing me towards this fight. Perhaps from 1996. Namkabuan takes a fight with 3 close rounds and in the 4th moves decisively moves to mid-clinch demonstrating control, adding in several timed checks and counters, locking up the fight. Namkabuan dealing with Sakmongkol’s size and power. The high-fives in the corner with his trainer Pramodt are a personal favorite.
Namkabuan vs Sakmongkol
controlling from distance – The dominance in this fight is just stunning to me (that he lost the decision is a shock…you can see how badly and frustratedly Sakmongkol is chasing the final round, in fact frustrated by Namkabuan the whole fight). I believe Namkabuan is giving up significant weight here against Sakmongkol (at least 5 lbs at weigh in, more by fight time), one of the top names in history, and he just dismantles him in my eyes. He uses endless teeps to the thighs and probably groin to frustrate the puncher, sliding out of the way with beautiful footwork and slips, only to grab in mid-clinch when Sakmongkol finally gets to throw his hands a little. Ironically, this is the same way Sakmongkol frustrated Dekkers, who was a fairly one dimensional fighter, but here Namkabuan does it to Sakmongkol, showing immense skill. Take a look at how dominant his straight arm is to the collar bone, over and over keeping Sakmongkol out of range and dictating distance. And then in the final round he decides to clinch with the bigger opponent and owns him there as well. He quietly won at every range, again, despite the fact that the judges did not reward him. Brilliant fight.
Namkabuan vs Sakmongkol
controlling mid-range – From the size of them this fight looks to have preceded the fight above, and Namkabuan fights in a different way. He stays in much more, winning exchanges, until he completely locks him down in the mid-clinch. This is where you can see how powerful a weapon this was when dictating a fight. Sakmongkol struggles to free himself as the second tick off, and Namkabuan just keeps scoring small points, until finally throwing him to the ground. The plow at the 7:09 mark is one of the most memorable in Muay Thai, in that he runs Sakmongkol straight, face-first into the ropes, finalizing with a symbolic kick to the back, locking up the fight.
Namkabuan vs Matee
explosiveness & ‘rubber band’ fighting – Rubber band fighting is what I call a certain style of battle fairly common in the Golden Age. Fighters face off more or less in range, like fighting fish, and fight as if attached by a rubber band. It requires incredible speed and defense, as one is constantly on the verge of attack and counter attack. I include this fight here especially though for what happens at 2:09. Namkabuan runs himself right out of the ring, gets up immediately and mad rushes Matee even before the ref knows what is happening. Never seen anything like it and thank God I can’t ever un-see it. It demonstrates his fierce fire. It also seems that he wasn’t a very big Matee fan.
Every fight of his is instructional, you can see the whole Namkabuan playlist here:
You can have immediate access not only to the 28 minutes of this Namkabuan session, but also a library of similar long form training video sessions, which you can read about here. Just become a patron in support of this documentary effort for a suggested pledge of $5, and experience high level instruction from some of the best in Thailand.
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The Growing Technique Library
Namkabuan Nongkipahuyut – Explosive Attack (28 min) watch it here
266 wins, 15 losses, 2 draws. Namkabuan may be the best fighter I’ve ever seen, and it was an intense privledge to train with him. I can honestly say that it changed me as a fighter, inspiring to become more. He combines Muay Khao fighting with technical precision and explosive energy. The knee he teaches in this session is really like no other I’ve seen, like it is shot out of a cannon.
Hippy Singmanee – Developing power (69 min) – watch it here
Two-time Lumpinee champion Golden Age legend Hippy Singmanee takes me though one of the most unique and valuable hours I’ve spent with a top trainer. He is building ground up how power and relaxation are related to each other. This session has been highly influential upon my own training. Learn how spacing+timing+relaxation produces dynamic power.
Yodwicha – Clinch and Muay Khao (Knee) Specialist (35 min) – watch it here
Yodwich shared the Fighter of the Year award as only a 16 year old, and his success in the Lumpinee ring made him one of the most feared clinch fighters in Thailand. In this session he goes through his favorite Muay Khao techniques, shows why he prefers side-attack locks, and turns.
Dieselnoi pt 2 – The King of Knees (54 min) – watch it here
Dieselnoi is the greatest knee fighter who ever lived, and it just wasn’t because of his height. Spending this hour with him lets you feel how much love and energy he pours into his Muay Thai, even at this age, the real secret to what make him dominant in the Golden Age of the sport. There is nobody like Dieselnoi. Nobody.
Joe Hongthong – Developing Muay Khao Style (87 min) – watch it here
This is nearly an hour and a half of straight on Muay Khao instruction. Joe was a top stadium fighter and he’s watched me fight for several years, so this is Advanced Level tweaking, as he teaches how to bring elbows and knees together, discussing the ways that dragging back can work for a forward fighter, and the differences with more technical (femur) approaches. Muay Khao is a technique unto itself.
Pi Earn – Head Trainer of PTT Petchrungruang (34 min) – watch it here
PTT is the rising star of my gym Petchrungruang. He was so sought after he turned down title fights at Lumpinee and Rajadamnern and instead signed with Thai Fight where promoters feel he’s going to become an International star. Pi Earn has been the trainer who has sculpted PTT’s methodical Muay Khao fighting style, and in this session he starts right away making the tiny changes in my technique that are necessary for the strong, forward fighting approach that he favors.
Already filmed – Legendary Karuhat Sor. Supawan pt 2 (1 hr 10 min), Pi Daeng and the Dracula Guard pt3 (20 min), Yodkhunpon – The Elbow Hunder pt 2 (1 hr 20 min), Burklerk Pinsinchi pt 2 (30 min).
If you are huge fan of Namkabuan like I am, a full hour of my time with him is available on Nak Muay Nation for its members as well, as part of my training with legends series.