I’ve been working over the years on not freaking the f**k out when someone catches my kick. My balance has gotten much better and a large part of that is to do with Ajarn Surat of Dejrat Gym teaching me how to train the caught kick without actually having to get someone to catch my kick. Because I’ve gotten a bit better at it now, Pi Nu in padwork actually does it more. When I was just toppling over from panic he kind of just shook his head at me, but now that I can handle myself he’s more keen to cheat by plowing me across the ring and yelling, “Namkabuan!” as he does so. Namkabuan is an incredible champion from the Golden Era (1990s) of Muay Thai and he plowed his opponents straight out of the ring – some say it was his dominant plowing that got the rule changed against it. When Pi Nu was a fighter in the ’90s this was still allowed. One day, when we were talking about this, Pi Nu casually mentioned that, “Kaensak was the best at this,” meaning Kaensak could actually attack out of having his leg caught.
It happens that Keansak and Pi Nu had a teacher in common, though they don’t know each other now. This kru would train Kaensak in the morning at Sor. Ploenjit in Bangkok, then come to Pattaya and train Pi Nu in the afternoons (Witsanuchai was Pi Nu’s fight name); then he’d stay the night in Pattaya, train Pi Nu in the morning and then Kaensak in the afternoon. And on and on like this. I also trained with Kaensak several years ago back in New Jersey before moving to Thailand, for about a year, which makes a nice coincidence of a teaching tree. Kaensak is amazing, and has been a real inspiration and support – he’s even cornered for me when visiting, which was a huge honor. For those that don’t follow closely, Kaensak is widely regarded as one of the 10 or 20 best Thai fighters ever, winning Fighter of the Year twice in a row. His name is epic in Thailand – I’ve had random Thais react to even my t-shirt with his name on it – though he lives and teaches in America now.
When I got home from training I sent Kaensak a message on Facebook, saying that Pi Nu had complimented his skill in this way, and Kaensak immediately told me which fight to go look at to see an example. I love that he remembers exactly what fights he did what in – I hope I’m like that. When I looked up the fight, I saw exactly what both Pi Nu and Kaensak were referencing. Holy shit! Then in a later round we saw another move that Kaensak had taught me back in the day, which is to kick out the front leg of an advancing opponent as they’re trying to get in on you. It’s for a chasing opponent, which Lomnamoon is doing in late rounds of this fight because he’s behind in points.
Here’s the video of the two moves:
In the first clip, Kaensak gets his kick caught and immediately collapses it, trying to pull Lomnamoon (himself and all-time legend) toward himself or to push his hip forward again (with the leg bent) to pop him off. But Kaensak doesn’t get the angle he wants, so he turns his knee upward so that Lomnamoon can’t then turn Kaensak. With his knee facing up, Kaensak hops backwards toward the ropes as Lomnamoon advances (this hop is hugely important in a caught kick, taught be Arjan Surat); once he reaches the ropes he turns his knee back down and essentially pulls/whips Lomnamoon down onto the canvas. What the what?! Kaensak does loop his arm around the rope a little, which can be called a foul nowadays, but it wasn’t back then. (Watch Dieselnoi grab the rope on either side of his opponent and just go at it with his knees in some of his fights; that was allowed.)
In the second selection, Lomnamoon is chasing in the late and Kaensak is retreating to keep his lead. This is a really great move when facing a puncher (Orthodox), who will be putting weight on their lead leg as they try to charge in to land their hands. Kaensak waits for Lomnamoon’s weight to transfer to his lead leg and then he nails it, with his own lead kick) right behind the knee and kind of kick/pulls the leg (it’s not about power, it’s about timing). In the video of the fight he hits right behind the knee and buckles Lomnamoon to the floor. When he taught the move to me he was kicking below my calf, like down by my Achilles tendon. I reckon you go for what you can reach in each situation, but I mention it only to add that you have options. But again, it’s about timing more than power, so you want to get that kick right as the weight is coming onto the lead leg, but not when all the weight is there or it might be too sturdy. It’s as the weight is shifting and before the lead foot is really planted. When he taught me the move, hitting down below the calf, it kind of resulted in the opponent doing the splits (forward and back) and he would punch on top of it. Hitting behind the knee here it just topples Lomnamoon and Kaensak is still moving backwards, so he watches him fall instead of striking on top of it. Options.