First a Little Bit About Daeng
Daeng is one of the most fight-focused trainers I’ve trained with. When I was training at Lanna Muay Thai in Chiang Mai, it was Daeng who invested the most in diagnosing and fixing weaknesses in my fighting. He wasn’t my main trainer, but he’s a very good teacher and has a keen eye for finding how to improve on existing strengths and correct errors. I’d initially gotten a bit stuck with a technically brilliant but lazy and unmotivated trainer – that guy was a great trainer for some, just not for me – and Daeng kind of rescued me from that set-in-soft-stone coupling when that trainer was away from the gym for a month. And while I ultimately was taken on by the head trainer, Daeng continued to work with me, innovatively, and was still an incredible resource in improving my technique and strategy. He was the first instructor to fully embrace that I should be, and train me to become, an “inside fighter”, after many trainers tried to get me to dart around, simply because I’m small. He’s the first trainer to design drill workouts for me, to really get my blocks up very fast and with endurance, vital for a muay khao fighter. I would actively go and ask him for pads and drills when I was at Lanna, which I still do when I visit the camp now.
Not only is Daeng an excellent trainer, but he’s also a very personable fellow in the gym. He’s modest and kind of even-keel but leaning toward the positive. He smiles a lot and has both a college-aged son, Tor, who has trained at the gym with Daeng for most of his life, as well as a toddler named Ten, who motivates Daeng as a father and worker in a way that’s really beautiful. And I just like Daeng. I like talking to him, I’m interested in his thoughts and opinions, he’s one of the best cornermen I’ve ever had and he’s always been kind and helpful to me. He’s “good people.”
above, padwork with Daeng at Lanna this week
The Dracula Guard a Long Guard Variation
This video is roughly 3 rounds of padwork the day after my most recent fight in Chiang Mai. Daeng had cornered for me the night before and he didn’t break with the round timer because he was focused on the techniques he was instilling in me during this session, things he wanted to see improvement on from my fight. Very early he corrects my 4-block guard, which involves a long guard with the front hand and a cross guard from the back hand, which is a max-protect position. This is a position that I’ve been taught several times, but I’ve never quite taken to it despite it being perfectly suited for what I do. After this session I’ve decided to really focus on training this. There are a few different ways to implement this guard, but Daeng’s version is very tight around the jaw and you tuck your chin into the nook of your inner elbow. I call this particular version it the “Dracula Guard,” because it’s like how old-movie Dracula pulls his cape dramatically around himself, just under his eyes, before turning into a bat or whatever – it helps me remember that I want this guard pulled low and tight. This is just a variation of what is commonly called the Long Guard, but with the elbow pointed out, which isn’t always the case. The Long Guard is often just with the arm straight across the face like a bar, sometimes at an upward diagonal, potentially obscuring vision. I’ve also called this version the “4” block because of the shape it makes. Dieselnoi, perhaps the greatest knee fighter in Thai history used this guard as he showed me in my private with him – this is the first time I really started thinking about adding it – and I originally learned it from another all-time great, Kaensak Sor. Ploenjit. Fighters who favor the Long Guard find slightly different angles in it that suit them. As a knee fighter myself, I want to make this tight as part of my entrance into clinch, as I’m trying to move away from the boxer’s “11” block (both arms upright and forming an “11” in front of the face) that I currently find most trustworthy.
In this session I just wasn’t tucking my chin enough, but it got better as I went, you really want to drive that chin down so it bows your shoulders. Daeng’s version is really good for a shorter fighter, like me, as he gets very strongly planted and low – he’s protected, but free to elbow and knee or initiate a grab in clinch. Like this it’s a no-retreat guard. In the video I asked him about guarding against elbows because from an orthodox stance the upper right side of your forehead is the only part exposed. He explained that 1) your chin is tucked, so any punches or strikes that come at you there are going to hit your crown, which doesn’t knock out and if it cuts it won’t affect the fight; and 2) you’re too far away from someone to throw elbows from such a distance if you have your front arm extended in the block to ward off any upper-body attacks.
What’s great about Daeng and his way of teaching is that he allows you to drill a technique without necessarily isolating it out into a repetitive drill. Rather, he creates context for you to repeat the technique and try it out under slowly-increasing pressure. It’s perfect.
Great Clinch Fighters Have Used it for Generations
I wrote about the Dracula Guard here, in this Dieselnoi Instructional video. You can see how Dieselnoi (56 years old), arguably the best knee fighter ever, uses it:
Deiselnoi, above, holds his right hand palm down on his shoulder, Yodwicha (below) flexes the hand more upward, in a block, like how Daeng showed. The one thing I noticed is that when the hand flexes up it also flexes the muscles in the forearm, a benefit in stiffening the guard. This is similar to arguments about flexing the foot on blocking kicks because the tensed muscle is an additional protective element.
See my Feature articles with Top Fight Minds in Thailand
Read all my articles on clinch in Muay Thai.