This is a Nak Muay Nation private session with greatness feature. The full 1 hour+ can be viewed by Nak Muay Nation members. This post includes a 10 minute excerpt, with audio commentary. You can read all my Nak Muay Nation feature articles here.
Rambaa, Thailand’s first MMA world champion, is an unassuming guy. He’s got a sweet, polite demeanor that comes off as a kind of boyishness, although his ability to pick you apart with technique and speed is nothing short of masterful. However, those two things aren’t at odds with each other at all in that his technical annihilation is playful. He’s very fun to train with. My sessions with him were split into two, and this approach truly showed the range of Rambaa’s teaching abilities. In the Nak Muay Nation these are put together as one long hour + video with commentary. If you are a member you can view that session video here. Below presents a 10 minute excerpt video, and some analysis on what he was teaching me.
In the first session we started out with sparring. I’ve never had that be the assessment portion of a training session before. Usually trainers will watch you shadowbox and diagnose from those habits, movements and tendencies. Then they take you through some preliminary padwork and figure out what they want to work with you on as they go. I met Rambaa under slightly unusual circumstances, in that I was made aware of the ONE Championship MMA event that was to take place as the first, big, sanctioned MMA card in Bangkok and, since Rambaa is a former MMA fighter and the first Thai World Champion in the sport, I wanted to ask him some questions about it. So I just rolled up to his gym, introduced myself and asked some questions. He was more concerned with this little western chick speaking Thai to him than he was with the event, but he was very happy when I told him a bit about myself. So, it’s possible that he took the “spar-first, ask questions later” approach to our first session because of my experience. But that still differs from most other trainers I’ve had privates with, even when they are aware of my fight rate.
What I really like about Rambaa’s “spar first” approach is that it’s a very “true” test of what your strengths and weaknesses are. For example, in shadowboxing I throw tons of jabs and in sparring and fights I throw very few, if any. In shadow you can see that people favor particular combinations, but in sparring you can see whether or not they actual land any of that, as well as their timing on strikes and blocks. This sparring was fun and a useful diagnostic tool for Rambaa, but it was not instructive in any kind of breakd0wn or shareable way. When I came back to a second session, I let Rambaa know that I wanted a lot of technique in the session. I wasn’t sure whether he knew what I was after or what, really, would be the result of my request. Rambaa is a nod, smile and get-to-it kind of guy, so you just see whether the message was understood or not. And man, he totally understood.
Our second session was a thorough and progressive walk through various techniques, all of which are very signature to Rambaa’s quick, sniper-like yet punishing style, but none of which goes against anything in my own style. He wasn’t teaching me to “hop out,” for example, but rather to counter from wherever I like to stand. He was great at building each technique as well, introducing first the context in which it is applied, then the details of where it should land, then a few notes on total body movement and weight transfer. This is the kind of technical breakdown that isn’t common in Thailand. There are truly brilliant and legendary trainers who can teach you without this kind of technical “explanation,” but I think to the western mind and the way we approach training and learning Muay Thai, this approach is really accessible and welcomed.
above, about 10 minutes of the 1 hour+ video I shot with Rambaa
Slap Inside Kick As Jab
I really loved this technique and it’s one that Rambaa surely used a lot. He referred to it as his “jab,” which one could infer means it was utilized relentlessly. He uses it as a counter to punchers, who put their weight on the front leg as they step forward with their jab (an actual jab). As that front leg bends with the weight coming forward for the jab, he leans slightly out of the way or barely parries the jab and uses his front leg to shoot out a whippy, slappy, very fast kick with the foot on the tendon just behind the knee of the opponent. His knee bends and he flicks the foot out when he straightens the knee – it’s very “flicky.” And damn, it hurts. Even three of these in the same spot with the same slappy impact makes that tendon start to swell. Because he calls it his “jab,” he suggests that you throw a right cross right after it, in the standard, “left, right,” combination but replacing the jab of the hand with a jab of the foot.
Keep in mind it’s a counter, so you don’t want to be chasing this strike, but rather responding to the forward leaning of weight from your opponent’s advancing jab (or cross). Generally, you’re leaning or moving backwards. But you don’t have to step back off of it, so you don’t lose any ground. Indeed, Rambaa substituted the following right cross with a following right leg kick, where he leaps across and just slams the thigh of the same leg that just got slapped on that back tendon. Kill all the tendons!
Rambaa admitted that he doesn’t much like the clinch. He was a short fighter, often facing tall knee fighters when he was a small 52 kg fighter, and trying to reach his knees up into the bodies of his opponents or not get drained by their knees easily going into his chest was quite a difficulty. But I asked him to work with me in clinch as his experience in grappling must have integrated in some way with his previous experience in Muay Thai clinch and vice versa. His solution to the taller fighters is going low and bringing the opponent down low; so, attacking the legs instead of the body, grabbing low and spinning, and a killer neck lock.
Kneeing the legs seems simple enough, but you can’t just throw one knee into the leg and hope it takes effect. You have to stab into them repeatedly and quickly to really start buckling a taller opponent. Once they come down, you can grab the neck and use Rambaa’s awesome lock. He drives his head into the jaw or the temple, which works as one side of a vice-grip and the other side is his wrists locked together behind the neck. By driving with your own head into the jaw or temple, it can become painful very quickly and if you hit the nerve in the jaw the whole body of the opponent can go lax. The important part was to catch one of the opponent’s arms in the lock, which works to kind of pinch up the upper body and create more pressure on the neck. From this position you can spin – toward the trapped arm, like you’re trying to duck under it – and pull the opponent’s head down as you spin. You can knees you go, but ultimately they’re going to be spun down to the ground or KO’d by knees… or both.
above, here he uses wrist to the back of the wrist, pinning the arm, steering with tilt and dragback, and then reversing direction for the drop
Needless to say, these were just two small gems in sessions filled with gems. Despite thinking that he was a fighter who was unlike me I found tons of small techniques that translate really well to what I’m doing. He’s a technically sharp, very smart fighter, and an absolute joy to work with. Since I trained with him I’ve been seriously trying to add several of the things he showed.
Map of Rambaa’s Gym in Pattaya
Contact Rambaa through Facebook
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