I had the rare and wonderful opportunity to train with Sakmongkol, one-on-one in Colorado before I left for Thailand. I’m from Boulder and it turns out he teaches out of Zingano BJJ, which has two locations pretty close to my parents’ house. Sakmongkol was incredibly generous with me and taught me more clinch in a few days than I’ve ever had before and, thus far, since. He’s truly remarkable, both as a human being and a fighter/teacher.
Watch Sakmongkol’s feet and hips – always – as he moves, how wide and strong his stance is.
In this first clip Sakmongkol is showing me how to break the double “apple” by stepping into it and turning hard with the shoulder on the same side. There’s clearly a difference in size between the two of us, but he’s seriously blasting me off of him with just his shoulder – like, across the ring – and lifting me off the ground a few times with his shoulder and neck strength.
It’s a really beautiful technique and is amazingly simple and effective. Sakmongkol’s main philosophy about fighting technique, if it could be distilled into two words, would be “move forward.” You basically take away your opponent’s power by moving too close for their range and keep your stance wide and on the outside of your opponent’s legs. (He doesn’t like the face-smoosh I’ve been taught before because it leaves your sides open for knees – criticism he starts with in this clip – a was not stepping properly to the side either.) A lot of his movements remind me of Muay Chaiya as I saw them performed by Kru Lek in Bangkok – very strong elbow and knees at right angles that serve to protect and damage your opponent by his own strikes at the same time.
He tells me to only swim on the inside – always keep your arms working toward the inside. It makes sense to me that you can throw elbows more easily from the inside AND protect against the better from the inside.
Look at how he keeps his shoulder up to cover his chin all the time! It’s so clean and strong. And he shows how to put pressure and pull right at the elbow to break the neck tie up and off-balance the opponent. It’s not a strength technique, but the speed and explosion of the movement makes it very powerful with not a lot of effort.
In this second part Sakmongkol adds some footwork. When he does it in shadow it’s as fluid, strong and flawless as the forms Tony Jaa is doing at the start of Ong Bak – just unreal. Sakmongkol’s style is very strong, very “still” in a way that he never backs up, even when he’s moving backwards. Watch his feet, hips and arms as they move in unison and opposition to each other. It’s like he’s turning a big wheel over and over again, steering the unseen opponent off their center with every single move he makes. It’s so beautiful.
Again, he’s emphasizing keeping your stance wider than your opponent’s, taking a step outside for every step s/he takes. By doing this you can’t really be thrown and you can and you can definitely off-balance or throw your opponent at almost any time. Near the end of the clip he starts having me turn my knee in to the inside of his thigh and pull him over it. I was a little hesitant to do so because Sakmongkol had injured his knee prior and I didn’t want to agitate it at all, but he didn’t seem to care at all. (In fact, a couple days before he’d been limping a bit and said he couldn’t kick, then halfway through class he started blasting kicks with it and when his students complained that he wasn’t supposed to kick on it he laughed and said, “I forgot.” So very Muay Thai to forget that you’re injured.)
If you ever are in Boulder or Denver Colorado you should definitely look up Zingano BJJ in Broomfield Colorado. A wonderful teacher. It would be a blessing to train under him.