I’m writing this to create a resource chain for anyone else who wants to take a deep dive into exploring this technique.
I’ve been working on a side project, along with Sylvie 3.0, a process of leveling up in all my skills and habits as a fighter. This side project is what Kevin and I are calling the “Diamond Guard.” It’s a guard inspired by the Old School cross-armed boxing guard from western fighters such as Archie Moore, Gene Fullmer, Joe Frazier, Ken Norton and George Foreman (I link to some good breakdowns some of on those fighters who used it, below). I was first exposed to it by Golden Age Legend Kaensak Sor. Ploenjit, but only briefly. He used years ago when we trained together in New Jersey and I kind of stopped and blinked at him in surprise when I first saw it. It shocked me. Years later when filming for the Muay Thai Library I asked him to show it to me again, because it had stayed with me all that time but I’d never used it. The cross-armed guard has been used, as far as I can tell, only very little in the history of Muay Thai. The legendary Saencherng Pinsinchai, I hear, prepared for a particular opponent and used something similar to this for 6 months leading up to that fight, you can see photos of his use of it below. Coban and a few other well-known Thais flashed into cross-armed defenses vs western opponents, Pakorn used a cross-armed, Dracula style guard at times vs Pornsanae, but nobody that I’ve ever seen went all in with a full cross-armed style defense. My side project has been to really just play with it and see all the things that I can use it for. Just taking it into the sandbox with me and messing around, but seriously so.
Since I’ve been playing with it I’ve found that it fits really naturally with the kinds of elbows that Somrak used in his boxing slips (clips below), and some of Yodkhunpon’s slashing elbows. It works well because of the side to side swaying, the same way a rolling punch leads to the opposite rolling punch. And it also works well with the kinds of side to side low kicks that Silver Age legends Thongbai and Wichannoi used. I’m not sure when, or if, it will ultimately make it into the ring with me, but it definitely is helping the rest of my Muay Thai, just in being a malleable-yet-impenetrable block.
Below is a beautiful slow motion film Kevin did of my sparring with the Diamond Guard yesterday. Everyday now I spar with Yodkhunpon 11-14 rounds, with 3 of those rounds devoted to Diamond Guard as the focus, to build up my comfort in it. (It’s very uncomfortable for me to stay in the guard, so I stay in it for entire rounds in order to be more comfortable shifting in and out of it during regular rounds.) From this slow motion you can see the directions I’m taking it in for myself, and it may give you ideas for your own side projects too:
Slow Motion Film of Yesterday’s Training:
Watch the above to see what it looks like.
My Vlog on the Diamond Guard
I also put together a technique vlog on my experiments with the Diamond Guard a few months back. Below is the public version of the technique vlog, but if you’re a patron you can see the full 20 minute version here, where I talk about my focus in training this guard.
References for the Diamond Guard
Below are some boxing references for the use of the cross-armed guard. Using it in boxing is very different than in Muay Thai. You don’t have to defend against kicks and elbows in boxing. The use of kicks and elbows is what really changes the guard in Muay Thai, I think. The guard is made for elbows, both in the defending against and employing them, and kicks come very easily out of the twisting of the guard. You are also very vulnerable to kicks when you twist and sway, so you have to defend against that with timing and distance.
There is also a good Bloody Elbow article on Archie Moore, and the guard which they call The Lock:
You can watch the full Kaensak Muay Thai Library session here, as a patron.
Thongbai’s Low Kicks
Most of my work in the Diamond Guard is from improvisation, and how I loved Somrak’s beautiful elbows that came out of western boxing slips. But we also did some film study and took on the high volume low kick strategy of Silver Age legend Thongbai, especially from his fight with Adul. You can see that one here:
His twisting, continuous low kick attack fits in really nicely with the twists and switching of the Diamond Guard. I would be throwing far more low kicks vs Yodkhupon in sparring, but he has no good protection, and at times it has proven to be too much. He devotes his body to training with me and I am careful to respect that sacrifice.
Somrak’s Elbows Off of Slips
You can see some of Somrak’s slipping elbows in this head movement highlight from Muay Thai Scholar. Now imagine that he wasn’t slipping, but was instead in the boxing cross-armed guard, that’s what I’m playing with:
Taking from the Dracula Guard
Some of what is possible in the Diamond Guard is also related to the Dracula Guard, which uses one are cross-armed, and one arm extended, as used by Dieselnoi and many other Muay Khao Fighters:
You can move between the Diamond Guard and the Dracula Guard easily, just by extending your arm. You can see me learning the Dracula Guard a long time ago from Kru Daeng, in this video (there is an entire Muay Thai Library session of him teaching it to me here).
The Circularity of Elbows in Muay Lertrit
General Tunwakom teaches the very rare style of military Muay Lertrit (clip above). It, like many Muay Boran styles, emphasizes symmetry, and the use of elbows as simultaneous defensive wards, and twisting strikes. There is a natural connection to what can be done in Diamond Guard. Watch the full General Tunwakom session here.
Wichannoi’s Combinations of Low Kicks and Side to Side Punching
Silver Age legend Wichannoi’s side to side action also can be an inspiration to the Diamond Guard, you can read this excellent breakdown of his style with lots of GIFs:
Vicharnnoi Porntawee: Legacy of The Immortal Boxer by Ryan Wagner on Fight Site.
I hope you enjoy me sharing my creative process. Training in Thailand all these years taught me these two things: Training balance and drilling relentlessly at the basics is extremely important. But so is play and creativity. Thais learn to fight using both since a young age. This is part of my play.
Things I Learned from the Library
Training with and filming with legends of the sport definitely has influenced my feeling about what is possible in the Diamond Guard, and the kinds of strikes and defenses that are available. These are some of the sessions that have inspired me and that might inspire you:
side to side whipping attacks using punches and low kicks:
#29 Pornsanae Sitmonchai – The Power of Hooks & Low Kicks (74 min) watch it here
A whole system of low kick and hook attacks is taught in this one session. Rajadamnren and 2x Lumpinee Champion Pornsanae is known for his brutal power fighting and this is how he gets it done. Cutting angles, lead arm control, invading space. Pornsanae teaches his philosophy.
also uses a side to side whipping attack using low kicks and punches, as a smaller fighter:
#43 Kongsamut Sor. Thanikul – Muay Mat Style (74 min) watch it here
This Lumpinee champion is perhaps most notable for when he lost a fight for the 102 lb Lumpinee belt, against famed Samart. Samart winning his first belt of many. Kongsamut has a beautiful Muay Mat (punchers) style that he mixes with low kicks, very differently than the Pornsanae style. He fights in close, and is constantly twisting, hitting high and low. Any Muay Thai puncher would benefit from the principles in his style.
a Muay Khao fighter who uses boxing to pressure, with beautiful upper cuts:
#74 Samson Isaan 2 – Muay Khao & Western Boxing Excellence (59 min) watch it here
In 1991 there was no fighter more of a force than Samson Isaan, who took Fighter of the Year then. His relentless style combining Muay Maat punching aggression with Knee Fighting pressure and clinch made him a wrecking ball. In this session discover what made this little fighter so impossible to handle.
#41 Samson Isaan – The Art of Dern Fighting (64 min) watch it here
To “dern” in Thai is to “walk”, which means basically to just come forward no matter what, to create a relentlessness. Voted Fighter of the Year in 1991, Samson Isaan was one of the great Dern Fighters of the Golden Age, and in this session he shows his forward pulsing techniques which are meant to just overwhelm his opponent. Also a great session for pressure Southpaw fighters.
Chatchai’s weight transfer was a revelation to me, which really helps ground me in the Diamond Guard:
#64 Chatchai Sasakul – Elements of Boxing (72 min) watch it here
Chatchai is not only a former WBC world champion, he also is the recipient of Thailand’s Coach of the Year. He is one of the great striking coaches in the world, and in this session he breaks down all the basics from the footwork on up. Nobody has a more beautiful and potent hands foundation. Watch and learn from a master.
#14 Chatchai Sasakul – Perfecting Hands (106 min) watch it here
Former WBC world boxing champion at Flyweight, and winner of Best Coach of the Year in Thailand, Chatchai in this nearly 2 hours of video makes micro adjustment after micro adjustment, honing in pristine technique in the basic strikes of boxing, for use in Muay Thai. It’s all about weight transfer.
Using the arms to deflect and kicking without swinging the arms is taught by Arjan Surat:
Arjan Surat – His Old School Tough & Defensive Style (94 min) – watch it here
Old School trainer whose style is very toughened, standing in, and defense oriented. He teaches all the basics of how he wants his fighters to use the arms continuously to deflect and defend.
Rambaa has a great inside leg kick, stinging attack, that works well in the Diamond Guard too:
#62 Rambaa Somdet M16 – His Stinging Attack | Session 2 (83 min) watch it here
Rambaa known for his stinging attack, teaches speed and precision in this more than hour long session. Thailand’s first MMA world champion, Rambaa draws from various disciplines, fusing techniques together is still a very traditional, stadium-oriented Muay Thai. Here elbows from various angles, switching attacks, and balanced energy come together to produce high-tempo pressure on an opponent.
the Dracula Guard is a cross-armed guard, lots of the tactics in that guard also work in the Diamond Guard, and you can switch between them:
#31 Kru Daeng Kiatbusaba – Southpaw Dracula Guard (64 min) watch it here
This is a master class in how to install a specific system of attack and defense, from the ground up. In this case it’s the Dracula Guard from Southpaw, a style of muay designed for advancing, forward fighters. Discover not only all the built-in advantages, but also watch an incredible instructor mould proper positioning through constant, but carefully modulated pressure.
Muay Lertrit is an old school military Muay Thai that emphasizes promiment elbows and switches for offense and defense. This does influence some of the Diamond Guard:
#36 General Tunwakom – Lertrit Military Muay (46 min) watch it here
General Tunwakom is the last living direct student of the grandmaster who developed this Lertrit/Muay Khorat military style of fighting, designed to end exchanges quickly. Much can be learned from the foundations of these techniques, and these are definitely techniques that could be effective in the ring with proper timing.