a cross position and slash motion on the arm swing
The Muay Thai Kick Arm Swing Angle
One of the things you learn when you come to Thailand longer term is that there are many, many ways of doing something. You may have learned that there is “one” way, or been corrected away from a “wrong” way, and this is not necessarily a bad thing, but technique in Thailand is developed somewhat individually, over a long period of time, influenced by different styles and elements from trainers. It is not uncommon to be corrected in different directions by different trainers, even in the same gym (rare is the gym that enforce only “one” style). Saying this, I’ve had a number of trainers make small corrections to my arm swing on kicks, to the effect of trying to make it more exaggerated or more relaxed, but I’ve never personally made big adjustments. I know quite well that it has a big influence on how you kick: balance, speed, torque and power, ability to return to starting position. All of that is held within the arm swing, something which is quite individual to fighters. One western guy came through the gym who was a “collector” of technique, so to speak. He hopped around gyms and picked up little things here and there. He wanted me to ask PTT, the top fighter at Petchrungruang, “why” he circled his opposite arm during a kick. There’s no why to this, it’s just how he does it. He didn’t pick it out of a line of possible techniques, he developed it as a habit through his years and years and years of kicking. It’s how he balances himself and he kicks like a goddamn truck. Some folks who like to critique technique would argue that this circling of the arm is a mistake, or is “dangerous” because the guard isn’t fully up – I myself used to circle my arm, and made an effort to stop this. But the simple fact is that when you watch fighters – all fighters – you’ll see a lot of small ticks, habits, hiccups, that don’t result in being open all the time. Watch western boxing champions and Muay Thai champions and you’ll see a lot of times when hands aren’t in a perfect guard, or not even up at all… and these dudes aren’t being KO’d left and right. You learn to keep your technique “tight” as a beginner to avoid training bad habits and big mistakes; but as you become an experienced and highly skilled fighter, your technique becomes more “loose” and some of those small mistakes have become habitual after all, but by now it’s your style.
So, while the arm swing was moderately important – enough to be pointed out to me a few times – it’s never been at the forefront of my mind. In fact, I believe this correction was more aesthetic and less technical. It looks better to have a more exaggerated swing, and visual display can be an important element in Thai scoring. Recently though, I saw one of the trainers at a gym where I sometimes clinch (he is, in fact, my clinching partner there) kicking pads. His arm swing was notable to me because he did this exaggerated cross-face with the swinging arm before coming out with the kick. To be honest about it, it looked cool. And I kind of remembered a kid at my gym doing this, which I noticed before because his kicks look so slick. That kid is Dtee, who is in the video (above). You really should see him kicking with the other leg, which I didn’t film. It sounds like a cannon shot. Anyway, I started experimenting with this cross-face swing and I really like it. I like how it feels, my balance feels good, it helps me step in and across better (just my own mechanics) and my kicks feel stronger. It also feels comfortable because I’ve been working to get my arm across my face more in my long guard, so it compliments that movement some. It also seems to work well with the side to side whipping actions I’m working on combinations. My main trainer, Pi Nu, had definitely noticed this change because I saw him notice it and it looked a few times like he was going to say something about it and then decided against it. So I can only guess that he was going to correct it in some way, but ultimately decided the power it generates was good. I don’t know. The truth is that I’ve never really been a kicker in fights, despite blasting it on pads. This new arm swing, my comfort with it, and the power I feel, may lead to more kicking in fights.
The important take away is this: there is not a “right” and “wrong” arm swing. There is efficient and inefficient, effective and ineffective. That’s all. Ultimately, under pressure you will do what feels good to you, so experiment with the swing and see what feels good. If you like something, you’re far more likely to use it – so find what you like. If you’re getting blasted in the face all the time, make some changes; if you’re off balance, make some changes. But as you get more skilled and more experienced, if your kick is good and you feel good, it’s right. This is just sharing my own experimentation, what is yours?
Just to show how techniques go around and come around, Muay Thai Contender star Sean Wright, almost 6 years ago, showed me this same arm swing (not with the same emphasis), when I was training at Sasiprapa Gym. Look how beautifully and fluidly he moves through it. 6 years later I’m open to it (below).
This post grew out of the Muay Thai Roundtable Forum thread discussion on arm swing.
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