Generating power in muay Thai

Here’s an interesting video. It covers generating power in muay Thai, at least, one of the ways:

Sylvie is a fellow Patreon creator and has a lot of great content for you if you do muay Thai. She trains with some of the all-time greats and makes videos of the sessions. I liked this one a lot as it covers a topic I’ve spent a lot of time working on: power generation.

There is a myth in martial arts: the human body can only move in so many ways.

This is then used to talk about the similarities between different techniques and styles. But it violates Randy’s Law which says that the differences are just as important. When it comes to generating power, this applies in spades.

Muay Thai has some very specific methods, but they are inherent to the art and its rules/limitations. It’s one of the reasons you see precious few Thai fighters transition successfully to MMA: the power generation has a few serious flaws for the different rules and allowed techniques.

But when it comes to stand-up fighting, you don’t know what it is like for a Thai fighter to punch or kick you until you experience it. Their striking has a different feel when compared to other styles and combat sports. Not better or worse, just different and you need to feel it to understand what I mean.

Anyway, I wanted to share this video because it shows in detail how you should train for power generation: methodical and with patience.

It is not about quickly doing it and then trying to apply it when you spar or fight: you have to ingrain the technique so you almost can’t do it wrong, no matter what. Too many young fighters ignore this phase of training and then don’t understand why they get beat up by guys who look like they aren’t even trying. So I suggest you take the time to watch the full video and see how you can apply everything in it for your own training.


One thing Chatchai shows her is to hold back the shoulder before letting it rotate in a punch. This is a physical phenomenon called the stretch-shortening cycle. In short, you stretch a muscle/tendon before contracting it. This makes it contract harder and generates more power.

Try this:

  • Do a vertical jump by bending your knees quickly and immediately jumping as high as you can. Note the height.
  • Do the same thing, except this time you pause three seconds with your knees bent. Then you jump. Note the height and compare with the first jump.

Your second jump will suck because the stored elastic energy can’t be used then and the muscle fibers won’t contract as well. When you quickly go from bending to straightening your legs, you jump high without much effort. The same happens with the muay Thai punches she’s being shown.

The upside of this method is an instant gain in power if you do it right.

The downside is that it is difficult to do when you are tired or have taken damage. It also risks long-term damage to the shoulder joint. Given my shoulder problems, I don’t use it often anymore, but you can make it work for you.

Another thing he mentions is using the full rotation of the body, including the lower half, to develop power in the cross punch. He also mentions alignment of the arm with the shoulder joint. This is sometimes referred to as “hitting with structure”. It means you “connect” your entire body to the punch instead of it being arm-dominant. As a result, you don’t depend as much on acceleration to create an impact and relatively “slow” punches still have a lot of power.

I cover that (and also the weight transfers he mentions) in detail in my Power/Control video, along with a lot more. Look at the drill with the barbell in my neck at about 40 seconds in the trailer, as well as the staff training afterward. These train the ability to use kinetic chains correctly and to their maximum potential. They also teach how to separate weight transfers from rotations and how to combine them. You need both to be an effective fighter, in muay Thai and in other arts.

The way the drill is structured, you first move in largesse to get the details right. Gradually, the drill changes to smaller mechanics and finally it turns into techniques. By that time, if you trained correctly, you have great body mechanics and have lots of power in every move you make.

Sylvie has lots of videos and instructional material. I no longer train much in muay Thai, but if you do, I very much recommend checking out everything she offers.

Progressive Forward Pressure – Basic Striking Drill for Stand Up Fighting

A while ago I posted a video of the basic striking drill I teach for stand up fighting in combat sports. Every student in my class starts learning it as of his first class and it works well in teaching many things at the same time. In that first video, I showed the basic version along with a couple ways to add leg techniques and in the article I explained the reasoning behind the specific details. In this video, the focus is now on strategy and tactics. Now the goal is to generate forward pressure on the opponent, to take the fight to him and put him on the defensive.

Very often, beginning fighters launch into a long flurry of strikes when they do that. They just storm forward and throw one technique after the other in the hopes that one of them gets through. This tactic can and does work. However, it typically leaves you open to counters when fighting experienced opponents. It also costs a lot of energy and if it doesn’t yield results, you just blew away all that energy for nothing. I believe a fighter who is both well-trained and experienced has much better tools for this goal than just going berserk on his opponent.

Progressive forward pressure is one of those tools.

I’ll explain in more detail below, first take a look at the video.

Here are some pointers on how to make this work for you: [Read more…]

How to keep your guard up in a fight

It’s been a while since I wrote a “how-to” guide so here is another one: how to keep your guard up in a fight.

First, a quick explanation: The focus of this guide is combat sports like MMA, muay Thai and boxing. That said, to a degree, you can use the same information for self-defense and traditional martial arts as well. In those, you sometimes have to keep your hands in a specific place, for instance on center-line, chambered at the hip, etc.  Some of the ideas I write here will apply there as well, but not all of them. As always, use whatever you can and ignore the rest.

Second, why is it important? Why is there even a need to keep your guard up in a fight? We’ve all seen fighters with low or sloppy guards beat their opponents, right?

True enough, it happens. The most popular example of this is Muhammad Ali, who routinely dropped his hands or just kept them all the way down and still beat his opponents. Here he is in action. Watch the low guard…

Here’s the thing: just because some other fighter can get away with it, doesn’t mean you can.

You’re not Muhammad Ali. Do you have his level of skill? His footwork? His speed? His elusiveness? His experience?

Probably not.

But all these elements are a part of why he didn’t get punished all the time when he didn’t keep his guard up in a fight. However, when he got older and slower, the low guard didn’t work anymore and he started taking beatings in the ring. So no matter how good you are, there comes a time when a sloppy guard will come back to haunt you. The reason why a high guard is important is simple: you get hit more often if you drop your guard, especially if you don’t know you’re dropping it.

As a final point, there are two parts to learning how to keep your guard up in a fight: [Read more…]

Basic Striking Drill for Stand-Up Fighting

I’ve written a lot about self-defense lately and apparently, this has given the impression to people that I either have something against combat sports (MMA, muay thai, etc.) and don’t train in them myself. Neither of those two statements is correct, on the contrary. I love combat sports, they’re great. I also competed in them when I was younger and still teach them in my classes and to private students. Given the feedback I received, I thought it might be fun to show some of the things I teach to students.

So here’s a basic striking drill for stand-up fighting. Take a look first and then I’ll explain the reasons behind it.

First, a couple of things I have to mention:

  • We shot this video on my cellphone, near the end of class. The video quality is OK but not awesome, given that my cellphone isn’t a full-fledged camera. It’s all one take and there’s no editing. That’s also why you see the mistakes I and my student made (he was a little thrown by suddenly having to perform for the camera.) I chose to keep them in there instead of starting over until we did it all exactly right. That way I can point them out to you, because learning to correct the mistakes is an essential part of the drill.
  • There should be more footwork. Typically, we move around a lot more when we practice this drill. Doing so would have made it more difficult to shoot the video and we’d also lose the best background we have in the gym. The yellow curtains aren’t great, but they sure are better than a dark brown one or one with lots of visual noise all over the place.
  • We don’t do the drill at full speed or power. We reserve that for when we work on the pads. I’ve found that students get injured if I let them cut loose during the drills. So we hold back a little and focus on other things like timing, distancing, technique, etc.
  • I’m still nursing a bunch of injuries and am not allowed to do certain things. As a result, the drill isn’t as smooth as it could be. I also have to adapt it a bit to make it work. This is most visible when I throw a right punch: I should be turning into it more. Right now, I can’t do that so I have to pull that punch a bit. But you shouldn’t. The same goes for my arm position in my on-guard stance, the way I block, the way I turn my hips into a kick. There are a bunch of things I should do differently, but right now, I’d only injure myself more by doing them.
  • It doesn’t matter how I do each technique. It’s not about punching or kicking in an MMA or muay Thai way. If you do a lead hook or any other technique in a different way, by all means keep doing so. I have reasons for each of my technical choices and you might have other reasons for them. For instance, in the basic version of this drill we don’t drop our weight in the overhand right. I teach level changes later on in a student’s development because otherwise they don’t learn stability first. I also found it slows down a student’s progress in developing the ability to throw fluid/fast combinations if I let him lean or drop his weight from the get go.


What’s in in the drill?

Let’s take a look at the different components now:

  1. The entry. You have to start out of reach and then step in with the jab, followed by a cross and lead hook.
  2. The first counter. The partner fires a lead hook as soon as he blocks yours. You block that one and counter with another lead hook followed by an overhand punch (short, medium or long, depending on circumstances). [Read more…]