Welcome back to my online diary documenting my very amateur experience training in Muay Thai. If you missed the previous entries on Bloody Elbow, read them here.
One of the things I love about studying Muay Thai (and I’m sure this is true of any martial art) is the way that, no matter how long the style has been around, there are still always these fascinating debates over small points. One example from Muay Thai – when throwing a kick, do you chop the arm to increase your velocity, or keep the arm in front to block a counter strike? It’s these little subtleties that make the sport fascinating, as each individual adjusts to his own style. If not for these, we’d all be fighting robots imitating the exact same moves every time.
MMA has introduced a new wrinkle into all of this. As you take pure Muay Thai and begin to consider it’s usage in an MMA setting, what adjustments do you need to make? Maybe that stance you favor with the light lead leg is not so good for defending takedowns, right?
Lately I’ve been thinking about this as I have started taking MMA classes to supplement my Muay Thai. They’re an interesting change of pace, and again, they help me to look at my Muay Thai in a different light while exposing some of these little differences in style. Here’s one that I have been thinking about quite a bit lately:
Movement – just how important is it?
This is one of those philosophical debates to Muay Thai. On the one hand, you would think movement is of course essential – it creates angles to open up your offense while at the same time giving you more defensive options. And yet the majority of true Muay Thai fighters underplay movement. (I should pause here and note that I am specifically talking about footwork. Muay Thai fighter use plenty of head movement, but that’s not what I’m talking about here). Why? The common answer is that it’s a part of the culture – Muay Thai fighters are encouraged to stand toe to toe and throw strikes until one man falls. That’s partly true (and you see it reflected in Muay Thai judging), but there’s more to it. While movement does open you up for many positives, it also forces you to sacrifice some degree of power. The less planted you are when you throw a strike, the harder it is to get maximum force on the strike.
For two contrasting examples, first take a look at last weekend’s fight with Daniel Ghita. Ghita is a beast, but for the most part, he’s not using movement or angles. Ghita is going to stand in front of you and unload until you go down:
For the far contrast, consider the theoretical UFC Bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz. Cruz is an absolute master of movement, landing on his opponent from all sorts of strange angles while making himself very hard to catch. But he also has no power to speak of.
I think it’s relevant that Ghita is on the kickboxing side, Cruz on the MMA side. Because when you look at how to use Muay Thai in MMA, there’s an obvious flaw in Ghita’s style – his lack of movement would get him taken down very quickly. That’s an extra factor anyone planning to bring their Muay Thai into MMA has to consider.
Still, there has to be a comfortable medium between the extremes of Ghita and Cruz, yes? I think of fighters like Jose Aldo or Shogun Rua, who can and do use movement when needed, while still planting their feet and blasting when the time is right.
So perhaps this debate – movement or not – isn’t really a debate at all. Perhaps the answer, like so many answers, lies in the middle and in knowing how and when to fight both ways.
For me, I try to keep my feet planted during my Muay Thai training, but that movement is working its way into my game, and I can’t help but think I’m a better fighter for it.
Those of you are are strikers – especially those from different disciplines – how do you weigh in on this debate?
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