Moving around in Muay Thai isn’t complicated, but it requires a good amount of body awareness. Unlike karate or kung fu, where there is several stances, this art involves two stances (which I know of), that are at your leisure. You can use them, or mix them up, its up to you.
The easiest stance, but one that leaves your quite vulnerable, is what I call the leverage stance. This is how it looks:
Keeping your strong leg in the back allows you to gain extra power for kicks, punches and the like, but it opens up your weak leg to the devastating leg kicks that Muay Thai is known for. You may be able to get knock out blows from this stance, but any experienced fighter will see that your weak leg (in this case, the left) is wide open. A good half dozen well targeted strikes on that thigh and he’ll be limping. I recommend that beginners use the leverage stance to get used to the strikes of Muay Thai, but always keep in mind that you’ll need to evolve to the next stance eventually.
The neutral stance is a stance I learned from an experienced fighter/trainer at the gym who was kind enough to show me it on his free time. The neutral stance pulls back your weak leg as close to your strong leg as possible, if not at equal placement. This reduces its vulnerability and allows quicker reaction times (the split second between having your leg flexed during a strike and being able to block is paramount). But, for the inexperienced fighter, creating the full body force to strike is harder. Less pivot movement, less swing, less power. When I cover striking, I’ll show how this stance can aid in your kicks and punches without putting your front leg into mortal danger.
Moving in Muay Thai is taught to beginners by imagining a square. You start at a corner and then move around the square over and over. If you were starting at the top left corner, you would step over with your back leg (in leverage stance), then slide over your front leg, as if it was a dead limb. To move back, you step back with your strong leg and, again, drag the front leg. But, to move left, you use your front leg and drag the back leg. YOU MUST NEVER CROSS YOUR LEGS. Never. That opens you up to trips, punches, etc and if you’re caught crossing your legs when struck, your balance is fucked and that’s that. In neutral stance, its the same way. Slide your leg, preferably the one closest to the edge of the invisible square, and slide it in the direction you want to go, never crossing your legs. When you start this, it`ll seem strange, but after a few hours of training, its easy and becomes the second layer of your basic Muay Thai fighting style.
While I trained, I was nervous as fuck. Put on top of that that I was a beta freak scared of my wife`s opinion on the matter (she didn`t like I was training), I was as stiff as a virgin watching Baywatch. I slide around the square as if I was on a track. No bounce, no sway. My movements were wooden, my strikes straight armed; if I was ever put in a real fight, my arms would of been broken on impact. You must ALWAYS keep your limbs loose when striking. This might sound strange when this art involves moves that can break bones, but its for your well-being. Its not the power behind the strike that trainers worry about, its the extension.
You need buffering when you`re tossing out punches and kicks with the force that Muay Thai expects. Hitting a guy at the very end of your reach puts your arm out to be grappled, or if he blocks it correctly, the angle may sprain your limbs or worse. You need to keep aware of your body`s ability to absorb the impact of the strike your sending out. If you think the extension is too far, or that your straining yourself to commit to the strike, then don`t do it. It will throw off your balance and contort your limbs. Your body will thank you for using your head.
These things are the foundation of Muay Thai fighting. Like you see in any number of martial art movies or Karate Kid rip-offs, the first thing you must learn is balance and movement. If you can`t move, you can`t dodge. If you can`t dodge, you can`t block. If you can`t block, you may as well be a punching bag for your opponent.
Next Post: Blocking