Muay Thai – Kinetic Chains Start in the Hands and Feet
…Ninja Turtles….Jean Claude Van Damme Movies….
Seeing all this as a young kid …my brain AUTOMATICALLY created unconscious beliefs about what fighting, self-defense, and martial arts were about…. And even as I started to learn the art….these beliefs stayed with me throughout the first year of my training.
Beliefs are hard to shake…because they FEEL real!
They’re something we FEEL certain about….and when a counter belief runs against that….it often takes repetition…immersion…and physical evidence to dispel the old belief and install the new one.
For example….coming into this art…you probably thought that if you wanted to throw a cross…that you’d really have to load up that rear hand, pull back on that hand then push out hard with those biceps and triceps to deliver with power…but your instructor is having you focus on pulling that lead shoulder back to generate that power throughout the shoulder ………..WTF?!
Here’s a few last comments on our lesson last week.
The Muay Thai Kinetic Chain
I thought it’d be a good idea to break down the kinetic chain for several of the techniques. See if you can find the pattern of where
- The kinetic chain starts (where the technique starts)
- The kinetic chain ends (where the technique ends)
The Rear Kick
Start: The Lead Foot (toes and all) and the Left Hand
End: The Rear Foot (toes and all) and the Right Hand
Start: The Lead Foot (toes and all) and the Left Hand
End: The Rear Foot (toes and all) and the Rear Hand
Notice how the Kinetic Chain Ends at the same time for both the upper body and the lower body, optimizing power, stability, and balance at the point of contact.
A Lesson in YOUR Anatomy (a.k.a. – your weapons)
The feet and hands are made up of bones….muscle….connective tissue….and nerves….that control them.
Let’s take a deeper look….
Notice…both of these appendages have two bones that connect the hand to the elbow. The smaller of the two for each allows for rotation of the hand and feet at the wrists and ankles.
This rotation of the hands and feet creates the torque of the hips and shoulders. Notice that when we rotate the wrists…it rotates the shoulders…and when we rotate the ankles…it rotates the hips.
Notice also…for the lower body..the hips and shoulders…you can’t rotate your hip joint…unless you extend the knee…and you can’t extend the knee unless you flex the ankle into the ground…and you can’t flex the ankle into the ground…unless the toes, balls of the foot, and nuggets are secure and pushing into the ground.
The Kinetic Chain for Muay Thai is based on our human anatomy!
It is here…..at the hands and feet….where we can create very intricate movements that dictate what the rest of the body does.
Look at almost any performance sport…and you’ll see that intelligent interaction with our environment in regards to athletic and sports performance start at the hands and feet.
(And if you think about it…most of our physical interaction with the world involve the hands and the feet, from walking to driving to opening doors – they are what allow us to intelligently interact)
For Muay Thai…this is no different….the kinetic chain originate at these extremities…and it’s the artful motion of the hands and feet that allows us not only to create power in the technique with accuracy and precision….but to eventually get to a point where you can flow with your opponent with ease.
“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup…
….When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle.
………..When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot.
……………..Water can drip and it can crash.
………………………..Be like water my friend.” – Bruce Lee –
This Weeks Muay Thai Lesson – A Falcon has TWO Claws
This week, we’ll be focusing on delivering strikes from the lead leg. I waited a while to show these to you guys and gals because they have a bit of fancy footwork….Throwing from the lead is seemingly more difficult for people starting out….i.e. – learning the jab…vs. learning the cross…throwing the rear teep vs throwing the lead teep. (we can get into why that is later)
A few important things to take note of….
The Switch Kick and Switch Knee – The Importance of the Centerline
The centerline….notice…..in our basic stance…the heels line up along the centerline….giving us the most narrow stance possible while being able to keep our proper balance…a.k.a…not crossing our feet over
The first part of both of these moves requires us to switch stances. On switching stances….it’s absolutely critical that the feet switch up along the centerline.
- Winds up the hips to throw the strike
- Maintains your balance – Note that in your normal stance…your center of gravity is along the centerline….switching along the centerline keeps it there so as throw your balance is still intact. On other hand….switching wide….displaces the weight of the centerline and the hips are out of place to throw that kick
When throwing these techniques…the footwork and switching stances….when you do it…it should literally feel that the next natural thing to do is to throw that kick or knee.
Hopping vs. Pulling
Note..there’s two ways we can switch that stance for these techniques. By hopping and pulling that lead leg back….pulling is fast and smooth…hopping…slow and disjointed…guess which one we’re going to be practicing =).
These strikes start in the lead foot
The Teep and Check
The teep and check are thrown from a defensive stance…with the weight on the back leg….rear knee extended—that rear butt muscle engaged…for this one…the power starts in the rear foot and ends in the lead.
For all of these strikes…we’re going to be working that Falcon Claw again…this time on that rear leg…so get those muscles ready!
Dynamic Stretching for Muay Thai
Muay Thai requires a very specific kind of flexibility.
Today, I introduce a way to stretch for Muay Thai techniques that is very specific to the motion of the techniques. Why is this important?
Think about it….stretching and doing splits etc…they will stretch the muscles…but how well do they translate over to Muay Thai?
It’s been my experience that traditional stretches alone aren’t the most effective way to stretch….why?
Muay Thai is dynamic…elastic…and most importantly driven by the FEET…which you won’t find incorporated in most traditional stretches.
I created these exercises based off of my time training ballet (I was looking at different training methods for extreme examples of flexibility, footwork and balance). In ballet…they do a lot of work on something called a barre…a piece that they hold on to…the strategy of using this (at least what I took from it) was to remove the balance aspect of a technique so that you could work the flexibility needed. Once you own the ability to move through the range of motion easily…balance becomes only a matter of the footwork….
Trying to acquire both at the same time is very difficult AND can even lead to improper form developing….as your body adapts to the tensions in the body while trying to execute the technique.
So here are the exercises…follow along at home and you’ll start moving a lot better and feel more at ease throwing dynamic attacks.
Muay Thai Home Workout of the Week
What you’ll need: Heavy Bag + a piece of tape on the floor (this is the centerline)
Drill 1 – Rear Foot Forward – Kicks from Southpaw – The goal is to feel comfortable throwing the kick from the rear leg being forward
OUTCOME – Focus on stepping up and torqueing the heel towards the bag…just like for the kick on the other side. Literally watch your foot to see that that heel is turning at least to point to 9 o clock….then move on to drill 2!
Drill 2 – The Switch Kick – Change back to your normal stance – and focus on that switch stance right into the switch kick
OUTCOME– continue doing this until you feel comfortable with the kick…a) pulling the lead leg back to switch stances….b) landing the heels on the centerline (on the nuggets) and c) torqueing the kick so the heel points to 9 o clock.
Drill 3– Adding some complexity – Throwing the rear check, into the switch kick
OUTCOME – drill this 30 times, focusing on footwork…remember for the rear check…that lead leg straightens out and the ass muscle tightens up.
Drill 4 – Practice the knee from the rear foot stance…..keep doing this with shadowboxing…we need to develop that foot strength up to keep that lead foot straight.
OUTCOME – Continue doing this until you can do 5 in a row without turning the foot.
Drill 5 – Step Out Kick – Push off the Lead Leg onto the rear leg. Remember to turn that lead leg into the kick so you hit with the edge of the shin. Start with the right shoulder forward to get some leverage…then do it from your normal stance
OUTCOME – Do these until you can comfortably throw them from the normal stance
Drill 6 – Teep – Repetitions – Remember to switch to your defensive stance…flat rear foot…knee extended….ass muscle engaged
OUTCOME – Get 20 in a row without stopping. That rear hip joint should be screaming by then!
See y’all in class!