Discover the 7 Fundamentals of Muay Thai Mechanics
It was my 5th year of Muay Thai training. I had come to a point where I had really plateaued. I was putting in the hours…I was even training in Thailand when I had these thoughts of quitting.
It wasn’t until I met my instructor in Thailand. Instantly, from the moment I started training, he saw a fundamental piece missing in my training for all of these years…I had dead footwork.
Like a drill sergeant, he trained me to have perfect form for every movement to undo bad habit.
It was a long road, but as I continued training with him, patterns of movement among the form started to arise. Through this transformative process of re-discovering the art of Muay Thai, I decided this journey would not be for naught if I brought back the instruction he gave me to the states and teach it.
My Muay Thai Journey – From Student to Teacher
Through years of teaching people in this manner, I continued tinkering with the principles and refined it down to core ones…that would allow me to keep training.
These are principles because they’ve been something that I’ve been able to continue refining over time. And I want to share them with you so hopefully you can make these discoveries within your journey.
The Muay Thai Journey Starts and Ends with Mastering the Fundamentals
What I discovered are fundamental principles because:
- They apply to every Muay Thai technique
- If they’re sharpened over time, learning the art will be something you discover on a deeper and deeper level
- They’re simple – Anyone can practice them (they aren’t about your current age, flexibility, speed)
- Each week, month, year you train them, you’ll start to know a deeper and deeper level of the art
The Secret to Mastering a Complex Art is CHUNKING things down to Workable Pieces
Muay Thai can seem complex at first. But like anything…break it down into small of enough chunks, the movements become simple and masterable for anyone. And this is what these 7 principles are.
The 7 Fundamentals of Muay Thai Mechanics
The first four are about the basic movements of the feet, hips and lower back.
The last three pertain to integrating the movement of the first four with movement of the upper body (the shoulder and hands).
Principle#1 Curling the Back Forward (Shrimp) in Stance
The most important part of Muay Thai is the stance….The word stance…I hate that word. Why? Because it shrouds the meaning behind it.
What is a stance really though? It’s positioning your body to FEEL ready…just like there’s a stance for football…for golf.
For god’s sakes..there’s even a proper stance for typing!
So what’s the Muay Thai stance?
It’s about putting yourself in a position where the bones are’t flexed, but ready to LOCK into place.
The SHRIMP is how we keep our hips and shoulders loose. By curling the body forward, we create a looseness in the torso…opposite of the squat.
In a recent scientific analysis, we found that the shrimp is driven primarily by the abs, curled forward…Minimal muscle activation anywhere else but the abs. That goes for the leg, the arms, the lower back…Nothing. The abs were the only thing active.
The key take away is that the weight is to the front. If you find tension in your hips and shoulders…relax it. Allow the abs to curl your body forward like a crunch
Principle #2 – We always place more weight on one foot than the other – We’re Never 50 – 50
In Muay Thai, all strikes, movements are done with the entire body moving to generate force…for strikes, for footwork, for blocks.
The majority of our weight is centered around our trunk…our hips, torso…and shoulder….and this weight is supported to the ground by two feet. How we shift our weight through our feet is different from how we shift our weight in our torso.
So basic weight shifting…in Muay Thai, we’re always heavier on one side of our body than the other. We’re never 50-50.
At the feet..we shift the weight from foot to foot by pushing off the inside edge of one foot to the other…kinda like an ice skater. In the pic to the right, I emphasize that like an ice skater cutting into the ground on one foot, we cut into the ground with the lead foot for the cross.
But what about up top…the trunk? Well, the weight of the body needs to be heavy on the side we’re planting our foot on.
And so, what’s connected to the foot? The hip. Only after we secure the foot placement do we shift our weight to that side.
And the first line of action after our foot placement is driving our hip forward over it, since the foot is connected to the hip.
Principle 3 – Securing foot placement using the inside of the feet – (The BOOT)
Whenever I teach people, I always start by training them on this principle first. Why? Because most people’s feet are so god damn weak. The boot is a way of gripping the floor and gives us stability when we’re on one leg.
Here’s a pic of me on a foot pressure measurement machine busting out various Muay Thai techniques. This is where the weight is on the boot…primarily through the big toe…and nugget…down to the heel.
How does this work? Well basically, your foot is made up of 3 arches…like a tripod…It’s a very stable structure…and the movements of Muay Thai utilize the inside arch…The Medial Longitudinal Arch – Point A – C. And securing this, is the first part of that BOOT.
Principle #4 – Driving the hip forward after securing the foot (with the boot)
It’s only after we have our feet set….errr….our BOOT set…that we can drive our hip forward. Without that proper boot…we won’t have the stability to drive into the ground and generate force.
You ever hear that saying energy comes from the ground up? In martial arts…what the hell does that mean anyway? Well basically
According to Newton’s 3rd Law…
“When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body”
So by driving our boot into the ground….the ground is exerting an equal and opposite force up through us! And we can use that force to drive our hips forward..and send that energy out through our target.
Recently, a student of mine and I hooked myself up to motion sensors, muscle activation sensors, etc and analyzed the Muay Thai moves.
What we concluded was that the majority of the power from Muay Thai techniques, after the BOOT is in place, comes from the GLUTES…those ASS muscles.
…and those glutes drive the hip forward.
(yes…the hip flexors allow us to turn our legs to rotate our hips…but it’s those big ASS muscles that drive the hips first and foremost)
Glute activation is the majority of power from all of the strikes. And we can drive our ass forward with those glutes…(yes the hip flexors allow us to turn our legs as our hips rotate)…but it’s those big ASS muscles that drive the hips first and foremost.
So let’s look at that lead teep. Taking these two nuggets of data for the lead teep…
- The heel drives into the ground
- The glutes drive the hips for the strike
Gee….what simple physical activities can we relate to have these same properties? The squat! Have you ever squat before?
I have…I’m from the jersey shore…and anybody from Jersey knows how to squat bro! And when you squat you squat DEEP…what happens when you go DEEP?
The heels drive in and you’d get those massive gains in the glutes…anybody that’s hit the gym for real for real…knows what I’m talking about..Driving the hips forward comes from the glutes!
Yea those hip flexors are important…but the POWER comes from that ASSitude.
Principles 1-4 are the Ingredients for Muay Thai Movement
Ok…so just a recap…
- We shrimp our absto put our trunk (hips/shoulders) in a position to SNAP and generate power
- In all of our movements we shift weight from foot to foot…getting heavy on one side to the other
- We need to catch our weight on the boot before driving our hips
- After we engage the boot…we can drive our hips forward with our glutes.
So these are the first four principles of The 7 Fundamentals of Muay Thai Mechanics. The last three relate to integrating these pieces together with the upperbody. Stay tuned as we conclude this two part series.