Putting The 7 Fundamentals of Muay Thai Mechanics Together
In Part 2, we’ll be using the Principles of Part 1 and integrating them together.These 7 principles were ordered in a way where the previous one builds off of the last.
So for instance, you can’t drive the hips forward (principle 4) without securing the boot first (principle 3).
How The 7 Fundamentals of Muay Thai Mechanics Integrate Together
Part 1 laid out the 1st four principles. These are the ‘ingredients’ of the recipe for lower body mechanics in Muay Thai…whether it be for striking, moving, blocking…every possible move you can think of
1. Curling the Abs forward in stance. Un-shrimping for Power. (SHRIMP/UN-SHRIMP)
2. Weight is always heavier to one foot over the other…we never stand 50-50. (WEIGHT SHIFTING)
3. Securing body weight with the inside foot.(THE BOOT)
4. Driving the hips AFTER body weight is secured w/ the inside foot ‘boot’. (DRIVING THE HIP)
In Part 2, we’ll be going over the last 3 principles of ‘The 7 Fundamentals of Muay Thai Mechanics’. These are to…Integrate principles one through four (principle 5) as well as include the movement of the upper body (principle 6) and then timing the upper body movement with the lower body movement (principle 7). They’re listed here.
5. Every move follows a ‘1-2-3 step’ sequence with the footwork (weight shift on 1, boot on 2, and driving the hip on 3. (1-2-3)
6. The upper body uses Arm 1 to drive and anchor the body and Arm 2 moves in the direction of the direction of the target to create momentum. (SANDWICH)
7. The upper body snaps into place on step 3.(SNAP ON 3)
Like every art, you learn the principles, so that you can master them…and then forget them. That’s always the goal.
The intent of these principles are to help guide you along through your Muay Thai journey. They are like a set of principles to go back to whenever something confuses you.
I’ll make some big fat claims here if you master these principles.
- Self-Direct and tweak all of your techniques on your own…like a car mechanic
- Never feel confused or bewildered by the complexity of techniques – they break down into actual physics that you can master WITHOUT someone instructing you
- Get better EXPONENTIALLY faster by directing the focus of your training
Remember, if you don’t know what you’re training, it just becomes exercise. You might get better, but you’ll have no idea why, always at the need of an instructor to correct yourself.
And so, these principles are principles of EMPOWERMENT for people like yourself on the Muay Thai journey.
Are you ready to delve deeper? Awesome…Let’s Go!
The 7 Principles of Muay Thai Mechanics – Principles 5 – 7
Principle #5 – Every move follows a ‘1-2-3 step’ sequence w/ the Footwork. (1-2-3)
Every Muay Thai technique is driven with the movement of the feet first. The movement of the feet are what hands on the steering wheel are for driving. How is this?
Because the invisible force of gravity is weight down on us and what’s bearing that weight is our feet. In order to stay balanced, we move our feet first.
If we moved our upper-body first without securing our feet, we’d lose our balance.
So a rule of thumb is ‘feet first’ when moving, striking, blocking in Muay Thai.
The question you might be asking…alright, so footwork is the start to every technique. So how do I learn this footwork? How do I move my feet in order to generate power, move swiftly and stay balanced, all while using the least amount of energy possible?
Muay Thai footwork encapsulates all of that, following a 3-step pattern for the feet.
The 3 Basic Steps of Feet Flow – (1-2-3)
In every Muay Thai move – punch, kick, elbow, teep, check, footwork, block, etc.. – there are 3 basic steps that the feet follow.
- Foot 1 – initiates the move to shift the weight of the body
- Foot 2 – (the opposite foot) forms the boot
- Foot 1 – either twists OR takes off the floor to drive the hips
Let’s use the Cross as an example. Foot 1 is the rear foot, and Foot 2 is the lead foot.
Note: Steps 1 and 2 occur very quickly…think the amount of time it takes you to take two steps from standing still to running.
And to make it this principle simpler to remember, there’s only two sequences of footwork.
- Lead-Rear-Lead — Lead Foot (weight shifts) –> Rear Foot (boot) –> Lead Foot (drives hip forward)(Example: Jab, Lead Teeb, Switch Kick)
- Rear-Lead-Rear — Rear Foot (weight shifts) –> Lead Foot (Boot) –> Rear Foot (drives hip forward) (Example: Cross, Rear Elbow, Kick)
So the ‘Cross’ is initiated from the Rear foot as seen in the pics above.
Let’s do one more example with a move starting from the Lead Foot….The Lead Teep
A simple way to train this rhythm of footwork into your body is to count! 1-2-3 as you’re practicing until you feel these separate parts working together in harmony.
Here are some other examples of this principle playing out in other common Muay Thai techniques.
As an exercise, see if you can see the 1-2-3 footwork playing out in the pictures.
From left to right, the pictures are ordered as (1 – weight shift) (2- boot) (3- drive hips)
Principle #6 – Snapping the upper body using one arm to drive back and the other to swing (SANDWICH)
The Sandwich is a ‘catch-all’ term for the motion of the upper body for Muay Thai techniques. It forms 3 purposes
- To protect/defend the head from attacks
- Add power to strikes (lower body techniques like kicks and teeps) or Delivers the strikes themselves (punches/elbows)
- Balance the upper body movement w/ the lower body movement
It’s called the sandwich, ‘a catchy’ term I came up with because it’s distinguished by the fact that one hand always returns to the side of the face and one shoulder is at the other side of the face, creating a ‘face sandwich’.
When I’m talking about the upper-body, what we mean is the hands, arms and shoulders.
So for this principle, let’s use the ‘Cross’ again as an example.
- For the Cross, the power from the upper body comes from PULLING the lead arm back to the shoulder. The Lead arm Hand should cover the face and the lead elbow tucked in to the body. This forms a powerful shield for the body. **
- By tucking the lead elbow into the body, the weight of the arm pulling back adds weight and rotation to the rear arm strike.
- The weight of the lead arm pulls the weight of the upper body over the lead leg, balancing the body throughout the strike.
**The key thing is that the elbow is tucked into the body and the hand is at the face. Without the elbow secured, there’s no weight behind that shield.
What about for lower body strikes? Well let’s use the ‘Rear Kick’ as an example.
- For the rear Kick, the power of the upper body comes from driving the lead arm back to the shoulder. The elbow tucks into the body, driving the right shoulder to the front of the face as well as opening up the left hand to protect the face from incoming punches
- By tucking the elbow into the body, the weight of the lead arm pulling back adds weight and rotation to the strike. The swing of the rear arm occurs after the lead arm pulls back, swinging the rear shoulder even further forward for more defense and more power.
- The weight of the lead arm pulls weight of the upper body over lead leg, balancing the body
So the key here in the sandwich is not just the placement of the hands but more importantly the elbow. To make it easier, I’ve designated names for each arm based on their function for each move. And for each move, if the pulling arm is the lead arm, then the rear arm is the swing arm and vice versa.
The Function of the Two Arms for the SANDWICH
- Pulling arm – The elbow pulls into the body, the hand covers the side of the face
- Swing arm (lower body techniques) – The swing arm swings in the opposite direction of strike to propel your weapon in direction of target.
- Swing arm (upper body techniques) – The swing arm is directed toward the target.
One final and important note, is that the ‘Pulling Arm’ pulls first before the ‘Swinging Arm’ swings. This is to create a chain of movement that creates power.
Principle #7 – The Upper Body moves into place on 3, as the hips drive into place. (SNAP ON 3)
The upper body snaps (‘sandwiches’) into place on Step 3. (The 3 is in reference to the ‘1-2-3 rhythm’ discussed back at Principle #5)
Remember, energy is driven from the ground up, so the movement of the feet need to relate to the movement of the upper-body in some way…and Principle 7 is just that..the timing of the SANDWICH.
Notice as we are in our stance, we bend our legs, our body is shrimped, keeping our weight stable.
For all of the principles 1 to 4, we are driving forward with our hips and feet, and by default as our knees straighten out, our hips drive up and our lower back ‘un-shrimps’…there’s an upward force.
All of this happens on step 3 of the ‘1-2-3 rhythm’ as our hips drive forward, our back un-shrimps naturally.
The Purpose of Snapping the upper-body on 3 is to
Purpose # 1 – Counter-balance upward force from the hips with the snap of the upper body, to keep the entire body balanced in forces in the up and down direction.
Purpose # 2 – Drive the weight of the upper body into the strike.
Let’s explore Purpose #1 – Counterbalancing upward force from the hips.
Note that we don’t turn our shoulders in the upward direction…but drive them in a way that keeps them level to the ground…For example. For the lead teep with the lead hip coming up, it’s easy as we snap to lean and pop the lead shoulder back.
This is NOT how we balance the upward force. By forcing the lead shoulder to stay level as we twist the upper body, this balances out the upward force from the hips and drives the entire weight of the body (upper body and lower body) through the target.
Onto Purpose #2 – Drive the weight of the upperbody into the strike.
Every strike in Muay Thai is like a door hinge. We swing our body in the direction of the incoming force. The weight of the body is supported through the hinges (ankles, knee, hip, shoulder) on one side as the end of the door slams forward.
Muay Thai Mechanics – Wrapped into 7 Key Principles of Movement
And so there you have it, 7 principles. The entire art of Muay Thai…at least the movements…broken down into simple workable chunks. And the beauty of it is that anyone can do this. I’ve taught 13 year olds and I’ve taught 68 year olds using these 7 principles because they work. By framing your training around these principles you’ll get better much quicker.
On a final note, whatever you’re training, don’t just train haphazardly, do it with intention. One day you might work on driving your hips further for all of your strikes. Maybe another day focusing on sandwiching the face. Whenever you train, train with specific intention of what the outcome will be. The 7 Fundamentals of Muay Thai Mechanics can give you a clearer picture of what you’re actually trying to do. Use them well, use them often and you’ll get the most out of your training.