Saenchai shows you how to kickBy
A while ago, I posted about Saenchai and his cartwheel kick to point out his unorthodox kicking techniques. He recently fought Penaek Sitnumnoi in the Lumpini stadium in Thailand and showed everybody how you should kick in the ring. Now granted, some of his techniques are not really the standard way of doing things but you can’t deny their effectiveness looking at this video. I’ll point some of them out here below but first here’s the fight.
The action starts at 1min20.
Though he seems to have trouble at first, Saenchai quickly finds his distance and timing against a much taller opponent. What’s even more impressive is how he keeps a low guard throughout the fight and gets away with it by controlling the distance perfectly. Pretty cool and it’s but one of the many things he does right but I want to focus on kicking techniques so here goes:
- Around 2min20 Penaek push kicks to the front leg. Turns out a few seconds later that this was a set up for a teep to the face. Saenchai shows how amused he is by launching one of his own, mixed in with a bit of axe kick dynamics. Look at how he drives his hip into the kick for extra power as his foot lands: full extension on a much taller opponent and no loss of balance at all. A shame he misses it, but only barely.
- At 3min8 he does a perfect set up for his left high kick: feint with the right leg to which his opponent reacts by dropping his arms to catch the kick he thinks is coming, lateral footwork that not only gets him off the firing line but also accelerates the left high kick.
- The whole sequence at 3min56 is just awesome. He catches the body kick, throws a left straight punch and with only minimal retraction of the hip launches a powerful left high kick. As his opponent comes forward again, he repeats the right leg feint from before but this time to slide over to the side and throw the high kick again. And he pretty much drops his hands all the time…
- The beauty of this last part is that it’s a difficult maneuver to pull off, especially against a tall guy, as it requires perfect timing and exceptional footwork. The idea is that you force your opponent to pivot and face you again (which makes it hard for him to counter you) and then throw a technique from an angle and at a moment that he doesn’t expect. But what is perhaps the most difficult part is timing it just right so the momentum you generate with the footwork can be used to power your high kick. This means connecting totally different (and in some ways opposite) kinetic chains together which is something only very few fighters (even at the highest level) can do. The only other example I know of is Tyson with his sliding side-hook:
- Take a look at 9min40 for that hook. Tyson shuffles to the side, stops that sideways momentum on a dime, turns it into a pendulum movement with his upper body while at the same time loading up his right hip. Then he generates torque in the opposite direction to power that right hook. This is exceedingly difficult. If you don’t think so, give it a try and see how it works out for you. But what is even more impressive is how Tyson is hardly off balance when he misses with that hook. He recovers immediately and fires it again. That’s world-class striking. Saenchai uses a similar dynamic and does it with a kick but it’s the same thing: world class fighting skill.
- At 5min11 he showboats a little and uses that to set up his high kick again. Look at how he sneaks his foot in despite the high guard Penaek uses. You’ll see him throw one kick a couple more times in this fight. The hardest part about this kick is that he’s going backwards the whole time. Many nak Muay only know how to generate power in their round kicks when they are either stationary or as they step forward. Saenchai shows you can move back and still kick hard.
- At 5min52 he does the weird teep/axe kick again but this time he feints with his other leg and jumps into it. Perfect timing as his opponent steps right into it.
- At 7min25 he teeps his opponent all the way across the ring. This works not only because of good timing but because he’s done nothing but feint with that leg. When he finally does use the knee lift to kick instead of feint with it, it’s a complete surprise.
He does a lot of other impressive things in this fight but I wanted to single out the way he kicks because it is, in my opinion, what makes him exceptional. His body mechanics, timing, distancing and the self-confidence with which he throws his legs around is inspiring. What I liked the most was his Tyson-like sideways footwork into a high kick. Simply because I know a couple similar tricks (my preferred one is side-step into a right straight punch or overhand) and I know how hard I had to work to get that one down: it was very, very hard. And that’s only the first part; next you have to pull it off in the ring too, which is even harder still.
Saenchai makes it all look easy.