Observing Saenchai’s skills in person is mentally exhausting.
His raw talent is just mind-blowing and it’s nearly impossible to figure out how he fights so perfectly. I was blessed to watch him teach a session at Phoenix MMA (Bournemouth, UK) and managed to film a lot of the techniques and drills he was demonstrating.
Saenchai has been my idol since I started Muay Thai, so it’s my absolute privilege to share his favourite techniques with you. Whilst they are mechanically quite simple, the timing and precision he performs them with is what makes them so effective:
His unique flexibility allows him to bring his chamber up high with amazing speed and control. When he raises his thigh for a round kick, you have NO idea whether you’re about to get booted in the leg or take a shin to the head:
Start by swinging your kick at your opponent’s leg, then at the last minute elevate your chamber and smash your foot into their confused face. The final blow may end up as more of a karate/tkd-esque flick (which finishes at the target) than a traditional Muay Thai round kick (which goes through the target).
Key points – Make sure you pop up hard onto the toes of your standing leg to help achieve a good snap in the kick and to help it reach the head. Saenchai makes it look so easy mainly because he has such loose hip flexors, better get stretching if you want to throw it as smoothly as he does.
Once you understand the quick footwork required, this highly explosive teep combination will send your opponent flying across the ring whilst making you look like an absolute baller: Throw a front leg teep, then as it lands back on the floor, quickly drag your rear foot up to the front. Now throw your front knee up and jump up off your rear foot. As you’re in mid-air, throw the rear teep. Having blasted your opponent with your rear foot, bring it back behind you so that you land in your normal stance.
Key point – Throw the front knee as high as you can before executing the kick to make yourself look as G as possible.
Saenchai uses this classic technique better than anyone: Deceitfully throw a rear round kick chamber out wide to draw a front leg check from your opponent. As they are balanced on one leg, lean back and extend your foot straight down the middle to send them collapsing into a puddle of gullible shame.
Key point – Exaggerate and sell the initial round kick chamber to force a check.
By staying face on to your opponent after you throw and miss a kick, you’re telling the judges that you have complete control of your movements. Also, if you’re looking at your opponent after a miss, it’s easier to detect any incoming counter attacks (sorry to state the painfully obvious). So, next time you miss a kick and swing around in a full circle whilst raising an anticipatory check in foolish panic as you present your back to your opponent, slap yourself. Saenchai would not be pleased.
P.S. There’s a reason Saenchai struts around like he’s just fucked the entire Playboy Mansion: Muay Thai judges favor ring authority and aggression so his confrontational and arrogant swagger tells the judges he’s commanding the situation.
Key Point – Develop your own ring character (and definitely don’t copy his, or any fighter’s, because people will just laugh at your unoriginality)
No one pulls this off more stylishly than Saenchai. You’ll see videos of him bending backwards to the point he’s basically entering the matrix, but you don’t actually need to be that flexible to do this move efficiently. The evasiveness of the technique comes from stepping back with your rear foot and leaning back just enough to avoid the kick. Making a more minimal movement will also allow you to counter more efficiently.
Key points – Stepping back enough with the rear foot and not bending back too much.
Notice how small his movements are when he throws his elbow strikes. When timed properly, elbows do enough damage without the need to dedicate your entire body weight and mortgage behind the shot. You unnecessarily risk losing balance if you over commit.
Rear Cross Elbow
Watch how he steps out at a 45 degree angle with his lead foot. This allows the elbow to travel in a wider arc and build more momentum which will create a more powerful blow. Most people make the mistake of stepping straight forward when throwing the elbow which limits the strike’s power.
Key point – Step out at 45 degrees.
Watch how he waits for Pakorn to commit to the knee before stepping in with his own elbow counter. This strike is best thrown as a counter against your opponent’s movement.
Key point – He doesn’t just blindly throw the strike hoping it will hit.
Key point – Reach out and meet the punch to prevent your opponent locking on a collar tie.
Fuck clinching with Saenchai. Ever.
A powerful position to obtain. This essentially turns your opponent into your bitch. Notice how Saenchai blocks Pakorn’s elbow after clearing the arm to avoid being struck by it? Ensure you also pull your opponent at a downward 45 degree angle to break their balance.
Key point – block the elbow and take a big step with your rear knee to load up the strike.
As your opponent reaches to collar tie you, duck under their arm and push their face in the opposite direction to lock out their arm and completely fuck with their body’s mechanics. It’s essential to pull this move off quickly to avoid being countered as you do it.
Key point – do it fast.
This isn’t related to clinch, but it’s a wicked combination I wanted to share.
Key point – Exaggerate the duck down as you throw the overhand to sell it like a body shot, this will help lower your opponent’s guard and increase your chances of putting him to bed.
(Thank you to Yokkao for putting this seminar together and allowing me to film. To all the Pakorn fans wondering why I left him out, it’s because he didn’t do any teaching. He’s still a legend in his own right, he just didn’t have any relevance to this article!)
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