Thursday, November 01, 2007

Muay Thai Lessons from Ramon Dekkers

One of the things I most regret about this age of eclectic technique dominance, a la MMA, is the relegation of pure styles to the background. There are distinct differences and philosophies between the variety of striking and grappling styles that exist. We should celebrate examples of excellent in each. For example, some of the best pure striking you'll ever see comes from Ramon Dekkers, legendary kickboxer from Holland who is probably the most dominant non-Thai fighter to ever fight and win in Thailand, home of Muay Thai. Watching this highlight video of his career, you should take a few things with you [language warning]:

Commitment: Thai boxing is a style that can leave you open to counter-attacks. You are squared up to your opponent more than in most styles of fighting, in order to generate maximum power and use both sides of the body to generate nearly equal power. In order to be effective with that style of fighting, you have to commit so much power as to force your opponent to block or evade, thereby occupying his defenses (creating openings), or completely disrupting his attacking rhythm.

Precision: Dekkers shows unusual accuracy in both hitting open targets, but also perception of the distance needed, and which technique to throw at that time. This include excellent timing, using the right technique, at the exact moment at full extension to maximize damage.

Killer Instinct: Some fighters have incredible skills but don't finish well. Ramon Dekkers demonstrates the ability to pour it on when he sees his opponent is hurt. This can be critical in the ring, but even more so in self-defense. You need to use appropriate force until an opponent is no longer a threat. In the striking arts we have often seen a fighter who is "out on his feet" that wins by knockout. That won't usually happen unless you "punch yourself out" by exhausting yourself by using too much energy without being very effective, or you let up when an opponent is hurt. Dekkers demonstrates neither flaw in his game.

Balanced technique: Dekkers doesn't favor any particular technique over another, and uses the appropriate technique for the range and defensive ability of his opponent. When you are close, elbow, uppercut, hook, clinch, knee. When you are far, punch and kick. Don't try to force a range. Take what your opponent gives you, and don't have weaknesses. If you are a good puncher, work on your kicks. If you are a good striker, work on your clinches and grappling. Great takedowns? Work on your striking and grappling. Be well-rounded.

Toughness: Many fighters can take a shot, but many crumble or defeat themselves when they get behind or take a heavy hit. Dekkers take a licking and keeps on ticking. We should be determined to win in the ring, and survive, no matter what, on the street. Don't take anything for granted. Train as if your life depends on it. It might.

Conditioning: Many of us may have skill, power, and technique. If you lack stamina and endurance, though, you may not be able train, spar, or fight as hard or long as necessary to give you a chance to win. Your survival in a life-or-death encounter may require more cardiovascular or muscular endurance than you currently have. Can you run a mile? How fast? Can you grapple for two minutes? What will it take to win?

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