The Muay Thai Jigsaw

So… I was thinking the other day about how to best describe Muay Thai to my new beginners at Chokdee Academy. I came up with this analogy which I later recognised is a great description of how to learn, so thought I would share it with you guys.
jigsaw pieces
Each individual technique has its own individual piece. So the individual pieces of the jig saw are:
• Jab
• Cross
• Uppercut
• Hook
• Stance
• Footwork
• Body kick
• Low kick
• Head kick
• Push kick
• Knee
• Long knee
• Swing knee
• Clinch

Once you have learnt these correct individual moves, you are learning the shapes of the jigsaw pieces and how they fit together. The second half of one move is the first half of the next.
“This is why a jab flows seamlessly in to a cross”
You start to learn that the rotational twist required in each of the moves complement each other, and you can learn to build combinations by yourself (so long as you learn the correct details of the component parts).

This takes care of the attacking side of Muay Thai, but what about defence….well….
You simply have to turn the jigsaw over and you learn the ‘inverse’ of the move.

As your Muay Thai experience grows, you learn that the simple 14 jigsaw pieces grow way beyond the “5yr olds” jigsaw that you initially started building.

All the pieces start fitting together

All the pieces start fitting together

All of a sudden it has morphed in to this 5000-piece jigsaw of blue sky and clouds….and it has also turned in to a 3-D jigsaw and the pieces fit together vertically as well.

And then you learn how complex this jigsaw can get....

And then you learn how complex this jigsaw can get….

So if you think you know Muay Thai…..then I think you need to look at the bigger picture, flip it around, turn it over, and also dont forget to look up :)

Enjoy learning and growing guys :)

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Stitches without anaesthetic

I have been inspired by my literary sparring partner, Damien Trainor and his recent blog on the same subject, and thought I would share my story.

The first time I got stitched without anaesthetic was in Thailand in 2004.
This was my first 3-month stay at Jitti Gym, where I lived and fought as a professional fighter, training twice a day. Coming up to the end of my 3-month stay I was offered the opportunity to fight for the 61kg WMC World Title.
I had to weigh-in at 7am at Lumpinee Stadium on the morning of the fight. On my first visit to the scales I was 62.7kgs. I went out behind the stadium, dressed in my sweatsuit, and ran around the car-park with the rest of the fighters making weight. After 1hr I came back and had only dropped to 61.8kgs. Jitti had organised the sauna at the stadium to be fired up and went in after this 2nd visit to the scales.
In the next 40-mins I was able to drop down 60.85kgs. To achieve this I was doing knees up against the wall, jogging on the spot and massage in the ridiculous heat of a sauna….in Thailand. When I came out, the 25-degree morning-heat felt cool!!!!
As soon as I made weight I must have drunk about 7-litres of water in the food-court at the back of the stadium. Jitti then sorted out the most amazing chicken soup which, even to this day I cannot explain in words….. People that have had to cut weight before will have an idea of how good that first meal tastes. Chicken soup then became one of my regular post weigh-in meals :)

The fight was at 3pm at Nam Wong Wan Mall, only a short 10-min taxi drive from the gym, and this was the featured show for CH5 that day. I got told that the guy was a good clincher but all the guys at the gym said that I would win as I had better boxing.
In the build up to the fight I was getting owned in clinch work and one of the few times I have actually “hit the wall”. I have blogged about this already, how I clinched against 5 guys at the same time.
The fight was matched for Dec 23rd 2004 and was a couple of days before the tsunami hit Phuket.

I came out in the first round and started picking him off at long range, working behind teep, low kick and a stinging jab. In the second round I started to open up more with my boxing and wobbled him a few times. On one exchange I delivered a left hook, straight right and as he fell back against the ropes and lifted his hands high, I automatically threw a body kick, and I saw his eyes light up. It was like it was happening in slow motion. He went on to catch my kick, smile, step back, dragged me forwards and pulled me on to one of the sharpest elbows I have ever taken, ripping my forehead open. Blood was immediately gushing 5/6 inches out of the front of my head and the fight got stopped. :(

I was taken out of the ring and stitched by the doctor in the changing rooms. My mate, Stevie Raine was there and he was kind enough to take off my anklet and stick it in my mouth to chew down on. I ended up having 16 stitches with no anaesthetic at 5pm.
When I got back to the gym I had to trim the stitches back as the tails of thread that were left trailing all over my forehead. I even had to clean the dried blood off my forehead. I finished packing my bags and I was on the plane home at 9pm the same night.
As I was walking through the airport I got recognised by a load of the staff who had seen the fight on TV and I even got given a lift on one of the little electric “golf-carts” by one of the baggage handler guys which was quite a novelty! :)
I must say that this is the worst I have felt after a fight, as the swelling was coming out on the plane, add that to a change in air-pressure, DVT injuries, dehydration and tiredness, I must have looked terrible.
I think some of the air-hostesses were a little concerned as they kept on coming over to see that I was ok…..and given that the stitches were fresh, I think they could see I was in a bad way.

In Thailand, this was almost an accepted “look”, and this could easily be explained with a “Muay Thai” and a point towards the stitches, and a little chuckle. However, in the Middle East (my stop over) and Manchester, I was getting some pretty weird looks from other travellers. :P

When I got home I tried to have the stitches taken out after 1 week, and the cut was still open so only had the top two and bottom two stitches taken out as it was starting to open up again. The doctor had overlapped the wound, rather than stitching together, so has left quite a mark that is still there today. It took 2 weeks to get all the stitches out, and the second time I went to the doctors the nurses called all the other nurses in, as they hadn’t seen stitches like that for over 20 years!!!!!

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Nurture or Forge

One of the most common concerns for people when they first take that initial step from “Pad-work Class” in to “Sparring Class” is:

Am I just going to get beaten up?”

Let me first alleviate any concerns and say a massive NO….

Historically, the old-style gyms used to throw newbies in to the ring with a seasoned fighter to test them, and see if they had “heart”. This is the fight or flight mentality I have discussed in other blogs, and if the newbie turned up for a second session he was worth spending time with.
For me this is quite a Neanderthal approach and gives the sport and the gym a bad name and bad reputation.
As a Sports Performance Mind Coach I have learnt that this is a trait that can be taught through the “Nurture and Forge” process.

Lets break these words down in to the specific definition


Verb – Care for and encourage the growth or development of.
Noun – The caring for and encouraging the growth of someone or something: “the nurture of ethics and integrity”.

And now the process:
In order to encourage and nurture the correct reaction there has to “cognitive learning process”; And then repetition to turn this in to an automatic habit (unconscious thought process). This tends to be done via the touch sparring drills. You may have seen samples of this on our facebook group. This means that you can do hours and hours of sparring, without injury or tiredness holding you back.

If you are an avid reader of this blog, you may remember the subjects on “how our bodies learn”, the best way to co-ordinate moves, myocin and the learning process. This is how we apply this to a sparring situation, in a safe controlled manner, and can be done with no or little contact. Both people sparring should be controlled enough with their mindset and technique that sparring can take place with NO protective equipment on shins or hands!!!!!!

So, this therefore means that sparring should be a part of EVERYONES training programme and not just reserved for fighters or people who don’t mind getting the odd bruise…. which nicely brings us to our next section.

Once we have developed this as an automatic instinct, to lift up blocks, catch kicks, defend punches, clinch and grapple at the right time etc, this is when people want to take it to the next level and say they want to compete.


1. Make or shape (a metal object) by heating it in a fire or furnace and beating or hammering it.
2. Move forward gradually or steadily.

Now that the instincts have been developed, you can apply the techniques we do in class and the timing triggered for a calm composed response (And you say that you want to be a fighter), this is the time to start turning up the heat and intensity.
This is where fighters are forged and tested to know that, the correct instincts are still intact…..
- Even when under pressure
- Even when tired
- Even when you want to quit…

This therefore means that the instincts are sooooo ingrained thats its impossible to turn you back, start swinging wildly or look messy, simply because your body is no longer programmed to work that way, when you are given no other option but to fight :)

If you want to spar, and play with the techniques, you are more than welcome to come down to the sparring class and do touch sparring……BUT if you say you want to fight, be prepared to go to places you never thought possible.
Its only when you have to scrape the depths of your soul that you will recognise the true cloth that you are cut from….

I agree, fighting isn’t for everyone, however those that are interested in stepping up, be prepared to meet the real “champion-in-waiting” you know that you are :)

This is how they do it in Thailand:

And here is Jordan Watson and Dzhabar Askerov sparring at the Yokkao Expo in 2011:

And while we are on the subject….heres how to clinch as well with Pakorn training at Jitti Gym in Thailand:

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The most “Creative Fighters”

I have just watched the latest Horizon programme on creative and divergent thinking, and I was intrigued how this could apply to muay thai and coaching in general.

Watch on BBC iPlayer

There were a few questions that sprung up for me, and would love to hear your thoughts on how this applies from your experience.

OK….So here goes.
Some of these ideas could be pretty ‘out-there’, but as we are learning, this is the cutting edge experience we are gleaning from science and psychology

• If you flash information to the right visual field and it goes to the left brain (logic)
• If you flash information to the left visual field and it goes to the right brain (creative)
Therefore, this implies that orthodox fighters are more instinctive and creative as they observe the fight more with their left eye than their right.

Brain function and fields of vision

Brain function and fields of vision

From a coaching perspective, you could make students watch demonstrations of technique, only using their left eye (covering up their right eye with their hand)
[EDIT: Just been corrected by one of my psychology student friends, and its apparently, left field of vision regardless of which eye it is. So as a coaching point, make students angle themselves so they see the demonstration in the left field of vision (just turn to one side)]

Here’s another couple of angles in how this can have an effect on your everyday life:
• I don’t know if any of you are/know an optician but I am aware that we all have a ‘dominant eye’. Can being left or right eye dominant will have an effect on your creativity? This could suggest how different students grasp certain ideas and others don’t…..

• Does the ear in which you listen affect the creativity, when you are on the phone?
You could make students ‘angle themselves’ so they are listening more with their right ear, and hence prompting the creative cortex more readily

• Are having a “standard” class warm-up, stretch and generic drills, slowing down creativity?

New ideas and different training can develop new creative thinking.
Keep the training fresh and unexpected training can develop more creative fighters.

Now the question is….how brave are you to try something new, and potentially boost your creativity to new levels

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Barry McGuigan on ITV last night

ITV Player – Click here to watch the programme

Watching the Barry McGuigan life story on ITV Sports life stories last night, he said something that really rang true and prompted this blog post.
He mentioned the small few seconds between the referee giving his final instructions, going back to his corner and the milliseconds between getting a small sip of water from his coach and taking those first few steps in to the centre of the ring as the first bell rings.
This really touched me as I have done this over 60-times in my muay thai career, and is the pivotal point for releasing all them nerves and tension.
Its the culmination of an 8-week training programme and its at this very moment that it reaches its peak. You have done all the hard work, you have spent hours in the gym, you have done your morning runs, you have watched your diet….And now its time for the synergy of all these things to come together and allow the technique, style and strategy to just flow through you…..
Its like pressing pause on a DVD, and in that snap-shot of time, you are able to see this two months of work lay out in front of you. It’s at this point when you can look back over the fight-camp period, and you have to be brutally honest with yourself, and say whether you have totally immersed yourself with the training or whether, in fact, you have actually been coasting and taking it easy. Its not the point of mere attendance….its the fact that you have always given 110% in every single session, and you couldn’t possibly do any more, to be the best that you can possibly be.
Sure, there are “game plans” that people will work for particular fighters, but if you put too much energy in to worrying about them, you aren’t concentrating on your own game. So if you can give 110% in every single session, its at that moment you can truely enjoy the benefits of your hard work.

As Mohammed Ali once said: “A fight isn’t won in front of them crowd, its won in them lonely moments at 5am, when you are doing your roadwork and nobody is watching”
For me, there were always a few mental mile-stones that I used to use as markers, and part of my preparation
1. Walking in to the venue and seeing the ring for the first time
2. Climbing up on to the apron and testing the ring ropes
3. Soak up the atmosphere/size of the arena
4. Go to changing rooms
5. Walk to the ring/showmanship
6. Calm before the storm after ram-muay final instructions, before the first strike is traded
7. Victory

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High’s and Lows of Competition

So, as the year rev’s up with some fantastic bouts for Muay Thai (Glory5 at Excel Arena) and BJJ (PAN-AMS), I wanted to try and explain a little bit more about competition and the emotional rollercoaster that goes along with it.

As you may or may not know I used to play rugby at a professional level, and from personal experience I have found that the emotional highs and lows of winning are exagerated in the individual combat sports as opposed to the team sports. This is down to the fact that as an individual, you are investing more of your personal character (Nae, some may say ‘how you define yourself’); However, in a team, you share the glory/responsibility of the win/loss.

In victory, we rarely spend as much time analysing our performance, as we do in a defeat, but this is the nature of the game, and one that allows us to grow and develop more from a loss. In victory, this is affirmation that we are doing ‘the right things’. We expect to win, therefore we dont spend too much time assessing and analysing, what we have done right, what we have done wrong and what we could do different, because we have achieved the end-result we set out for.
Its only in loss…..when things havent gone right….when things havent gone to plan, that we look back to see where it went wrong.
Its in this state of vulnerability, when we have exposed our inner hopes, dreams and aspirations, in front of our friends, family, peers and baying crowd, that this can all come crashing down. This is what makes ‘losing’ so much harder….but this also shows the true heart of the competitor, when all this has been put on the line, and you can see how they truely react.
Some remain noble and honourable
Some are reduced to tears and throwing a ‘kiddy-strop’
Some get embarrassed
Some go quiet
Some you see their souls crumble in front of you, and you see the fire in their eyes get extinguished…..I know I have been guilty of some of these, but its in these highly-charged emotional moments that make combat sports so exciting.

You know I am regularly posting quotes on the Star Performance Mind Coaching page, for issues that are prevelent in all our lives, and one of my most favourites is by Theodore Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

So what can we take from this, from a coaching perspective?
I think the essence comes down to “Where is the ‘critic’ coming from”?
1 – Do they have a background in this scenario, so they can speak from experience?
2 – Do they whole-heartedly have your best interests at heart?
3 – Is the advice they are giving you ‘helping’ or ‘hitting you when you are down’?
Unless they can answer ‘yes’ to all three, this will help you assess how much notice you are going to take of the information. Sure its nice to get a bit of sympathy/loving but this isnt going to help you get back on track sooner rather than later.

Following on from this, there is the NLP persepctive, which says “There is no failure, Only feedback” so lets get back on the horse and use this as motivation to train harder and smarter than before :)


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You will never give up
You will never be beaten
There is no obstacle too big
There is no opponent that is better than you
You are as strong as an ox
You are as handsome as a model
You are as fast as lightening
You are lazer focussed
You are determined
You are relentless
You are fluid
You are effortless
You are persistent
You are tougher than steel
Techniques come easy to you
You make it look easy
You are relentless

….Now get to sleep and show me all this again tomorrow

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Ticket selling for fights

One of the biggest hassles when I was fighting in the UK was the associated stress of also being a ticket-seller as well as training for a fight. As I was concentrating more on training, this came as an added hassle, as I would get messed around by people who wouldnt commit to actually buying tickets.

Come to think of it, I was obviously missing something within my communication with my friends to tell them how much I was investing in my pursuit for worldwide recognition and acclaim.

Every Champion was once a contender who refused to give up

Every Champion was once a contender who refused to give up

I saw something on facebook yesterday which explained this commitment sooooooo well….

Here is the status:
Do you have a friend who is a fighter (thaiboxing, MMA, boxing, whatever)?
If he/she asks u to come and support him/her, they dont mean “come and watch if u can be arsed”.
What they are REALLY saying (thoughy they may be too proud to say it this way) is “Please come and support me, it means a lot to me. I’ve spent the best part of 2 months working my arse off and denying myself the little pleasures on life, like a drink or food that I actually enjoy. I am dedicated to my sport and I want to showcase my skills for you. I am nervous too and your voice in the crowd will give me more confidence and spur me on to win. It means a lot for you to be there supporting me, though I may be a bit too proud to beg you to come”
So if your friend, the fighter, asks for your support, before you blow him/her off to go and do the same old sh** you do every weekend, or tell them you are too skint (then go and waste £80 down at the local nightclub)
THINK what it means to your “friend” and treat his/her invitation with same respect and consideration as if he/she had invited you to their wedding.
For some fighters, it really IS that important to them.

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9 Proper diet tips

After all the New Years Resolutions and empty promises have faded away, we are now in February and the people that have tried ‘dieting’ and ‘weightwatchers/slimmingworld’ etc are feeling that frustration of being sold false promises, we start getting down to the hardcore that REEEAAALLLLLYYYY want results….. And this is what we do at Chokdee Academy.

So I thought I would give you a few quick-hit tips, dispell a few myths, tell a few home-truths and even up the playing field:

1. Carbs are not your enemy….sitting on your ass is (Thanks to Lloyd Cooper for that one)

2. Protein is your friend. Protein makes your muscles grow! Actually, it doesn’t – branched chain amino acids do though, and they are contained within the protein nutrient group, but you get the jist :)

3. Fat in food is not the same as fat on your body. Eat good quality fats from avocados, nuts, olive oil etc

4. Eat clean, Train dirty. Even if you count your calories, but eat crap food, you wont get in the shape you want.

5. You CANNOT spot lose body-fat with things like ‘slender-tone’ and other gimmick toys. (You lose weight from all over, you just tend to notice it on your ‘problem areas’)

6. Keep your body guessing. Your body will adapt to the demands it is being put under in a few weeks. Keep shaking up your training (Resistance, Cardio, Plyometric, Isometric, Sprint training, Interval training, Endurance training etc)

7. There are NO instant downloads. Eating clean for one day, doesnt mean you have done it. Its about creating habits. Its the same as learning a new skill in Thaiboxing or BJJ class. You dont learn ‘a technique’ in one rep/one session/one week/one month. The key is in the repetition and building the kinetic chain, linking movements together to make you more functional. Do the same with your diet

8. Throw out your scales. The number on the scales isnt important. Its all about what you LOOK like.
You dont go round with your weight on a t-shirt do you? No
How do people know if you have lost a few pounds/kilo’s? By the way you look (change in shape, improved skin, improved circulation etc)

9. Eat REAL foods. This is what our bodys were designed to consume.

If you want more help with losing weight effectively:
1. Speak to Jo at the gym about her super-successful Weight Management group
2. Buy the Diet Nutrition e-book.
3. Speak to Rich about Hypnotherapy/NLP Mind-Coaching to switch off food-compulsions and cravings

With this multi-pronged attack, we will help you achieve your goals.

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The ABC of Muay Thai

Over the past few weeks I have secured some contracts working in schools, so I have been thinking of how to make this more applicable to ‘academic’, so the students have to drag in other areas of their school knowledge and apply it to an everyday task.
Now, at a fundamental level, Muay Thai is a simple sport in that you have to hit your opponent with effect to score, but the deeper you go, the more complex it becomes. It’s a question of how far down the rabbit hole do you want to go…..For instance:
• Physics (leverage and power-generation)
• Maths (tangents and angles)
• Biology (energy systems, biomechanics, diet and how we process food in to energy)
• History (of the sport)
• Geography (areas of Thailand and styles of the sport)
• Psychology

Einstein once said “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler”, so I am now in the process of making my lessons as simple as possible….and this nicely brings us to the first 3 letters of the alphabet. A, B, C.

The A, B, C of Muay Thai has its origins from behavioural education and it stands for Antecedence, Behaviour and Consequence, but with slightly different applications.
Antecedence is the footwork, ring-craft and strategy used within the contest
Behaviour is what the ‘Nak-Muay’ does ‘internally’ to deliver the technique effectively/powerfully (twisting through technique)
Consequence is the impact of the shot being landed and how the opponent moves and loses balance.

The paradox of this is that fighters tend to focus on the ‘consequence’ rather than the “A or B”, as mentioned in the blog post about the ‘Paradox of Power’……So if you want to improve, don’t get excited about the “smacking pads really hard”, make sure you focus on delivering the technique properly.
The general rule is that it takes the ‘myosin’ (which sheaths your nerves) 10,000-repetitions to learn the correct technique and for you to be able to deliver it at an unconscious level (ref: perfect practice blog), so get cracking with the ‘DOING’ and learn effectively :)

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