Today we will be looking at three basic southpaw principles, to help you if you are (or are against) a southpaw in Muay Thai or MMA. Firstly, it’s important if you are a southpaw to be training with as many different orthodox fighters as possible, all to often for the sake of ease, two southpaws in a class will get paired up together.
The issue with doing this, is that a southpaw vs southpaw match up is very rare. If you are a southpaw being paired with another southpaw constantly, you are learning a set of skills that you will rarely, possibly never, have to use in competition.
Southpaws should ideally be working with a different orthodox fighter each session so that the southpaw gets to see various orthodox approaches, and each orthodox fighter in the class gets the opportunity to train with a southpaw.
So what are the most basic things a southpaw should be doing, and how can we train them?
Understanding Lead Foot Placement
Often when we talk about Southpaws, you’ll hear something to the effect of ‘keep your lead foot outside theirs, to set up your rear hand’. This isn’t terrible advice in of itself but it’s a bit like saying ‘put your foot on a car accelerator to go fast’ – it’s correct, but that’s not what driving is, driving is a set of skills that let you move the car around. Same as with fighting a southpaw. You don’t keep your lead foot outside, you have to understand the positioning of your lead food, and what tactics are available to you depending on your placement.
If you are looking to set up a rear straight, or a rear body kick, then an outside angle is going to be the best option – but if two fighters are adamant they’re both going to keep their rear foot on the outside, eventually we just get them both doing an awkward line dance towards the ropes while they exchange rear straights and nothing else.
If you’re a southpaw, knowing when to have your lead foot inside your opponents is essential for landing the right hook, switching knees and very importantly the left kick to the opponents right leg. The right leg is (usually) less conditioned to kicks than the lead leg which gets kicked all the time. Stepping inside the opponents lead foot allows you to get close enough to kick the fighters back leg, as most fighters aren’t used to this, it will only take a few before they’re hobbling.
Taking the outside angle makes it harder to land to the opponents rear leg at all, meaning you’ll more likely be in a routine of punting the inside leg of your opponent, which is easier for them to defend.
Watch as Pornsaneh Sitmonchai, one of the finest low kickers in the sport, takes the inside angle to kick the back leg of his coach, Dam.
An easy way to practise these angles is to place a pair of shoes in front of you, as though they’re in a stance and step in and outside of the shoes while practising strikes. Make sure when you do the drill to step just ever so slightly outside and inside, you don’t want to take dramatic big steps as they will give away your intentions. This drill is particularly good for people who have trouble visualising an opponent in front of them when they shadowbox, or people who are looking to get the exact right inches for the angle they’re going to take.
We have an article dedicated to this topic here:
The Southpaw Double Attack
The best and easiest strategy for a southpaw to immediately adopt is the one made famous by Mirko Cro Cop. The double attack consists of a left straight to the head and a left body kick. The start up on both these techniques is near identical and from the forward motion of the hip, the opponent shouldn’t be able to tell which is coming, meaning they has a few milliseconds less time to know what is about to hit them and how to defend it.
Not only do these two techniques hide each other, they are hitting different targets, meaning you get the added benefit of changing levels. If you are trying to score the body, throwing more left straights to the head to bring the guard up, before throwing a nicely disguised body kick will be far more effective than just kicking and hoping. Equally if you need to bring the guard down to line up a perfect head shot, throwing more body kicks will do the trick. While your opponent SHOULD be checking body kicks with their shin, the fact of the matter is so many opponents, particularly in MMA or in low level competition will reflexively block the kick with their arms, not only is this dangerous for their arms, putting them at risk of a fracture, it also means you can pin their guard to their ribs with kicks, and line up that shot to the head.
By constantly using hip and shoulder feints, to threaten the jab and also the left side attack, your opponent can’t clearly read your intention. This puts you in the position of the pressure fighter and them on the defensive. A fair warning is that some fighters when pressured opt to throw a bear skin over themselves and go berserk when they feel threatened, so you need to make sure that you have enough pop in your punches to keep them at bay, or at least be good at tying up to stop their advances.
Finally, you have the head kick, in the midst of all this double attacking, you have the perfect set up waiting for a high kick, multiple body kicks set a nice pattern to be broken. Throwing the head kick after several body kicks in a round should get an easy landing and hopefully a stoppage victory.
Teeping to the Leg
Bruce Lee was a big fan of straight kicks to the leg, because it put your longest weapon against your nearest target. Southpaws are in the unique position of their closest weapon being even further away from the target than orthodox fighters. So naturally teeps to the knee should be a staple of a southpaw fighters game.
There is a weird myth pervading Muay Thai, that teeping the leg above the knee is illegal. First, we need to make it clear, it is not. Not only is it legal, it is the go-to teep for top Thai’s due to it being fast, non-committal and low risk. As a southpaw it is even more useful as your lead leg is already very close to your opponents, so quick teeps to the thigh and hip of your opponent allows you to stifle your opponents balance, quickly interrupt attacks and set up your own Thai-Hops easily. In MMA we often see the thigh teep coming from the back leg or side kicks for fighters who stand more turned in, the principle is mostly the same.
Against your opponent or sparring partner, you should begin by feeling out the opponent and getting your distance, the leg teep is a very quick easy way to do this. You can protect and cover the hands of your opponent, while using a teep, but importantly, by picking up the lead leg, you can threaten the teep, and then launch yourself into a rear body kick, or simply hop forward and follow on with a different attack.
You’ve probably noticed that a lot of what has been recommended today also comes down to feinting, and there’s a reason for this. You only need two convincing feints in order to make yourself unreadable. By implementing a Thai Hop from a faked front teep we now have three techniques that we can feint, and these three feints allow us to land more freely to the legs, body and head.
From these three simple principles, we have:
- The angles to set up our attacks
- Attacks to the leg, body and head that maintain a comfortable distance
- Feints that make you hard to read
- Feints that fool the opponent into thinking you’re using a technique you’re not
By implementing these strategies, you will not only be able to attack from or against a southpaw, but you should also have a clearer understanding of what your strategy can be, and what your feints mean, which allows you to make them more convincing. It helps you to avoid the habit of faking just because, without knowing what it is you’re trying to set up, or what read you’re trying to get on your opponent.
That’s all for today. Diesel Gym London