Why would you want to fight like a chicken? Aren’t they cowardly animals that run away? Being called a chicken is an insult, so why on Earth would I ever advise you to fight like a chicken? Well here, look at this chicken:
And that video isn’t just there to justify the strangest title for an article you’ll read all day. There is a truth to it. In Thailand there are several fighters and coaches, including Ajarn Surat of Dejrat Gym – who believe that Muay Thai originated from cockfighting, or chicken boxing as it’s also known. While this is obviously a myth (Muay Boran, Pradal Serey and Lethwei all share a common ancestor in the form of Bokator) it is a good analogy for how a fighter should kick.
When it comes to punching it’s best to be grounded and sitting down on your punches, but kicking is rather different. When targeting the body or the head, you need to do so with minimal effort, and that means the minimum possible stretch from your legs. After all, why have your leg stretch up an extra two inches when you can get that extra height by coming up on your toe as you kick.
So, what does this have to do with chickens? Well much like a chicken takes off from the ground in order to attack, so should we. Now I’m not saying we should be jumping in the air. after all we’re only slightly worse at flying than chickens are, but whenever I teach a beginner, I encourage them to think about how a bird rises up in order to strike with its feet. A properly executed Muay Thai kick should come straight up and inwards, as though its tracing its target, the kick rises and so does the fighter, until the kick has reached optimum height and then the kick turns in to deliver the power. The power comes from the rotation of the hips, but also the upwards trajectory.
Therefore, it’s not enough to simply kick straight up and in, on a kick you should make yourself big. Big is powerful and big is relaxed, rather than swinging wildly into a kick and throwing yourself off balance, you should rise into the kick, with your back straight and your shoulder and hip in line with each other, as demonstrated by perhaps the best kicker in Muay Thai today – Yodsanklai Fairtex.
Here in this final failed kick we can see just high up Yodsanklai gets on his foot to throw his kick. We can also see Saenchai using the same principle for his looser, but still effective kicks:
So what should we remember?
- Kick upwards on a narrow arc
- As you kick rise on the ball of the foot and pivot (allow the heel to face the target)
- Turn in to deliver power
If you’ve been training for a while you’ve probably found yourself wondering what coaches mean when they say to push off of the ground. As it’s no doubt a hard feat to push off the ground when standing on one leg. If that tip isn’t helping for you, then try thinking more like a chicken, they seem to have it down.