Chaos & Order In Your Striking Combinations
1-2-3... 1-2-3… jab, cross, hook…. jab, cross, hook.
Throwing the same combo, after combo, after combo, is not only repetitive and lacking in creativity but also becomes predictable. They know that after the jab-cross, the hook is coming next, so a sharp kick to the exposed ribs will stop any further punches – or any strikes at all.
So whilst keeping to a comfortable set of combos works for pad drills and strength training, in a real fight your opponent will read your combos and counter them. This is something that needs to be avoided – at all costs.
CHAOS: Throwing Anything & Everything
“Shock and awe” is a tactic used during police raids to get the job done quickly before the criminals have time to react and try to escape, which is precisely how you should approach combos.
Alongside practicing combinations, work on honing your technique with four or five strikes that you don’t usually use in your combinations. During combinations, add in an extra strike that they wouldn’t even consider expecting – jab, cross, knee, and a hard-hitting hook to finish it off. This would cause an interruption to your combo, but if you’ve already thought 10 strikes ahead then it’s easy to factor in one extra strike into the combo.
Once you’ve learnt to smooth out your transitions between each “interrupt” then you can become far more creative, and add in further and more varied interrupts that will leave your opponent clueless. Hard-hitting strikes (knees, elbows and teeps) are best for interrupts, because then it becomes meaningful: creating space or putting your opponent off balance to take advantage of some heavier kicks.
ORDER: Let The Fight Come To You
Police also perform stakeouts to gather information and whereabouts on criminals; this is an alternative approach to combos.
Combos are your friend: pick five to eight combinations (depending on confidence levels) and work through them. Watch what your opponent does at the end of/during each combo. They will usually pick one answer and stick to it. Repetition is purely human nature, so remember how they answer your combos.
Instead of throwing interrupts during your combos, throw them preemptively to stop them catching you at the end of the combo. For example, if you know they’ll roundhouse you at the end of your combo because your rib is exposed, then be ready to catch and sweep before they’ve even been able to process that they’ve not connected.
OFFENSE: Attacking Against A Combo
If an opponent is being repetitive with their combos, then defend in different ways each time they do each combo. Work catching/parrying, then swap to pillar blocking, then rotate to long-guard, and work different techniques off the back of these, while trying to remain versatile. Avoid the dreaded predictability that will ultimately get you caught out with a well-timed strike.
Sometimes a good offense is a good defense – protect against anything they throw given you’ve got the threshold to do so. This tires them out and makes them work harder as the fight progresses. Interrupting whilst your opponent is mid-flow with a clinch works very well too; throw uppercuts and shovel hooks to send them looking skywards (or at least that’s the intention).
Clinching also works well to start off a combo, as long as you’ve got control. Take command and land some heavy blows and then force out of the clinch with a lightning fast combo to truly blow their socks off.
FLOW: Fluidity In Your Striking
These combos, while more advanced, demonstrate excellent understanding of how a combo should flow. Constant pressure is being applied – don’t leave time to go make a cup of tea before your next strike – with some unorthodox techniques being thrown in. After a strike that puts your opponent off balance, shoving with the fists works similarly to a teep, albeit with less power, but it still creates the distance needed to land a hard roundhouse or a strong superman punch.
To create distance, another good method is shoulder checking. Turn into your opponent and drive them away with your lead shoulder then continue the turning motion a full 360 degrees to land a spinning back-kick, tornado kick, or back-fist. It helps to switch legs and go southpaw for this, as you then return to orthodox as you land the kick.
Sean demonstrates the above well in his fifth technique below, where he lands the knee and then shoves (or posts) them away to connect with his roundhouse:
The choice between chaos and order comes from your current standing in the fight. If you’re in a defensive position yet have the confidence, then be proactive and take the fight to your opponent with interrupts and faster combos.
But if you find yourself in a comfortable attacking pattern, then it doesn’t hurt to switch it up a little to confuse your opponent. Muay Thai is as much a battle of the mind as it is a battle of the body and soul.
- Ben Evans is a 17-year-old Brit with a year of Muay Thai training under his belt. His experience in martial arts so far has inspired him to continuing learning and helping to teach others about the sport.