a new series of study articles examining the full-length sessions in the Intensives, written by James Poidog
Yodkhunpon: The Unrelenting Pressure of The Oceanic Tide of Thailand
Tidal Wave-: something overwhelming especially in quantity or volume-Merriam Webster dictionary definition
Yodkhunpon is know by his fight name The Elbow Hunter. An apt name for a man who finished countless nak muay (muay Thai fighters) by one of the signature weapons of a Thai boxer- the elbow. Watch two of his fights in the Day 1 article here. To say that this video only shows the elbows he’s famous for is misleading though. This hour long tutorial is filled with all of the ways this man created the opportunities to finish fights with that particular weapon and others. Almost from the beginning you notice that he’s trying to show that he, and Muay Thai as he sees it, is more than just a weapon or 8. Within the first minute he demonstrates probably one of the hardest things for fighters to learn: rhythm. Understandably, Sylvie struggles with it but not so much as she lacks rhythm in general, so much that what he does is unique to himself. His almost leg drag hop style of moving into position and immediate ability to subtly switch base stance from right side to left side dominance is a thing of beauty. I say subtle because even though the footwork itself is noticeable, the shift isn’t. In fact the gate of his footwork is almost hard to miss. However, arguably it is just as hard to emulate. It’s easy to miss his lateral shifts from right to left. Those who’ve explored switching stances can understand how easy in concept they are to understand, but how hard in application they are when training or sparring. showing a ease in this case is another example of this man’s abilities.
As a slight side note, and possibly only from a coaches perspective, in this part of the video Yodkhunpon begins to try and correct using a technique not a lot of people have mastered: humor. It can be frustrating when something that comes easy to you just doesn’t seem to gel with the person trying to learn. What’s wonderful about him is how quickly and effortlessly he uses humor to try and get his point across. Instantly diffusing the situation and steering it away from understandably frustration for both parties.
Another possible side note from a coach’s perspective is at 3:20 Sylvie speaking to another coach she’s had instructing to not move while punching, meaning move when you need but to “sit down” on your punches when you decide to use those weapons. Even though the point of footwork is to add to your overall game, when learning footwork maybe it’s best to focus entirely on just that. It seems to be such a problem for people who are possibly rhythmically challenged or are stuck in that ever present plodding stance, that bringing up the notion of just doing footwork for footwork’s sake in the beginning stages of learning it, is a welcome idea. Whether one focuses just on that or adds it into their punches, knees, kicks, and elbows routine, one thing Yodkhunpon says and Sylvie reiterates is the ‘must’ of doing at least a few rounds of footwork every training session. In western boxing it is understood that footwork is at least half of everything. Many of the greatest boxers of all time spent countless hours developing footwork, yet many have the mistaken assumption that nak muay don’t have footwork as a part of their resume. Part of understanding Muay Thai, not just as a new person just learning, but even as an advanced practitioner, is understanding that within the rule set there is indeed footwork. Granted it may be harder to see than what one is used to in boxing or even MMA, but it’s there and again I go back to Yodkhunpon’s subtle ability of right to left shifting. Footwork doesn’t need to be grand in design. In point of fact, to be able to use it in a fight (the whole idea of this training) it would be better if your opponent didn’t notice. How better to position oneself for the strike one thinks will win?
One aspect to his shift is how he hides it with the shoulders. At no time does his upper torso show what he’s doing downstairs. Very few nak muay or fighters in general have this understanding or even ability to implement in a fight. Seeing him do it reminds that some of the greatest techniques of the Golden Age haven’t even been discovered yet and make me glad once again for this forum.
Another coach’s aside comes to me at approximately 12 minutes in when Yodkhunpon tells Sylvie to ‘stand by’. As a coach, I understand the importance of mindset and code words designed to elicit a certain mindset from a student or fighter in the ring. Having a ready state that is neither completely relaxed (so as to be too slow to respond) or hyper-vigilant (so as to jump at every little thing, heart rate racing) is key to a lot of winning in competition and can be extremely hard to come by. Telling a person to relax doesn’t quite fit the bill. So to me, ‘stand by’ was a stroke of brilliance. It denotes neither ease nor rigidity, but conveys exactly what it needs without being so simple of an instruction one can dismiss it in their state of anxiety.
Throughout the video we are slowly being introduced to the reason I named the article the Oceanic Tide of Thailand. The Ocean is vast, endless, and unrelenting. The tides continue no matter what. As each minute of the tutorial goes by we see more an more of a relentless pressure brought upon Sylvie by Yodkhunpon. It almost feels like we were introduced slowly on purpose. Almost like in a fight where slowly as we begin to tire and our reserves begin to deplete, we realize that the person standing before us isn’t getting weaker, but starting to feel stronger. “Something overwhelming, especially in quantity or volume”. In America where most don’t contend with the fear of something as overwhelming as a tidal wave, the term has become more synonymous with a non stop, overwhelming force, one with little in the way of defense against. At approximately half way through the video we realize this is exactly what Yodkhunpon is. Way too late to escape, he begins to show exactly the root to his numerous wins. There are pressure fighters, and then there are fighters that are themselves like a force of nature. He brings the increase of pressure as if to say “I can do this all day…and better”. It’s there in his clinch, his kicks, his knees, but it’s when Sylvie and he begin to play with elbows that one can’t look away. Looking away means you’ll miss the inevitable. And with Yodkhunpon, the inevitable is elbow destruction. In Hawaii, it’s understood by the locals, taught at a very young age, to respect the ocean. The simplest lesson, but the single most important, is to NEVER turn your back to the sea. If you turn away, you are in danger. Watching Sylvie experience it, deal with it, and eventually give the master an elbow worthy of praise herself was the cherry on top of an enjoyable hour of intensive instruction from the man I’ve nicknamed in my hubris, the Oceanic Tide.
Sylvie Study guest writer – James Poidog
This is Sylvie Study Episode 23, you can see it On Demand here. At top is a free 4 minute extended clip from the session James is talking about in this post, but you can watch the full 72 minute commentary video of this session on Vimeo On Demand. Purchase of the video or subscription lends support to legends of the ring as the krus gets 55% of the net proceeds from this series, distributed; patrons get a substantial discount for these purchases so check that out (you can purchase Episode 23 individually after the trailer below, or look to Episode 23 in the full list). You can also subscribe to the entire series, there are now over 34 hours of commentary training footage published, featuring in depth study of legends:
Read about and check out GIFs from Day 1 with Yodkhunpon here.