Saenchai the Super Southpaw
This dapper motherfucker is Saenchai. The 36 year old, 5’5″ (1.66m), 134 lb. (61kg), multiple champion kickboxer. If you are into Muay Thai/Kickboxing at all, you have probably heard of this tan powerhouse. If you haven’t, well buckle up fuckers, we’re going for a ride.
Muay Thai, Thailand’s national sport, is “the art of 8 limbs” and utilizes punches, kicks, knees and elbows. Fighters used to wrap their hands in rope for fights before adopting the modern boxing glove. There are still Muay Thai/Muay Boran (the predecessor to Muay Thai) fights that use these rope wraps. If you watch any Muay Thai fights, they often open up with what is called the “wai kru”, which is a sort of battle dance before the fight begins that pays respect to the fighters’ trainer(s). SpikeTV began showcasing kickboxing fights on their channel, but these are not full Muay Thai rules. Most kickboxing fights you see in countries outside of Thailand use K1 rules which eliminate elbow strikes, limit clinching to 3 seconds, and usually do not allow any sort of sweep to take down your opponent. Of course, you can see fighters utilize all of these techniques in MMA fights.
Now that we have a bit of history out of the way, on to the Saenchai of it all.
As you can see, this cat has quite a few titles under those short shorts of his. Lumpinee Stadium is THE stadium to compete in if you are a Muay Thai fighter in Thailand. Saenchai has fought and won in stadiums around the world.
Via wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saenchai_PKSaenchaimuaythaigym
If you lookup current UFC/MMA fighters’ records, the ones that have been around a while have around 20-30 fights under their belt. Some retire with more, some retire with less. Muay Thai fighters, however, tend to have a significantly higher amount of fights due to how young they start (some start as young as 5 or 6 years old).
It may be hard to tell from this small clip, but Saenchai has some of the slickest, smoothest, bestest footwork and reaction time. He is a Southpaw (lefty) fighter and knows how to work angles to deliver devastating kicks and punches. A lot of the top Muay Thai fighters are usually known for their powerful kicks or hands, but Saenchai has a few other tricks up his shorts.
Bend it Like Saenchai
You can often see him pulling off this “lean back” move in his fights. His opponent will go for a head kick, Saenchai reads his oppenent and leans just far enough to get out of the way. He will often follow it up with a punishing kick to his opponent’s legs or body.
Here he is demonstrating the technique with a partner…
and here it is in a real fight. As you can see in the fights here, the opponent is left open after their missed kick and allows for Saenchai to easily land a few hits or sweep. This is a highly difficult move to pull off as it requires precise timing and the ability to read your opponent. Saenchai makes it seem so easy.
Roundhouse Kick to Teep
The teep (push kick) is a staple in Muay Thai fights. It allows you to keep your opponent distant, but can also be extremely punishing. It’s like receiving a straight punch to the gut if landed correctly. Saenchai likes to switch up his round kicks with his teeps to confuse his opponents. They’ll be expecting a roundhouse to their body and BAM…face, meet foot.
Here he his teaching his roundhouse to teep technique. His opponent will raise their leg to check the incoming roundhouse kick, but this leaves their middle wide open for an easy teep to the gut. This can easily knock someone over as they are usually up on one leg at the time.
Question Mark Kick
Another kicking technique Saenchai uses is the low to high kick or “question mark” kick. Much like his roundhouse to teep kick, this one starts as what appears to be an incoming low kick, but quickly switches to a head kick. You can see his opponents drop their hands, hoping to grab or block his low kick, and instead eat a kick to the face.
Jumping Switch Teep
Incorporating a jump into the push kick allows Saenchai to close the gap quickly and surprise his oppoenents. If you can’t tell by now, Saenchai is very “springy” with his fighting style. Most Muay Thai fighters tend to be very slow and methodical with their movement. That is not the case with this jackrabbit.
Jumping Low Kick
Another fun tactic Saenchai likes to incorporate is the jumping low kick. Usually, when your opponent is going to throw a jump kick, they are aiming for your face. Saenchai will mix it up and jump to get his opponent to guard high, leaving the body or legs open for attack.
Here’s the jumping low kick in action. Saenchai’s opponent leans back, anticipating a possible head kick. Saenchai instead throws a kick directly to the inner thigh and quickly follows up with another leg kick and then a kick to the body.
Basically, Saenchai likes to mix things up constantly. He changes levels with his kicks so his opponent never knows whether to cover high or low. Here he is demonstrating a low-to-high kick transition. He kicks his opponent a few times in the leg to lower their guard. Then, he throws what looks like a low kick, but it quickly changes to a head kick.
Saenchai shows off some of his footwork and kicking prowess. You’ll notice at the beginning he does another of his favorite tricky kickies. He does a slight hop and kicks the right leg of his partner and then immediately shifts weight to his right to throw a powerful rear left kick. He also does his famous “Saenchai shuffle” (shifts his feet around a few times before throwing a kick) a couple times before throwing his fake roundhouse kick to teep at the end.
This is an example of that kick at the beginning of the previous gif. Saenchai has his opponent backed up against the ropes and appears to be coming in for a low leg kick. All within the same motion, Saenchai immediately shifts his weight over and brings his left leg smashing into his opponent’s face which is left wide open.
This is Saenchai’s signature move. He will usually throw this at least once in a fight mainly because it has become a crowd pleaser and it’s awesome to see. But, he has landed it quite often and knocked out a few people with it.
Even sparring partners have suffered from the cartwheel kick. You can see Saenchai grab his opponent’s leg and pull it towards him as he goes down on one hand. As he brings his hand down, he begins shifting his bodyweight as if he is performing a cartwheel and brings his shin smashing into the face of his unfortunate sparring partner.
Here he is landing the cartwheel kick in a few of his fights. Sometimes he goes for the leg grab before the kick and other times he hops right in with it.
Muay Thai mainly focuses on kicking and landing knees or elbows in the clinch. Punches are practiced, but it is usually the basic combos (i.e. jabs and crosses) and are used to setup kicks. Saenchai is just as precise and deadly with his punches as he is with his kicks. He has a strong left straight punch and fantastic foot movement that allows him to get in and out before his opponent has time to react.
Muay Thai, as with any contact sport, is demanding and requires hours of training every day. Fighters will often train twice a day for 5-6 days a week. These training sessions will last several hours and can involve calisthenics, cardio, hitting the heavy bag, skipping rope, pad work, clinch work and sparring.
Saenchai has put in countless hours in the gym and it shows with his flawless technique and power. But, he, like anyone, likes to have fun from time to time.
Thanks for viewing!
Lawrence Kenshin Breakdowns (amazing channel): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sP1XLrWPTSU&t=164s and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e72Rs7Zf1rs&t=236s
Muscle Madness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeZXgnnF6GQ and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6LYV4T7tJU&t=109s
Sean Fagan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ui6Bqn3ZyIg&t=258s