Sunday, February 13, 2011

Learn muay thai at home? Yeah, right.

I receive many emails from a lot of people from around the world who have the same problem - either they don't live anywhere near a gym, or local martial arts schools don't offer muay thai. In the face of this challenge, many turn to the Internet to learn from home.

I certainly sympathize with those of you who've reached out to me asking for advice on how you can train from home, however, I have a hard time subscribing to the theory that one can learn a martial art from a book or a video. It's pretty hard to find a video online that really breaks down the muay thai techniques for the purpose of actual instruction. I myself am guilty of throwing up videos in which I speak fast, I throw fast, and I don't lay out the mechanics of a given technique.

But recently, a YouTube subscriber of mine sent me a video of himself throwing shadow kicks that he had learned by watching my videos. And I was impressed. Maybe there is something to this whole idea of learning through video. Sure you don't get the feedback, and there is no way to tell what you're doing right and what you're doing wrong, but by allowing me to watch his technique, I was able to provide him with detailed critiques and tips to help him improve.

So with that in mind, let's try an experiment, shall we? I posted a video that covers the basic mechanics in the old style muay thai round kick. It lacks the cool sound effects, and bag bashing, and the graphics, but it has the meat and potatoes that go into successfully knowing this technique.

If you choose to try it out, here's a few other tips to consider:

1. Open up your hips by turning your heel inward.
2. The pivot is the most important part of the kick.
3. Go slowly, it's harder that way, but you'll build the muscle and you'll develop better habits than rushing.
4. Spin all the way through. Go with the momentum.
5. It's alright if you feel off balance, you're actually supposed to be off your center.


  1. Hi. This blog really caught my interest. A while back I became interested in Muay Thai. A gentleman at my gym had some training and got me interested. I spent some time researching the culture and the art form and it really interested me. I was already weight training at a local gymn but they offer no combat training. So I found an at home Muay Thai training course by Scott Sullivan of Bam Bam Martial Arts in Houston Texas. I ordered the first DVD set which has 6 DVDs, two online videos and an E-Book. I was apprehensive at first since I was of mind that one can't learn a Marital Art at home. I was pleasently surprised. Mr. Sullivan takes his time and explains everything in detail. He makes no claim that in 5 hours you can learn 5 years of material. The first online video is an intro video that explains what to expect. The second video is an hour long video explaining proper stretching. The first DVD talks only about proper stance and form. The following vidoes get into the drills and things we learn. I have been training for a few months and I am no where near perfect but I can say I have learned a few things. I am getting feedback from the gentlman at my gym who got me interested in this and one other person who has 10 years experience in TKD who is very popular on YouTube. I just wanted to share this to help anyone who finds themslves wanting to train but unable to find training at a gym. I hope this helps. If anyone has any questions, I can be found on YouTube. Thanks for your time.

  2. As a highly competitive BJJ purple belt, I will gladly say that you can pick up techniques from a book. The book that Saulo Ribeiro produced, or any of his instructional videos were incredibly helpful in refining my technique or learning to deal with a situation which I was not familiar with. This allowed me to visualize a response, and it has been shown visualization does have an affect on psychomotor skills. I believe practice, having live opponents and, Instructors are all vital parts.

    Keep on going, Great stuff!

  3. Hi Donnie,

    i always enjoy your articles and videos. You do excelent work man! Anyway, i want to ask you for a favor. Seeing your videos i realized how fast you are. Can you write an article on how to train for speed?

    Thanks in advance man. Keep up the good work.

  4. @Rick - Done and done. I did a write up on increasing your speed back in September. Here you go.

  5. Interesting blog. Especially since I'm one of those who learn to kick better from your earlier video. My background was in TKD and I'm training MMA right now in my gym. So I already kind of knew how to kick, but your video on drive kick took my kicks to a whole new level. Now I impress everyone in my gym with my kicks, and I can compete against higher levels when it comes to kicking. (by the way, thank you very much for helping me with my kicks)
    But since I'm posting anyway, let me through a question. I have been having trouble with side stepping and throwing a kick. I already identified the problem being the fact that I'm trying to kick like a drive kick, but I'm missing the forward momentum due to the fact that I'm side stepping. Is there a good solution for this? Thanks in advance, and once again that you for sharing your wealth of knowledge.

  6. 2 things, Jason - If you're stepping to the side while you kick you won't be able to generate forward momentum. Secondly, I'm willing to bet that you aren't leaning forward. I know your gym is probably teaching you to step out and then throw, but you won't be able to move in 2 directions at once.

    The step out is a tactical move to prevent any counter strike. Going all in and throwing with that forward drive is meant to destroy its target, and the risk of getting hit in the process is just a part of the deal.

  7. Actually I have been practicing the drive kick and side step kick as completely two different techniques. That's why I noticed that there was about 60% power to my side step as opposed to the drive kick. It's true that I do lean back when I side step, when I don't do that when I drive kick... (That's amazing that you knew that) I'll try to work on not leaning back for the side step when I'm in the gym on Monday. Thank you very much for the pointer. ^^

  8. Thanks for the clarification on the "lean" Donnie. The subtle weight shift to the front leg while still maintaining your center of gravity is a neat principle that I missed over the years. As always, great stuff, looking forward to more.

  9. They don't teach the forward lean with the kick at most sport gyms. You can't drive forward and kick to the head, so leaning back is part of the give and take with high kicks, you get the reach but sacrifice full power.

  10. Hi Donnie,

    Do you advocate spinning completely around if you miss if you engaged are in a street fight? I am hesitant to turn my back to my opponent.



  11. Actually, Marc, I do advocate spinning all the way through, if you throw a round kick (and miss) on the street. When you see guys in the ring/cage miss a kick and stop, notice how they expose their back, even for a second. In the street, that;s enough time for the other guy, or his friends to come at you. If/when you do throw the round kick in the street, make sure its low for 2 reasons: 1. a low kick keeps you at a closer range than a high kick, therefore your odds of miising decrease, and 2. if you do miss, go with the momentum and spin quickly. A swing and a miss in the street doesn't mean stop and think, it means that you have to recover as fast as possible in order to either cover your ass or throw another strike.

  12. Thanks for the explanation Donnie. This makes sense.


  13. Donnie, I just want to say thanks for the video. I'm on hiatus from training MT right now, but my roundhouse has ALWAYS been terrible. I've been training (roughly 1-3 times a week pending) for almost a year now, and I'll have amazing days where I feel I nail it and then days where I hit the pads and my instructor is like "the hell is that?"
    I have a tendency to "snap" the leg on impact. I get the "angle the foot out, take pressure off the kicking leg, swing -through- like a bat, use hips and the foot pivot to generate power, not the kicking leg...
    I shadow box and I lift my leg up and swing pretty well, nothing goes awkward.
    And that's all well and good till I have to actually HIT something, I don't know why but once my leg actually makes -impact- I snap that knee out and basically lose all the power I put into it. Since I'm on training hiatus (money sadly) I'm going to try that drill you have, in that it looks like It'll encourage me to swing through more openly, but if you have any advice to help me stop flaring my leg (on impact) that would be great.

  14. Donnie,
    I've just recently come across your stuff on youtube and now found your blog. This video especially caught my attention because kicking is where I've been wanting to make improvements, and I've been trying out the technique at home but when I twist on my side my knee and shin don't come up near high enough. I'm not ovely flexible and have been working on it but any tips on any stretches to increase flexibilty to raise that kick? Any advice would be great

    1. Try working on doing the splits (on your own)- just gradually work on getting a little lower everyday and in class, getting someone to lean gently on you when you do your warm down leg streches against the wall. That's what my teacher taught anyway and it worked for me, especially the splits - I'd never done them before in my life, worked on it and flexbility for my kicks dramatically improved. You just have to have patience with it.

  15. well i beg to differ the point .
    going all the way around on a missed kick .
    i have utilized the parking the kick concept if a kick misses its target entirly .
    park your leg and adjust your position and make a rekick with same leg, say heel kick on to the opponent ..

    grand master tong tought me that technique decades ago ..

  16. Hey Donnie,

    Just wanted to say a massive THANK YOU for posting your videos and keeping this site up. I've trained in muay thai for a few years and then went into western boxing. I'm going back into muay thai now and just want to get my technique back up to scratch (particularly kicking/elbows etc) so I don't look like a total noob in my first class back (I'm a girl and in pretty much all male classes you kind of feel you need to keep up with the guys). I love all your videos, they're so helpful and clear, you have an aweseome teaching style and I've got a lot from the few videos I've seen so far. The post where you said you weren't sure people would learn from the videos, and that you really need to get into a class to learn, I actually agree with. But for people who know the basics of muay thai and know what to look for and pay attention to in your videos, they're a god send and contain everything someone needs to polish up their skills in between classes.
    Thanks so much for taking the time to share your knowledge, it was EXACTLY what I was looking for and is greatly appreciated.

  17. Thanks so much Camilla. I really appreciate the feedback, now stop making me blush!

    I'm glad to see that you're getting back into muay thai. Good luck, and always feel free to reach out if you ever have any questions!

  18. hi... I'm a 13 year old girl (14 in 2 months) after watching your video in detail it came to m attention that clearly this would take a large amount of time and practice to master. could you please tell me an average time of how long it would take someone to learn this? i know all people are different and learn differently but if you have an average please tell me.

  19. My example is that I study TKD at a local rec center with my children. Its 3 blocks from my house, a great group of people, and cheap. I only started taking the class because I wanted to share it with my children. Now I thoroughly enjoy it, and its great exercise, etc. However, I would much preferred to study Muay Thai than TKD, its just not available to me. So... I study TKD in class, and Muay Thai online. My online MT studies have *greatly* improved my TKD sparring, even if my technique is not pure TKD when I am doing it. I get a small amount of technical criticism... but its an easy trade for the greatly improved performance in sparring and tournaments. Thank you for your interesting blog.