MT Dtae and the Art of Baseball – Part One
Although there already has been a thread posted about the muay thai roundhouse kick (Dtae), I’d like to approach this from a different viewpoint that has helped improve my kicking power and technique. **Warning, this is more of a mindset as opposed to a this is the only way methodology**. Feel free to disagree to your hearts content and be advised this isn’t so much of a how too as much as it is a how to help improve.
It was once explained to me that a muay thai dtae could be thought of in terms of baseball to help one improve their technique and power. Let me explain…
Tools of the trade:
In baseball the batter employs what is referred to as the bat. The bat can be thought of as an extension of the batter that is utilized to strike the ball ideally as hard and as far as possible. To generate power the batter will swing the bat in conjunction with a twisting of the torso and pivoting of the feet. The swing of the bat does not stop at the point of impact but rather follows through to the end of its natural arc as to avoid the loss of power that correct body mechanics has provided.
Likewise the muay thai kicker will employ his leg as an extension of his body in such a manner to transfer as much power as possible into his opponent’s body. Like swinging a bat the kicker employs the twisting of the torso and the pivoting of the feet to allow for maximum momentum. The kicker also follows through with his kicks so as not to cause a loss of power when striking the target. This is sometimes expressed as sinking in the kick.
The Dtae is to MT as the Home Run is to Baseball:
When you go for a home run the goal of the swing is too hit the ball with a combination of technique and power so as to hit the ball clear out of the field. The proper mechanics of this swing include hitting the ball at the proper time with the proper part of the bat in conjunction with your body mechanics. Many factors make up a solid hit. Let’s break them down into items that can be concentrated on separately.
Stepping In – Many baseball players will take a small step towards the ball when swinging to help generate power from a stationary position. Kicking is much the same way in that many people will take a small step to help initiate movement. This small step just like in baseball should be just that. Small. Taking to large a step can sometimes screw up your base robbing power but more importantly is also a form of telegraphing.
Let’s note however that when kicking with the lead leg the kicker must typically employ what is sometimes referred to as a switch step. Many people do a large movement or a hop that effectively switches your stance giving you the ability to deliver a strong solid kick. This large switch however is often not necessary and just like previously mentioned lends itself even more to telegraphing. Try practicing a quick shuffle movement where your lead foot slides back slightly as you rear foot slides forward slightly. This should by no means look like a typical stance but rather far from it. What this does do however is change the position of your torso and lower body to provide an extremely powerful kick. Just with slight foot movements my lead kick is just as powerful as my rear kick.
Note on big steps and big switch steps. These as mentioned are a good way to let your opponent know what you are doing. I will look for these cues and exploit them with a counter kick to the inside of the grounded leg. Look here for an explanation.
The Twist – A batter will twist their torso so as to allow a full range of motion and follow through. Just like a batter the kicker should also utilize a twisting motion to help generate power. However in this case the kicker is turning their hips over. This is critical to understand and failure to turn over the hips is what separates different types of round kicks. A great drill to practice is too place your shin on a heavy bag or on a corner/object in your house. Your leg should be parallel to the floor and your hipbone should be pointed at the sky. You should be able to balance here without difficulty. Burn this feeling in your mind. This is how you want to feel when you are kicking. The drill actually includes pushing off with that leg after holding it there for a few seconds and returning it as quickly as possible to the ground in a typical stance.
Foot Pivot – Foot pivot goes hand in hand with the twisting of the torso. Batters will allow their feet to pivot so that their torso is not restricted in movement. (Much like golfing). You cannot effectively utilize your torso and hips without letting your grounded foot pivot. Lets use the above drill again. Keep your grounded foot straight and put your shin parallel to the floor on a bag or on an object/corner. This is difficult. Now allow your foot to pivot and hold your kick there. Better? This also should be burned in your mind. The hips tuning over and the pivot of the grounded foot go hand in hand. Think of it this way. If you opponent is at 12 o’clock than your grounded foot at the moment of impact should be pointed between 7 and 8 o’clock.
MT Dtae and the Art of Baseball – Part Two
The Dtae is to MT as the Home Run is to Baseball (Continued):
The target and follow through – As previously mentioned follow through is a very important concept that helps to separate a home run swing from a bunt. Think of the bunt as a snap kick and the muay thai round kick (Dtae) as a home run swing. Which has more power? Which will hit the ball the farthest? Which would hurt like a Beootch if you got hit with a bat? (They probably both would hurt but the latter would break bones more so than the former). This kick should be the same way. Baseball players say the best spot to hit the ball is 90 degrees perpendicular to their body*. (Which puts the ball at 12 o’clock to them). When fighting you tend to keep your opponent directly in front of you in the 12 o’clock position.
One common flaw though is to aim at that person in the 12 o’clock position with your kick. Why? Follow through. You sub-consciously kick at your target in front of you and believe it or not can be prone to reduce your own power as you have “reached your target”. Try thinking this way. Imagine your target is actually to the left for example of where they actually are when using a rear kick in a typical stance. You want to use all your power and really hit that person as hard as possible. What in effect happens is you hit your real opponent on the way to your imaginary opponent who absorbs the brunt of your impact. You have not slowed down or “pulled” your kick because theoretically you are not yet at the target.
Look at this diagrams below. The first is a baseball player at home plate**. He wants to hit the ball at 12 o’clock but swings as if to hit it at between 11:00 and 11:45. The red zones would be no good as either he hadn’t yet reached full power or he has gone beyond the point of maximum power.
Now look at the next diagram. The red figure is your actual opponent and the overlapped white figure just to the left is your target. Again the red zones are not where you want to aim. You want to aim as if to hit the white figure, but the actual opponent stops you. He takes all the force and nothing is pulled. Try thinking about this.
Also try to add the feeling that you are sinking your leg into your opponent. Don’t hit them and retract right away but really sink it into their body. Remember, the hit and retract is a bunt. A common baseball saying is to not stop the swing when the bat hits the ball.
* Where you want to hit the ball is open for debate to a slight degree depending upon many factors including where you wish to put the ball etc.
** This is used to help visualize only. I’m not sure baseball players would actually do this. Could be wrong.
MT Dtae and the Art of Baseball – Part Three
Batting Practice and the Art of Kicking:
Batting cages – Now you are at the batting cages. You want to utilize your skills but the balls come fast and furious. After you hit the ball and follow through you quickly get back into position. The same can be said about the Dtae. You want top hit your opponent, sink the kick but then pull it back as quick as possible after the transference of power so that you can move, punch or kick again etc. Many times I will see people kick and slowly bring their legs back to position. This is not good. You want to retract it as soon as possible. Let’s look to the same simple drill we used for hip and foot placement. Put your shin on the heavy bag, corner or object. Hold it making sure your hips are turned over, your foot is correctly pivoted and then push off pulling your leg back into your fighting stance as quickly as possible. Use this in conjunction with sinking the kick in your mind. Use your opponent to take all that impact and then to help you go back the other direction to your stance.
Things to remember: I like to break down my kicks to work on simple aspects of them. Why? Kicks are simple right? Actually they can be quit complex. Think about these items and kick ten times with just one in mind. Or work on one every day.
Are my hips turned over?
Is my foot pivoting?
Am I sinking the kick and following through?
Am I returning to my stance quickly?
Am I stepping to far on my rear kick?
Am I switching too much on my lead kick?
Am I kicking with my foot, ankle or my shins?
Do I telegraph my intentions with my step?
Do I telegraph my intentions with my body language prior to a kick?
Extra quick tips:
Your eyes can give you away. Look at their leg and kick their leg. Look at their leg again and kick their leg. Look at their leg a third time and kick them in the head as they defend the leg kick they know is coming.
Use unorthodox combos such as left jab and immediate lead kick. Right cross and rear kick. Why? You are “not in the correct position” for these and many people don’t train this way surprisingly. Actually however although not cocked you can still deliver a wallop.
Train kicking without wrestling shoes if you typically wear them. Why? You will subconsciously use your ankle or foot as your delivery vehicle as it doesn’t hurt like hitting your shins does. Don’t believe me shoe peeps? Take off your shoes and kick. Feel that slapping on your foot that hurts like a bitch. Now use your shins damnit! That’ll hurt too but get used to it. (This is very common with people who learn to kick from day one with shoes – i.e. MMA types.)
Dropping the hand – Can provide extra power but you can get hit. Your preference or that of your coach. Debate that amongst yourselves. I keep mine up but do feel I lose power because of it. Sometimes I keep it down for added power.
Last thought. This is just a way of thinking about the Dtae kick in muay thai as previously mentioned. Equating it to baseball is how I can easily explain to people the difference of a bunt or a grand slam. Take what you will, leave the rest or call BS on me. Thinking of geometry in terms of billiards helped me school. This is the same.