So in another thread I posted about my second striking coach and how he used to tease me abut my "Thai March". Some people posted "How do Thai march?" Some I'm sure wondered what could possibly be wrong with the footwork of the WORLDS GREATEST STRIKING STYLE! So here is my anecdote.
Footwork: Like anything that has to be learned there is a way that beginners do things and a way that experts do things. In my experience trying to learn something the way an expert does it almost always leads you down the wrong road. The reason for this is that you must master the basics and know the rules of your craft before you can know when and how to break the rules. A great martial arts example is crossing your feet. If a newb crosses their feet in front of me I am going to dump them on their ass. When one of my coaches does it and still hits me it is because they knew when and how to break the rules.
So the basic footwork I learned was what I call the Thai march. It has a few basic rules. First of all you never cross your feet. You also want to keep both feet on parallel paths like you are walking along train tracks. Also you gotta stay on the balls of your feet and move in a slight bouncing rhythm. Listening to Thai music helps. Whenever we wanted to turn or switch forward legs we were supposed to plant a foot and block with the back leg then end with that leg in front.
This is a very basic Thai footwork it trains a lot of good habits. It is NOT however very mobile when compared with boxing footwork.
My first Muay Thai fight was with a guy form New York that had the same school of thought. March forward at all times. Engage in a clinch and knee each other to death. We had a great fight it was one of the most brutal of the tournament and maybe 10 punches were thrown. I lost but was proud of my performance.
My second fight didn't go so well. It was against a guy with a boxing and American rules kick boxing background. I marched across the ring in my usual style secured a clinch and kneed him hard until we both fell over and the ref stood us up. I knew I had hurt him because I heard him lose his air in the clinch. Unfortunately he was smart and had no intention of clinching with me again. He used very slick lateral footwork to keep my silly marching away from him. I chased him around the ring for three rounds being hit in the face constantly. I had no plan for fighting someone that didn't want to clinch with me. I didn't know how to cut off the ring because I expected everyone to be as aggressive as I am. I lost he decision badly. I had a few people that night tell me that in Thailand I would have won because his evasion looked cowardly. Unfortunately I was in America and he hit me in the face 114 times...
So the monday after that fight Richard told me that my Thai Marching is not got to work against guys that don't want to march right into me. Maybe I should also learn how to bob and weave because getting hit in the face over and over again doesn't look good to the judges no matter how hard your head is.
He put me in the ring and taught me how to move left and right and forward and back in a different stance. A boxing stance: I kept my front foot almost flat and my back heel way up almost on my toes. Always move the foot that is closest to the direction you want to go first. Don't be afraid to take big sliding steps and lower your weight in general. So I would move back and forth in every direction for several rounds at the end of every class. Then he added a rope diagonally across the ring I had to keep moving every direction on the compass and be able to bob under the rope and move along its length.
Finally the next part of using this footwork is learning how to cut off the ring and control a retreating opponent. This is done with a belly pad and focus mitts. Then you get to chase and hit a guy with much better footwork than you. :)
Finally I get to put this all together. I know 2 interesting kinds of footwork and I know when to use them. I still tend to get on my toes and "march" when I want to clinch but otherwise my weight is much lower and my front foot is a little more planted. The neat thing is when you know the basics of different kinds of footwork you can choose when to use them and what favors you and the opponent you are fighting.
That is when you can make it your own footwork and see when breaking the rules works for you.