Kem Sitsongpeenong – Building a System | Patreon Preview
Kem’s gym in the Khao Yai mountains of Khorat is just an incredible place. It’s beautiful, it feels remote and like the “middle of nowhere” locations for training montages in movies like “Kickboxer” or old Kung Fu movies. And Kem himself is this very stoic, very keen-eyed trainer who watches closely and makes super fine-tuned and detailed corrections to technique. For this reason, he’s great for beginners and experienced fighters alike. I like Kem very much and was fortunate enough to have him corner for me at a fight in Khorat, just out of sheer luck. He had a fighter on the card and we’d met before at his gym (although he hadn’t trained me yet at this point, I was doing privates with Yodwicha, who trains at his camp and is one of the great contemporary knee fighters), so just because he’s awesome and I travel without a corner, Kem and Kru Dam (holding for me in this video) jumped in to help in my corner. They both have an incredible, calm and encouraging energy both in the corner for fights and right here in their gym.
above, a 6 minute preview of the near hour we filmed together for my patrons. See the whole session here, along with 10+ hours of training with other legends…suggested pledge $5.
In my private session Kem and Kru Dam worked together in the instruction, so Kru Dam held the pads and Kem watched and offered the instruction. Kem worked me through pads in a systematic procession that started out with “everything,” as he put it (meaning any strike) and then narrowed down to just knees and elbows. This video starts out with the last round of “everything,” where Kem had instructed me to use more teeps to save energy. Later in fights, when you’re tired and your opponent is tired, using teeps in order to keep moving and controlling the fight while getting active rest is a really useful tactic. So that’s what I’m talking about in the voice over. He also shows me a somewhat signature move where you fake a teep and then throw a short, upward elbow instead. Your opponent is coming forward (don’t throw this when you’re the one advancing) and will likely try to blast through the teep, assuming you’ve thrown non-faked teeps throughout the round already. So they basically crash right into the elbow.
After that last round of “everything,” Kem runs me through a whole round of pushing on Kru Dam’s shoulders and kneeing. It takes me a while to get the rhythm and I actually have to slow it down to get the right power, which is the point of the exercise. It builds your endurance but it also makes each of the knees you throw more consistently powerful. There’s a trick to locking on the shoulders, which is hard for me because of my personal space issues, but you need to open your hand in the glove and put the heels of your palms on the front of your padman’s shoulders, keep your arms out straight so you’re pushing him back and then rock your hips on each knee (Kru Dam corrects this) for the best impact.
There’s a lot of instruction and correction in this short video, although some of it is very subtle. Kem’s technique is just unbelievably pristine and accurate, so his minute corrections are a shaving away of excess movement and maximizing speed and power. What I love so much about my private with Kem is that it has the kind of instruction and technical instruction that allows fighters and students of Muay Thai to pick up technique and skills, but it also has a great deal of very good technique for instructors of Muay Thai. If you’re a teacher, coach, instructor, “Kru,” – whatever you refer to yourself as – this video has loads of information and instruction on how to instruct, both in actual drills and programs, as well as the details around how to do those practices.
This is an excerpt from my Kem Patreon post:
His first exercise was to have me hold weights, not super heavy, maybe 1 kg, in each hand and march back and forth just throwing a jab and cross. The thing to focus on was popping from the shoulders, so you’re not using your arms but actually trying to burn your arms out pretty fast and then just use the technique, shifting your weight and hips, popping your shoulders, to keep the punches going. It’s so hard. No arm punches. I struggled with my jab more than the cross, I think because my left foot doesn’t step properly to allow my hip and shoulder to engage and I ended up trying to carry the weight – albeit a small weight – with the strength of my arm. It’s only 1 kg, but damnit, that gets heavy fast. It was actually at the very end of the drill that my form got better, when I was the most fatigued. What does that teach you?
He then watched my shadowboxing to get a better assessment of my patterns, balance, technique, diagnose weaknesses, etc. He’s in the “lean back” school of thought regarding knees, as oppose to Yodwicha (at Kem’s camp), Dieselnoi, and Yodkhunpon who all insist on not leaning back on knees. Once we got to padwork, he had Kru Dam (still an active fighter under the name Phetdam) hold for me while he watched and taught. This is a classic Arjan style way of instructing. Hippy and Sangtiennoi both did this as well when I filmed them. Kem broke down each round into a particular category, so starting out with “everything,” then narrowing down to rounds that were just elbows or just knees. This was, again, a brilliant way to structure training for technique because as a fight goes on and you get tired, simplifying and using more teeps to keep distance so you can breathe is your best bet for a nice-looking finish.
- corrected my weight distribution so that I was on my toes more, which he says makes all your movements faster and more powerful.
- He tried to get me to grab across my body on long knees (grabbing your opponent’s neck with the same side as the knee you’re throwing, but across your body) so that you control your opponent but also have a built-in guard.
- He emphasized the importance of the off-hand on kicks being relaxed so you can whip it for torque and power.
- In later rounds he wants me to teep a lot more, rather than just rushing into the clinch (which he corrected Yodwicha away from when he started fighting on an international stage, where clinch is often not permitted or is limited)
- Taught me a teep, fake the teep and then throw an upward elbow move that he really worked with me on a lot. It’s really good for forward-fighting, aggressive opponents.
- In clinch he really insisted on bringing the leg back when turning, not only so you use less energy to turn but also so you can throw a powerful knee straight off the turn. He also instructed a “push” with the forearm behind the neck rather than the classic pull that everyone in the west learns.
- How to move backwards and still be able to strike.
Watch the full session with commentary here with a suggested pledge of $5 to keep the documentary going. A Library of Sessions with Legends. Watch the highlight of my Sessions with Legends Project:
If you are interested in joining the Muay Thai Library filled with long form videos with legends, you can do so for a suggested pledge of $5. You get immediate access to the entire collection which is currently over 10 hours worth of video. New video is added more than once a month. See below what is there:
The Growing Technique Library
Next Up: Yodkhunpon “The Elbow Hunter” pt 2… (late April)
#13 Kem Sitsongpeenong – Building a System (52 min) watch it here
Kem, one of the best fighters of his generation, shows me building blocks of his system. He teaching a firm, defensive frame, and especially likes an upward elbow that explodes out of blocks, checks and fake teeps.
Andy is absolutely unique in the lore of Thailand Muay Thai. An instructor for more than 2 decades, a mentor to so many, he innovatively teaches a Muay Thai emphasizing symmetry, strength, balance and explosiveness, expanding what the body can do under duress, holding pads like no others do.
#11 Karuhat Sor. Supawan Session 2 – Float and Shock (82 min) watch it here
In this session one of the greatest fighters who ever lived really digs into what must lie beneath techniques, a general state of relaxation and rhythm, the thing that made him one of the most dynamic fighters Lumpinee has ever seen.
#10 The Clinch Techniques of Yodwicha – Session 2 (34 min) watch it here
This is my second session with Yodwicha, you can see the first further down below. This one really gets into the specifics of clinch technique and defense. One of the best clinch fighters in Thailand, co-Fighter of the Year, sharing his unique attack style.
#9 Yodkhunpon “The Elbow Hunter” pt 1 – Slicing Elbow (37 min) watch it here
Simultaneous Raja and Luminee title holder at 118 lbs, Yodkhunpon was one of the most feared elbow fighters in Thailand, and in this session he teaches the looseness and spacing that made his lead elbow such a viscious weapon. He also shuns the traditional rocking chair knee, and instead teaches a powerful stand-in crossing, open-hipped knee that compliments his elbows up top.
#8 Sangtiennoi Sor Rungroj – Advanced Clinch (52 min) watch it here
The Golden Age Lumpinee and Rajadamnern Champion, a legendary Muay Khao fighter who fought all the greats instructs on the finer points of clinch technique. Small differences that make big differences. Advanced tips on the swim-in and turn, and the importance of going from long distance techniques to short distance grab and lock.
#7 Karuhat Sor. Supawan – Be Like Sand (62 min) watch it here
2x Golden Age Lumpinee Champion (112 lb and 122 lbs), Karuhat is considered elite among the elites. Mixing an explosive style with constant off-balances, angling, and melting aways, he was nicknamed the Ultimate Wizard. I can only describe the things he’s teaching here as: Be like sand. This is very subtle, advanced stuff, far above combo techniques or specific defenses. It may take a few viewings to absorb what he is teaching. Everytime I watch this I learn something new.
#6 Namkabuan Nongkipahuyut – Explosive Attack (28 min) watch it here
266 wins, 15 losses, 2 draws. Namkabuan may be the best fighter I’ve ever seen, and it was an intense privledge to train with him. I can honestly say that it changed me as a fighter, inspiring to become more. He combines Muay Khao fighting with technical precision and explosive energy. The knee he teaches in this session is really like no other I’ve seen, like it is shot out of a cannon.
#5 Hippy Singmanee – Developing Power (69 min) – watch it here
Two-time Lumpinee champion Golden Age legend Hippy Singmanee takes me though one of the most unique and valuable hours I’ve spent with a top trainer. He is building ground up how power and relaxation are related to each other. This session has been highly influential upon my own training. Learn how spacing+timing+relaxation produces dynamic power.
#4 Yodwicha – Clinch and Muay Khao (Knee) Specialist (35 min) – watch it here
Yodwich shared the Fighter of the Year award as only a 16 year old, and his success in the Lumpinee ring made him one of the most feared clinch fighters in Thailand. In this session he goes through his favorite Muay Khao techniques, shows why he prefers side-attack locks, and turns.
#3 Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn – The King of Knees (54 min) – watch it here
Dieselnoi is the greatest knee fighter who ever lived, and it just wasn’t because of his height. Spending this hour with him lets you feel how much love and energy he pours into his Muay Thai, even at this age, the real secret to what make him dominant in the Golden Age of the sport. There is nobody like Dieselnoi. Nobody.
#2 Joe Hongthong – Developing Muay Khao Style (87 min) – watch it here
This is nearly an hour and a half of straight on Muay Khao instruction. Joe was a top stadium fighter and he’s watched me fight for several years, so this is Advanced Level tweaking, as he teaches how to bring elbows and knees together, discussing the ways that dragging back can work for a forward fighter, and the differences with more technical (femur) approaches. Muay Khao is a technique unto itself.
#1 Pi Earn – Head Trainer of PTT Petchrungruang (34 min) – watch it here
PTT is the rising star of my gym Petchrungruang. He was so sought after he turned down title fights at Lumpinee and Rajadamnern and instead signed with Thai Fight where promoters feel he’s going to become an International star. Pi Earn has been a trainer who has sculpted PTT’s methodical Muay Khao fighting style, and in this session he starts right away making the tiny changes in my technique that are necessary for the strong, forward fighting approach that he favors.