Private with Karuhat Sor. Supawan – Be Like Sand | Preview
above is about 7 minutes of 60+ minutes with Karuhat Sor. Supawan, legendary terror of the Golden Age at Lumpinee – you can see the full hour, as well as get immediate access to over 6 hours of training with Legends by supporting the documentary Muay Thai Library.
If you are already a patron you can watch the whole hour with Karuhat here
Two things included in the video above:
Parrying the Teep
The GIF above is a bit of the overall technique he was teaching me, which involves a light catch and parry of the teep with your lead hand, including a pull or draw back. The reason I chose this particular moment is just how incredibly relaxed he is in the movement, and to show how the pull really is guiding the fighter downward (not jerking backwards, something your opponent will resist) almost to where she would go on her own. But he guides the opponent into a very vulnerable position. From this pulled position he has a throw he does over his own lead leg. But he also teaches that the same parry, if done to the opposite leg teep from your opponent, will leave your opponent wide open for a right hand attack, as they are guided squarely forward. So basically you parry any teep exactly the same way, but your counter changes based on which leg your opponent is teeping with.
This is simply one of my favorite moments in all of my moments of training in Thailand. It isn’t just the little trick by which he spins me down. It’s everything that is implied by it. The technique I described above, regarding catching the teep, pulling it toward you and then turning your opponent over your own lead leg is something that Karuhat taught me last time we worked together. I loved it, I trained it, and about a minute before this GIF shows I had used this against the man who taught me. Student throws the teacher with the move he taught her. When he went to the ground, I said proudly, “Technique Karuhat,” giving recognition to the fact that he taught me, but also gloating a little because that’s part of the move. Karuhat is one of the cockiest fighters ever – in only the best way – you have to exult. So he bides his time for a minute before luring me into a block, which he uses to pull my lifted leg out and flip me to the floor. As he walks toward the camera in the GIF he gives a thumbs-up and repeats my phrase, “Technique Karuhat.” What a fucking stud. I can’t. He then showed me how to do it because he’s an actual teacher, not a walking Ego: you kick once to allow the opponent to block, then you kick again but kind of a fake kick because when they check it, you hook your foot behind their calf and pull across their body. Notice, like with the teep draw down, his foot also has a slight downward trajectory, inviting the natural inclination to fall. They’re on one leg and being pulled, so down they go, as I do falling on my ass in the GIF above. The strut as you walk away is part of the move… don’t forget that part…pure Karuhat.
This is what I wrote for my Patreon Supporters about the full length video:
This is a private with Karuhat Sor. Supawan. I should say right now: he is my all-time favorite fighter and actually I want to be him, so badly. Some of what we’re working on here is an evolution off of things we worked on in another session, some of it is more thematic and strategic. The session because it’s about esential movements, rhythms and a fighting ethic, is a little bit complex and may be a difficult (it may take several viewings)- there are parts in it that I am just starting to uncover, even having been there. Believe me though, this is fighter’s gold, things way beyond which combos to use, or how to do a particular technique. And, it is insight into the very fabric of a style, the style of Karuhat, who was incredibly dominant in the ring when Muay Thai was at its peak in the 90s, often fighting over his weight for want of opponents. They nicknamed him Yod Sihan (ยอดเซียน), which means “Top” or “Ultimate” Master which has connotations towards gambling/card playing, like an unbeatable card-shark. Maybe Master Gambler, the one that beats the odds through mastery and skill. It could be translated to mean, simply “The Best”.
My favorite thing, or the most profound thing, that Karuhat expressed to me in this session is something to the extent of Bruce Lee’s “be like water.” But better, becasue it’s Karuhat and it’s not water, it’s sand. He never actually said this, it’s what I came up with to describe what it feels like to be pushing against him after a moment of mutual tension, and he just kind of barely melts away from it and makes you stumble. It’s like trying to run up a sandhill and you can’t get solid footing; it’s exhausting. Bruce Lee’s quote is about flow, the path of least resistance. Karuhat’s ethic about sand – or my framing it as sand – is about being solid and malleable at the same time, about strength without tension. In one part, Karuhat has me punch his chest and he just collapses an inch or so away from my fist. I fall forward, because that step I was expecting to land on wasn’t there, or was an inch too far and that makes you stumble. Like sand. But because I’m falling forward, when he throws his strike I fall into it, or he touches your limb and pulls just slightly and you’re sprawling as you fall. I’ve done all the work and receive all the off-balancing and damage. In many ways this session is an elboration on or advanced variation of the session with Hippy Singmanee, who guided me towards shifts in relaxation and explosion.
Another aspect in his fight ethic, which again wasn’t ever expressed in words as an explanation but was evident as all could be to me, was how Karuhat uses small strikes and this “melting” away from strikes as a means to create tension in his opponent. In the same way that many fighters know that by tiring out their opponent, by making her miss or by simply grinding through the earlier rounds so that she’s fatigued by the later rounds, you have a much easier target in a tired opponent – they slow down, they lose power, they become more predictable – Karuhat does that with tension, rather than fatigue. A tense opponent is easier to read. A tense opponent has fewer options at any given moment, so is more predictable. He creates tension through frustration, through these little shifts of the sand under foot so that they lose balance (lack of balance is tension), or with how he’ll sting with a quick punch or teep or a fake to make his opponent jerk into a block (like a flinch)… all of that is creating tension. All of that makes it easier for Karuhat. It’s fucking brilliant.
I don’t know what it is or why it is, but some fighters or teachers just inspire more than others. It was the same for me in school, regardless of the subject, there are just some teachers who change your life. Karuhat is like that for me in that I love his fighting style so much, but even though I don’t necessarily see an inherent similarity in our styles, I do recognize something in his ethic that speaks to me and has awakened ghosts in my limbs. I geeked out watching this private session and I learned things in rewatching it that hadn’t occurred to me during the time I was right there in front of him. There’s a concept of anamnesis, which isn’t quite the same as learning something, it’s literally the “loss of forgetfulness.” Like remembering a primary truth you didn’t know you knew until it is suddenly revealed, like a hidden memory. That’s what it feels like for me with Karuhat. Not struggling to understand a technique, but carving away the struggle to reveal the natureof a technique.
If you are going to spend the time watching this session and you aren’t already familiar with Karuhat, I suggest you watch this very good 10 minute highlight edit of his fights (above) . It will give you a sense of the basic movement of sand that he is teaching here, the way retreat, angles, stalking, off-balances and explosion work together, to constantly threaten and erode an opponent. In this session he is breaking his music into notes, into phrasing. If you really want to dig in watch this Playlist of his fights .
There are not a lot of specific techniques in this session, but here are some of the things covered:
- Using a system of counter-resistance and then deflection to off-balance and land counter strikes.
- Parry on the teep, same direction regardless of leg, different counter strike depending on leg.
- Cutting off the ring and using the ropes, both offensively and defensively.
- Using tension in your opponent for your own counters and off-balancing
- Essential forward and backward footwork, mixed with side to side parries.
- Karuhat’s Walkaway Superman.
- Using the submarine right cross to shock, in combination with a long right kick.
The things taught are so subtle, so small – if you want a key, look at how small the movements Karuhat makes throughout this Patreon session – it will likely take several more sessions of progress to communicate them clearly. I will definitely try to get a few more sessions with him for my patrons.
Be Like Sand invokes one of my favorite scenes in film:
Thank you to everyone supporting my documentation project, making films like this possible.
The Growing Technique Library
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dieselnoi pt 2 – 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.
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.
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 the 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.