In the Book of Five Rings, Miyamoto Musashi sets forth three methods to preempt your opponent’s attacks and gain the upper hand. “The first is to forestall him by attacking. This is called Ken No Sen (to set him up). Another method is to forestall him as he attacks. This is called Tai No Sen (to wait for the initiative). The other method is when you and the enemy attack together. This is called Tai Tai No Sen (to accompany him and forestall him)…”
Musashi states that the method you use will depend on your assessment of your opponent and his strategy. “You must make the best of the situation, see through the enemy’s spirit so that you grasp his strategy and defeat him…. In these three ways of forestalling, you must judge the situation. This does not mean that you always attack first; but if the enemy attacks first you can lead him around…”
In an earlier article, we explored 2013 and 2014 fighter of the year Panpayak Jitmuangnon’s successful out fighting tactics. Namely, his ability to manage distance, land hard round kicks and defend / escape caught kicks. In this article, we will see how Panpayak is able to get the better of his opponent whether he advances, retreats or fights toe to toe.
Attacking while Advancing
“Ken No Sen – …advance with as strong a spirit as possible, and when you reach the enemy move with your feet a little quicker than normal, unsettling him and overwhelming him sharply…” – Miyamoto Musashi, Book of Five Rings.
One definitive advantage of attacking while advancing is that you are able to harness forward momentum into your strikes. A rapid advance not only increases weight transfer in your attacks, it usually causes your opponent to retreat. Without the opportunity to plant their feet and shift momentum, it is more difficult for your opponent to hit you with meaningful strikes. So long as you are able keep your opponent defensively focused, quickly advancing can also make it less risky for you to open up offensively.
Panpayak generally lands a higher percentage of kicks when he steps them up with his hands. He often starts his assault with a few light punches before throwing the powerful rear round kick. Punches provide “covering fire” putting his opponent in a defensive mindset, prompting them to retreat, and making it difficult for them to attack as he advances.
Panpayak will occasionally break this pattern and use his kicks to set up his punches. One of his signature combinations is the rear round kick to a lunging cross.
Jab, Round Kick
One simple and effective set up for the round kick is the jab. It forces Panpayak’s opponent to close the guard, obstructing their vision and drawing their attention away from the kick.
Jab, Hook, Round Kick
When Panpayak wants to penetrate deeper, he uses a longer combination of punches. Here, he uses both the jab and the hook. Edging forward with each punch gives him more forward momentum to throw the kick and makes it more difficult for his opponent to fade away.
If you can get your opponent to move backwards, he is usually in a less favorable position to counter. Here, Luknimit manages to throw a left round kick as he’s backing up but Panpayak also makes first contact with his kick. Even though Luknimit’s shin grazes Panpayak, the kick doesn’t have any force. Luknimit doesn’t get a chance to plant his feet and shift weight forward while he’s retreating and he’s also knocked off balance by Panpayak’s kick.
Skip, Jab, Roundkick
Here, Panpayak uses a skip step get closer into range before delivering the jab and round kick.
Even though Trakunpet expects the kick and attempts to retreat, he is unable to get of range because of Panpayak’s penetration.
Uppercut, Hook, Cross, Head Kick
Here, Panpayak first delivers a uppercut, hook, left straight combination. Trakunpet defends and backs away. He mistakenly thinks he is safely out of range and drops his guard. The rangy Panpayak throws a head kick and catches him right on the jaw for the knock out.
Trakunpet only expects a boxing attack. He mistakenly thinks he is safe once out of range of Panpayak’s punches. With his back already against the ropes, Trakunpet circles to his right to get away. However, his just puts him deeper into the power arc of Panpayak’s kick.
After the punch combination, a further forward advance by Panpayak would indicate a follow up attack. So instead of pursuing Trakunpet, Panpayak makes a couple of adjustments to his round kick technique to extend his reach. He uses a bit more foot rotation and opens the his hip more for more range. Instead of keeping his usual upright posture, he leans his upper body back slightly to allow him to bring his leg up higher to target the head..
Teep, Round Kick
Another classic set up for the round kick is the front teep. You can handily disguise the footwork of the round kick in the teep. After finishing the lead teep, instead of returning your lead foot its starting position, place your left foot on the a slight outside angle. Shift your weight forward onto the lead foot and deliver the rear round kick.
Even though Panpayak misses Prajanchai’s thigh with the push kick here, the teep disguises the footwork for the round kick, allowing him to attack with minimal telegraph.
Stutter Step, Roundkick
As Panpanyak edges forward, the wily Sam-A raises his right knee shield, anticipating Papanyak’s rear round kick. Instead of fruitlessly kicking Sam-A’s shin, Panpayak takes a couple stutter steps towards him. This puts him in a position where he can more easily land a kick above Sam-A’s knee shield. He waits for Sam-A’s knee to dip before firing off the kick and catches Sam-A in the stomach.
Also note that Panpayak doesn’t approach directly but circles ever so slightly to his right. This makes it more difficult for Sam-A to land a front teep with his raised right leg.
Rear Round Kick, Lunging Right Cross
One of Panpayak’s favorite follow up attacks to the rear round kick is a lunging left cross. This is a highly effective pairing as the opponent rarely expects a cross to come this quickly after the kick. Panpayak’s body kick draws his opponents attention downward. This often causes them to lowering their guard, opening their face to the cross.
Panpayak will even add another round kick after the lunging cross on occasion.
Here is an example of Pakorn successfully landing this combination on Liam Harrison from an orthodox stance.
Mechanically, this lunging cross is quite similar to a superman punch. Much of the power for a regular cross is generated by pushing off the back foot. Power for this lunging cross is generated by kicking the rear leg backwards while it’s still in the air and hurling the torso forward.
To maximize the speed and power of the lunging cross, do not commit too much weight and power to the round kick. A light kick will more easily allow you to pull your leg back and propel your upper body forward.
A commonality amongst all of Panpayak’s forward attacks is the speed and ferocity of his attacks. His commitment to the assault well embodies Musashi’s concept of Ken No Sen.
Attacking while Retreating
“Tai No Sen – When the enemy attacks, remain undisturbed but feign weakness. As the enemy reaches you, suddenly move away indicating that you intend to jump aside, then dash in attacking strongly as soon as you see the enemy relax…” – Miyamoto Musashi, Book of Five Rings.
Fighters who do not practice attacking while retreating tend to do poorly against aggressive fighters who like to pressure and blitz. If you are unable to attack off the back foot, your opponent can nullify much of your offense by simply swarming and charging you.
As alluded to above, there are some inherent disadvantages to attacking while retreating. If you are in a reactive mode, you cede control the range and pace of the fight. With momentum against you, you need a little time and space initiate effective attacks. You will need to plant your feet for linear attacks (e.g. cross, teep) and pivot for circular attacks (e.g. check hook).
An advantage to attacking while retreating is that your opponent’s forward momentum will amplify the force of your strikes. Thus, speed and placement are of the essence, and power is secondary.
To successfully attack while retreating, you need to have a good read of your opponent’s tendencies to time him accurately. Correctly anticipating your opponent’s attack will allow you to preempt it with your own. Some things to look out for include cues for when they advance, how quickly they come forward, weight distribution, when they attack, and if they over commit.
While retreating, Panpayak never succumbs to pressure and calmly plans ways to punish his advancing opponent. He is able to land some of his best round kicks while moving back against the ropes. His advancing opponent is usually pretty heavy on their front leg. This makes it more difficult for them to block kicks.
Panpayak is also quite adept loading his weight on his rear foot by lowering his hips while backing up. This allows him explode forward into a rear round kick at the opportune moment. He also likes to time his kicks to match his opponent’s punches, catching them at the moment they expose their ribs.
Hit and Run
A feigned retreated is a time tested military tactic made famous by the mongols. Panpayak also likes to bait his opponents forward, ambush them with a round kick and back away before they can counter. When Panpayak chooses to retreat on his on accord, him has more control over the time and place of the attack than if he were simply reacting to his opponent advance.
Here, Panpayak voluntarily retreats as Prajanchai advances. Panpayak suddenly plants his feet and steps forward with a hard body kick to his opponent’s ribs. Panpayak smartly backs away from Prajanchai before he can respond with a right straight. This hit and run tactic requires good footwork, distance and timing.
Kick and Clinch
As Lukminit surges forward, Panpayak plants his feet, pushes off the back foot and delivers a snappy round kick to his opponent’s exposed ribs. Panpayak keeps a high guard and ties up Lukminit’s arms before he can land the right hook. This is a nice sneaky kick that can make your opponent more hesitant to rush forward later in the fight.
You may also notice that Panpayak lifts his right knee as Luknimit comes forward. By doing this, he creates a barrier while also threatening with front teep. This causes Luknimit to hesitate every so slightly, giving Panpayak a precious moment to prepare his attack. Panpayak also generates a little momentum by stepping forward on his right foot after lowering the knee shield.
As Sam-A shuffles forward to deliver a one two, Panpayak explodes forward with a round kick that catches his opponent on the arms. The force of the kick is enough to knock Sam-A’s cross off course.
Even though he’s backing up, Panpayak is still able to deliver a powerful kick. Again, this is because he lowers his stance and explodes off the back foot. Sam-A’s forward movement also amplifies the impact of the kick.
Being backed into a corner can has some advantages. Even though you cannot avoid attacks with lateral movement, it also forces your opponent to come towards you from one predictable direction. The ropes work like a funnel which limit his offensive options and protects your flanks, allowing you to only focus on only timing his attack.
Retreating Jab, Round Kick
Wanchalong shuffles forward, backing Panpayak into the corner. Just as Wanchalong reaches the edge of his range, Panpayak snaps off a quick jab followed by a round kick.
This is an excellent example of how to keep a shorter opponent at bay. He easily times Wanchalong’ s slow methodical advance and punishes him before he’s close enough to do any damage.
Fade and Knee
Wanchalong comes in more aggressively in this exchange attacking with a round kick. Panpayak fades back to evade. Wanchalong then attacks with a right straight. Panpayak extends his arms to tie up Wanchalong’s punches. He catches Wanchalong with a hard left kneein the solar plexus as he comes forward.
Although Panpayak is best known for his prodigious round kick, he also has good power in his hands. Here, Panpayak throws a couple jabs while sliding back. Wanchalong loads up and whiffs a left hook.
With his opponent off balance and over committed, Panpayak steps forward with a jab and left horizontal elbow and catches Wanchalong square on the jaw for the knock out. Wanchalong also turns into him at the moment of impact while attempting a left hook and this amplifies the force of the elbow.
Panpayak is as dangerous retreating as he is advancing. His ability to lure his opponent forward and time their advance is key in preempting their attacks. Panpayak’s tactics well exemplify Musashi’s concept of Tai No Sen.
“Tai Tai No Sen – When the enemy makes a quick attack, you must attack strongly and calmly, aim for his weak point as he draws near, and strongly defeat him.” – Miyamoto Musashi, Book of Five Rings.
When Panpayak either advances or retreats, the exchanges tend to be relatively short. He usually knocks his opponent back with a round kick, giving him a short break before they reengage.
However, there are points in some of his fights where Panpayak and his opponent stand close and engage in extended exchanges. These tend to occur in the more hotly contested rounds (namely 3 and 4) where Panpayak might be looking to establish or solidify his lead.
In these exchanges, his opponents tend to attack with punches while Panpayak still relies heavily on left leg for his offense. He does a good job of tying up thier arms while attacking their exposed midsection. He throws rear round kicks and knees with speed and ferocity until he knocks opponent out of range. Panpayak never attacks blindly and keeps a close eye on his opponent’s strikes to defend and find openings. His fight IQ allows him to win a high percentage of these exchanges.
Shin for a Shin
In this exchange with Lukminit, Panpayak absorbs a round kick so he can deliver a counter round kick. He cross blocks Luknimit’s subsequent right round kick before stepping away.
In thai style muay thai scoring, the party who lands the last strike in an exchange will be deemed to have won the exchange. This makes it important to land the last kick before disengaging.
Kick, Cover and Kick
This intense exchange with Prajanchai begins with two round kicks from Panpayak. Although Prajanchai gets hit in the arms, he stays in close to deliver a series of punches. Panpayak see the flurry coming and covers up to weather the storm. He throws another round kick as Prajanchai backs away.
Panpayak is the aggressor in this exchange and surges forward with a round kick. Prajanchai eats the kick but manages to catch hold of the ankle. He uses his grip to pull Panpayak forward into with a flurry of punches. Panpayak absorbs a couple shots but eventually ties up his opponent’s arms by hand fighting and knocks him backwards with a hard round kick.
Kick, Clinch, Knee, Kick
Panpayak will switch from kicks to knees when his opponent is in close. Here, Prajanchai moves in to attack with another series of punches. Panpayak is able to catch him with two round kicks before he’s even in boxing range. He extends his arms in attempt to tie up Prajanchai’s hands. Even though he is unable to secure collar ties, the hand fighting disrupts Prajanchai’s punches and enables Panpayak to land two hard knees and a kick before Prajanchai decides to back away.
Here is a similar exchange where Panpayak also uses his kicks and knees to disrupt Prajanchai’s punches. We can see that Panpayak never stops attacking with the left leg but switches between kicks to knees based on where his opponent is.
Although Panpayak’s does put himself in harms way by standing toe to toe with his opponents, he doesn’t absorb a lot of damage and is usually able to get the better of the exchanges. As his opponent moves in, he punishes them with hard round kicks to the arms. As they throw punches, he ties up their arms and knocks them off balance with knees. Panpayak’s ability to read his opponent’s attack and disrupt it by targeting their weak points is a good demonstration of Musashi’s concept of Tai Tai No Sen.
Parting Shots and Random Thoughts
With this deeper exploration of Panpayak’s fighting style, we can see that his style of out fighting goes far beyond stick and move tactics. He is very capable in all three of Musashi’s methods to preempt this opponent’s attack. He Is successful when leading, countering and trading. This versatility gives Panpayak the ability to dominate the entire fight, regardless of whether his opponent comes to him or backs away.
Conventional boxing wisdom states that out-fighters like Panpayak tend to dominate slower powerful brawlers but do poorly against the pressure of swarming in-fighters. However, Panpayak’s skills allow him to be successful against in-fighters like Wanchalong and Prajanchai, out-fighters like Sam-A and boxer-punchers like Luknimit. Aspiring muay thai fighters should take note of Panpayak’s example and learn to be proficient in all phases of combat.