Muay Thai is simple. There are 8 weapons – punches, kicks, elbows, and knees. It is fought in a ring. The rounds are three minutes. It is scored on a 10 point must system. The winner of the round gets 10. The loser gets 9.
The actual fight is complicated. Daniel Matthews knows this. There is strategy. It is the plan to win the bout. But it must change as the opponent switches their tactics. These are the actual actions, the punches, the kicks, elbows, and knees, and how they land.
Matthews focuses on three tactics for fights - Openings, Positions And Film Study
The first is openings.
The opponent will expose themselves. Matthews knows to take advantage of that.
“If their elbows are flared out or if their hands are down like they're tired, I'll come over the top with the hands,” Matthews said.
As Matthews pointed out there are also body postures that create openings. If the person is heavy on the front leg they are open for leg kicks. If their elbows flare out, body shots are open. If they keep their hands far from the body, close range elbows land by trapping the hands.
Looking at the opponent’s symptoms (อาการ aagaan) is a primary way to see where openings are. Signs of fatigue such as dropping hands, open mouth, slower footwork, and or looking at the clock are all symptoms of tiredness.
The second tactic is to use positions.
As a Southpaw fighter, Matthews wants to move to the outside of the lead foot. Both the right hand and right foot will be outside the orthodox fighter’s left hand and left foot. This allows for the power left hand and left kick to land.
“I step around, make sure they're stepping into my like left kick,” he said. “I try to get them in position for me to throw that left kick or my left or my cross.”
The small steps around create the position for Matthews. Once the position is set, the attack is easier to land. Stepping around isn’t the only way to create positions.
Other Southpaw athletes will use a draw. This is when the Southpaw fighter moves backward and traps their orthodox opponent.
Learn more about the Southpaw draw here.
The last tactic for fights if film study.
Matthews learns from his performances.
“Still to, to this day I watch my first fight,” he said. “I'm always picking things, what I'm doing wrong, and what I'm doing right. I keep seeing new things.”
Watching fights over is a way to refine the eye. Athletes can watch the bout from different perspectives.
They can look at it from the viewpoint of their coach. This creates questions – did the fighter listen? What was the question saying and why?
Athletes can look at the footwork. Where was the fighter positioned? What was the rhythm of his step?
They can look at specific tactics. How did the entry into the clinch look? Was full leverage used in the knees? Film study becomes a way to answer questions. The research is brought to the gym where new tactics form.
Watch Matthews last fight and study it for yourself. Watch here.
Matthews is looking to show off his tactics on the Rebellion stage. He takes on Ujjvala Sanmugam on May 27th!