“Ninety percent of my fighters win using the cobra.”
When a statement like that comes out of the mouth of a man who’s renowned as a trainer of kickboxing and MMA champions — people like Gina Carano, Tito Ortiz, Maurice Smith, Kit Cope and Lisa King, plus the cast of two seasons of the Fight Girls reality-TV series — you can’t help but pay attention. I know I couldn’t. That’s why I asked Master Toddy, the man behind those words, to leave his Las Vegas training center for a day and visit the Black Belt offices for an interview and photo shoot.
As soon as he arrives, I press him for details on the serpent. “Once fighters learn the cobra, they don’t have to think,” he says. “They just let go.”
Intrigued, I ask about its origin, half expecting him to reference some mystical monk in a mountain temple. I’m pleased and relieved when he doesn’t. “When I was in school, I was in a lot of bare-knuckle fights — they were very popular at that time,” says Toddy, who left Thailand 30 years ago for Manchester, England, and eventually the United States. “I thought, if I go bang, bang, bang, I’ll get hurt, as well. So I set out to create a technique that would finish them off faster. It resulted in the cobra.
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“Now, every time one of my fighters competes, I’m in his corner telling him, ‘Get ready for the cobra!’ And then the cobra strikes. The referee knows that he has to come over and pick up the opponent.”
Muay Thai Training: What Is the Cobra Strike?
The technique, I quickly discover, is a rear-hand punch. “You hold it like a cobra,” Toddy says. That means your hand, half open with your palm facing forward, is positioned somewhat forward of your face and a little off to the side.
“It’s coiled like a cobra, open and ready to strike,” he says. “Because it’s always ready, when it’s used, it seems to come from nowhere.”
Toddy starts to demo the technique, his hand hovering and his feet shifting. I must admit that it’s distracting, almost mesmerizing. Without telegraphing, he unleashes the punch, and it comes as a total surprise — even though I know it’s coming.
Muay Thai Training: How the Cobra Strike Works
The cobra, by itself, could be a formidable weapon, but envisioning it as a stand-alone technique is selling it short, Toddy says. To demonstrate, he and his son, Dayel “Diesel” Sitiwatjana — who now fights under the name Toddy Junior — show me how the cobra is combined with kicks in a way that plays on human psychology: