Muay Thai champ Alex Gong helps you fine-tune two essential techniques that work as well for self-defense as they do in the kickboxing ring.
Before he took up muay Thai in 1993, Black Belt Hall of Famer Alex Gong trained in tai chi chuan, aikido, taekwondo, bare-knuckle karate and judo. While he was being exposed to the hundreds of traditional techniques that those arts teach, an idea germinated in his mind: Why not seek out a style that’s composed of a few proven strikes that can be used in a wide variety of situations? “When I was finally introduced to muay Thai, I realized that this is what I’d been working toward, and I knew I had found the right style,” said Gong, who trained in Thailand with Apideh Sit Hirun, the man who was named Muay Thai Fighter of the Century by the king of Thailand. “Fighting is about evolution, and in muay Thai, you’re constantly fighting and testing,” Gong continued. “It’s the only true, constantly battle-tested style out there.” Muay Thai is a simple art, one that doesn’t have a lot of techniques, Gong said. Once you’ve mastered the basic kicks and punches, it’s time to focus on what’s really important: moving, power, timing and defense. Gong knows the truth of that statement not only from the time he’s put in as president and head coach of the Fairtex USA Muay Thai Team, but also from the time he’s spent on the road visiting camps and watching bouts. “I go to amateur and professional fights all over the country, and I know that if more fighters just had a better foundation of the basics, they’d be much more successful,” he said. The basic weapon of muay Thai is the roundhouse kick to the head or body. “It is one of the easiest strikes to land, and you kick with your shin, so it’s very powerful and effective,” said Gong, who trains in San Francisco with Phicheat Arunleung Ganyao. “You have so much power because you put your whole body into it. Behind your leg, your hip and your shoulder are driving forward into the target. You don’t just kick the target; you kick through the target. “Too often martial artists kick forward but let their body move backward, especially with the side kick and roundhouse kick,” Gong said. “If you do that, where are your power and inertia going? They’re not going into the target where they should be.” If you perform the roundhouse kick properly and turn into the target, your shoulder will be positioned between your chin and your opponent’s line of fire, Gong said, and that will afford you some protection from a punch. “If you step forward to do a roundhouse to your opponent’s body, you have to be careful not to step straight into the centerline of fire,” he said. “That’s why, when you step over to kick, your footwork is so important. If you step out at a 45-degree angle to throw a right kick to his body, your right shoulder will be to the outside of his right shoulder. Then his right punch will go right over your shoulder, not right into your nose.”
(Read Part 2 of this post here.) Editor’s note: In 2003 the martial arts world was saddened when Alex Gong was shot and killed at age 32. Obviously, the interview that led to this article was conducted before his death.