In Muay Thai, coming up against a “southpaw” is not uncommon, and understanding how to attack and defend against these unorthodox fighters effectively is an art within itself. The mirror image opponent throws off your ability to use many of the technical combinations that you can use against an orthodox fighter.
Knowing what to expect and how to defend and attack a southpaw fighter will better your chances in a fight. The basics don’t change, but how they are applied will have to be modified to achieve an advantage over a southpaw.
Understanding how to effectively use the arsenal of tools in Muay Thai against a southpaw opponent begins with knowing the similarities as well as the differences between an orthodox fighter and a southpaw. From stance and guards to push kicks and sweeps, we cover the basics of facing a southpaw.
Basics Of The Muay Thai Stance
The basic Muay Thai stance incorporates fluid motion, balance, and weight distribution to give you both offensive and defensive mobility and the quick option to change between the two.
This is true for both the orthodox fighter and the southpaw, with the difference being the power side rear leg.
Here’s how to achieve a sturdy stance for orthodox fighters:
- Left foot leads.
- Feet should be roughly shoulder-width apart for balance and stability.
- Front foot aimed at the opponent.
- Hands up at eye level and elbows tucked in loosely.
- Chin tucked in and looking out from under your brow.
- Avoid being flat-footed for more explosive movements.
For a southpaw, everything is the same except the right foot is leading and their power side is back.
From this basic Muay Thai fighting stance you can go from offense to defense easily. You can also adjust your weight from the front to the back, move forward, backward, and laterally, and effectively adapt your stance when facing a southpaw opponent. Knowing your opponent’s stance will give you an edge that can change the outcome of the fight.
Battle For The Outside Foot
There’s one thing that an orthodox fighter has to understand when fighting a southpaw: the southpaws have an advantage. The advantage comes from the familiarity of fighting orthodox fighters. Their basic strategies don’t need to change or their style.
On the other hand, when facing a southpaw, everything changes for the orthodox fighter. You have to know how to take away the southpaw’s advantage and shift it in your favor.
One of the first golden rules of fighting a southpaw is always to try and stay on the outside of their front foot. Staying on the outside keeps you out of their power zone and keeps you from eating those big left roundhouse kicks and left hooks.
Keeping your foot and your head on the outside of the lead foot and right shoulder of a southpaw takes away their power and opens them up to your left hook, and your roundhouse kicks.
Your head and hand positions will have to be adjusted when facing a southpaw. Your guard will have to adjust to the tempo of the fight. The guard you choose will help you create the space you need to set up your combinations. Knowing when to switch from a regular guard to a long guard position has advantages when you know how to use the techniques correctly.
1) Regular Guard
Here’s how you maintain the regular Muay Thai guard:
- Both hands are in front of the face.
- Arms vertical/elbows in.
- Arms and elbows closer to the body.
Having your elbows close to your body helps to protect you from incoming strikes.
2) Long Guard
One of your hands should be extended out towards the other fighter instead of being close to your face. This creates distance as well as gives you a way to gauge your range quickly.
Benefits of the long guard include:
- Creating space
- Impairing the vision of your opponent
- Complements the teep
- Solidifies your base
The long guard is all about creating personal space and when fighting a southpaw, it helps to set you up for offensive and defensive moves. There is going to be a lot of front-hand tapping from both the orthodox fighter and the southpaw to evaluate distance and set up the next move or combinations.
The push kick is utilized for defense and devastating offensive strikes. Using this technique effectively against a southpaw from the front or back leg can send your opponent across the ring and mute some of their bigger weapons.
Forms of push kicks include offensive and defensive kicks from the front and the back leg. Effective use of these kicks and the mechanics involves timing and proper stance. Having a good defensive push kick requires you to lighten your stance on your front leg and stay light on the ball of your front foot.
Multiple Tools Are Needed Against A Southpaw
Depending on the style and level of the southpaw opponent, you will need to change your strategies and your use of certain tools to score big while maneuvering around their game.
Cross blocks, front leg teeps, sweeps, stance mechanics, and multi-directional movements need to be added to your arsenal of southpaw defense and counterattacks.
Muay Mat Punching Techniques
Big punches and aggressive forward movement are the staples of a Muay Mat fighter. Giving and receiving punishment non-stop for the entire fight is not an uncommon tactic. However, the Muay Mat fighter needs to adjust their strategy when facing a southpaw opponent.
Foot pivot, hip rotation, hand rotation, chin down, and power side punches are a bit more difficult to land when you’re up against a southpaw.
Muay Thai crosses differ from a regular boxing cross in that the elbow rises and a slightly downward direction are desired, whether to set up for a clinch with elbows or just to draw closer for fighting in the pocket.
When fighting southpaws, the left hook will be one of your best weapons. Staying on the outside of their front foot gives you opportunities for landing a big hook to the side of their head, and places you in prime position for your power kicks.
Sweeps score points and they frustrate your opponent. When an orthodox fighter is up against a southpaw, front sweeps are ripe for the picking, but utilizing a front leg push kick and avoiding a big left roundhouse will put you in a good position to deliver a back leg sweep.
Staying light on the front leg and cross-blocking, front teeps, and leaning back while evading the left roundhouse from your opponent are essential to setting up the sweep. Be sure to step back and lean away from the kick to deliver a rear leg sweep counter.
Practice Makes Perfect
Practicing the techniques against southpaws over time will give you the tools and experience you need to keep from being overwhelmed by their unorthodox stance. Understanding the angles, drawing the opponent in, and utilizing techniques that take away the southpaw’s game are essential.
Remember that all the techniques that you are trying to employ are going to be coming back at you. Proper defensive training and understanding of offensive techniques will make the difference in a fight against a southpaw. Depending on the style of your opponent, you need to have a toolbox loaded with techniques to protect yourself and to get the win.
You may also like: